Review: Katniss the Cattail (Valerie Frankel)

There are some books that just deserve a permanent home. This is one of them. If you're a fan of The Hunger Games, you need this book! Period.


When I originally finished The Hunger Games trilogy, I had mixed feelings. I was a little disgruntled by the quick wrap up in Mockingjay. But now, after reading Katniss the Cattail by Valerie E. Frankel, I realize how brilliant Suzanne Collins really is. Oh. My. Goodness.

If you are a fan of The Hunger Games, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of Katniss the Cattail. Why, you ask? The answer is simple. This book explains the symbolism throughout the series. Sure, you may think you have already figured out the majority of the books’ hidden meanings, but let me assure you—you are wrong. The plant names and “big” symbols are easy to dissect. There is no challenging that; but did you realize that almost every name in this book has some link back to Roman civilization? More importantly, to the overthrowing of Caesar? Amazing stuff.

I devoured this book the moment I opened my mailbox. Everytime I read something “new” about a character, my brain started turning. I couldn’t help but stop and think about how a particular character interacted in the book; how they were described. It makes me want to reread the series with a more critical eye so I can appreciate the literary genius that is named Suzanne Collins. I do hope the movies can pull off this subtle characterization. Knowing the history behind the names really brings a new depth to the characters.

Wondering about what you might find in Katniss the Cattail? Here is a small sampling of some of the information I found so captivating:

·         First, I must begin by saying that when my father (who is now hijacking my YA books before I can read them—note to self: stop taking books to his house when you visit) saw me watching the trailer for the movie, he stopped and watched it to. I had goosebumps at the end, but he replied, “That seems very Orwellian.” I didn’t pay much attention to his ramblings, because he’s always saying stuff like that (love my nerdy dad). But then I read the books, and I thought: Holy crap. Obviously this is a dystopian read, but there is more to it. George Orwell is the author of one of my favorite books, Animal Farm. (I do hope you’ve read this book!) As the plot of Mockingjay develops, I knew the leaders were important. District Thirteen’s leader was no saint. The events that followed were not by chance. Just like in the Orwell classic, “the pigs lead a revolution to drive out the farmer and run the farm themselves, but soon they elevate themselves over their fellow animals, becoming indistinguishable from the farmers in the end. Here is the true danger of power… The lesson in both series is clear: Absolute power corrupts absolutely; those who conquer tyrants will soon become tyrants themselves” (Frankel 79). Brilliant. Now be honest, when you read Mockingjay, were you thinking about Animal Farm? Seems like I should listen more closely to the ramblings of a middle aged man. Oh, and I’m not even going to start explaining the similarities between the Capitol’s lifestyle and Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World!

·         There is also a hint of mythology in The Hunger Games. (I’ll be honest, I didn’t recognize this one.) Apparently, Collins has explained in interviews that the Hunger Games themselves were inspired by the story of Theseus. As the story goes, every nine years, seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls would be sent to Crete as Tribute for the Minotaur to devour.  Theseus volunteered to be placed with the Tributes, and killed the Minotaur (Frankel 80). Does the plot sound familiar?

I don’t want to give away all the gems in this book, but these two I found to be pretty interesting. Katniss the Cattail is divided into three sections: The names of Panem, symbols, and literary allusions. The symbols were pretty straight forward, but the allusions and historical value of the names were insightful. The author has done a fabulous job of putting together the research. When a great work of fiction presents itself, it only makes sense to view it under a critical literary lens. I know The Hunger Games is being taught in classrooms across the country because I have friends that are teaching the book to their students. At first I worried that it would be too graphic or gory for the censorship hounds, but after reading about the plethora of literary devices used in the novels, it only makes sense to teach these books. Get your copy here for a mere $7. =)

If you’re interested in other books by Valerie Frankel, she has written several on the Harry Potter series and one titled From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey in Myth and Legend. You can also find her on her website http://vefrankel.com .

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