The Official Hunger Games website is now up at Scholastic. I love the book trailer! You can also download the first chapter in PDF form.
In a future world, North America as we know it has been destroyed and the continent is now divided into 12 regions. The capital of this new nation, Panem, is in the Rocky Mountains and the remaining districts (1-12) are spread in descending order throughout the continent. Katniss lives in District 12, the last district, in what we call as the Appalachian Mountains. The closer you are to the Capital, the better off your district is. District 12 is in charge of mining coal and as the last district they are exceedingly poor. Starvation is a way of life and ever since Katniss’ father died in a mining accident, she has been in charge of caring for her mother and 12 year old sister, Prim.
The capital is bent on reminding the districts who is boss and does this by withholding food, supplies, and other necessities. Their trump card is the annual Hunger Games, which are held to ensure that no district makes an attempt at a rebellion or uprising. The Hunger Games are a like a combination of American Idol and Survivor, with Roman gladiator games tossed into the mix. Each district is required to supply one male and one female child between the ages of 12 and 18 for the annual event. The competitors are chosen via a lottery system. Families can buy more food and supplies for the year if they purchase additional entries into the games. Thus, the poorer you are the more likely it is that you have dozens of entries in the mix. The entries compound each year, so there are children with dozens of entries in the mix. Those who are well-to-do have fewer entries, with some only responsible for one entry. (In other districts, wealthier ones, children are raised for the opportunity to participate in the Games. These “Careers” see the games as an honor).
Ever since her father’s death, Katniss has been forced to purchase extra entries to ensure the survival of her mother and Prim. This, coupled with her talent for illegal poaching/hunting, has allowed them to live as comfortably as possible. Each year she hopes and prays that she is not picked, as the entire nation watches the drawing live, either in person or on their television. This year is different, however, as Prim is old enough to be entered. Katniss has not allowed her to gain extra entries, so she has only her required entry into the games. When Prim’s name is drawn, Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place, an old custom that has not been called into action in District 12 in many years.
Katniss and Peeta, the two competitors chosen from District 12, are immediately swept into a whirlwind of events that eerily resemble our culture’s obsession with reality TV. They are whisked to the Capital, where they receive stylists, makeovers, interview coaching, and gourmet food and living accomodations. While Peeta and Katniss slowly become friends and come to terms with their fate, they also realize that in order for one of them to survive, they must kill the other. You see, the Hunger Games leave the 24 competitors in a secret location (desert, tundra, etc) and the competitors must fight to the death. While the entire nation watches live on TV. The sole survivor wins food and supplies for their district for the next year, and set themselves up for life.
I read this novel in less than a day. The action is non-stop and heartpounding at many points in the story. Katniss is a likable character: she isn’t perfect, she isn’t a moral compass, and sometimes you even want to hate her. However, the situation she is thrust into is eerily similar to the modern-day obsession with reality TV and you can’t help but wonder if this the frightening direction into which we are headed. Collins never mentions a year in the novel, so it could be tomorrow or a thousand years from today. That in itself will keep you engrossed in the novel. The story is violent and writhe with betrayals, but there is also kindness, love, and drama. This is one novel you will not be able to put down. This is the perfect start to what should amount to a fantastic trilogy.
Before today, I had never been to a publisher’s preview. When my school librarian passed on the information about Baker & Taylor’s Fall 2008 Preview, I jumped at the chance. Instead of heading to school this morning, I headed up to Bridgewater, NJ to attend the event.
The preview was held at Arbor Glen, an adult living residence in Bridgewater, down the road from their warehouse. Unfortunately, the warehouse is under construction, so they were unable to offer tours like they normally do. But you know what? That is more than ok, because Arbor Glen was gorgeous! I was about ready to move in by the end of the day.
The event was held in a conference room, and I was thrilled to find water, coffee, muffins, and various pastries. The preview actually lasts 3 days, but I chose to attend today’s session because it was the easiest day for me to get away from my classes. As I had never been to a preview before, I was not sure how it would work. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare, so I grabbed a pastry (which was delicious) and found a seat just as the lights dimmed.
The publishers in attendance spoke one by one, introducing their biggest titles for next fall, with a Powerpoint to help with the finer details. I was was one the few non-librarians in the room, so the ISBN numbers, etc were not as important to me as to others, so I mostly looked at the pretty cover art images.
The morning began with Scholastic. They presented a good deal of titles, but the following were my favorites:
Maze Of Bones (39 Clues) by Rick Riordan- I should hate the idea of this series. I never like series books that are written by more than one author. Online games tied to books seem desperate. I hate it when publishers advertise books as “THE NEXT HARRY POTTER!!!!!!”. Yet, I can not wait to get my hands on this. Can. Not. Wait. The rep from Scholastic was extremely enthusiastic, and never once compared it to Harry. And my favorite part is that the few ARCs that were printed are missing the last two chapters, so that reviewers can’t get a head start on the game! The series will have two books next year, 4 in 2009, and 4 in 2010. The first book will be out in Sept. 2009
Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee- I am a sucker for animal stories. Especially dog stories. This sounds like a tearjerker! “11-year-old Mackenzie has got one friend in the whole world: Cash, his brown-eyed pit bull. His dad won the runt after a long night of drinking and gambling–ever since Mac’s mom died, that’s all he seems to do, and soon he erupts in a rage at the innocent pup, takes her away in the trunk of his car, and dumps her in the middle of nowhere. Mac vows to find Cash and bring her back home–he has to: All strays are about to be outlawed! Little does he know that while he searches for Cash, she’s surviving her own adventures and proving in the process that all dogs–even pit bulls–are born good”.
Along Came Spider by James Preller- A story of two best friends, Spider and Trey, who realize that growing up can be hard when you are different. One of the boys has a learning disability, and when they enter 5th grade he becomes a target for bullies. Is it time for the boys to end their friendship or stand up for each other?
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- YES YES YES! The buzz on this one is great. And I got an ARC today! Can not wait to read it. The rep described it as American Idol meets Survivor meets the end of life as we know it.
Kin (The Good Neighbor) by Holly Black- a new graphic novel series. Creepy and a 3 part series. I am looking forward to this one!
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Emperors of the Ice: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13 by Richard Farr- Another one I was lucky enough to scoop up an ARC of. This is a non-fiction book, grades 6 and up, that tells the tale of Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard’s journey to Antarctica to study the emperor penguin in the spring of 1910. A true life survival tale!
A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts by Pamela S. Turner- Scientist George Schaller is on a mission: to save the world’s great animals and their environments. This biography, illustrated with Schaller’s own amazing photographs, examines the amazing life and groundbreaking work of the man International Wildlife calls “the world’s foremost field biologist.” I can’t wait to get a copy of this, if only for the photographs alone. It looks gorgeous!
Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen- Jane Yolen. Enough said. I will definitely be ordering this title!
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes by Peggy Gifford- I loved the first Moxy Maxwell book. Moxy’s voice was so like my little sister’s that I had to love her! The rep told us, in hushed tones, that this one is even better than the first!
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman- The true story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Depression-era teens who created Superman, and their quest to find a publisher willing to take a chance on a new medium- comic books. In the end, they sold the rights to DC Comics for $130. Yes, you read that number right!
Those are only a handful of the books I saw today. I wrote down pages and pages of notes, with a lot of books added to my “must-get” list. Fall 2008 looks like an exciting season for most publishing houses!
To be continued later, after American Idol. Coming up, a summary of Lesley M.M. Blume’s author talk (amazing) and the unreal lunch provided by Baker & Taylor (delicious!).