Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Copyright Date: May 19, 2020
Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Reading Level/Interest Level
This is a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. The setting is Panem ten years after the initial uprising, after which the Hunger Games was instituted as a punishment. During the war, the Snow family lost a lot. In fact, they lost it all when their district (District 13) was completely obliterated. Eighteen-year-old Coriolanus fights to regain his family’s glory. He has been assigned to be a mentor to a tribute from District 12, Lucy Gray Baird. Like The Hunger Games trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes continues its philosophical examination of war and what drives people to do what they do. We get a glimpse of why Snow becomes the president that he does.
It is kind of unbelievable to think that Suzanne Collins, author of the dystopian trilogy The Hunger Games, wrote for children’s TV such as Little Bear, Oswald and Clarissa Explains it All (Suzanne Collins, n.d.). While she was working in TV, children’s book author James Proimos talked her into writing children’s books. She has since sold millions of copies of her books worldwide.
This book is interesting, because it gives you a sense of some humanity in Coriolanus Snow. And then it dashes your hopes for him away, again and again. He might have loved, but he chooses survival, instead. Collins deftly develops the characters and sets the stage for what’s to come. While The Hunger Games trilogy was more of a critique on modern society and capitalism, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a book about survival and the ruthless strategy that it takes.
I’m not sure that I would use this as a teen book club read. It is a tome, at over 500 pages. It’s heavy and philosophical. While it grabbed my attention, I have read the trilogy and loved it. So this was like icing on the cake. But for someone who hadn’t read it, it may be too much. In addition, some teens may have read the trilogy, while others haven’t. That would make it difficult to discuss without spoiling it.
Coriolanus Snow’s family was successful until the war. Then they lost everything, even their entire district. Cariolanus does what he needs to do to survive in the time of the Hunger Games and takes on a mentee from District 12. Every choice he makes is for survival. But will who he is survive? Who will he become?
Three words to describe this book: philosophical, character-driven, tragic
Potential Challenge Issues and Defense Preparation
This book has more philosophical weight than the others. There is some violence, but not as much as the original trilogy. The focus of this book is not in the arena, but is, instead, on Snow. There is little swearing or sex. There is not much to object to in this prequel.
Justification for Inclusion in Collection
This is an important prequel to the best-selling trilogy, The Hunger Games. While a book on President Snow might not have been engaging for the teen audience, a book on Snow as a teenager will have a certain appeal. Teens will be able to put themselves in his shoes and ask themselves what they would have done. Working out their own sense of ethics is important for teens, and books are a good medium to do that.
Suzanne Collins. (n.d.). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/bio.htm
Titlewave. (2020). The ballad of songbirds and snakes [Book Cover]. Retrieved from https://www.titlewave.com/ebookpreview?flrid=543VBO7&inside_view_for=1043NY0