The Encounter (Animorphs Book 3)
In "The Encounter" Applegate discusses the issue of identity and the search for it. Readers get this through Tobias, one of the five Animorphs who breached the morph time limit and is now stuck as a red tail hawk. Sure, it may be a different way to introduce the search for identity theme, but it delivers the message very clearly.
Tobias, who was already suffering with identity issues as a kid shuffled across the country regularly between his aunt and uncle’s houses, now has to discover what his identity is as a non-human and as an Animorph. He no longer has the benefit of being able to morph into multiple different forms, and is forced to serve as lookout and timekeeper to be sure his fellow Animorphs don’t make the same mistake he did and get stuck in morph. He also greatly struggles with deciding whether or not he should let some of the hawk’s instinct take over his life, namely the desire to track down and devour rodents. His biggest question is if he allows himself to do so, does that make him less human?
This book explores wonderfully the idea that it is not how you look on the outside, but how you act and how you feel on the inside that makes you the person you are. Just because Tobias is stuck as a hawk doesn’t make him any less of a part of the group. To be honest, this story does have less exploration into the sci-fi conflict between the Yeerks and Animorphs, but does an excellent job at letting readers get to know an important member of the group.
Thought-provoking theme of identity for young readers.