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The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay: Teaching Guides Review by Wendy Robertson

Mary Elizabeth
Garlic Press
1 (800) 789-0554
899 South College Mall Road, Suite 381
Bloomington, IN 47401

This three book set from Garlic Press is a wonderful addition to any students studying (or even just reading) The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins. Each book takes both student and teacher on a chapter-by-chapter through the books, offering a summary (for teacher use only), a large selection of vocabulary words, and a list of journal/notebooking questions to answer. These questions can be tackled orally in a group setting or in writing individually. To make the vocabulary section easier for students, each one is listed by the page number (for the paperback and Kindle versions of the book). The softcover books are each 112 pages, and every page is jam-packed with great study guides for this series.

In addition to the sections I mentioned before, there are also loads of other things to help students learn through the reading of these books. First are “Strategy Pages.” These are pages that explain and expand on literary elements used by Ms. Collins in her books; for example, hidden continuity errors or understanding the meaning of silence. Each Strategy Page is a little different, but the main point of each one is explaining the strategy used by the author. Some include a challenge for the student (look for additional continuity errors as you read), and others are simply explanation.

Each of the three teaching guides also includes a series of tests for comprehension of the novels. If you’re familiar with these books, you’ll know that each one is divided into three parts. The tests are scheduled out to correspond with each part of each book.

The final two types of teaching pages in these guides are Writer’s Forum and Theme Pages. The Writer’s Forum offers all kinds of different writing assignments for the students to work through (write a ballad, write an extended metaphor, things like that). The Theme Pages are placed at the end of the guide, rather than sprinkled throughout like the other pages. Each one delves different themes that are, or can be, explored in these novels. Things such as, “Is Katniss a hero or a protagonist? What is the difference?” are discussed.

Each of these books retails for $13.95, and they really are what they claim to be: teaching guides, not student workbooks. This means that the books are reusable if you have students in different ages. You can use it with your 9th grader this year, and your 6th grader in three years, when he’s old enough to read the books without having to repurchase.

The Hunger Games trilogy Teaching Guides from Garlic Press are a good way to incorporate “modern” books into your literature studies. They can work equally well as a supplement to what your public school student is doing in his class, or for the homeschool student. Because of the journaling questions provided for each chapter, these books would be a good product for homeschoolers who do a lot of notebooking. While there’s not a specific age range listed on the books, I think they’d fit best with families of older students. This isn’t just because of graphic nature of the novels, but more because of the intensity of the guide.

I thought these guides would be good for our family because my sons (11 and 8) were reading the novels, but it turned out that the guides were too heavy for such young. It was too much work for them to do on top of their regular schoolwork, so we had to set them aside for now. This isn’t a problem with the teaching guides per se, but it is something to consider if you’re looking into these literature guides. Honestly, that’s really the only negative thing I can think of with these guides; the amount of time required to really implement them fully. For a literature-heavy family, they’d be a great fit.

—Product Review by Wendy Robertson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2015