Source: www.schoollibraryjournal.com – By Joy Fleishhacker
Katniss fans rejoice! The Hunger Games (not yet rated), a much-anticipated motion picture from Lionsgate based on Suzanne Collins’s dystopian tour de force (Scholastic, 2008), premieres on March 23, in theaters and in IMAX. The big-screen rendition looks to remain true to the plot and tone of the book; the script was first adapted by Collins herself, and further developed by screenwriter Billy Ray as well as director Gary Ross.
Set in the near future, the story takes place in Panem, a country that rose up out of the ruins of what was once North America. Every year, the Capitol forces each of Panem’s 12 outlying districts to send two youngsters—a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 chosen by lottery—to compete in the Hunger Games. This brutal, to-the-death contest serves as a punishment for a past rebellion as well as a ruthless reminder to the district inhabitants of just who holds the power. The event is televised live and citizens across the nation tune in to watch the 24 “tributes” battle one another until only one survivor remains.
When her younger sister Prim (Willow Shields) is chosen to represent their impoverished mining district, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place. She and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the other teen selected from District 12, will soon find themselves pitted against tributes who have been honing their lethal skills for their entire lives. Katniss must rely on her own abilities and instincts, and the questionable mentorship of the usually drunk former District 12 winner, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), if she has any hope of survival.
Once in the arena, she will be forced to make impossible choices that strike at her heart as well as at her very humanity. The cast also includes Liam Hemsworth as Katniss’s best friend Gale; Lenny Kravitz as her Capitol stylist, Cinna; Elizabeth Banks as the dressed-to-the-nines District 12 escort, Effie Trinket; and Donald Sutherland as the terrifying President Snow. Plans are already underway for the next film in the series.
Kids can visit the official website to browse video trailers, movie posters, and lush photos, as well as links to social networks. A click on “Capital Couture” provides access to the latest in fashions, fads, and lifestyle news from Panem’s trendsetting city including a profile of that ever-perky fashionista, Effie Trinket; tips on maintaining beautiful and classy nails along with a chart of nail cleanliness by district (District 12 does not fare well); and a look at the latest craze in footwear as citizens get geared up for the Opening Ceremonies. More movie news and photos, and in-depth info on the books, characters, locales, and plot elements, are available at “The Hunger Games Wiki.”
Scholastic has released several movie tie-ins adorned with eye-catching covers. The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion (Gr 6 Up) is jam-packed with stunning visuals, interesting commentary from the film’s creators and cast, and tantalizing behind-the-scenes tidbits. The first chapter introduces Suzanne Collins, the origins of and inspirations behind “The Hunger Games” book series, and its impact on readers, before recounting the process of finding the right fit—producer, movie studio, director—for a feature film production (concerned book fans will be reassured by Collins’s level of involvement in the picture’s development and making). A chapter on casting describes efforts to find the right actors to portray the much-loved characters along with an entertaining array of audition stories (a “terrified” Jennifer Lawrence needed encouragement from Collins before accepting the role, and 12-year-old Amandla Stenberg showed up at Ross’s house for her audition dressed up like she’d been “rolled around in the dirt, like Rue in the Games”).
Other sections detail the design and decision-making behind the movie’s props and settings (much of the action was filmed on location in North Carolina) and costume design (from the timeless simplicity of District 12 to the funky fashions of the Capitol), as well as descriptions of the actual filming. Readers are given the scoop on the actors’ physical training regimens, the challenges of creating just the right loaf of bread for each district and the extravagant Capitol feasts, the special effects wizardry behind the arena fireball scene, and more. The book’s luscious large-size film stills and on-set photos are often accompanied by pertinent pull-out quotes. Throughout, the commentary from cast and crew provides insight about the movie’s characters and themes, while also revealing their enthusiasm and respect for the source material. Fun to dip into and rewarding to read from cover to cover, this well-written volume will be a hot item among both movie and book followers.
Presented with the flair of a sporting event playbill (and addressed to the citizens of Panem), The Hunger Games: Tribute Guide (Gr 5 Up) provides readers with a “you-are-there” look at the action. A brief introduction to the purpose of the games and descriptions of the 12 districts are followed by sections describing “The Reaping” (and District 12’s “especially gripping turn of events” as Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place), “The Tributes” (portraits of each of the participants are paired with a page showing their vital statistics and district affiliation), and a re-cap of all the prescribed pre-event festivities: the luxurious train ride to the Capitol; makeovers at “Remake Center;” highlights of the “Tribute Parade” (and what everyone is wearing); time spent at the training center (and a look at some of the favored weapons); interviews with that “imitable” TV host, Ceasar Flickerman; and the final journey to the arena. Written with an upbeat fan-zine tone and sprinkled with quotes from the characters, the text is colorfully illustrated with numerous, clearly reproduced film photos. Visually attractive and easy to browse, the book makes an enticing entrée into the story for movie viewers.
Filmgoers will want to read—or re-read—Collins’s unforgettable novel. Scholastic has issued a media tie-in edition of The Hunger Games (2012; Gr 7 Up) with a dramatic movie-poster cover featuring the shining gold mockingjay emblem—that brave symbol of rebellion—encased in a ring of fire. Make sure you also have plenty of copies of the other two volumes in the mesmerizing trilogy, Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010; both Scholastic) on hand and ready for display.
Kids and educators can visit Scholastic’s website for info and interviews with the author, video book trailers, games, and downloads. An informative and insightful discussion guide for the trilogy, complete with “Historical and Literary Connections” and suggestions for further reading, is also available for downloading. And be on the lookout, Scholastic will release another packed-with-photos movie tie-in volume, The World of the Hunger Games, on the same day as the film premiere.