Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins--VoiceThread

Bibliography: Collins, S. (2008). The hunger games. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

Summary: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—-and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love (Scholastic Press).

Tool: VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a mixer tool that enables users to create a mult-media presentation with images, video, and audio. The user creates individual slides, much like PowerPoint. Unlike PowerPoint, however, these "slides" can be uploaded images or video, and the user can then record commentary using different "identities." Because I wanted to focus on the audio feature of this tool, I only created one slide. Although you can upload your own audio into VoiceThread, I used its recording tool, which worked without any hiccups. VoiceThread is a good tool to showcase different points of view, e.g. here I give examples of what high school students are saying about The Hunger Games.

Review: Before her foray into children’s and young adult literature, Suzanne Collins was a screenwriter for television, and it shows in The Hunger Games. Her writing style is choppy, almost crude, with minimal punctuation and few lengthy descriptive passages. For a book about reality television, however, these simple sentences enhance the story, allowing the reader to focus wholly on the action rather than being distracted by stylish language and grammatical structure. Reading The Hunger Games is exactly like watching trashy TV: serialized shows are designed to pull the viewer in, and you cannot stop watching, and you must find out what happens next, and just look at what those rowdy Jersey Shore kids are up to now!

Except that The Hunger Games isn’t trashy—it’s legitimate literature, and the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, must kill children in front of millions of viewers or be killed herself. A far cry from watching Snooki’s and the Situation’s GTL (Gym, Tan, Laundry) routine on MTV. Collins has said that this book evolved from a mindless channel-flipping session (http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6590063.html). While half of the channels featured reality programming, the other half focused on actual reality—footage from the Iraq War--and the two melded together to form Collins’s bloody, heartrending, impossible-to-put-down commentary on the effects of war and violence on children and teenagers.

If you pick up The Hunger Games, make sure that you also have immediate access to the sequel, Catching Fire, and the surprising and controversial conclusion, Mockingjay. Grades 7+.

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