→Spoiler alert: This review discloses the ending of The Hunger Games. ←
Plot Summary: In Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return home to district eight and begin an obligatory Victory Tour throughout the districts. Katniss is still uncomfortable with, but getting used to, being the center of attention with her stylists and interviews and public appearances. Katniss and Peeta’s survival of the Hunger Games makes them heroes with many in the outer districts, but Katniss’s manipulation of the games to end up with two victors leaves the capitol angry, and perhaps even vengeful. When President Snow visits Katniss’s home in Victory Village, he makes it clear that the only way to assuage the capitol’s fury is to make sure all the people of Panem believe that Katniss is desperately in love with Peeta, thus explaining her defiance. But, Katniss’s relationship with Peter is more complicated than ever and her best friend, and potential love interest, Gail does not help matters, as he seems to be distancing himself from her more and more. And there are rumors that Katniss and Peeta’s Hunger Games performance has sparked talk of rebellion in the districts. She survived the Hunger Games, can she survive this next chapter of her life, filled with uncertainty and, just as in the games, the constant fear of punishment by the capitol.
Critical Evaluation: Catching Fire was a much-anticipated follow up to the New York Times Bestseller and hugely popular The Hunger Games. Though Catching Fire contained many of the most compelling and inspiring characters of The Hunger Games, and it was an interesting story, it did not quite measure up in excitement and suspense to its predecessor; though it is still a worthy read. Admittedly, it would have been a difficult task for Collins to write book two of the trilogy with the same level of energy and tension as the first. Catching Fire satisfies the reader’s need to find out what happens next, as Katniss and Peeta return to District Eight and begin their lives as “victors.” Catching Fire is by no means slow moving, though the pace is more subdued, in parts, than the pace of The Hunger Games, probably due to the fact that much of Catching Fire takes place outside of the arena. Collins introduces, in Catching Fire, additional – and intriguing – plot twists, and readers’ understandings of the main characters deepen. There is still plenty of action and adventure and excitement, and The Hunger Games fans will need to read Catching Fire, so that they can then go on to read the final book in the trilogy: Mockingjay. Critics were mixed about Catching Fire, and, while it did receive many positive reviews, there were others less complimentary. Also, Catching Fire’s list of honors is significantly shorter than The Hunger Games’, but they include: Time Magazine’s #4 top fiction book of 2009, People Magazine’s #8 Best Book of 2009, and Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Book of the Year for 2009.
Reader’s Annotation: When Katniss and Peeta return home after their Hunger Games victory, more awaits them than they expect.
Information about the Author: Suzanne Collins started her writing career in children’s television. She wrote for several children’s and preschool TV programs and then wrote the first book of a five book series called The Underland Chronicles. The Underland Chronicles is described as a “fantasy/war series” on Collins’ website (www.suzannecollinsbooks.com).
Catching Fire is the second in the Hunger Games trilogy, The Hunger Games is the first and the third is Mockingjay.
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy
Subgenres/Themes: Science Fiction: Adventure, Dystopia; Adventure: Survival
Topics Covered: Poverty, Discrimination, Reality TV, Abuse of power, Hunger, Friendship, Love
Curriculum Ties: Social Science, Political Science, Environmental Science, Philosophy, Television Culture
- How would you go about proving that you are passionately and deeply in love with someone when this is not true?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 12-19 to Adult
Challenge Issues: The issue most likely to be challenged is violence, as the book contains many and varied acts of violence, but the violence is not gratuitous, it is a integral part of the plot. Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources.
Why is this book included? As a sequel to The Hunger Games, I had to read Catching Fire to find out what happened next. I expect other readers of The Hunger Games will feel the same way, so the entire Hunger Games trilogy deserves a place in a quality young adult collection.
Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., with Philippe CousteauPosted: December 4, 2011
Bibliographic Information: Berger, C. (2010). Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing and EarthEcho International. ISBN: 1575423480. 128 pages.
Plot/Content Summary: “71% of Earth’s surface is covered by oceans…Our bodies on average consist of 70% water.” From the planet to each one of our cells, water is important, essential, and under threat. Going Blue follows a “service learning” model to provide the information tweens and teens can use to make a difference in the movement to protect Earth’s waters. The service learning model of Going Blue is comprised of five “stages” that take its readers from where they are now to becoming stewards of the earth’s water. The stages are:
- Find Out & Investigate
- Dive In & Prepare
- Get Going & Act
- Think Back & Reflect
- Tell It & Demonstrate
Each stage contains a description of the state and true stories of young people making a difference and demonstrating the actions of that particular stage. The book is in full color and looks almost magazine-like in its design. It includes sidebars, bios of earth scientists, charts, illustrations, and beautiful photographs. How can we save Earth’s precious water resources? Can you make a difference?
Critical Evaluation: Beautiful, accessible and packed-full of information, Going Blue is an in-depth guide to Earth’s waters. Dense with facts, but accessible for teens, Going Blue provides ideas, resources, and, maybe most importantly, food for thought. The service learning model, that the book both explains and follows, creates a natural path for readers to take in order to actually be able to make a difference in their own way. Its magazine-like appearance and beautiful colorful images and spreads make it as visually appealing, as it is informative and empowering. Below is an example of the inside of the book.
Reader’s Annotation: Beautiful, accessible and packed-full of information, Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands is an in-depth guide to Earth’s waters.
Information about the Author: Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A. is an expert in service learning, civic responsibility, and student leadership. She consults internationally about service learning and is a former classroom teacher.
Themes: Science, Water, Environment, Environmental Stewardship, Service Learning
Topics Covered: Environmentalism, Water Pollution, Oceans, Rivers, Wetlands, Lakes, Trash, Habitats, Conservation, Wildlife
Curriculum Ties: Science, Earth Science, Earth’s water systems, Civic Responsibility
- “71% of Earth’s surface is covered by oceans…Our bodies on average consist of 70% water.” From the planet to each one of our cells, water is important, essential, and under threat.
- If you could maybe make a difference, would you try?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19
Challenge Issues: No obvious challenge issues. In the event that the book is challenged, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.
Why is this book included? The environment is getting a lot of attention these days, and it is important that there are books accessible for teens that can give them some information and perspective on environmental issues. This book specifically talks about the various waters of the earth, an important topic within environmental discussions. Additionally, this book introduces the concept of civic responsibility and taking action to make the world a better place, something many teens are interested in, but may not necessarily know how to accomplish.
Plot Summary: When teen techno genius Marcus gets a message that the Harajuku Fun Madness game has a new clue available, he is not going to let a little thing like school get in the way of his fun. And, it’s only right that his friends go to downtown San Francisco with him. But what starts out as an afternoon ditching school becomes six days Marcus will never forget, when a terrorist plot blows up the Bay Bridge, leaving residents and law enforcement officers on high alert. When homeland security teams swoop in to prevent any more terrorist destruction, they take Marcus and his friends into custody. Marcus questions Homeland Security’s methods when he learns all that is happening in the name of protecting the city and its people. Marcus, always a bit of a rebel, takes on those who would limit freedom and invade privacy for ostensible security, using his technological prowess, online connections with other hackers, and pure chutzpah. Can one teenager really make a difference?
Critical Evaluation: Exciting, gripping, and immensely entertaining, Little Brother has cross-genre appeal. Part science fiction, mystery, and adventure, part realistic fiction, dystopian novel and techno-thriller, this book has much to offer to many different readers. The heavy use of technology within the plot, but just a bit more than we have access to now, gives the novel an “in the not too distant future” feel. The book is relatively long, but maintains reader interest by being action packed and fairly fast paced. From a lonely prison cell to a large-scale demonstration in a public park, readers take a fantastic ride with Marcus, portrayed by Doctorow as a complex character with depth. Like many teens, his friends are of central importance to him, he falls in love, and he doesn’t tell his parents much about what is going on with him, but in other ways Marcus is quite unique. He spends much of his free time living in a virtual world of hackers where nobody knows his real name. Marcus doesn’t always follow the rules, and he is very adept at avoiding being caught, for example, he puts small pebbles in his shoes to throw off the school’s gait recognition software that would be able to identify him as he sneaks out during school hours. Details like these bring the reader into the story and into the life of Marcus, who, for all his mischief, is shown to be intelligent, creative and a good person who cares about the people and world around him. Doctorow’s opinions about freedom of speech and privacy online, he is NOT a fan of the PATRIOT ACT, for example, are obvious in the novel, but his treatment of the characters who express opposing views is not completely unsympathetic. A New York Times Best Seller, Little Brother has won several awards and honors, for example, 2009 VOYA Science Fiction for Young Adults/Golden Duck Award, School Library Journal’s Best Books 2008, and the 2009 White Pine Award (According to Wikipedia, “The White Pine Award is an annual literature award sponsored by the Ontario Library Association (OLA) that has awarded Canadian young adult books since 2002.”).
Reader’s Annotation: What starts out as an afternoon ditching school becomes six days Marcus will never forget, when a terrorist plot blows up the Bay Bridge. Marcus and his friends must stand up to the powers that be, who seem to value perceived security over freedom.
Information about the Author: Information about Cory Doctorow from the blog Boing Boing (http://boingboing.net/), of which Doctorow is an editor, “Cory is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger.” Doctorow’s activism surrounds issues of free speech and privacy in online environments. Doctorow, “has been named one of the Web’s twenty-five “influencers” by Forbes Magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum,” (http://us.macmillan.com/author/corydoctorow). Cory Doctorow was born in Canada and currently lives in London.
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Realistic Fiction
SubGenres/Themes: Science Fiction: Adventure, Dystopia; Adventure: Espionage and Terrorism; Techno-Thriller
Topics Covered: Freedom of Speech, Internet Privacy, Online Privacy, Love, Sexuality, Friendship, Activism,
Curriculum Ties: The US Constitution, The US Bill of Rights, Government, Internet Privacy
- What if every where you went someone was trying to get you? And this wasn’t paranoia?
- How much freedom would you give up for safety?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14-17
Challenge Issues: Anti-government sentiment, sexual activity, illegal activities. In response to any challenges, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors, three are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? Originally included as part of class readings, Little Brother adds genre diversity to a collection. Little Brother is also an exciting, entertaining, and though-provoking read.