In 2004, Suzanne Collins stole onto the children’s book scene with “The Underland Chronicles.” Her cult following expanded after the release of her second series, “The Hunger Games.”
Suzanne Collins’ Early Days
From the time she was 12 years old until she was 20, Suzanne Collins wanted to act. “Around that point, I got the idea that I didn’t just want to speak the words that were on stage, I wanted to write them as well,” she said in a video interview for Scholastic.
Collins earned her master’s degree in dramatic writing from New York University. Soon afterwards, she started writing for television, according to BookPage.
In the 1990s, she worked on the Emmy-nominated Nickelodeon show “Clarissa Explains it All” and “The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo.” She was also nominated for a Writer's Guild of America award in animation for cowriting the Christmas special, “Santa, Baby!” according to Scholastic’s biography.
"Gregor the Overlander"
After prodding from James Proimos, whom she met while working on the TV series “Generation O,” Collins decided to write a children’s book, she told Scholastic. Her first book, published in 2004, was “Gregor The Overlander.”
In the book, 11-year-old Gregor falls through an air vent in the laundry room, reminiscent of the rabbit hole Alice fell through in “Alice in Wonderland.” Instead of human-like rabbits and life-sized playing cards, the denizen of Gregor’s underground world are super-sized bats and cockroaches.
Three different journals—Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and Booklist—gave “Gregor The Overlander” starred reviews. Kirkus called Gregor’s quest “luminous” and “supremely absorbing,” according to Collins’ Web site.
Collins said it wasn’t difficult to write from the perspective of a young boy. “I remember being 11 very clearly and I had a lot of friends who were boys so it felt pretty natural being in Gregor’s head,” she told Scholastic in a Q&A article.
"The Hunger Games"
Sources in this Story
- Scholastic: Teachers: Scholastic Videos: Author Interviews: Suzanne Collins
- BookPage: Catching Fire: A riveting return to the world of ‘The Hunger Games’
- Scholastic: The Underland Chronicles: Q&A With Suzanne Collins
- Time: The 2020 Time 100 Poll: Suzanne Collins
- Examiner.com: Literary Youthquake: A Q&A with author Suzanne Collins and "The Hunger Games"
- Time: Catching Fire: Suzanne Collins' Hit Young-Adult Novels
- Entertainment Weekly: Shelf Life: Final ‘Hunger Games’ novel has been given a title and a cover
- NPR: First Look: 'Catching Fire' By Suzanne Collins
Four books later, she completed “The Underland Chronicles” series, and began her second series, “The Hunger Games,” which outperformed the first. “The Hunger Games” has been on the New York Times Best-Seller List for 60 straight weeks. Time magazine was so impressed that it named her one of this year’s 100 most influential people in the world.
But Collins remains grounded. She has two adolescent kids and “they both have a good time teasing me about all the attention,” she told BookPage.
“The Hunger Games” takes place in a futuristic place called Panem, where the Capitol rules over the surrounding districts. Each year, the government requires one boy and one girl from each district to battle one another to the death on live television, according to the Jorge Carreon for Examiner.com.
Sound dark? It is. The novel was inspired in part by the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. In that story, as punishment, Athens must “send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete” as payment, Collins explains to Carreon.
Collins’ father, a historian who served with the Air Force in Vietnam, often spoke to her about war. “[H]e had a gift for presenting history as a fascinating story. He also seemed to have a good sense of exactly how much a child could handle, which is quite a bit.,” she told Carreon.
Naturally, Collins demands as much of her own readers. Lev Grossman, a writer for Time magazine, commends Collins for respecting children’s maturity. “The Hunger Games and Catching Fire expose children to exactly the kind of violence we usually shield them from,” he writes. “They know all about violence and power and raw emotions. What's really scary is when adults pretend that such things don't exist.”
Collins lives in Connecticut with her family. Her last book in the “Hunger Games” series, “Mockingjay,” will be released Aug. 24, according to Entertainment Weekly.
Listen to (or read) an excerpt from the second book in the “Hunger Games” series, “Catching Fire.”
Discussion Guide & Lesson Plans
Scholastic’s discussion guide for “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” looks at the books in the context of Marxism, popular culture and human relationships.
Bonnie Ellis, a librarian at Sherwood Middle School in Baton Rouge, La., who nominated “Gregor The Overlander” for a children’s book award, has developed and mined the Web for lesson plans to help teachers integrate the novel into their curriculum.