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Is 'The Hunger Games' Elementary School Reading Material?

"They never collect the bloodbath bodies until the killers have dispersed...." — "The Hunger Games"

I'll confess. When the hot marketing machine that's driving Scholastic publishing's teen book "The Hunger Games" reached my 40-something cruising altitude I first pictured anorexic girls.

The characters in the novel are hungry, yes, very, but it's for blood. The blood of the 24 tweens and teens chosen in a lottery to fight to the death on a sadistic TV show. The "Twilight" series is TAME comparably. Downright preschool material.

The hype-sters are doing such a great job I actually heard about the movie (opening at midnight Friday) before the book. And when my 10-year-old started talking about it, I decided to read it.

Do not let the kiddie label publisher or the PG-13 rating fool you. The book's dark brutal post apocalyptic theme definitely does not fit with the company's other fare you're likely familiar with in those order forms sent home from the classroom.

The book is fantastically written. Beautiful language. Great story. But for grown-ups. I was pretty shocked to find out that fifth-graders were reading it, and I promise you I'm really hard to shock. I count "The Road" among my favorites ever, and I read "The Lord of the Flies" when I was in elementary school.

But as a parent, this was the first book I actually found myself saying "no" to my kid about.

I found it so incredibly heavy emotionally and sad and violent. I could not picture how my daughter would handle those feelings. She has puppy pictures on her wall for Pete's sake. But I also loved the story for its underlying themes of love, friendship and loyalty.

My Patchy associate Julie Dowling in San Ramon said her seventh-grade son read it and was very blown away. He and his friends re-enacted a scene in their back yard in which one of the favorite characters, a 12-year-old girl, is showered with flowers as she lay dying.

Julie said her son's school keeps the book off the shelf, requiring parental permission for it to be checked out.

Not being much of a fan of censorship in my own home, I handed the book over to my daughter, who read a few chapters with relish, asking some questions about words she didn't understand, then soon losing interest and putting it aside. Perhaps she decided those Justin Bieber biographies are a little more age-appropriate reading material afterall!

I'd love to hear how other parents are dealing with this. Did you let your kid read it? Are you letting your child see the movie? (And, by the way, the New York Times gives it a lukewarm review, saying it falls short of truly capturing the gritty feel of lead character Katniss' plight.)

Did anyone see the movie? What did you think of it? And did you think it was too violent for kids?

Tell me in the comments.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mom of the Horde April 18, 2012 at 06:17 AM
I think the decision to let a child read or watch The Hunger Games should be made on an individual basis. Not every child who is reading chapter books is ready for the themes of the book. While I wouldn't let my 9 year old or 12 year old read the book or watch the movie (they've not shown any interest), I wouldn't have had a problem with their older brother reading/watching at the same age though, because he was more socially and emotionally mature at those ages than they are. I remember reading Lord of the Flies in middle school and being horrified by it. I wasn't ready for it then. I was reading a lot of Steinbeck at that age, but I wasn't ready to read about kids killing other kids.
DebbieB May 19, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Scholastic is no longer sending the Mocking jay pin. Now, it is a darker heavier mocking jay necklace. Most of the kids I teach like it better. They are, however, backordered. I just got (April 30th) our first set of 20 pins from the books ordered in the middle of March. The sets we ordered later also came without the pins, but the company sent them the Tribute Guide free while they "wait" for their necklace to arrive. My kids (7th grade) LOVE the books and I can't keep them on my shelf. I have to keep ordering the first one from Amazon. Amazon also has the pin for 12 dollars last time I looked. Oh, by the way, I have at least 20 reluctant readers engrossed in this book. I have to repeat myself several times to get them to put the book away when I start my lessons.
vicki May 22, 2012 at 03:48 AM
AWESOME DebbieB!! LOVE IT!
Eric Muetterties June 12, 2012 at 12:21 AM
I decided I needed to read the book to find out first-hand and just finished it this morning. I have a few comments... It's a sad commentary on our society that this is what is promoted for kids. I found the book well written and engaging. I can totally see why young girls are intrigued by the book. It is all about finding your way in a messed up world and trying to determine where your feelings should lie. In many ways the world we live in today. However, I find it lets the violent aspects into the storyline very matter-of-factly. Is it no wonder kids have been desensitized to violence to a point they can obsess over books like this? Many movies are incredibly violent. My wife and I have had to shut off many movies because we just could not handle how violent they are. How can we find it entertaining? What really bothers me about the Hunger Games is folks who have read all three books said they could not read the whole third book and had to put it down! Even Stephen King said "A violent, jarring, speed rap of a novel...". To me the book lacks something very important to have in life. Hope. Yes, it is really devoid of hope, The book also lack God. It is about having to be self-reliant and not be able to really trust anyone. Though Katniss does find that she can indeed find those that she can trust, it continually throws her into doubt that she can, even at the end, which is simply designed to make you want the next book in the series.
Karen Delp October 20, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Samantha, I couldn't agree with you more, your points and comments state exactly how I feel. We are a home schooling family and there is no way that I would allow our 9 year old to read Hunger Games. The fact that it is on the approved reading list for elementary schools only reinforces the reason to home school.

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