A Conspiracy of Mockingjays
Well, what did you think? I liked it. I liked the fact that it didn’t retread the Hunger Games for a third time and I found the war themes interesting, but it was too internal for my tastes and Katniss became too passive. And I still think THE HUNGER GAMES is not only the strongest book in the trilogy, but was the best candidate for Newbery recognition.
Since MOCKINGJAY faces the sequel and audience concerns that A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS does, perhaps a comparison and contrast of the two books would be in order. Which book “stands alone” better? Which book is less confusing? Which book is better? And why?
I’ve had several private e-mail conversations about A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, but here’s a snippet from the best one. (It could apply to MOCKINGJAY or any indeed any book in a series.)
I actually think people are looking at it backward–I think we should not look at a book’s eligibity but a committee member’s. If someone is not willing (or indeed eager) to familiarize themselves with major books in a major series in order to read a new entry, they should not be eligible for the committee.
We expect the people on the Newbery committee to have a high degree of expertise in children’s literature. I could certainly understand if someone hadn’t read THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA and THE KING OF ATTOLIA, but certainly people should have read THE THIEF, no? And if they have also not read THE HUNGER GAMES, do I really want them on the committee, anyway? Is a person who has not read THE THIEF and/or THE HUNGER GAMES worthy to serve on the Newbery committee?
It would be interesting to know, from the committees that recognized THE HIGH KING and THE GREY KING, how many members had read previous entries in the series. I’d bet it’s a pretty high proportion. Oh, how I wish we could pick their brains.
Now I’ve had to read books for committees and reviews without benefit of the previous entries, namely DREAMQUAKE by Elizabeth Knox, A DARKLING PLAIN by Philip Reeve, THE SWEET FAR THING by Libba Bray, and INKDEATH by Cornelia Funke. I have read, evaulated, and appreciated each of these books on their own merits. DREAMQUAKE was a Printz Honor book; I did go back and read DREAMHUNTER (as my friend suggested), but only after I’d read DREAMQUAKE three times and knew how I felt about it on its own. A DARKLING PLAIN won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. I had read the first hundred pages of MORTAL ENGINES years ago before handing it off to a student; I never got it back. I still need to go back and read the earlier volumes!
The point I am trying to make is that committee members take their charge very seriously (more seriously than the casual reader), and I’d bet that many, if not most, of them are willing to go the extra mile to find something that is truly distinguished. I certainly hope that’s true of this committee.
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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