Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

June 30, 2010

Rating: 5/5

This is the second book in Suzanne Collin’s trilogy of the Hunger Games and it’s just as good, if not better than the first book. Check out a previous post if  you’re not familiar with the storyline. 

I an amazing twist of events, there are more survivors than previously expected, much to the embarrassment of the Capitol. Katniss’ year as the champion does little to settle her nerves, since she knows the Capitol is watching her every step. When the time comes again to pick this year’s “tributes”, a nasty surprise awaits all of the champions of recent years, as they must go back to fight for their lives. This time they are up against the best of the best. Behind the scenes, the districts are furious that their champions are in danger once more and keep a close eye on Katniss in particular. Will she be the one to set off the events that lead to a new rebellion? Who will survive this year’s Hunger Games?

I thoroughly enjoyed the transformation that takes place in this second book. In response to the Capitol’s new demands and cruel machinations, Katniss’ plight continues to unravel everyone’s beliefs about the system. The people of the capitol stir in discomfort; the districts begin to shake off their fear. The tension mounts with the turn of every page… 

I won’t say much else because I do not want to ruin the experience for those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to read this book.  😉

Questions: I like that this book makes you think and, better yet, it encourages you to ask very difficult questions that have no easy answer/s. One question that is still prevalent is: what does it mean to be human?

Other questions up for discussion could be:

  • How can one idea change the world?
  • In the story, the mockingjay becomes a symbol of freedom. What other objects or symbols do you know of that people have given specific meaning to? Why are symbols important to humans?
  • How do our experiences help shape our ideas of what it means to be human?

Topics in this book include: humanity, sacrifice, change, transformation, symbolism, ideas, rebellion, freedom, independence, justice, friendship, survival, community, family, politics, love, oppression, social classes…

Do pick up this book and ask yourself: what does it mean to be human?__________________________________________________________

The third book, Mockingjay, will be released August 24, 2010. I can’t wait!

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Arthur Collins and the Three Wishes, by Linda Rash Pilkington

May 6, 2010


Young Arthur Collins’ mom is obsessed with anything having to do with the classic story of King Arthur-hence his name. Unfortunately, the stories she is so fond of have done little to help his current situation. Arthur has withdrawn into himself. He is like a mouse, skittering from one place to the other while trying to find the courage to stand up to school bullies. Courage, however, is elusive and his brother Lance seems to have inherited all of it, leaving him none. Arthur’s frustration mounts as he is tormented by the Ruffians. These bullies don’t know the meaning of mercy and they might soon set their sights on Arthur’s cousin, Gwynie.  It doesn’t help that he is very embarrassed by her, which increases his frustration tenfold.

As tensions mount, Arthur unknowingly receives the tools of bravery from his family, starting with a book and the idea of magic. On a night when a sudden fever overpowers him, he wakes up in the past, where the legendary Arthur Pendragon, the boy who would be king, has disappeared and he must take his place! An adventure ensues and the story is filled with fear, confusion, hope, magic and, of course, witches and a dragon!
 
Author Linda Rash Pilkington has weaved an Arthurian tale where a boy plagued with contemporary problems finds that people, no matter what era they may be born to, are faced with similar problems and must rise above them or be crushed underneath.  The journey to bravery is not easy and even near the moment of truth, our weaknesses are there to test us. However, like one of the characters states: “Even weak people can become strong.”
 
The language in the book has a fairy-tale quality and sometimes reminded me of a play. The characters are quick to think out loud and state their intentions. This may not appeal to some audiences, but those who appreciate a straightforward approach will enjoy the combination of the whimsical and candid. One aspect of the story that made it difficult to read was that the action took too long to begin. With each chapter I was eager for progression, but it was not until chapter five that the story began to take off. This is something that, unfortunately, could turn away reluctant readers.
 
Overall it was an interesting read and a different spin to the Arthurian tales that elementary school children can appreciate.

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To learn more about the author and the book, check out the Arthur Collins and the Three Wishes site.

To learn about Arthur Collins and The Great American Book Race! TM , the effort on behalf of children’s literacy, check out City Castles Publishing. Don’t forget to click on “Media Kit” at the bottom of that page!
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