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on March 1, 2012
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. =)
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Katniss the Cattail provides fans of Suzanne Collins's series a detailed look into the names and symbols found in all three books: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay.

From Alma Coin to York, from bows and arrows to Snake, and a thorough discussion of Katniss, Peeta and Gale, this book provides historical and literary background information on everyone and everything you could imagine from the books. Civil War admirals, Roman leaders, Persian kings and those made famous by Shakespeare's plays fill its pages. You'll soon discover the characters of Panem mean a lot more than their odd-sounding names.

Frankel also provides information on "Allusions to Literature and Life," discussing dystopia, history, Greek and Roman mythology and reality TV. The final pages of the book include a list of names by origin and the districts and their products.

This is a superb book for any lover of The Hunger Games series. It would also be an excellent resource for writers, showing the importance of carefully considering the names of their characters. Be warned, however, this book contains many spoilers, so it's a good idea to finish the series before reading it.

Highly recommended.
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on March 22, 2012
(From my blog, Word Vagabond: Supporting Independent and Small Press authors.)

English professor and pop-culture author Valerie Frankel delves into the symbolism, history, and mythology behind the popular Hunger Games series.

The largest part of this book is an examination of the names of the significant characters in all three of the Hunger Games books, listed in alphabetical order. Following that, Frankel explains the meaning of the main symbols in the series and then examines its themes. The index contains a list of the names covered, this time organized by origin, and also a list of the Districts of Panem and their products.

The depth of research Frankel put into this book was really impressive. She draws on a dizzying array of sources, which are meticulously noted in the bibliography. Some of the name interpretations she give seem like a bit of a stretch, but others, like Gale's, seem spot-on. She also shows how the characters influence and illuminate each other, as in the relationship between Katniss and her sister's cat, Buttercup.

The author draws a strong correlation with Roman and military history, especially give Suzanne Collins' military background. I found the origin of the word Avox particularly interesting.

This is a detailed and fascinating look behind the scenes of a great series. I highly recommend it to any Hunger Games fans.
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on May 4, 2012
Well, I had high hopes for this book and in some ways it came through. But some glaring errors, omissions, or biases truly nagged at me.

First the good things : I'm no student of Shakespeare though I do love his better-known works. The same can be said of me & Roman history/mythology. I'd already placed several of the characters as being leaders or philosophers from ancient Rome, but this book helped me place many others (Cinna !) who are somewhat lesser-knowns in Shakespearean dramas. And it reminded me of meanings of the names of some of the major background characters. The military origin of certain characters was VERY helpful.

Now the bad : I've grown up with plants called "cattails". They are NOT katniss. Two completely different plants in look & uses. The title is based on a lack of knowledge of the plant world (though the info about the katniss plant is correct otherwise).

It's very obvious Ms. Frankel doesn't like the character Gale. Very obvious, as she paints him in as odious a light as possible. She completely misses some clues about his true character. And it's very obvious she does like Peeta (as does everyone), making something of a stretch to compare him to the Christian disciple Peter. A bit much. Peeta may stem from "Peter", but I think it's simpler than a convoluted comparison to a saint. It has more to do with the meaning of the root name. Peter means "rock", which is what he becomes for Katniss.

When referencing Katniss' parents, I almost wondered if Ms. Frankel had even read the book. She refers to Mr. & Mrs. Everdeen as "almost ghostly". Given that Mr. Everdeen died a few years before the book opens, his presence SHOULD be ghostly. And Mrs. Everdeen is fighting to pull herself out of the depths of depression she entered when he died. Of course they are not high-functioning. If they were, Katniss never would have become who she was.

There are many other similar examples in this book that make me wonder if the author really read The Hunger Games trilogy or just skimmed it & wrote down names to research. Overall, it does help, but the author makes grand leaps @ times & puts in too much of her own biases.
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on July 1, 2013
Enjoyable...maybe even impressive if written and researched by a child. My biggest problem with the book is the title...those are two different plants...I hope someone will write a much better researched book someday. I would love to give a five star review. I hope the writer of that book will look deeper with all the names. Beetee is probably related to Bt. Gardeners know this to be bacteria that kill mosquitos and insect larvae that cause damage to all the lovely plants alluded to in the series. Probaby additional research gems exist for an author who would take their time to be thorough in their research.
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on September 28, 2013
I buy all of the series related books. This is the best one I have ever read. If you though you could see the symbolism in the Hunger Games you are WRONG! This book makes the series even better and you'll be blown away at how much thought Collins put into her series. I have bought this book for my friends and made them read it. This brings the HG series in a whole new light! I implore you to please read this!
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on July 31, 2013
My 11-year-old has been crazy for The Hunger Games for the past 2 years. She is also wicked smart, so Katniss and Cattail seemed like an excellent way to lead her into a more analytical approach to reading fiction. Ms. Frankel did not let me down. My daughter kept running into the room announcing all these amazing connections between the real world and Hunger Games. She was so excited to read something really intellectual about the series, and to make new connections herself. You could almost see her getting smarter as she read the book. This really opened her up to a new way to read, so thanks!. I recommend this to anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of the series and in expanding their minds.
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on March 4, 2012
Having previously read The Hunger Games and wondered about the hidden meanings in the text, I found this book to be enlightening. It left no doubt that a significant amount of effort and time was put into decoding a great story. I actually went back to reread The Hunger Games and it was like Katniss the Cattail cleared up a lot of issues I previously had with the novel. This book made things easier to understand and more enjoyable to read. Although this book is short, I found it made its points clearly and efficiently. I would highly recommend this book to others interested in discovering the hidden meanings of The Hunger Games.
Heat Rating: None
Overall Rating: 4
Reviewed by: Katelyn
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on January 24, 2016
My 10 yr. old granddaughter had this book on her Christmas List. I asked her how she liked the book. She said give it a 4 star. She liked it very much, but was disappointed that not all of the characters were in the book. She is a fan of The Hunger Games. She has seen the movies and read the books.
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on February 29, 2016
Just OK. Nothing new that one couldn't google to find out more meaning behind a name or thing. Got bored halfway through. I did finish it but wasn't really impressed. Don't waste your money on this one. Not worth it.
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