Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

You will find below a book talk from last year that will introduce you to the book, Hunger Games, if you are not familiar with it already. Hunger games is book one in a new trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. The second book, Catching Fire, was just released a few days ago.

[Recommended for 8th grade and up]

Hunger Games is about a society in the future, but the story is based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, and somewhat on the Roman gladiator games. In Greek myth, King Minos of Crete punished the City of Athens for killing his son by requiring a tribute (a sign of submission and form of punishment) of seven teenage boys and seven teenage girls to be thrown into the Labyrinth to fight for their lives against the Minotaur (a beast that was half man and half bull).

In the Hunger Games, the government of Panem has recovered from a type of civil war, but has decided to keep the twelve conquered rebel regions in submission by requiring a tribute from each of them as a sign of submission and as a continual form of punishment for defying the central government. Each district has to send a teenage boy and a girl to the annual Hunger Games. The Games are like a reality style game show, but much worse. The people in the capitol prepare as much fanfare for this event as might a country hosting an Olympic games. More technology and advanced media coverage are devoted to the Hunger Games than any other event. Every single household watches the two-three week event day and night. Those in the Capitol watch simply for the Game’s entertainment value and some even get emotional as they remember where they were, what they did, and how they felt in remembering specific details about the games when it’s all over. But, the residents in most of the twelve districts watch in pure horror, as eventually they see one and then both of their teenage representatives cut down in the flower of their youth. Only one district will win and will be showered with food and privileges. That’s right, only one winner is allowed, only one survivor.

No one ever bets on District 12. There hasn’t been a winner from this district in 30 years. Before the games, every young person in a district has to appear for Reaping Day. Reaping Day is like a lottery. Two names will be picked, one girl, one boy. The name chosen from the girls’ lot is Primrose Everdeen. A wisp of frailty begins to ascend the podium. The crowd sorrowfully mutters because it’s just plain wrong that one so young and weak, a twelve-year-old, is allowed to be chosen. The murmuring continues until a different girl speaks up and says, “I volunteer as tribute.” The Hunger Games Rules do allow this, to allow someone to volunteer to take another’s place. In some districts this happens because they think they have someone that can win. In District Twelve, the Reaping Day lottery is regarded much differently. To them it’s like winning a ticket to the next life.

The voice that spoke up wasn’t thinking about winning. She was thinking of saving her younger sister. Primrose’s sister, Katniss, took the podium, took her sister’s place in the Hunger Games.

A boy named Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son is chosen as the other tribute from District 12. There’s no applause for either Katniss or Peeta, only silence. The silence of the crowd isn’t directed at them, however. The silence is the only way for the crowd to show its protest to the government. Then the unexpected happens. When Katniss stepped up to take her sister’s place the crowd takes notice and shows how they admired her decision. “At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to [Katniss]. It is an old and rarely used gesture of [their] district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love.

Could you survive on your own, in an outdoor arena, with 23 other tributes out to make sure you don’t live to see another day with thousands of cameras watching and listening to your every move?

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