by Suzanne Collins
Publishing Information: Scholastic Press: New York, 2008
ISBN: 9780439023481 / 9780545091022 (Audio)
Pages: 374 p.
Ages: 10 & Up
Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used [to] be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When her sister is chosen by lottery, Katniss steps up to go in her place.
Everyone has at one time or another witnessed the unbelievable antics of reality TV contestants. Maybe you have seen an episode of “Survivor” with broken alliances and the million dollar rewards or one of the many other shows that demonstrate humanity at its lowest. Well, Hunger Games is reality TV to the death. Katniss, the 16 year-old protagonist in the novel Hunger Games, battles other teenagers from various districts in the former United States and it is all broadcast live on national TV. You want to know the rewards? Very similar to contemporary reality TV, you receive money, uncountable luxuries, and you are elevated to celebrity status. Oh and did I mention, if you survive…they might just allow you to live.
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Awards & Reviews:
ALA Notable Children's Books, 2009
Amelia Bloomer List, 2009
Booklist Editor's Choice (Books for Youth), 2008
Cybil Award for Young Adult Novel, 2008
Horn Book Fanfare, 2008
Kirkus Reviews Editor's Choice, 2008
LA Times Favorite Children's Books, 2008
New York Times Notable Children's Books, 2008
Publishers Weekly's Best Books fo the Year: Children's Fiction, 2008
School Library Journal Best Books for Older Kids, 2008
Texas Lone Star Reading List, 2009
Texas Tayshas Reading List, 2009
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2009
YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2009
Booklist, September 1, 2008, p. 97(Starred Review)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 1, 2008
Horn Book, September 1, 2008 (Starred Review)
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2008
Library Journal, December 9, 2008
Publishers Weekly, November 10, 2008, p. 58 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, September 1, 2008, p. 176 (Starred Revew)
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, October 1,2008
Discussion Questions and Ideas:
- How does Katniss feel about the country of Panem? Why does she need to make her face "an indifferent mask" and be careful what she says in public?
- Describe the relationships of Katniss with Gale, with Prim, with her mother. How do those relationships define her personality? Why does she say about Peeta, "I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people." How does her early encounter with Peeta affect their relationship after they are chosen as tributes?
- How does the fact that the tributes are always on camera affect their behavior from the time they are chosen? Does it make it easier or harder for them to accept their fate? How are the "career tributes" different from the others?
- Why are the "tributes" given stylists and dressed so elaborately for the opening ceremony? Does this ceremony remind you of events in our world, either past or present? Compare those ceremonies in real life to the one in the story.
- When Peeta declares his love for Katniss in the interview, does he really mean it or did Haymitch create the "star-crossed lovers" story? What does Haymitch mean when he says, "It's all a big show. It's all how you're perceived." Why do they need to impress sponsors and what are those sponsors looking for when they are watching the Games?
- Before the Games start, Peeta tells Katniss, " . . . I want to die as myself . . . I don't want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not." What does this tell you about Peeta? What does he fear more than death? Is he able to stay true to himself during the Games?
- Why does Katniss ignore Haymitch's advice to head directly away from the Cornucopia? Did she do the right thing to fight for equipment? What are the most important skills she has for staying alive - her knowledge of nature? - her skill with bow and arrow? - her trapping ability? What qualities of her personality keep her going - her capacity for love? - her intelligence? - her self-control?
- Why does Peeta join with the Career Tributes in the beginning of the Games? What does he hope to gain? Why do they accept him when they start hunting as a group? Why do groups form in the beginning when they know only one of them will be able to survive?
- What makes Katniss and Rue trust each other to become partners? What does Katniss gain from this friendship besides companionship? Is Katniss and Rue's partnership formed for different reasons than the other group's?
- Discuss the ways in which the Gamemakers control the environment and "entertainment" value of the Games. How does it affect the tributes to know they are being manipulated to make the Games more exciting for the gamblers and viewers? Does knowing that she is on live TV make Katniss behave differently than she would otherwise?
- When does Katniss first realize that Peeta does care for her and is trying to keep her alive? When does she realize her own feelings for him? Did Haymitch think all along that he could keep them both alive by stressing the love story? Are they actually in love?
- What do you think is the cruelest part of the Hunger Games? What kind of people would devise this spectacle for the entertainment of their populace? Can you see parallels between these Games and the society that condones them, and other related events and cultures in the history of the world?
- In 1848, Karl Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Discuss this statement as it applies to the society and government of Panem. Do you believe there is any chance to eradicate class struggles in the future?
- Reality TV has been a part of the entertainment world since the early days of television (with shows such as Candid Camera and the Miss America Pageant), but in the 21st century there has been a tremendous growth of competitive shows and survival shows. Discuss this phenomenon with respect to The Hunger Games. What other aspects of our popular culture do you see reflected in this story?
The themes and setting of The Hunger Games can be connected for teen readers to many pieces of classic literature that are required reading for high schools. In The Grapes of Wrath, extreme hunger leads ordinary people to seek extraordinary ways to stay alive during the Great Depression. The futuristic novels Brave New World and 1984 both reflect the rigid control and stratified society of the populace that we see in The Hunger Games. The Lord of the Flies is an earlier example of how vicious young people can become, when forced to survive in a wilderness setting. "The Lottery," a short story by Shirley Jackson, first published in The New Yorker in 1948, is a chilling tale of ritualistic murder committed as a fertility rite in small-town America (The Lottery and Other Stories, 2nd edition, by Shirley Jackson, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2005).
Discussion questions from Scholastic Books http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=36164
Author's Website - http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/inex.htm
Author Interview - http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/video/jsp?pID=1640183585&bcpid=1640183585&bclid-1745181007&bctid=1840656769
Book Review by Stephen King - http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20223443,00.html
Liongate Purchanse Movie Rights - http://www.reuters.com/article/filmNews/idUSTRE52H0LK20090318
Scholastic's Official The Hunger Games Site - http://www.scholastic.com/thehungergames/
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Other Books by the Authors:
Fire Proof, 1999
Gregor the Overlander, 2003
Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, 2004
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, 2005
When Charlie McButton Lost Power, 2005
Gregor andthe Marks of Secret, 2006
Gregor and the Code of Claw, 2007
Catching Fire, 2009 (sequel to Hunger Games)
About the Author:
Suzanne Collins made her mark in children's literature with the New York Times bestselling series, the Underland Chronicles, for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, Gregor the Overlander, received numerous accolades in both the United States and abroad. Alice in Wonderland provided inspiration for this series. Suzanne was struck by how pastoral the setting must seem to kids who, like her own, lived in urban surroundings. In New York City, you're much more likely to fall down a manhole than a rabbit hole and, if you do, you're not going to find a tea party. What you might find...? Like Alice, an eleven-year old boy named Gregor takes a very long fall beneath his world.
Suzanne is breaking new ground with The Hunger Games trilogy. Poignant and rich with edge-of-your-seat pacing, this series is set in a district that evolved from the ruins of what was once known as North America. "It's hard to choose one element that inspired The Hunger Games," says Suzanne. "Probably the first seeds were planted when, as an eight-year-old with a mythology obsession, I read the story of Theseus. The myth told how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur. Even as a third grader, I could appreciate the ruthlessness of this message. ‘Mess with us and we'll do something worse than kill you. We'll kill your children.' Other early influences would have to include watching too many gladiator movies which dramatized the Romans' flair for turning executions into popular entertainment, my military specialist dad who took us to battlefields for family vacations, and touring with a sword fighting company in high school. But it wasn't until the much more recent experience of channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage that the story for this series came to me."
Suzanne Collins has had a successful and prolific career writing for children's television. She has worked on the staffs of several Nickelodeon shows, including the Emmy-nominated hit Clarissa Explains it All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. She received a Writer's Guild of America nomination in animation for co-writing the critically acclaimed Christmas special, Santa, Baby!
Suzanne currently lives in Connecticut with her family and a pair of feral kittens they adopted from their backyard. For more information, please visit (Scholastic Books)