The Flashlight Reader

Review: Katniss the Cattail (Valerie Frankel)
There are some books that just deserve a permanent home. This is one of them. If you're a fan of The Hunger Games, you need this book! Period.

When I originally finished The Hunger Games trilogy, I had mixed feelings. I was a little disgruntled by the quick wrap up in Mockingjay. But now, after reading Katniss the Cattail by Valerie E. Frankel, I realize how brilliant Suzanne Collins really is. Oh. My. Goodness.

If you are a fan of The Hunger Games, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of Katniss the Cattail. Why, you ask? The answer is simple. This book explains the symbolism throughout the series. Sure, you may think you have already figured out the majority of the books’ hidden meanings, but let me assure you—you are wrong. The plant names and “big” symbols are easy to dissect. There is no challenging that; but did you realize that almost every name in this book has some link back to Roman civilization? More importantly, to the overthrowing of Caesar? Amazing stuff.

I devoured this book the moment I opened my mailbox. Everytime I read something “new” about a character, my brain started turning. I couldn’t help but stop and think about how a particular character interacted in the book; how they were described. It makes me want to reread the series with a more critical eye so I can appreciate the literary genius that is named Suzanne Collins. I do hope the movies can pull off this subtle characterization. Knowing the history behind the names really brings a new depth to the characters.

Wondering about what you might find in Katniss the Cattail? Here is a small sampling of some of the information I found so captivating:

First, I must begin by saying that when my father (who is now hijacking my YA books before I can read them—note to self: stop taking books to his house when you visit) saw me watching the trailer for the movie, he stopped and watched it to. I had goosebumps at the end, but he replied, “That seems very Orwellian.” I didn’t pay much attention to his ramblings, because he’s always saying stuff like that (love my nerdy dad). But then I read the books, and I thought: Holy crap. Obviously this is a dystopian read, but there is more to it. George Orwell is the author of one of my favorite books, Animal Farm. (I do hope you’ve read this book!) As the plot of Mockingjay develops, I knew the leaders were important. District Thirteen’s leader was no saint. The events that followed were not by chance. Just like in the Orwell classic, “the pigs lead a revolution to drive out the farmer and run the farm themselves, but soon they elevate themselves over their fellow animals, becoming indistinguishable from the farmers in the end. Here is the true danger of power… The lesson in both series is clear: Absolute power corrupts absolutely; those who conquer tyrants will soon become tyrants themselves” (Frankel 79). Brilliant. Now be honest, when you read Mockingjay, were you thinking about Animal Farm? Seems like I should listen more closely to the ramblings of a middle aged man. Oh, and I’m not even going to start explaining the similarities between the Capitol’s lifestyle and Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World!

There is also a hint of mythology in The Hunger Games. (I’ll be honest, I didn’t recognize this one.) Apparently, Collins has explained in interviews that the Hunger Games themselves were inspired by the story of Theseus. As the story goes, every nine years, seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls would be sent to Crete as Tribute for the Minotaur to devour. Theseus volunteered to be placed with the Tributes, and killed the Minotaur (Frankel 80). Does the plot sound familiar?

I don’t want to give away all the gems in this book, but these two I found to be pretty interesting. Katniss the Cattail is divided into three sections: The names of Panem, symbols, and literary allusions. The symbols were pretty straight forward, but the allusions and historical value of the names were insightful. The author has done a fabulous job of putting together the research. When a great work of fiction presents itself, it only makes sense to view it under a critical literary lens. I know The Hunger Games is being taught in classrooms across the country because I have friends that are teaching the book to their students. At first I worried that it would be too graphic or gory for the censorship hounds, but after reading about the plethora of literary devices used in the novels, it only makes sense to teach these books. Get your copy here for a mere $7. =)

If you’re interested in other books by Valerie Frankel, she has written several on the Harry Potter series and one titled From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey in Myth and Legend. You can also find her on her website .

Sarah’s Reviews

Full of thought provoking observations, Katniss the Cattailis a quick, clean read for any fan of The Hunger Games trilogy. It provides the historical and scientific background of the names of people, places, and symbols in the series as well as their links to other well known literature (Plato, Shakespeare, etc...). Frankel also provides some very interesting and convincing speculations as to the relationship between the names and the messages of the story itself. Readers who have not read the entire series should be aware that this book contains spoilers as it is analyzing the series as a whole.

My Book Addiction

Having previously read The Hunger Games and wondered about the hidden meanings in the text, I found this book to be enlightening. It left no doubt that a significant amount of effort and time was put into decoding a great story. I actually went back to reread The Hunger Games and it was like Katniss the Cattail cleared up a lot of issues I previously had with the novel. This book made things easier to understand and more enjoyable to read. Although this book is short, I found it made its points clearly and efficiently. I would highly recommend this book to others interested in discovering the hidden meanings of The Hunger Games.

Bookaholic Anonymous

Katniss the Cattail is an encyclopedia and guide on names and symbols in The Hunger Games trilogy. Frankel goes through each character's name in great detail and what things influenced the naming and personality of the character. It also goes through the many symbols in the books, such as bread, Snow's roses, and dandelions and what they each represent. Frankel is very detailed with her explanations and touch on various influences from Shakespere to The Wizard of Oz. The majority of the characters are inspired by Shakespeare, which Frankel explains in her book. My favorite section of the book was Frankel's descriptions of the symbols. I learned that nightlock was not a real berry and that Prim's nickname duck, alludes to her being very resourceful. I also liked that Frankel uses many quotes from the three books and other sources to back up her descriptions.

I gave this book two different grades. I gave it a B- for those that are not super fans of The Hunger Games. It was interesting to read, but I can see how non-fans would not enjoy the book. It was very well researched and it was obvious that Frankel had taken a lot of time and effort to write this book. I gave the book an A for Hunger Games fan. This is a must read for those who are obsessed with the trilogy. It gives the reader a new perspective on the characters and the symbols throughout the books. If you have read the trilogy cover to cover, have seen the movie, and are still looking for something to feed your Hunger Games soul, then this is the perfect book for you!


The Book Connection

From Alma Coin to York, from bows and arrows to Snake, and a thorough discussion of Katniss, Peeta and Gale, this book provides historical and literary background information on everyone and everything you could imagine from the books. Civil War admirals, Roman leaders, Persian kings and those made famous by Shakespeare's plays fill its pages. You'll soon discover the characters of Panem mean a lot more than their odd-sounding names.

Frankel also provides information on "Allusions to Literature and Life," discussing dystopia, history, Greek and Roman mythology and reality TV. The final pages of the book include a list of names by origin and the districts and their products.

This is a superb book for any lover of The Hunger Games series. It would also be an excellent resource for writers, showing the importance of carefully considering the names of their characters. Be warned, however, this book contains many spoilers, so it's a good idea to finish the series before reading it.

Highly recommended.


Book Lover's Paradise

Katniss the Cattail is a reference guide to wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy. (by Suzanne Collins) The author gives an encyclopedic style listing of the meanings of the characters names, plants, place names... All pertinent information from the book is listed in this short book. I'm not certain if Ms. Collins meant her books to be over analyzed, but many of the names fit the personalities of the characters.
If you are a Hunger Games lover, this book is a fantastic reference.