‘Survivors: The Empty City’

by Erin Hunter

Ages 8 to 12.

Lucky is indeed a lucky dog. The sheltie-retriever who’s at the center of “Survivor: The Empty City” is one of the few to survive the “big growl,” or earthquake.

At first, the big growl seems like a bit of good fortune for Lucky, a lone, stray dog. It allows him to escape the trap house, the not-nice place where strays end up if they are caught by longpaws (humans). Lucky and one other dog, Sweet, make it out of the collapsed building.

But the disaster has changed the city. Most of the buildings are destroyed, loud cages (cars) are abandoned in the street, there are funny smells in the air and there are no longpaws to be found.

Sweet wants to join a pack of other dogs and leave town. Lucky, who is used to going it alone, stays behind. He knows all the spots in town to get a meal, including food houses (restaurants) and spoilboxes (garbage trucks). But with all the longpaws dead or gone, food is hard to find and danger seems to lurk around every corner.

When he meets up with a bunch of dogs that also made it through the big growl, he realizes there’s something odd about them. After looking from dog to dog, he notices they are all wearing collars.

“You’re Leashed Dogs!” Lucky says, meaning dogs that are kept as human pets.

Lucky isn’t used to hanging around with dogs, especially not leashed dogs. They don’t know the first thing about survival. They have had humans taking care of them their entire lives.

When they ask Lucky to be their pack leader, he is reluctant. But he doesn’t want to abandon them, because he thinks they then would die. So he steps up as a temporary leader and tells them they must all leave the city.

They head into the wild — territory that is new to all of them. The leashed dogs learn new skills from Lucky, and he realizes that they aren’t as helpless as he had thought. Will they form a real pack, or will Lucky follow an inner voice that keeps telling him he needs to be on his own?

— Christina Barron