Seekers: Return to the Wild #1: Island of Shadows
Toklo, Kallik and Lusa --- the brown bear, polar bear and black bear --- have successfully completed their environmental quest that has led them to the top of the world. This frozen and dangerous land offered tough challenges, breathtaking beauty, and many new acquaintances, some friendly and others a bit brutal. But all three bears are eager to start the long journey back home. Unfortunately, they do so while mourning the loss of their dear friend, Ujurak, who recently died. Still, Ujurak will always be near, and his spirit visits them in their dreams. He continues to offer advice and encouragement to help them with their future travels, which is good because they are going to need it for their frozen journey home.
The three bears are definitely missing Ujurak, but they do have a fourth bear traveling with them. Yakone is a polar bear from Star Island who became close with Kallik and decided to join them in their adventures. Toklo is unsure about having another potential leader join their group, and the two knock heads more than once when it comes to making decisions. However, Yakone proves himself a reliable and faithful friend on more than one occasion, especially when they reach the next island that they need to cross. The bears have a bad feeling about this island, but they have no choice and forge ahead with determination. Hopefully, they at least will find some roots and bark for Lusa to eat as they cross, as the black bear needs some fiber in her diet.
On this island, the bears once again run into humans. It seems humans are everywhere, taking over the bears’ habitat even at the top of the world. And beneath the surface, too; Toklo accidentally tumbles into an old mine shaft. The others have a tough time locating an alternate entrance, then scramble about in the maze of shafts searching for Toklo before finally finding him. Not long after, the four encounter another young bear named Nanulak, who is of mixed race --- half brown bear and half polar bear. Nanulak feels a lot of anger about his origins and claims his family ran him off, leaving him alone and exposed. He has a lot of trust issues, but bonds quickly with Toklo and dreams of living with him in the faraway forest. But the others are unsure of his motives, and he seems ill-tempered and unskilled at much of anything. If Toklo wants him around, they are willing to share their space. Unfortunately, Nanulak may end up getting them all killed.
Erin Hunter’s first book in this new Seekers arc has the same memorable characters and unique format, emotional messages and special soulful feel, but features a brand new journey. Readers may worry about missing Ujurak, but even though he has died, he is still a big part of the story. Hunter continues to write about environmental concerns and the struggles of a non-traditional family. All of this is wrapped up in an exciting adventure with danger, intrigue, charm and humor.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on March 21, 2012