Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mockingjay Debate

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) I'm guessing that if you teach or have kids of your own who are in middle school or high school (possibly?) that you have heard of the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  If you haven't, I definitely suggest you go grab a copy and clear out a few hours/day in your schedule because you won't want to stop once you get started and they are so worth reading - for yourself and to share with kids.

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) was just released last Tuesday.  As I was looking around the web to see what people thought about it I noticed how the discussion of the amount of violence in the book was popping up here and there.  Quickly, The Hunger Games is the story of Katniss Everdeen, a girl who lives in what is left of the United States in what is now called Panem.  She volunteers to take her sister's place to compete in The Hunger Games when her sister's name is drawn in the lottery.  Playing in The Hunger Games means she will be put into an arena with 23 other tributes to fight for their lives - literally - to be the last person alive and to become the winner.

I'll have to do a post on this series because I think it is expertly written and an amazingly, gripping story.  I cannot deny that I'm the kind of person who will bawl when I read a book that is written so well that I feel connected with the characters.  The Hunger Games is definitely one of those books.  I realized that there was a lot of violence going on in the book when I was reading it and some of it was graphic, but I never had any reason to question what Collins decided to include in the book.  I would easily recommend this to a 6th grader.  Now, that's just my opinion and I'm opening it up for discussion.  Truthfully, I don't think there is anything in the book that a kid couldn't find on TV or in a video game.  As far as the entire idea of the Games, I hope it will force readers to think about our society and the reality shows that are on TV and realize what might be in store for society if we continue to pit people against each other for entertainment.

Here is the article I saw posted that got me really thinking, it was in my Shelf Awareness newsletter.  I e-mailed Mrs. DeRaps over at DeRaps Reads because I love her reviews and I know she has been eagerly anticipating the release of Mockingjay.  She wrote me back and commented that she uses the age of the character(s) to give her a guideline for how old the intended audience might be.  Katniss is 16 so I would definitely think this book would be safe for any high school student to read.  I know from the schools I work in (none of which are high schools) that much younger students are reading it.

In general, I always think about the individual I'm recommending a book to before I actually make a recommendation.  It makes sense; I think about that person, what kind of a reader he/she is, what kind of books he/she likes to read, his or her reading level, and then I choose a book to recommend based on that.  I can't say I would recommend this book to every single 6th grader who crossed my path but it would definitely be an option.  As a teacher, I am leery of books that might be inappropriate in some way for my students and I do take that into consideration when making a recommendation.  I can say that I wholeheartedly believe that parents should be reading what their kids are reading so they can decide if something is to violent, graphic, sexual, or inappropriate in any way.  I, personally, wouldn't mind my sons reading it (I can't even imagine them in 6th grade, I'll gladly let them stay little...) but I would probably read it to them, reread it while they read it, or at least talk to them about what I remember reading and what I thought about the series and talk to them about what kind of message the author is sending by writing about Katniss.

What do you all think?  Are you fans of The Hunger Games?  What do you think of Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)?  Who would you be recommending the series to?  Do you think there is too much violence going on?  This is the first discussion I have opened up like this here on Teach Mentor Texts and I can't wait to see what people have to say!  


  1. I loved The Hunger Games, the first in the series. The third book was a little disappointing. I agree that it was very violent but not any more than the other two. I would love to read it with my 5th graders but I don't think its a good choice because of the violence. Its too bad because Katniss is a character I would love to discuss. Girls who enjoyed the vampire series would probably like the romance angle in the Hunger Games series. Does anyone have any similar book recommendations for younger kids? I love Among The Hidden by Haddix. Christine

  2. I agree, the Among the Hidden series is much more appropriate for a younger audience. I thought Hunger Games was definitely going to be perfect for a younger group but I guess it is pretty violent and the whole sexual thing isn't cool for the middle grades. Haddix actually has a new series out called Found and I think that would be appealing for the middle grades, too. The beginning is great for a read aloud to get kids going. Neither of the Haddix series had me crying over the characters though...tricky!

  3. I was just talking about this with our school librarian! My son, who is in sixth grade, has asked to read The Hunger Games, but I'm still not sure. It's not so much the violence, but the bleakness of the world in the pages.

    The Magic Thief is a great series for younger kids, as well as The Name of This Book Is Secret. My fourth graders, boys and girls, love the Dragon Slippers series by Jessica Day George. It has a similar richness to the characters that kids find appealing.