So. Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) was recently released in theaters once again sending young readers everywhere into a flurry of “I want to read that; I neeeeeed to read that”. The fourth graders who so candidly discussed their feelings about reading The Hunger Games with me are still only in sixth grade, well below the age I’d recommend it for.
So why am I such a stick in the mud? Why do I even care?
First, let’s revisit that post based on my talk with my students. Check out what they had to say about why they need adults to help them make good decisions about books with violent content. Their thoughts can be found here. They have a lot of good points and I think it’s worth your time to check them out.
Next up, check out my reviews of each book in the series. I know, I know, you’ve probably read the whole series yourself. But it’s amazing how much we adults can miss when we’re excited and engaged and caught up in the plot. Something you might skim over and not even register might be the very thing that keeps your normally stoic child up in the middle of the night.
Did you remember that in The Hunger Games someone needs to be subdued because he’s trying to eat the hearts of people of people he murdered? Yeah. Me neither. It’s probably not even a big part of the book. Just one small bit of violence tossed in there among all the others. Check out my review with all the possibly objectionable content here: The Hunger Games.
What about the romantic relationships in Catching Fire with their complexity and manipulation? Or the fact that a Peacemaker lures starving women into his bed for money? In truth, there’s no graphic sex. But is that all a book needs to be kid-friendly? Catch up on the content of Catching Fire here.
After the first two, the violence escalated greatly for Mockingjay. I had to read the siege on the Capitol multiple times and I still didn’t feel convinced that I’d adequately described the violence. And to be honest, I needed to read it multiple times just to know what was going on. If it requires that level of attention for comprehension, will kids really get it? Will they understand what they’ve read? Do you even want them to? Check out the details of Mockingjay here.
I think it’s clear already, but allow me to say again, for the record that I strongly believe that this book is not appropriate for elementary school readers. In my professional opinion, children do not have the emotional resources for it and many do not have the reading comprehension for it. In my personal opinion, why would you rush this series, which is actually exciting and thought provoking and engaging when read by the right audience? Is cashing in on the current popularity worth it? Because there are are so many great books out there that are appropriate for elementary school readers, why not choose one of them instead, and save The Hunger Games for older readers.