Monday, June 25, 2012

Book recommendations for action and fantasy loving kids

Recently, Andre showed interest in a couple of books, so I thought it would be timely to share the finds. My two recommendations today are book sets in the fantasy genre with lots of action.

The first recommendation is not much of a surprise, it's Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy. Interestingly enough, I bought the first book for myself on a friend's recommendation, before the movie was released and before I'd heard all the hype. The book got me so hooked I went out and bought the entire box set from Popular. This is an exceptional series. I say this because it is the first series of books where every member of my family actually read and enjoyed. That's right - Kenneth, Lesley-Anne, Andre and me! Talk about value for money.

I don't know how Collins did it but she writes in such a way that's simple enough for a child of 11 to understand yet sophisticated enough to engage adults. The themes are also pretty gender-neutral. Just a quick blurb, the Hunger Games is set in a hostile land where every year, 24 children have to fight to the death in a terrifying live event that's televised to the citizens. Only the winner survives. The protagonist is 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen who volunteers to take her younger sister's place in the games.

We never caught the movie. In my experience, movie adaptations seldom live up to the magnificence of the book which can better capture every thought and nuance. The book is fast-paced and there's non-stop action which is great for Andre. He loved it even more than the Percy Jackson series. I'd never seen him so engrossed in a book that he chose to read it over computer time. If that's not incentive for all you parents with reading-averse kids, I don't know what is!

The second series, which Andre is currently reading, is Maximum Ride by James Patterson. It chronicles the lives of six fugitive children known as the Flock, who underwent scientific experiments that made them 98% human and 2% avian. The main character is 14-year-old Maximum "Max" Ride (another female protagonist!), leader of the Flock.

There are seven books altogether, divided into two sections: The Fugitives (books 1–3) and The Protectors (books 4–7). Andre started reading this series upon the recommendation of Lesley-Anne who enjoyed it tremendously at p6. The storyline is compelling enough to hook his interest. However, from book 4 onwards, I understand the writer started focusing on the love story between Max and Fang (another member of the Flock), which put Lesley-Anne off. If you're not keen on your pre-teen reading love stories, then stop at book 3.

I understand that Maximum Ride will also be adapted into a movie, to be released next year.

I would estimate the reading level of both these series as suitable for age 11 onwards, although the themes are probably targeted at teenagers.


Anonymous said...

Hi there

Indeed the Hunger Games trilogy was read by all of us in the family too - my P3 & JC1 kids, hubby & me! It is a rather good read for all ages. The movie adaptation was not as good, but nevertheless a good watch; especially to see how certain scenes are depicted. Will check out the Maximum Ride for my son, thanks! It sounds like a series he will enjoy, he is now hooked on the Alex Rider series.



monlim said...

Em: My kids never read the Alex Rider series but I know it's v popular and can imagine it's probably good, since it's by Anthony Horowitz. Hope your son likes Maximum Ride!

Quince Pan said...

I have finished The Hunger Games but I felt bored after reading the first few chapters of Maximum Ride. The Hunger Games is a good book, but Catching Fire and Mockingjay just focuses on the victory parade and Gale vs Peeta in the love triangle, much similar to Twilight. I recommend Edge of Nowhere by John E. Smelcer and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Both are thrilling stories about survival, thin in volume but thick in meaning. Some of Anthony Horowitz's books are good, such as the Diamond Brothers series and the Alex Rider series. Raven's Gate is not my cup of tea though. My English teacher studied To Kill a Mockingbird with my class about 3 months ago but I feel that the boring life stories of the Finch family overpowered the interesting Tom Robinson case. I am currently reading Chinese Cinderella, and Adeline's life story is much more interesting than some 1936's fiction.

monlim said...

Quince: Thanks for sharing. I'm guessing you're about 14? Knowing your age (and gender) would help readers determine whether the books are suitable for their kids. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Mon, correct me if I am wrong.
The synopsis of Hunger Games sounds morbid to me:

"the Hunger Games is set in a hostile land where every year, 24 children have to fight to the death in a terrifying live event that's televised to the citizens. Only the winner survives. "

I checked with a 12 year old who read the book if the killing was real, she said it was. And the way she said nonchalantly, it seemed to her that killing everyone was fine. Is she right about the book? No matter how engaging the writing is, I have my concern if this book is about real killing and only one winner lives. It just seems so wrong to me to use a TV gameshow to eliminate people. According to her, that is the plan to eliminate people? Why? *baffled*


monlim said...

QX: Yes, if you first read the synopsis, it sounds morbid and blood-thirsty, that was my first impression too! But it goes much deeper than that, it's a scenario where the districts are enslaved by the capital and this is the cruel way in which the capital punishes them for their past rebellion, by making them fight to the death.

So it's not just a book about killing for its own sake but an allegory on war and its senselessness. The protagonist consistently fights against this idea that they are helpless against the aggressors, hence the rebellion.

I would say it's not a book that celebrates violence, rather the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for explaining Mon. Partly my concern stemmed from this 12 year old's lack of understanding of what you have mentioned. She is not able to discern or articulate the intent, all she said was the book was thrilling and full of suspense. The killing of each other was like a natural thing to her in the book. Also, I read in the wiki that at one point, they were even using double suicide to counter the problem from the aggressor.

Perhaps I should read the entire book myself first to dispel my concern. My child asked to buy it and I forbid her to after reading the synopsis and talking to a few kids.


monlim said...

QX: Yes, definitely read it yourself first to determine if it's suitable for your dd. That's what I did before determining that it was suitable for Andre (I had the same concerns as you). Your dd is only 9 or 10 now? In which case, yes, she might be a little young for the themes of the book.

I can imagine some kids without the maturity might find the killing bits thrilling without understanding the message, but I must say that Collins treats it quite tastefully, ie I don't get the sense of graphic violence for its own sake. The protagonist is painted as someone who balks over having to kill others, which hopefully does reinforce the message that violence is wrong. btw, the double suicide never happened :)

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