Sunday, July 31, 2011

Girl who was on fire

When I first received Girl who was on Fire (essays about Hunger Games trilogy) a month ago, I immediately read the first four essays. I was so devoted to this task, I brought it with me to HSBC Arena (home of our Buffalo Sabres hockey team) that same evening to watch the NHL top draft picks on the jumbotron with my family. When the draft broadcast was boring (which is a lot of the time between draft picks and cute photo ops), I read this book because I didn't care much less understand what the commentators said to fill time.

That was the last time I read the book. For a while I convinced myself that I just needed more time to digest the important analysis each essayist presented after reading four in a row, blah blah blah. It sat in my Goodreads "to read" collection, and sat, and sat. So did two other books. Finally I admitted I just need to push myself to read it or forget it and move on. That's one reason to join Book-a-day.

There are several super interesting essays in this book, plus some essays that were just okay. Common themes (tyranny vs. community, love vs. hate, bread and circus) run throughout all the essays, so be prepared for repetition.

My personal favorites, ones that I found most thought-provoking: "Reality Hunger" by Ned Vizzini (connections to reality TV and essayist's experience with media/marketing; I'm going to find Vizzini's novels to read because I enjoyed his writing style!), "No So Weird Science" by Cara Lockwood (genetic engineering), "Crime of Fashion", "Bent, Shattered, and Mended" by Blythe Woolston (Post-traumatic stress disorder; I tweeted the writer, will find her book to read).

Potential for students - I think some 7th and 8th graders who enjoyed the trilogy would enjoy some of the essays. I may try to read excerpts from some essays in class with students. The new Common Core Learning Standards and specifically an addition by the New York State Education Department may require 7th and 8th grades to read literary criticism, something that seems generally out of reach for most students, but these essays would be much more accessible. (Confession: when my colleagues and I read that section in the NYS common core, our eyes bugged out. Honestly, I think we can teach it. It does require more creative curriculum work. That's why we're the professionals, huh?!)

Bottom line: we need more books like Girl who was on Fire - essays about our favorite middle grade/young adult novels! In the context of exploring great literature, these essays can encourage students to think more broadly and feel (and think) more deeply.

1 comment:

Kathryn from Schoolmarm Style said...

Mimi, thanks for the great recommendation. I'm going to need to find this title soon.

I agree with you about the CCS being a reach. I'm not sure who was aware of "developmental appropriateness" in the drafting, but I really like the fact that the bar has really been raised.

Also, thanks for the recent comments on my blog post about blogging success.