Sunday, April 10, 2011

Catching Fire

"By the end of the tune, I have found the whistler, a wizened old man in a faded red shirt and overalls. His eyes meet mine. What happens next is not a n accident. It is two well executed to be spontaneous, because it happens in complete unison. Every person in the crowd presses the three middle fingers of their left hand against their lips and extends them to me. It's our sign from District 12, the last good-bye I gave Rue in the arena."

Title: Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

ISBN: 978-0-439-02349-8

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Copyright: 2009

Plot Summary: Catching Fire begins where the first book of the Hunger Games leaves off: with Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark returning to District 12 and adjusting to their new lives. As winners of the Hunger Games, they and their families are moved to the Victor's Village and Katniss' mother and sister rejoice in their newfound position. Katniss' personal relief about shedding her false romance with Peeta is shattered by a visit from President Snow of the Capitol before the victory tour, in which he reminds her of her importance to the situation in the districts and how the girl who was on fire could be a spark that would incite riots across the districts. If she fails to smother the spark, her whole family would be killed. The victory tour begins and at the first stop, in District 12, the crowd salutes her in honor of their dead tribute Rue. Peacekeepers immediately shoot one instigator in the head and others from the District are shot. During the remainder of the victory tour, Peeta proposes to Katniss and says that she is pregnant. To counter the embers of rebellion in the districts, the Capitol proclaims the next Hunger Games is a Quarter Quell, the 75th Hunger Games in which the tribute pool is created from previous victors. This round, Katniss swears to protect Peeta even if she loses her own life in the process.

Critical Evaluation: As in the previous book of the trilogy, Catching Fire is tersely written and the characters return to much acclaim and welcome. Katniss and Peeta's relationship at the forefront is dynamic and her confusion is palpable in her behavior towards him as well as towards Gale. The use of foreshadowing within the book and even from the title of the book shows the growing impact of the previous book and Katniss and Peeta's rebellion against the Capitol by refusing to kill each other. Catching Fire shows the sparks that have been lit under the Districts who have been starved, tormented, and ground down by the Capitol, sending their children year after year for 75 years to kill each other. The pace of the book picks up rather swiftly after the victory tour's first stop, flying through Districts and then the Quarter Quell is almost brutal in its speed and in the deaths of its tributes. This depicts the speed in which ideas can spread and rebellion can catch.

Reader's Annotation: By winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta have threatened the Capitol's rule and raised sparks of rebellion in all twelve districts. Thrown once again into the Hunger Games' Quarter Quell, Katniss swears to sacrifice herself in order to protect Peeta, the boy who has helped her again and again.

Information About the Author: Suzanne Collins began her writing career writing for children's television shows on Nickelodeon and Kids WB since 1991. Some of the titles that she wrote for are Clarissa Explains it All, Little Bear, Santa, Baby! and Clifford's Puppy Days.
Her first book series was Gregor the Overlander which was based off her ruminations on the setting of Alice in Wonderland. Read more about Collins at her website.

Genre: Science Fiction; Dystopia; Survival

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
  • How has Katniss changed since the first book of the Hunger Games? How has her relationship with Peeta and Gale also changed?
Reading Level: 15+

Challenge Issues:
  • As in the previous book, the level of violence is quite powerful and in the Quarter Quell, the traps created are almost sadistic in nature, most likely due to the format of and the political situation at the time in the book. However, it still is written from a survival standpoint in which the characters do whatever they can to survive in a warzone.
Why This Book?: #1 from YALSA's Teen Top Ten booklist

Reference Page:
Collins, S. (2009). Catching Fire. New York: Scholastic Press.

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