Review: Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games by Valerie Estelle Frankel

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Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games by Valerie Frankel book cover
Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (2012) is Valerie Estelle Frankel's guide to The Hunger Games series, most specifically the symbolism used within the trilogy. This is only a short book (about 100 pages), but each character is given their own section, followed by a discussion of more general symbolism, and the literary references and allusions that appear in the series. There are small images throughout, which illustrate points and help break up the long passages of text, which younger readers might find a little tiring.

With the explosion of The Hunger Games series, there will no doubt be a run of companion pieces, pastiches, and general spin-offs. In a crowded market place, the need to set oneself apart is self-evident. Whilst the packaging of Katniss the Cattail is slightly below par, the content is anything but. Frankel's approach is thorough and academically-minded. The conscientious bibliography at the end of the book attests to this fact, and yet the book is not simply an exercise in facticity. It becomes clear very quickly that Frankel is passionate about mythology and the etymology of names, as well as fantasy literature and the subtle allusions that authors make throughout their works, and that she takes great pleasure in enhancing readers' enjoyment of the source text through her own contribution and explanatory work. In relation to The Hunger Games, many of the references that Frankel picks out relate to either Shakespeare’s or Plutarch’s accounts of Roman times, although she also draws on fantasy traditions and myths.

Frankel writes well, if not a little academically. Indeed, whilst the content is often illuminating, one suspects that it is The Hunger Games' more mature readers that will get the most from Katniss the Cattail, with younger readers possibly finding the topics discussed a little dry and heavy. That the content is so neatly laid out negates this to an extent, with the structure lending itself to reference use, rather than as a book to be read cover-to-cover. As a product of a small publishing company, there are some elements of the editing that leave a little to be desired, perhaps most notably the inconsistent use of the possessive with regards to Collins's and Katniss's names.

Readers will certainly find Frankel’s assertions and explanations illuminating and through them will gain a further understanding of Suzanne Collins’s reference points. As a whole the book's packaging could have been better designed and the editing a little more thorough, but it is for the content that one reads a book like Katniss the Cattail. I defer entirely to Frankel on the matters discussed within her slip of a book; to my knowledge her explanations and identifications appear valid and well-researched, and one can ask for little more than this. As a guide to the series, readers of could do a lot worse than Katniss the Cattail; an intelligent and informative look at Suzanne Collins's trilogy.

This neat little book is a great guide to The Hunger Games series and will definitely enhance the reading experience of many. It's interesting to learn where Collins's references come from, and a great starting point to exploring more.


Useful Links
Reviews of Katniss the Cattail on Amazon (UK)
Reviews of Katniss the Cattail on Amazon (US)

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2 comments:

The Young Book Collector said...

Nice review, but do you wish the book it self was longer ?

Matthew (The Bibliofreak) said...

Thanks for the comment. I actually think it's about the right length. It gives you a good starting point to understanding the book, but doesn't overburden you with facts.