Book or Movie? The Hunger Games

“The brain is very good at protecting itself,” Rich said. “When you read, you’re constantly accessing your memories and your frame of reference: your experience.” In other words, what a child is able to envision is limited to the boundaries of his or her imagination. “But when you put an image or an idea into a movie, someone else has translated that.” And quite suddenly, the picture a child has created in their mind is augmented by the more vivid and sophisticated imaginations of savvy Hollywood filmmakers.” (from The Miami Herald(or possibly diminished, in my opinion)

Came upon this quote from Dr. Michael Rich, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, which sums up what I was thinking after seeing The Hunger Games last night.  Shannon and I managed to get last-minute tickets after a fifth showing was added at the local theatre.

For me, the movie wasn’t nearly as good as the book. I enjoyed the slower character and relationship development in the book, and picturing the characters as thought out by author Suzanne Collins. Jennifer Lawrence is a perfect Katniss; the young man who played Peeta, not so much. I would have preferred the actor playing Gale to have been cast as Peeta.  It’s a well-done movie, but my personal preference is to create a story in my mind while I’m reading an author’s words, rather than having the film maker’s version shoved in my face.  Certain scenes in the movie were vastly different from the scenes I’d envisioned while reading the book, and I don’t like that.  Maybe it’s because I’m a control freak…If I were to re-read the book now, I’d think very differently about it, I’m sure.

I’m part-way through the second book, and so far I’m finding it a bit repetitive, but still so well-written.  Apparently 12 million copies of the first book have been sold, to date, a good indication lots of young (and older) readers will have been able to read the author’s story before seeing the film maker’s version.

I saw one family there with a child who appeared to be about seven. Although the violence was downplayed, in favour of building suspense, this is not a story for a kid of that age. It is, after all, about kids forced to hunt down and kill other kids, in retribution for uprisings against the government that happened decades before these kids were born. I hope parents and teachers take the time to point out some of the social criticism in the movie, although I’m sure astute young readers will pick up on a lot of it without help.

I wonder how much money Collins will realize from her trilogy and its movies?  Hard to even imagine a book generating that much money!

Back to the Basics

When I’m not sitting at my laptop, I do a little substitute teaching. This time of year, education is a hot topic in NS – the government usually declares funding cuts to education, and everybody gets in a tizzy. The fact is, the population of Nova Scotia is an ageing one; there are fewer school-age children every year, so it only makes sense that the amount of money spent on education should decrease proportionately.

Speaking of the basics, this is historic and beautiful Lunenburg Academy, built in 1895, replaced in 2012 by Bluenose Academy - I'm sure the new school is state-of-the-art, but it could never be this beautiful!

Based on my limited experience in the schools, the main problem with education is simply that teaching has veered away from the basics. There are new theories of education, experts, strategies and consultants galore, but the truth is, kids aren’t being taught the basics these days. Spelling tests were outlawed a few years ago; as a result, kids are horrible spellers. It’s not the fault of the kids – they want to know how to spell words correctly and are embarrassed when they can’t. Cursive writing seems to be a dying art, but elementary students are eager to advance to writing from printing, and eager to show it off when they master the skill. Beginning in the lower elementary grades, math strategies abound, making it impossible for parents to help their children at home as current methods are very different from those we learned as kids (no more memorizing the times tables, for example).

It seems to me that many people working in the schools would like to see a “back to the basics” approach in the classroom; why then, are the consultants still filling teachers’ in-boxes with new strategies and approaches that serve to take away from the teachers’ focus on the students, where it belongs? Maybe I’m just getting old, but it seems that the harder the consultants/experts work to devise the best way to teach a simple concept, the more complicated that concept becomes.

On a brighter note, I’m continuing to read the Newbery medal winners and honour books. Memorable ones of late include:  The Wednesday Wars (Gary Schmidt); Elijah of Buxton (Christopher Paul Curtis); and When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead). I’m trying to decipher what makes them so good, but they’re all so well-written I can’t see the structure for the story!  Happy reading and happy March Break!