May 2012 Reads

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April came and went without a post of our reads so I’m catching up now! I always end up reading more than one book at a time. Does anybody else do that? Or do you dutifully finish one before you start the next?

I started and finished The Hunger Games Trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay) by Suzanne Collins and I stayed up way too late in the process. I’m honestly not sure what I think about them yet. They were exciting and engaging; however, I felt like Collins was making me, as the reader, complicit in the crimes of “The Capitol” which viewed the Games as entertainment since I was being entertained by the violence as well. What did you think about the books or movie (haven’t seen it yet)? Any good articles that might help me think about them more?

I’m about halfway through Men at Arms, the first novel of the Sword of Honour Trilogy by my all-time favorite author: Evelyn Waugh

I finally finished the last book of the Pendragon Cycle by Stephen Lawhead. My love for all things Arthurian is a tad embarrassing, but I can’t help it. I was mildly obsessed with Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott as a young child because Anne loved it and because I loved all things Anne. I also adored the musical Camelot with Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Harris. I watched it every time I got strep throat, which was often, between the ages of 5 and 7. Seriously. They knew me well at the walk-in clinic (because I always fell ill on the weekend of course) and nicknamed me “the strep magnet.” I became buddies with the cool nurse named Val. Oh the good times we had…

Anyhow, that’s my story for why I’m willing to read books with humiliatingly bad cover art like so:

Let’s move on shall we?

I plan on finishing The Blessed Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Familiaris Consortio tomorrow morning. So so good.

I’ve been trying to find something in the chapter book category that would catch 3-year-old Benjamin’s fancy as a read aloud. He’s not ready for Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Jungle Book, or anything else without pictures on every page that I’ve tried reading to him. BUT, yesterday I discovered with glee that he LOVES Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. We read a chapter last night and a chapter this morning of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s Magic by Betty MacDonald and he was giggling and completely captivated. Hooray!

What are you reading? What are you reading to your littles? And do let me know what you thought of The Hunger Games. I’m dying to know.

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  1. claire says

    Have you guys tried out the ‘Little Bear’ series by Maurice Sendak? They’re good beginning chapter books! Lots of pictures! 🙂 AAAAnd– Mo Willems has a series of beginner chapter books too.

    • says

      I bought him Little Bear before he was even born but between the bajillion moves we’ve made since then, it’s disappeared. I’ll just have to get another one because I LOVE Little Bear and remember adoring it as a child. Good call, Claire.

  2. says

    At this stage of motherhood I couldn’t make it thru the first Hunger Games – it was a little too much to deal with the subject matter, but I also had the same idea you did – how are we any better than anyone fictionalized in the book for glamorizing these types of books? When you get down to it – is a movie visualizing all these atrocities done by and to children any better than the real thing?

    My shameless reading right now is book 2 of the Infernal Devices – sometimes you just need some silly YA reading and next on the list is Radical Homemaking and Unconditional Parenting.

    What about the James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, The Little (or the Borrowers, but I think the Little is an easier read) or Stuart Little?

  3. says

    Have you thought about the Pooh books by A.A. Milne? I know, I know. It’s Whinnie-the-Pooh and it’s so over commercialized its crazy (I’m totally guilty of giving in to it), but the original tales are charming and the stories are great for reading one a night. I can’t wait until Punkin gets old enough to sit through chapter books.Right now we’re going through about a dozen board books a night!

    Also, I saw in your last post you mentioned Once Upon a Time. Love. Seriously. Dreamy the Dwarf was hard to watch but oh my, I love that show. And yes it’s a little embarassing. But not as much as my love for other shows that shall remain nameless. 🙂

    • says

      I love the original stories and my mother-in-law gave Benjamin a beautiful copy for Christmas. We’ve read to him from it a couple of times but he lost interest and I don’t want to push it because I want him to LOVE it, ya know?

  4. says

    I love The Hunger Games trilogy. I can see your point, but I also think that portraying the ugliness of life in books and movies has a place when it serves a purpose. The overall message of the stories is of the horror of this violence, and I don’t think anyone taking the books or movie seriously is coming away with an idea that anything the Capital does is good. There is an awful lot of violence in the Bible, too, but it’s there for a reason.

    • says

      Oh, I agree, Jen, I don’t think that anyone finishes the book thinking the Capitol isn’t horrible. And I certainly don’t think that violence in literature is always bad. As you said, the Bible is FULL of violence. My issue is the idea of violence as entertainment. Collins is clearly saying in the book that’s a bad thing; yet, I think the books themselves become violent entertainment. I don’t know, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

  5. says

    I loved the Hunger Games trilogy and had to read them twice to squeeze more meaning out of them. I DEFINITELY see how our culture is like the Capitol… America is the Capitol and 3rd world countries are the districts. It can also be seen as “the media” is the Capitol and we (the viewers / those receptive of the media) are the districts… very little say-so in the content of the media, BUT at least we can turn off the TVs, ignore the magazines and newspapers, etc. The mandated viewing can be equated with the offensive magazine covers at every grocery store check-out. I find myself turning more and more magazines around (or covering Cosmo & Glamour up with a cooking mag). I’m no Katniss, but I do my part. ;D

  6. says

    As for kids’ chapter books, maybe in a year or two, you might introduce The Magic Tree House. Both my kids (6 & 9 yo) love them. They are illustrated chapter books that feature a mix of non-fiction and imagination. There are over 40 books in the series, and many are available on CD. My kids liked to listen to them over and over when they were learning to read… they could follow along with the text, but not quite read it independently, so the CDs were a good balance (and I wasn’t reading Jack & Annie all day every day).

  7. says

    I keep wanting someone to tell me that I NEED to read the Hunger Games…I feel so tragically out of the literary loop…Its good to hear you read them and they are making you think. I believe I saw an article recently about the books on the First Things blog, and Fr. Barron has some great commentary on them too-even though I haven’t watched them because I somehow don’t want to ruin the books in case I read them-but everything Fr. Barron does is great right?

    Haha, I’m reading a Tom Grace novel about special forces working for the Vatican trying to extricate a Chinese Cardinal from prison. I know right?! But so far its surprisingly decent. And a biography of Catherine the Great, yes I’m a nerd. And some child development books…Your Three-Year-Old; Friend or Enemy?

    And I’d recommend some fairy tales for the little mister. I’ve got a couple of fairly good young children editions that are longer than picture books, but not as long as chapter books. I find that short stories hold their interest fairly well.

    • says

      I will definitely look up the article from First Things (love that publication!) and find Fr. Barron’s commentary. Thanks for the tip!

      That child development book sounds like it was written for me, haha.

      • LMM says

        No problem – I think his explanation of why we find these stories compelling is excellent, and it makes me feel a bit less guilty about this guilty pleasure. The movie, though, shied away from the horror of the killing (probably to preserve its PG-13 rating) and, while I get it, it definitely felt like it should have been more horrible and less “entertaining.” Also, I don’t think the costumes in the movie were nearly as impressive as they sounded in the book!

  8. Lizeth says

    Greetings from Honduras, Central America! I just wanted to say that I totally agree with Kim’s viewpoint on the Hunger Games. I am from a “3rd world country” and can totally relate to the story. I see misery and violence that are a source of people not caring for each other but concerned with appearance and material possesions. The violence was not as bad as I thought it would be at the beginning. The author does not engage in a lot of description in most of the killings, which I found thankful. I found it awful to read about young kids killing each other on the arena but it is something we are exposed to. Drug traffic has become so bad down here that every day more Honduran young people are exposed, or directly involved, to violent crimes. If you take a social/cultural approach to the book you might find it is not so far away from the truth. I also found Katniss to be a good role model for girls. She put her family and other people before her own needs. She was off sometimes, but sometimes trying to do well we goof off. Hope I could shed a different view on the trilogy.

  9. Rose says

    Just a quick comment…

    I know it’s weird too be a willing audience to violence…but humanity has been all about this since before the Gladiator games. What is the difference? We are attracted to to this kind of thing, not because we love to see the suffering of others (well..some do), but because on some levels, we need to know that others feel and perceive their existence on this earth in the same way we do. Others have an unfulfilled need to live life and do so through the experiences of others. Others still cannot rip their eyes from human suffering. Is it because we owe them the respect of acknowledge that their life – a life dangerously close to it’s end – actually existed? Validation of existence is something we all seek and seek to give. Is it not one of the reasons we fall in love?

    Also we have to give a hand to Suzanne Collins. She put us on both sides of the coin. She made us sympathize to some extent with both the Citizens of the Capitol, the people of the Districts (including of course the actual Hunger Games contestants) and the people stuck in the middle, like Cinna and the other stylist. How many authors can we say achieve that when writing a book? She covers all sides. She draws a direct parallel to society. Can we blame the people of Rome for watching Gladiators fight to the death? Can we blame the people of the Capitol? Their take on the Games as just that – a game – doesn’t have enough malice and is to innocent for me to hate them. It is more reminiscent of a society that does what it is told to do. They don’t have the same malicious intent as their predecessors did. They just watch as they have for years and as others have for years beyond their recollection (75 yrs correct?). Can we, then blame ourselves for the same?

    And Lizbeth, I am from the Dominican Republic. I completely feel you on your point. The Hunger Games portrays a fantasy that is all to real, even to a More developed country like mine. Its ridiculous. There’s a mob mentality that is hard to get rid of (like, among the citizen of the Capitol…and the contestants of the Games). Again, props to Collins for undertanding the psychology behind human thought.

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