Quest Begins (Seekers)Title: The Quest Begins
Series: Seekers
Author: Erin Hunter
ISBN: 9780060871222
Pages: 293 pages
Publisher/Date: HarperCollins Publishers, c2008.

“Don’t hurt her,” Ujurak pleaded. “Look at her. She’s half starved — she’s no threat to us. Let her go, Toklo.”
The black bear stopped struggling. Toklo looked back down at her. She was staring at him with enormous eyes.
“You’re Toklo?” she said.
“Y-yes.” he said.
The black bear scrammbled out from underneath him and got to her paws. “I’m Lusa,” she said. “I’ve been looking for you.” (293)

Lusa is a baby black bear cub living in the complete comfort of a Canadian zoo, being fed every day by keepers. Toklo is a grizzly bear cub who lives a completely different life nearby out in the wildnerness. Kallik is a polar bear cub who is crossing the melting ice with her mother and brother trying to reach land in time. What do these three bears have to do with each other?

Written by the writing team known as Erin Hunter of the Warriors series fame, I can definitely understand now why girls flock to her books. Her descriptions are wonderfully vibrant, putting readers into the bear’s brain. A whole bear culture has been created without loosing the wild ferocity that people identify with bears.

Just as they passed him, Shoteka lunged toward Toklo. His teeth were bared, and Toklo felt a blast of hot, rotten breath over his fur. Toklo froze.
Suddenly Oka was there, rearing up on her hind legs and roaring. She slashed at the male grizzly with her claws as Toklo ducked behind her. Shoteka stumbled back, then turned tail and ran, splashing away into the river. A few of the other bears snorted at one another. Toklo heard one of them say something about getting between a mother and her cubs, and he felt a warm swell of pride and relief. (107)

The bear perspective is also maintained with their descriptions of items in nature, especially stuff that the bear cubs haven’t seen and are learning about for the first time. The polar bear’s mother describes grass as “green whiskers growing out of the ground, which you can eat if you have to.” When her cub asks what green is, having lived in a land of snow, ice, and water, the mother answers “It is one of the colors in the sea,” she answered finally. “Like blue, but different.” Caribou are big animals that travel in large groups that have long skinny legs and “big claws growing out of their heads.” The black bear cub confined to the zoo is told about elephants, “an animal that was big and gray with a long dangling nose […] Its ears were the size of our biggest water dishes, and it had two long fangs, like curved claws, sticking out of its mouth on either side of its nose.”

The action is enough to sustain anyone, with bear fights, encounters with humans and their firesticks, and a helicopter crash. I felt Lusa the black bear escaped from the zoo just a little too easily, but that is easily overlooked in the tense escape scenes. Ujurak, the shape-shifting grizzly that Toklo encounters late in the story, is an annomoly that will grab readers attention and keep them wanting more. Readers will also eagerly await the sequel to see the three bears united for the first time, as by the end of this book Kallik is still far away from the other three cubs. This would probably make a good read aloud for a group setting.