Tag Archives: The Hunger games

Pete the Katniss or One Book, One School

Hi there!   J Monkeys coming to you from a Monday morning.  Woot!   For any who don’t know,  I’m a parent who studied literature in college and writes children’s books.  I’m excited to put those experiences together as a member of the One Book One School selection committee for my children’s school.

One Book One School is a program where a school selects one book and assigns it to every student with projects and activities that cover a variety of disciplines.   Now depending on the age range of students at the school, selecting a title can be tough.  Is there a book that is appropriate to both a kindergartener and a sixth grader?   Even in my children’s primary school (kindergarten to 2nd grade) it’s wicked hard. 

Kindergartners are only just learning to read.  They are memorizing sight words and beginning to understand phonetic pronunciation.  By the end of second grade, most students can read pretty well.  Finding a book that is challenging, interesting and appropriate for these disparate needs is tough.  

pete the catTrust me.  I’ve read a dozen books over the past week looking for something to recommend.  I’m calling it my quest for Pete the Katniss. 

Pete the Cat is a series of picture books that follow the antics of a cat named Pete.  His stories are simple, repetitive and often set to music.  

Katniss (in case you live under a rock) is katnissthe oft-violent heroine of The Hunger Games, a young adult distopian political thriller type romance.

For my school’s One Book One School program, I need to find a title that is as interesting as The Hunger Games, but has material that is age appropriate for five year old kids.   And, of course, it’s top secret.  I can’t disclose the titles I’ve been reading.

“But J, there are thousands of books to choose from,  how hard can it be to pick one?” you ask.   Surprisingly difficult.  After the committee’s first meeting, I stopped at the library to get the five books we had selected.  I read them, all children’s books that I had read decades ago, assuming that they would be good choices.  WRONG!

I read those five, and seven more, looking for books to recommend.  It turns out that books published before 1955, as three of them were, are often sexist, racist, xenophobic, use outdated language that can be considered inappropriate now, and/or often have a heavy handed sentence structure that would be completely over the heads of my kindergartners. 

One was too anti-school.  A couple of others were too short – the committee is looking for a chapter book in the neighborhood of 200 pages long.  Obviously, it’s an assignment for the parents as well as the students. 

Another betrayed the truth about a certain holiday gift-giver in such a way that I’m concerned the parents would set the building on fire.   There was a trio of books that are intended for a slightly older audience (really all of these are for an audience older than our students) and might just be a bit over the heads of these 5-8 years olds. 

I did find two that I wholeheartedly recommend, although one of them is a pretty popular series and might be disqualified for that reason.  The committee is looking for something that would be new to most everybody. 

I’m left with one; one book to recommend out of a dozen Middle Grade books read. 

What would you recommend?  I’m looking for something that would appeal to both boys and girls, is a chapter book, and is not likely to offend the parents with subject matter that they would deem inappropriate for a young child.  Bring ’em on.  I’ve got a follow up meeting this week.   I’ll let you know how it goes.



Author and Missionary Evelyn Puerto Goes BEYOND THE RAPIDS

Today, Evelyn Puerto is hanging out with the Scribes. She comes to us with exciting experiences and a story to be shared! Welcome, Evelyn!

Thank you, Scribes, and thank you, Katy. For 12 years I served as a missionary and traveled to many dangerous places in the world. I think the most risky trip was flying to Kathmandu a week after a coup had shut down the airport for a few days. I wasn’t really sure the airport would stay open so I could leave, and rumors were flying about civil war flaring up.  

After I returned from being a missionary in Russia, I got married, inheriting three stepdaughters, two stepgrandsons and a cat. Loving the people who came into my life with my husband has been a joy, even when my writing time is interrupted to help a stepdaughter with a car insurance problem. All fodder for another book some day!

And speaking of books and my writing…

Beyond the Rapids is the true story of Ukrainian pastor Alexei Brynza, who served as a Baptist pastor during the final decades of the Soviet Union. He and his wife endured fierce persecution as they struggled to raise their four children as believers in a culture hostile to Christianity, living under a regime determined to stamp out their faith. The Brynzas’ children, forced to choose between God and the communist system, wrestled with temptations of ambition, popularity, love and wealth. Beyond the Rapids is a story of the grace and mercy God extends to His faithful people, and how He helps them triumph over seemingly undefeatable foes.

I met the Brynzas when I traveled to Ukraine while I was serving as a missionary based in Russia. Their warmth and joy as they shared their stories captivated me. Beyond the Rapids compiles their inspiring stories, and reminds us afresh that God is bigger than any trial we face.

In writing Beyond the Rapids I bounced between believing in the story and thinking that what I was writing was mind-numbingly dull. The best way to get past that is to get lots of feedback. But that can be harder than it seems. After I had my first draft finished, I asked four or five people to read it. The only comments I got back were general statements along the lines of “I liked it.” My big mistake was not finding other people to read my book. Instead, I kept rewriting based on what I thought needed to be improved.  I only started feeling confident in Beyond the Rapids after I had gotten several reviews from people I didn’t know. For me, finding honest critics who can offer specific suggestions for improvement while being encouraging is the key. If I know what the problem is, I can rewrite it. It’s the nagging feeling that something— but I don’t know what —is wrong that creates the most doubt.

My biggest misstep in my writing career was a mistake I made from the beginning. Looking back, I can’t imagine why I was so blind. What I did was start writing, thinking I had a clue what I was doing. I had no idea that writing groups and critique groups and conferences even existed. For someone who loves research as much as I do, I can’t believe that during the eight or so years I was writing Beyond the Rapids I didn’t stumble on one of these groups. I would have learned so much and found people who would have offered constructive criticism. That would have saved me a lot of time and many, many rewrites.

As for what’s to come after Beyond the Rapids, lately I’ve been thinking of trying science fiction, which is completely different from the biography/true story genre of my first book. I was enthralled with The Hunger Games, and am inspired to try a bit of world building to see what I could come up with. I’ve got part of the story figured out in my head already, and plan to start seriously working on it in January.

And if I couldn’t be a writer anymore, I’d want to go on the speaker circuit. This is almost shocking for me to admit, since I’ve spent most of my life terrified of public speaking. I started working on my ability to speak in front of groups in order to market my books. Once I got past my fear, I was surprised by how much I enjoy it and that I seem to have a gift for it. Instead of writing my stories, I could share them orally.

I love to hear from readers, and can be reached at evelyn@beyondtherapids.com. Follow me on twitter @evelyn_puerto, or check out www.facebook.com/Beyond.the.Rapids

And readers can find Beyond the Rapids here!

Thank you, again, Evelyn for sharing a bit about your experiences and your story with us.

Readers, please ask Evelyn some questions, and I’ll start us off…

What led you to becoming a missionary? And for the record, I would come to listen to you speak!

To Be Continued

Hidey Ho Scribblers!  It’s Saturday once again, J Monkeys blathering here.  In just a few short weeks, all of our favorite shows will go on summer hiatus…well, almost all.  True Blood will be back from hiatus and really, that’s a good thing!  But Fringe, Once Upon a Time, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, they will all be gone for months.  Some of them might even be gone for good!  Please, oh please, SOMEBODY pick up Fringe for next year…I’m not ready for it to be over!

But I digress.  My three least favorite words in TV world could find their way to the screen in the next few weeks and even if they aren’t seen, you know they are lingering in the static…to be continued.

Yup, their commin’ and that got me to thinking about sequels.  Do you like them?  What do you like about them?  For me, it depends.  For example, I loved The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and I really liked the sequel, Catching Fire, but it took me a while to come around to Mockingjay.  That third book is very different from the first two…

I came to the Twilight series late in the game, after Breaking Dawn was already available, but like the rest of the world over the age of 10, I had to wait years between the Harry Potter books.  Of course, they were very much worth it!

I think what it comes down to is a need for a satisfying ending to the book I just finished.  I really don’t like being left on tenderhooks.  While you knew there would be more books coming in the Twilight series, each book stood on its own. 

If any of you read Anne Rice back in the day (I heard she has a new werewolf series out!) I was really angry with the ending of The Witching Hour.  This was a wonderful story – a huge tome of a book – right up to the last 4 pages.  The thing was captivating for 1300 pages and then, she didn’t wrap the story up – she started a new direction, leaving the bad guy out there.  I can’t remember the name of the sequel, but I was so angry that I don’t think I’ve read The Witching Hour again.  That’s unusual for me.  I often re-read book.  I reread books I like many times.  maybe enough time has passed that I can give it another go…


Today’s secret: I’m about to start the 3rd book in a series and I’m thinking about sequels a lot lately!

Today’s Question: Where do you stand on the topic of sequels?  Do you love ’em or hate ’em?

The Book or The Movie?

Hidey-Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here with the time-honored question: Which do you like better, the book or the movie?  How’s this for a diplomatic answer?  I like both…  Of course, I’m inspired about today’s topic because of the opening of a movie I’m SO excited to see: The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collin’s best-selling book series.

I devoured this book last summer.  I loved it!  I loved it so much that I abandoned my other responsibilities to finish it.  I loved it so much that I used it as a cattle prod to finish writing the first draft of my own second novel.  I wouldn’t allow myself to buy the second and third books in the Hunger Games series until I finished my work.  I had to wait a whole month.

And, like is often the case with action oriented stories, I’m thrilled to see this one brought to life.  Hubby and I have a date for next week to go to the theater.  We have a babysitter and everything. Exciting times!

But what about other book/movies?  I lived the grittiness of Timeline by Michael Crichton…both the movie and the book.  I loved the sweeping views of Jurassic Park (the movie) and the terror of those scenes with the T-Rex…I had nightmares for months. 

Incredible cast of A Time to Kill

I remember being curled up in as small a ball as possible in my movie theater chair and freaking myself out with the noise of ice in my empty soda cup during a scary scene.

I thought the movie version of The Firm and A Time to Kill were better than the books by John Grisham, but I thought the book Skipping Christmas was much better than the movie, Christmas with the Kranks. 

I liked the Twilight movies just as much as I liked the books, which was very much, indeed. 

I thought the first two Harry Potter Movies were great, but I thought movies five and six had to cut so much of the story to fit it into a 2-hour movie that it barely hung together if you didn’t already know the plot.  There were aspects of the movies that I loved, though.  I loved seeing the Dementors brought to life…and the Thestrals.

Today’s Secret: I’m almost as much of a movie junky as I am a book junky!  Either medium is fine with me as long as it tells a good story.

Today’s Question: What about you?  What books turned movies did you love and which did you think didn’t work?