Rusty is a bored housecat, until the ThunderClan tribe of wildcats from the nearby forest invites him to train as one of their warriors. Renamed Firepaw, the cat learns how to hunt prey, recognize the scents of enemy clans and respect the hierarchy of the wildcat world. As one rival clan begins making trouble, Firepaw proves his wisdom and prowess in battle by protecting his clan from enemies — including some living among them. After Firepaw saves his clan and another from evil leaders, his mentor, Bluestar, makes him a full-fledged warrior and renames him Fireheart.
Firepaw's owners give him dry, bland food and funny-tasting water. Cats talk about how other felines who've been taken by their owners to see "the cutter" are never the same again. Bluestar, the leader of ThunderClan, rules judiciously and gives outsiders like Firepaw and Yellowfang a chance to prove their loyalty and capability. Tigerclaw and ShadowClan leader Brokenstar deceive, manipulate and kill to better their status.
Other Belief Systems
StarClan is the heavenly tribe of dead warrior cats that watches over all the cat clans. Each star in a thick band of stars called Silverpelt represents one dead warrior. New clan leaders, or leaders seeking wisdom from StarClan, journey to the Moonstone —a rock deep underground that shines in the dark. The clan leaders must spend a night sleeping near the stone so the spirits of StarClan can share with them and give them special dreams. This is also where they receive the gift of nine lives. Firepaw essentially prays to StarClan to protect Bluestar, and other cats make statements like "StarClan knows" (like "God knows"), or "Thank StarClan." StarClan speaks to Spottedleaf, the medicine cat, prophesying that the clan would be "saved by fire."
The clans engage in many battles where skin is torn and ripped, cats are bitten fiercely and blood is shed. Several cats lose their lives. The cats' survival system (being in clans, killing each other, preying on smaller animals, etc.) may be considered somewhat reminiscent of gang warfare in our society.
Firepaw grooms the base of Yellowfang's tail. Not much is made of it, but he could have groomed some other part of her, and it would not have taken away from the story. Some may see this as sexual, and others may see it as her way of putting Firepaw down by giving him a demeaning job. Also the clans show great disdain for male cats that are neutered. There are about a half dozen mentions of neutering — going to the cutter — and implications that neutered cats grow fatter and lazier after the operation.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- How did the cats' hierarchy, which focused on clans, warfare and allegiance, remind you of our society today — gangs, school cliques, etc.?
- Did Rusty (Firepaw) make a good or bad choice when he left his quiet life for a life of excitement and adventure?
- In the cats' world, the strongest and fiercest warriors received honor and respect.
How is that similar to humanity?
- What qualities or abilities in a person are most important to God?
- Do you think Firepaw did the right thing by helping Yellowfang, even though it was against clan rules? Explain.
Parents may want to discuss and emphasize the difference between acceptable behavior in the animal kingdom and what is OK in human society.
Note: Since male cats are often neutered in our culture, the attitude of the clans in this book toward neutered cats may cause children to be upset with this practice.
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