Friday, August 10, 2012

CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. Catching Fire. Scholastic Press, 2009. 391 pages. Tr. $15.34, ISBN: 978-0-439-02349-8

Plot: In this second book of the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss goes back to District 12 a hero. Things seem to be looking up: her mother has perked up and reignited her role as a healer in the community, they’ve got a nice house in the best part of town (a “winner’s circle” inhabited by former game winners), and they all have good food to eat. But trouble brews: the Capitol leaders are furious with her for her surprise in the Games, Peeta is in love with her but now she has reunited with Gale and her feelings are complicated, and there is dissent in the other districts that has been prompted by her televised acts. The Capitol needs to quell the unrest and get rid of Katniss (and maybe Peeta, too), so they do the unprecedented – stage a special Hunger Games and pitch Katniss and Peeta back in the fray.

Critical Evaluation: Though some people, enamored of the first book, have gotten frustrated with its pacing and that Collins takes more time with explication than with action (which is reserved for the end, but it is explosive) in this book, others (like me) will enjoy the fact that Collins slows down a bit to pump up the political side of things and to fully explore the setting of District 12 and the people who live there. The tone of this book is definitely more meditative, as if Collins went for a rollercoaster ride for the first book and now wants to slow to a trot and survey the scenery a bit. Katniss is just as angry and winning, Peeta is hurt yet solid, and Gale will compete for readers’ attention in this one. Collins has done a remarkable job in establishing the setting in this and the first book, and, before the games, readers will feel as if they have been in District 12 and met all of its inhabitants. This is a solid second act which allows Collins relish the landscape, both political and geographical.

Reader’s Annotation: When Katniss goes back home, she is a hero and things are even looking up until political unrest prompts the evil leaders at the capitol to stage a reunion with both Peeta and Katniss back in the arena.

Author bio: The daughter of an Air Force officer, Suzanne Collins traveled quite a bit as a child. A theater major, she went to high school at an Alabama fine arts school and she majored in drama and telecommunications at Indiana University before she began writing for children’s television shows in 1991.  She worked for Nickelodeon and Scholastic Entertainment.
            She met children’s author James Proimos while working on a show; he convinced her to try her hand at writing books for children. She ended up writing the hit series The Underland Chronicles before penning The Hunger Games books, which became a YA publishing world sensation. Se was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2010.

Genre: Science fiction/adventure.

Curriculum Ties: English

Booktalking Ideas: Focus on the place, the political uprising, and the threat that Katniss holds for Panem.
Focus on the love triangle -- read a section when Katniss is torn between the two.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 12 and upm

Challenge Issues: Violence
There is violence in these books, but there is also rich characterization and a political backbone to it. Listen to the challenge, but try to bring up the depth of the book. Know the content well. The fact that it the books are becoming major motion pictures might make them more familiar. Keep a file and include positive reviews and the bounty of awards and its placement on several prominent top ten lists:

Why Included: These books are extremely popular and very well written. They attract even reluctant readers.

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