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Monday, April 19, 2010

Blog No. 22- Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

GENRE: Dystopian Thriller

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins

Bibliographic Information:
Published September, 2009
Scholastic Press 1st Edition
Hardcover, 400
ISBN-10: 0439023491
ISBN-13: 978-0439023498
Ages: 12 and up
Grades: 6 and up
Reading level: Young Adult

2010 Indies Choice Book Awards

Reader’s Annotation:
Katniss and Peeta, the Hunger Games winning tributes from District Twelve think that they can go on their victory tour of the districts and have a little bit of fun. But the agony is not yet over: the nation of Panem is itching for a revolution which President Snow says was started by Katniss’ acts of defiance with the berries—now the tributes are called back to fight yet again, only this time, they don’t know who they can trust—even Haymitch.

Plot Summary:
Katniss is back home in District Twelve, the co-winner of the Hunger Games with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark, and things were supposed to be great for her family, and she was supposed to be happy. She’s home, Prim and Mother are safe, and then there’s Gale, whom she was so anxious to see—and who suddenly acts as if he wants nothing to do with her. He’s working the mines now, Peeta has renounced her, and things are not quite right in the world. It seems that rumors are flying about an uprising in some of the districts, and the Capitol is concerned that it will turn into a full-blown revolution—all because of Katniss and Peeta’s actions in the Games. Katniss almost welcomes this. No one should have to live this way. Yet she fears for her family. After a short rest at home, it is time for Katniss and Peeta to go on their district by district victory tour, and again she is being scrubbed, cleaned and prepped. It seems normal enough, until she gets a threatening visit from President Snow, who questions her loyalty to the Capitol and to Peeta. If she can’t prove to the Districts that her love is still in full bloom, there will be dire consequences. Katniss notices that things are not normal. The Peacekeepers come to District Twelve and beat up Gale—and Katniss defies then again by taking a crack of the whip for him. Now things are even worse. A Quarter Quell is announced, and this time, the reapings will come from the surviving tributes from all the Districts. This means that not only are Peeta and Katniss up again after such a short time, but Haymitch is too. Will they survive? Will they lead an uprising against the Capitol?

Critical Evaluation:
I was dreading this book at first. I really enjoyed Hunger Games, and I could not imagine how Suzanne Collins could possibly make this second book as interesting and compelling as the first. The first couple of chapters filled me with concern: it seemed like life was back to normal, and that Katniss would end up with Gale. NOT! Just when it seemed that the plot was a bit stuck, we were smacked with the unexpected development of the Quarter Quells—launching Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch back into the reaping ball. Soon, I was hooked again, and couldn’t stop reading. Now, the only disappointment is to have to wait until August or September to read Mockingjay.

Collins’ mastery of plot twists, and her simple but eloquent writing style makes this middle of the trilogy almost as good as the first. Not a bad feat for a Book Two of three, which more often than not, get’s lost. However, there’s a lot of meat in this sandwich, and I can only hope that Book Three is as great. If you think Katniss and Peeta are being tortured, think about everyone who has to wait until the final book of the trilogy comes out. I think I will buy them all—these are keepers!

Reading level/Interest Age:
It shocks me that the publisher’s teacher site gives this book a reading level of grade 5.4 and an interest age of grades 6-8. They are out of touch. I think the subject matter is quite dark and while some very smart and mature 6th graders might handle it; I think this is really a high school book in terms of content. It is an easy read to be sure, but the content is tough. The characters are older, mature and deal with some adult situations. Not a middle school book.

Information about the Author:
Suzanne Collins was an accomplished children’s television writer before she turned to novels. She was on staff of several of Nicolodeon productions, including the Emmy-nominated Clarissa Explains it All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. She received a Writer’s Guild of America nomination in animation for the Christmas Special, Santa, Baby! which she co-wrote. Collins wrote many novels for children, beginning with the New York Times bestselling series, the Underland Chronicles, for middle grade readers. Gregor the Overlander, the first in that series, received much praise both in the U.S and in Europe. In the Hunger Games series, she has written Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay, to be released in August, 2010.

Curriculum Ties:
The whole trilogy can be a part of a unit on dystopian fiction, along with Bradbury and Orwell. These are easier reads, but the content is compelling. I might offer Hunger Games as part of the unit with Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 or Lord of the Flies, but once the class reads it, they will want to read the remaining books, just to see what happens.

Booktalking Ideas:
You makes it through the toughest time of your life—the Hunger Games—which have the scope and the popularity of the Olympics except there a fight to the finish—literally the end of your life. You make it through, and then find out that political situations are forcing you to do a do-over—and it seems that you barely recovered from the first one!

Challenge Issues:
Like the first book, Catching Fire deals with teens killing teens, but also teens killing older people, too.

Why I Included This Book:
It’s part of a trilogy. I enjoyed the first book, so I HAD to read the second. So should you!

Cover image courtesy of: http://store.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay_null_37030_-1_10052_10051

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