Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hunger Games

I'm a little late to the party. I recently finished reading "The Hunger Games.". I had won a copy from a blog hop contest last summer, but I was aware it wasn't considered appropriate for my elementary students and therefore wouldn't be getting added to our elementary collection. Also, when I own a book it gets moved to the bottom of my to-read list since there is less urgency than a library copy. So there was that. With the movie coming out and students asking me every other day for it, I decided I should really read it. They were reading it whether I got it for them or not, so I figured I should really be able to converse with parents and teachers about why I wasn't getting it for them.

My understanding prior to reading the first book was that it was too violent. Now, I consider myself a connoisseur of children's literature and I have some bad news. It didn't strike me as being disturbingly violent. Take a moment to remove yourself from HG and take a step back in time to my friend HP, Harry Potter. Does anyone remember how his parents were killed and then his parent's killer was hunting him down?

I digress. Back to HG. Is it violent. Yes. Are kids pitted against each other. Yes. Here's the biggie. Is it right for elementary kids? No.

This book has a lot going on. A lot that will go right over their heads. The themes here relate to so much food for thought:
Democracy vs/ Dictatorship
Free Will and Defiance
Following Orders
Romeo and Juliet
Julius Caesar
Reality Television
Perspective and the Audience Experience
Teams and Entourages needed to prep "celebrity"
PACs and Super PACs and the ability of your sponsor to fundraise on your behalf based on your actions as they are perceived by the people

What it boils down to. Are they going to "get it?". Or are they going to read a big thick book that all the older kids are reading? I think it's a great book...for high school and above. I think reading it prematurely won't serve a greater purpose. And, like the Twilight series, the older the characters get, the more mature the themes. I am halfway through the second book, "Catching Fire." And it is excellent. But (so far) there is mention of a corrupt town official behaving in a corrupt way that should not be understood by a 3-5 grader.

Like any forbidden fruit, like..poison berries, our kids are going to want to read it. And that part is exciting. I want them to read. But I wouldn't give them books marked YA or Adult, so why The Hunger Games? Most parents realize Twilight isn't appropriate for elementary kids, but Hunger Games seems to be balancing some fine line in the upper middle grades. Part of my concern now is that kids have been asking if HG will be at our book fair. And I'm not sure. We get a wide variety of books and I'd be surprised if it's not in a cart. I am planning to create a permission slip that explains the grade levels this book is recommended for and students would need to provide that if they are planning to purchase the book. If it is a part of our fair. Time will tell and I hope this book sticks around for the long haul so that my students can enjoy it in late middle/high school and, moreover, understand it as well.

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