Monday, November 17, 2014

Hunger Games Trilogy: Review and Related Homeschooling Activities

Just finished reading the last of the Hunger Games Trilogy. And wow.   Wanted to share some of my thoughts with you, and for those who are homeschooling teens/pre-teens, some ideas for activities and questions to have your children discuss/write about.  
1. The last chapters of this book left me drained and sort of in a fog, and I think that was intentional. These are stories that will be with me for a while.
2. I thought this with the first one but think it again. This is destined to be a classic...destined to be taught in school, like Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies. And it should be.
3. I questioned again whether my oldest (age 11) was ready for these. The violence is...well, pretty severe. Not necessarily worse than the first, but well...more of it. But, he's already read the first (he found it before I had read it and was half way through before I realized it, so in stead of ripping him away half way through I thought the best thing was to read it as quickly as I could once he was done and talk with him about it). So I'm keeping with that tack, only this time I have the head start. I've already handed off Catching Fire to him. And, truth be told, I'm glad it happened that way, because he's going to see violence--it's in so many movies, a lot of TV, video games, etc. I can't keep him from it forever, and though I try to shield them from the worst of it I haven't tried to make a bubble around him. And I would rather have him see it presented like this, not glorified. Plugged In Online put it well in their review of the movie (and it applies to the book too): "We feel the violence viscerally and personally, and we're supposed to be repelled by it, not enamored with it." This shows the aftermath, the internal consequences in a way that is never trivial...and so I'm thankful he's getting this side to temper the other portrayals he'll see.
3. ROME is Oh so present. Having studied this era before, I can see it echoed in so many ways here.
4. God is noticeably absent: not only in the main characters, but anywhere, in any form. Any religion that is. No one prays, no one calls out to God or even curses him. I DO NOT think this is a reason to protest this book, or not read it. It even makes sense considering the story line (in a society where dissent of any kind is so repressed, the religious would have been the first to be "removed.") But I do think that it's ironic seeing that Rome, and the "Circuses" where so many Christians died in horrible ways, is so tangible here.
5. It didn't come to me immediately, but in the last part of this book I see a lot of echoes of Lord of the Rings, even thought these books are OH SO DIFFERENT. Hunger Games is steeped in realism, in spite of the sci-fi aspects, and the strange mutant monstrosities that frankly have felt out of place in that realism (my only criticism of the books...while the subtle mutations--the mockingjays and tracker-jackets fit, the stranger "mutts" like the people faced wolfs and the giant walking lizards seemed a bit too cartoonish for the rest of this story). In contrast, Lord of the Rings has it's realistic touches, but is a fantasy adventure at heart--more the kind to inspire people to fight than to show them what fighting is really like. But Tolkien knew about war, and the reality of that war peeked through. Where the two stories are most alike is in the end, the aftermath, the denouement after the fighting has ceased--where the internal war continues. Both leave on a note that is sad...tragic in a sense, but not in the way that a Shakespeare play is tragic. It elicits more of an ache than tears, but is tinged with hope. And it leaves you with a better understanding and appreciation for the men and women who come home from fighting.

This is a book series that it is just too easy to think of Essay/Discussion questions and discussions for  (especially .   Here are the ones I thought of.  When ideas are  for a specific book in the series, I've marked them with that.  
Honestly, these are the kind of books that I don't think you want to hamper too much with mid-book activities, because once you start you'll want to get to the end.  But the characters and places in it can be confusing to some, so these activities might help readers keep them straight.

  • Draw a character chart to help you keep track of the characters.  Write down what you know about them on the side.   (You can add details and new characters after every chapter).
  • Make a chart of the 12 districts and the capital, and write down information you learn about each district as you read (or at the end of each chapter).

  Here are some acitivites for connecting the Hunger Games with lessons on history and social studies.

 Compare and contrast any of the following:

  1. "The Capitol" and "Rome,"
  2.  "Bread and Circusues in Panem vs. in actual Rome
  3. The gladiatorial Game in Rome to The Hunger Games (and their purposes)
  4. (MOCKINGBIRD) Compare the Government of Panem to Other Governmental Systems (Fuedalism, Republics, Emerialism, etc) or Compare the governments of Panem and District 13.
  5. (MOCKINGBIRD:)  Compare propaganda from The Hunger Games, both that by the Capitol and by District 13,  to propaganda from history (US, Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, etc.).  
Other Questions Related to History...

  • Do you see any relation in Panem to American Society  today?  How it it the same/how is it different?
  • The people of the Districts are described as "Slaves" at one point.  Do you think this description is accurate?    How does it compare to other forms of slavery you know of (both in the past and present day slavery/ie Human trafficking).  


  • Why do you think the author used 1st person for this story.   How would it have changed the story if this had not been in first person.
  • Talk about how any of the main characters (Katniss, Peeta, Gale) changed over the course of the three novels.
  • Talk about how Gale and Peeta are literary foils.
  • How does Collin's portrayal of violence differ from portrayals of violence you've seen on movies or other books?
  • What was the main idea you think Collins was trying to convey in these stories?
  • (Best saved for Mockingbird, but can be used for any of the books) Which character did YOUR feelings about change towards most in the books?  Why?
  • How were the games portrayed?  How had Katniss' perception of things changed?  Ect.?
  • Describe how fashion is used in the book?  How does this differ from the way you've seen fashion portrayed in other stories you've read.
  • (CATCHING FIRE)  How was the feel of the prep for the Hunger Games different in this novel than the first?  How were the tributes portrayed differently?  
  • (MOCKINGBIRD)  Who do you think sent the exploding parachutes at the end?  Who do you think sent them and why?
  • What character in the book are you the most like and why?
  • Why do you think the author did not have any mention of God or portrayal of religion in these books?  Do you think this made the story more or less realistic?  How would the story have changed if religion was present?  (Possible study of the author's interviews or biographies related to this).


  • Lord of the Rings:  Portrayal of warfar, Portrayal of aftermath of warfar, use of Sci-Fi/Fantasy elements, how the author's lifes shaped their writing--which requires further research)
  • A Day in the Life of Ivan Ivonovich:  Compare/Contrast the Soviet Gulags to the Hunger Games as a means of controlling people
  • All Quiet on the Western Front:  Compaer/Contrast portrayal of way, talk about differences being a Sci-Fi or Historical Fiction makes.
  • Fahrenheit 451, or any other dystopian Novel:  Compare/contrast the "Dystopia's."   What things from their own time (real life) were the author's commenting on?  What were they trying to say/warn against?
  • Lord of the Flies:  1: Both The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies deal with children/teens put in survival situations, and how it changes them.    What messages do you think the author's wanted you to take away from this?  How are the the same, and how to they differ?   2:  (The circumstances of both the Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies result in children/teens killing each other, but the circumstances are very different.  In one the children are left alone, in the other they are very much being controlled.  What does this say about the author's message?  How does it change the things readers take away from the story?). 

  • OK, I'm not suggesting any of these for kids, especially without parental pre-view, but I think all are good for compare/contrast with this book, esepcially where it deals with talking about Government control, warfare, dystopian stories, etc.,  All contain violence, most contain some sex.
  • The  100  (Especially good for comparison between the "Sky" society and District 13.)
  • Continuum  (Basically nature of war, and also propaganda - not as gratuitous on the Sex as "The 100" but it's present)
  • The Colony  (TV Show, not the movie, which I haven't watched)- Yeah, it's a reality TV show, exploring what would happen in a worldwide pandemic.  Not sure how I feel about including it here as a suggestion for comparison for a book that was pretty anti-relatiy TV but, it's definately ripe for discussion.  No sex, save some people stripping down to some pretty modest underwhere at one point.  And, put on by Discovery channel at least it had a better goal than just simply entertainment.
  • (MOCKINGBIRD) Read Poetry by War Poet (such as those listed at the following link) and talk about how it relates to the descriptions of war in the Mockingbird.  (


  • Write your own story based on these books.  It can be a story that happened to the characters after these novels end, any of the scenes from this story written from another perspective (from Peeta's, Gale's, Prim's, Snow's, one of the other Tributes, etc.)
  • Draw a picture of any scene during the book you felt particularly moved by.
  • Remake any of the others Tribute's costumes as you think Cinna would have made them had he been THEIR stylist.  Explain your reasoning.
  • Write a poem in response to the book.
  • Put music to any of the songs in the book.
  • Put music to any of the songs in the book.
  • Make a map of Panem based on things you know about it from the books.    


Hunger Games Lessons Blog (Yes, there's a whole blog about just this)

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