The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 21, 2008

Book review: ‘Hunger’ addictive intro to series

‘The Hunger Games’

By Suzanne Collins

(Young adult)

The United States no longer exists. North America has been broken up into 12 districts and the country is run dictatorship-style from a city known as the Capital. Each year, two teenagers are chosen by lottery from each of the 12 districts to take part in a reality television show called “The Hunger Games.” During the “games” the teenagers are pitted against each other and made to fight to the death. The last player left alive is the winner and earns a life of privilege and ease.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is a resident of District 12, or what used to be known as Appalachia. She lives in a poor mining community where every day is a struggle to survive. On the day of the lottery, her younger sister’s name is drawn and Katniss steps up to take her place — a selfless decision, made all the more courageous since no one has won from District 12 in 30 years. To complicate things further, the male District 12 contest, Peeta Mellark, once helped Katniss out of a difficult situation.

The pair arrive in the Capital, create a spectacle at the opening ceremonies, garner new skills from group training sessions, showcase their individual talents before the judges, steal the show at the final interview and are finally thrust into the grisly winner-take-all game.

Suzanne Collins, the author of the “Gregor the Overlander” series, has written another breathtaking series opener. Readers will find it impossible to put down her newest page-turner. The reality television show premise is intriguing, especially in today’s reality television-loving culture; and while the nonstop action reeks of violence, Collins’ matter-of-fact writing style lessens the gruesomeness. Collins has outdone herself with this addictive book that teenagers and adults alike will greedily devour.

‘Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat’

By Lynne Jonell

(Fourth through eighth grade)

Emmy Addison used to be happy, but all that changed when her loving, attentive parents inherited a fortune from her Great-Great-Uncle William. Suddenly Emmy’s life was turned upside down. Her family moved across town to live in a mansion, she started attending a different school, her parents started taking lavish trips to far away destinations, and she was left in the care of Miss Barmy, a cruel nanny.

Now, not only is Emmy lonely, but she feels invisible. At school, her teacher cannot remember her name; none of the students talk to her; and she thinks that she might be imagining things because she can hear the class pet, a rat, insulting her classmates.

However, after Joe, one of the popular boys in her class, discovers that he is able to hear the rat, Emmy no longer feels so invisible. Joe and Emmy are fast friends and this friendship allows Emmy to finally get to solve the mystery of what is happening to her family.

Jonell’s extraordinary characters are the heart of this mystery/adventure combo. Readers are likely to find themselves laughing aloud as they drink in every word of this clever tale.

Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at Joplin Public Library.