What Age Should Read “The Hunger Games”? And my thoughts on book #3: “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins

If you read me regularly, you know I’ve recently read The Hunger Games trilogy because: 1) I was possibly the only blogger who hadn’t, and 2) countless friends who hadn’t read it were asking me if they should let their children read it. With the movie opening last weekend, this series is EVERYWHERE right now. Full Disclosure: I haven’t seen the movie yet due to my odd personal need to avoid crowded movie theaters. I like to wait until the crowds have petered out, or watch at home. However, I heard on NPR that the movie was not graphically violent so that it could garner a PG-13 rating as opposed to R, which supposedly it would have been if it had been filmed as written. So parents, keep that in mind.

Here’s my opinion – and PLEASE know this is MY OPINION, your own may vary. The bottom line is: YOU, the parent, are the expert on your own child (and believe me – it really is okay to say “no” or “not yet” to reading it, even if everyone else is saying “yes”).

EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT. Ask yourself: is my child less than 13? Are they troubled by things they see on the news? Do they have nightmare easily? Then waiting to read these books is suggested. Believe me, they are not going anywhere. On the other hand, a parent friend asked me about her son reading them: 6th grader, interest in military history and military maneuvers, not easily scared or troubled, very “grounded” and mature, a good reader. I suggested she go ahead – and optimally read it with him (or at the same time as him) so that they could discuss it. Several of my friends have told me that if they had the times to read the Hunger Games themself, then they wouldn’t be asking me. If this is your situation, then may I suggest you read the very short (less than 4,000 word) story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson as a starter and ask yourself if your child could handle the themes and implications of it. Read it free online at:


This piece is conceptually similar to The Hunger Games, but Hunger Games is obviously longer, futuristic, and has graphic violence.

One of my points here is that reading Hunger Games, or any book for that matter, is more than a matter of reading level. It is more than getting through the pages. It is understanding the concepts behind the novel and being able to reflect on them. A well-written book can change the way you think about life. If your child reads this book at ten years old, will they glean as much from it as they would if they were fourteen or fifteen?

As for my thoughts on “Mockingjay”, while I found it sad and disturbing (similar to “Deathly Hallows”), it was very good and I enjoyed it. The story is continued and concluded with the rebels fighting the government with Katniss as their mockingjay. Peeta is recovered to them, but has been mentally “hijacked”. Katniss continues to fight for her family, while trying to decide just who it is she loves. It was a very satisfying conclusion to the series.

I got my copy from the Amazon Prime borrow-for-free program.

Review: “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne, M.Ed. and Lisa M. Ross

The other day I was listening to an interesting piece on NPR about marketing aimed at children, and a caller recommended this book. I found it at my local library (surprisingly, since it seemed to be out with holds everywhere in the system). I enjoy reading parenting books and wanted to see what this one was about. I just loved this book! This is a book that pretty much puts down on paper so many of the things my husband and I hold to be true about parenting – and it has a whole lot of ideas to add to our repertoire!

First off, let’s consider the subtitle: “Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids”. When I first read that I gave a bit of a guffaw. What?? Basically, one of the main tenets in this book is that there is too much “stuff” in kids’ worlds these days: toys, electronics, lessons, activities, etc. etc. etc., and we’d be well-served to get rid of a lot of it. Payne, who is an educator-counselor (Waldorf Schools) and family therapist, espouses that too much “stuff” and not enough quiet and rhythm/ritual is overwhelming kids and basically driving families crazy. Yes, yes, yes! I completely agree. He suggests taking all your children’s toys and removing (donating/tossing/storing) half of them (great idea that I will have to try). That you clear out clutter (on my to-do list every year but I never do it). That kids don’t need to have ten different lessons/activities each week (one of our rules around here is ONE weekly after school activity at a time – and I’m deemed weird by other parents). Kids don’t need to experience EVERYTHING before the age of ten (I agree – though most people think we’re getting the kids a “late start” on stuff). And kids should be doing things because they want to, not just because the parents want them to or think they have a future expert in that area. Payne writes about the importance of rhythm and ritual, such as in the family dinner (yes!), previewing the day with your child in advance to set expectations (something I’ve always done), keeping a consistent schedule (another thing my friends deem “weird”), and keeping a “Sabbath” day that may or may not be religious in nature, where the family relaxes together and there are no scheduled activities, etc., and everyone shares dinner together (something we try to do, though sometimes things creep in on Sunday afternoons).

All throughout this book I read about great ideas that basically allayed my sense of guilt: if you are not giving you kids EVERYTHING, it really is okay. You are not a slacker parent. In fact, it can be the simpler things that really are the most meaningful.

A highly recommended read, especially if you are parenting children at this time!

Quick Review: The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell

I found this great book on the new release shelf of the library a few weeks ago. It tells the story of five different people seeing the funeral train carrying RFK’s body as it travelled through the countryside, headed to Washington, DC. The stories are loosely interwoven, with some reaching completion but most left without complete resolution. I really enjoyed this book and looked forward to reading each character’s piece in it – from the young train porter who is on his first day on the job and just discovered his girlfriend is pregnant, to the young girl and her mother who try to see the train without her father knowing, to the young Vietnam veteran who is still healing. I like the concept of several stories in one, and enjoyed Rowell’s writing style. This is his first novel.

Review: Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Trolling through Net Galley, I found this great read (its been out since 2010). “Yellow Crocus” is the story of a young girl, Lisbeth Wainwright, and her beloved childhood nurse, the slave Mattie. Lisbeth is given to Mattie shortly after birth for nursing (Mattie is taken from her own little son, Samuel) and she grows to love Mattie more than her own mother. Mattie loves Lisbeth in turn, and struggles to seek freedom for her family. In time, Mattie is sent back to the slave quarters and Lisbeth tries to become the young woman that her family and Antebellum Southern society demands of her. In time she must make a life-changing decision – a decision that will affect her family’s life going forward.

I just loved this book! I love reading about this period in history, and I wished the book had continued to and through the Civil War as I was hoping to see Mattie’s character develop through adulthood and into old age. At times in the beginning of the book it felt a little bogged down with totally accurate but minute details of breast-feeding – it pulled me from the flow of the story a bit. Overall, though, I loved the characters, the writing, and the storyline.

Thanks, Net Galley and Flaming Chalice Press for my copy!

Review: Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame (The Enchanted Attic Series, #1) by L.L. Samson

A few weeks ago I read this book and posted the book trailer for it. It’s the first in a new series for young readers, coming out in May, in which 12-year-old twins Linus and Ophelia discover a magic circle in their aunt and uncle’s attic, which brings book characters to life. (Of course the circle is also being misused for bad deeds by a nefarious former house occupant). One day Ophelia drops her copy of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” down, and the next thing they know, Quasimodo is there in person. Enlisting the help of a young neighbor friend and a “cool” priest, they have a race against time to get Quasi back to his own world.

I loved this book and look forward to more in this series. I’ve already recommended it for our school library and will be getting it for my own elementary-age children.

Thanks, Net Galley and Zonderkidz books, for my kindle copy!

Quick Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

So – since I’m the LAST blogger in the world to read this series, and because the movie is coming out in a few weeks, I decided I had to read through this series and read #2 last week. Everyone I know said “the first one’s the best”, but I did really like this story. To be honest, though, it took a bit to “capture” me as I felt there was too much time devoted to the Katniss, Peeta, Gale love triangle in the first half of it.

Katniss’ strength and creative ingenuity is once again called upon as she and Peeta venture back into the arena for another round of the Games while rumors of rebellion rock the Capital. Again at the ending you know there’s more.

Loved it…

I am reading my copies through the Prime Member freebie download and borrow program on Amazon:

Quick YA Review: Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner

This suspenseful book was a Kindle Prime read-for-free for me. Telling the story of four high school friends, kidnapped when they stumble upon a burglary, this novel traces their cross-country trip to try to escape from and outrun their kidnappers and return home.

As a kid I would have loved this book! Yes, there were some places where I had to suspend belief. Yes, those kidnappers were everywhere. Yes, there were a few places where I wondered at the author’s intentions (implied rape, etc.). But overall, I couldn’t stop reading! The ending suggests that this will be part of a series.

Recommended for YA readers who like suspense, I’d say high school and up.

Review: The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier

How well do we ever know someone?

That’s the question at the heart of this novel, coming out in early June from Crown Publishers. I got my early galley from Net Galley and I’m so glad I did! I just loved this book and couldn’t put it down. In this novel, Kate “inherits” the journals of her close friend Elizabeth, who died in a plane crash shortly before the tragedy of 9/11. Elizabeth left behind a grieving husband and three young children. Kate is forced to re-examine her own marriage and family life as she examines Elizabeth’s through her writing. What was Elizabeth doing on that final trip alone? What secrets was she hiding? How well did any of them really know Elizabeth, her past, her wants and desires? How well do we ever truly know someone? Kate ponders these questions as she somewhat obsessively reads through Elizabeth’s life, from girlhood to her untimely end, all the while dealing with her own post 9/11 anxieties.

I really really enjoyed this novel. The writing is solid and the characters developed and easy to relate to. It felt a bit like a Jodi Picoult or Anita Shreve novel in that once I started, I was completely absorbed and couldn’t put it down! I am excited to read that Ms. Bernier lives in a nearby town, so my chances of hearing her speak in the future are pretty good. This is her first novel.

Thanks, Net Galley and Crown Publishers for my copy!