Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hunger is NOT a Game

"To this day, I can never shake the connection between this boy, Peeta Mellark, and the bread that gave me hope" 
Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games

Hunger is a fact of life for Katniss Everdeen and many of the other residents of Panem.  Without access to adequate food sources, she and her fellow citizens are at the mercy of the Capitol.  If you are not able to provide for yourself, the penalty is death; not in the manner of a state sanctioned execution, but through the slow and painful process of starvation.  

Katniss and her family almost fall victim to this fate, but find refuge in two small loaves of bread provided to them by Peeta.  In that gesture of kindness, he not only replenishes their strength, but also their faith in humanity, and their hope that they can survive.

Unfortunately, like many of the social, political, and economic issues in Panem, hunger is not relegated to the realm of fiction. Starvation is very much a reality.

Hunger is NOT a game for 12 million men, women, and children in East Africa.

For the people of Somalia, and other areas of East Africa, famine and death dominate the daily landscape.  The worst drought in 60 years has dried water supplies and driven food prices out of the reach of the majority of the population.  For the people of Somalia, each day without aid means more lives lost.

But we can help.

We can, like Peeta, ensure that the people of East Africa have access to the most basic tenant for human life: food.  While we cannot send a loaf of bread, we can donate together.  As litter as $10.00 can greatly impact the lives of many people living in the famine ravaged areas of Somalia. 

I have created a donation page through the International Rescue Committee specifically for Hunger Games fans who wish to take action.  My goal is to raise $1000 by October, all of the money going toward the IRC's relief efforts in East Africa.  

You can access the donation page here or by clicking the image below:

Do you stand with Peeta Mellark, the boy with the bread, in the fight to end hunger?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Update on Ms.H's Classroom

Ms. H (who we fully funded on 6/23/2011) has posted the following note on her page:

I can't tell you all how truly excited I am to begin this project with my students! Thank you all for your support of my project and your love of good literature! This is the first year that I will get to start a new group of students with a great story and fuel their desire for more good books.

I know that after introducing my students to Katniss, Peeta, and the rest of the characters that they will be just as hooked as many of us were the first time we read The Hunger Games. I can't wait to share in their excitement.

Thanks again for helping to make that possible.

With gratitude,
Mrs. H.

To help another classroom get access to the Hunger Games, check out the Literacy Revolution page!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Odds of the District 12 Reaping (Featuring MATH)

If you haven't signed up for Down With The Capitol's new forums, then I would highly recommend doing so. They've just started a read-a-long of the Hunger Games series, and there's a bunch of great discussion happening (including my personal favorite: conspiracy theories). I bring this up because my blog today is lifted from something I worked out over on the forums, namely the odds of the District 12 Reaping.

Here is the post in all of it's math-y glory:

In rereading the first three chapters for the read-along, one thing that Collins (through Katniss) emphasizes (especially in the first chapter) is that Gale, Katniss, and the other Seam children are extremely disadvantaged when it comes to the Reaping. The Tesserae system was established by the Capitol to almost ensure that only the poorest citizens of Panem would be selected to participate in the Hunger Games. In a bowl full of 'thousands of slips,' Katniss has her name entered twenty times, Gale forty-two.

Let's do some math.

Katniss says that the population of District 12 is about 8000. Let's say for the sake of argument that the average family size is 5 (two parents and 3 children).

8000/5= 1600 Meaning that there are roughly 1600 families in Panem. (This is only an estimate as some families (like Gale's) have more than three children; some (like Katniss') have less; and some people have no family unit.)

These 1600 families include 3200 adults (if we assume 2 adults/family) and 4800 children (assuming 3 children/family). Divide 4800 in half, and we have approximately 2400 female and 2400 male children of Panem.

But not every child is eligible-- only those ages 12-18 are entered into the reaping (out of the wider range for childhood which is 0-18). So only seven of the nineteen years of childhood are entered into the reaping. If we assume that the birth rate is constant, and that children are evenly distributed in each year, then there are only about 252 children (126 female and 126 male) born each year in Panem.

Multiply 252 by 7 (the number of eligible childhood years entered into the Reaping) and you get 1764.

Divided by 2, and you get approximately 882 males and 882 females eligible for the Reaping each year.

Now to account for the Tesserae.

After consulting with some other Hunger Games fans, I am going with the idea that the Seam makes up 80% of the District 12 population and that the Merchant class makes up 20%. In the first chapter of the book, two things are apparent: the merchant children do not have to take out Tesserae, and that Seam children are essentially forced into taking the Tesserae. It also seems to be a trend (at least from the example set by Gale and Katniss, that the eldest children take the Tesserae to protect their younger siblings)

So if there are 126 females in a given year, 100 of them will be Seam children and 26 will be merchant children. If the average family size includes three children, then we can assume that one third of the children will be the eldest and take extra Tesserae (+5 slips). Each age year breaks down as follows:

12-13 Year Olds
26 Merchant Children (No Tesserae; +1 Age Entry): 26 Entries
34 Seam Children- Oldest Sibling (+5 Tesserae; +1 Age Entry): 204 Entries
66 Seam Children- Younger Sibling (No Tesserae; +1 Age Entry): 66 Entries
Total (12-13) Entries: 296

13-14 Year Olds
26 Merchant Children (No Tesserae; +2 Age Entry): 52 Entries
34 Seam Children- Oldest Sibling (+5 Tesserae x2; +2 Age Entry): 408 Entries
66 Seam Children- Younger Sibling (No Tesserae; +2 Age Entry): 132 Entries
Total (13-14) Entries: 592

14-15 Year Olds
26 Merchant Children (No Tesserae; +3 Age Entry): 78 Entries
34 Seam Children- Oldest Sibling (+5 Tesserae x3; +3 Age Entry): 612 Entries
66 Seam Children- Younger Sibling (No Tesserae; +3 Age Entry): 198 Entries
Total (13-14) Entries: 888

15-16 Year Olds
26 Merchant Children (No Tesserae; +4 Age Entry): 104 Entries
34 Seam Children- Oldest Sibling (+5 Tesserae x4; +4 Age Entry): 816 Entries
66 Seam Children- Younger Sibling (No Tesserae; +4 Age Entry): 264 Entries
Total (15-16) Entries: 1184

16-17 Year Olds
26 Merchant Children (No Tesserae; +5 Age Entry): 130 Entries
34 Seam Children- Oldest Sibling (+5 Tesserae x5; +5 Age Entry): 1020 Entries
66 Seam Children- Younger Sibling (No Tesserae; +5 Age Entry): 330 Entries
Total (16-17) Entries: 1480

17-18 Year Olds
26 Merchant Children (No Tesserae; +6 Age Entry): 156 Entries
34 Seam Children- Oldest Sibling (+5 Tesserae x6; +6 Age Entry): 1224 Entries
66 Seam Children- Younger Sibling (No Tesserae; +6 Age Entry): 396 Entries
Total (17-18) Entries: 1776

18-19 Year Olds
26 Merchant Children (No Tesserae; +7 Age Entry): 182 Entries
34 Seam Children- Oldest Sibling (+5 Tesserae x7; +7 Age Entry): 1428 Entries
66 Seam Children- Younger Sibling (No Tesserae; +7 Age Entry): 462 Entries
Total (18-19) Entries: 2072

Grand Total of Entries: 8288
Total of Female Entries: 4144
Total of Male Entries 4144

Katniss's Odds: (+3 Tesserae x5; +5 Age Entry) 20/4144 or .48%
Gale's Odds: (+5 Tesserae x7; +7): 42/4144 or 1.01%
Peeta's Odds: (No Tesserae; +5 Age Entry): 5/4144 or .12%
Prim's Odds: (No Tesserae; +1 Age Entry): 1/4144 or .02%
So that's it. Feel free to double check the math, and please respond to my original forum post here.

To help change our world for the better, please see this page for information on the Hunger Games Literacy Revolution.

Photo via the incredible RatGirlStudios

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thank You Letters From Mrs. L

Today everyone who donated to help Mrs. L's classroom in California receive a full set of The Hunger Games received a thank you letter and pictures. I wanted to share them with all of my blog readers to allow you to see how one small act of kindness (multiplied throughout our fandom) can really change lives:

I cannot thank you enough for the opportunities you had given my students and myself. As they were crossing the stage and moving on to their high school life, I was so thankful for your generosity. My students not only like the Hunger Games, they devour it ! It was the first time of their school life that they were reading with passion. One of my lowest reader who suffered from dyslexia was reading in advance and completed the book before the classroom. She came with the biggest smile on her face and told me it was the first time she ever finished a book. When I opened the box with all of the new books, they asked if they could take the book home to read. I answered " yes, of course" and they were shocked.! Some of my toughest students were walking around the campus holding the book and I caught some of them reading during lunch break! A first!!
All students brought back their books intact. They wanted to read the second book. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, Now, they are waiting for the movie.

On behalf of room 6 from Leyva Middle School, I wanted to thank you for your generosity and opportunity to inspire my students to read and be passionate about it.

With gratitude,
Ms. L.

You can see the rest of the pictures here.

The Literacy Revolution still needs your help! We are currently running two projects, which you can learn more about here.

Please stand with the Mockingjay and help classrooms across America get access to The Hunger Games.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Site Redesign!

Hi Everyone!

I just wanted to do a quick post pointing out a slight site redesign!  Stefanie McGuffey (@stefmcg) graciously volunteered to make a banner for my blog, and I think it looks absolutely fabulous!  To go with the new banner, I've changed around the color scheme of the site-- though you'll be glad to know that all of the content remains the same! 

Which brings me to a question... I've done posts on contemporary issues, on the casting and movie news, and now some conspiracy theories-- what do you all prefer the most (or do you like the mix)?  If there is a topic/question you'd like me to explore, please let me know in the comments!  I've got some of my own ideas to get me through a few more posts, but any suggestions would be a big help!

Thanks for reading!


To help change our world for the better, please see this page for information on the Hunger Games Literacy Revolution.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Mockingjay Society Part Deux

If you read my last blog, then you’ll already know that I am a big fan of there being more to the Hunger Games story than what we see through Katniss Everdeen’s first person narration. I believe that there had to have been an established structure for rebellion, groups ready to mobilize when the time seemed right. Last week, I talked about the idea that Katniss’s father was a member of one such group, and was murdered by the Capitol because of his participation. I also speculated that the Mokcingjay may have been a symbol of rebellion long before Katniss wore her pin into the Arena.

Since I wrote that post, I haven’t been able to get the idea out of my head, and, as a result, a couple nights ago I have an extremely vivid dream about Cinna, BeeTee, and Katniss’s dress that has launched me further down that road.

So buckle up, I’m not sure where this ride is about to take us…

Let’s start with Cinna.

Katniss’s prep team is exactly what she expects a group of Capitol citizens to be: fashion obsessed, self absorbed, and totally oblivious to the horrific nature of the Hunger Games and Katniss’ position as Tribute.

I definitely believe that there are nice and kind people who live in the Capitol—Effie and the prep team members come to mind—but even those who are capable of kindness or pity or admiration are never able to empathize. Capitol citizens have been born and raised to see the rest of Panem as separate from them—their only glimpses being through a television screen on Reaping days or during the Victory Tour. They have no idea of the suffering in the rest of Panem, which is kept secret from them; and they have been indoctrinated to believe in their own superiority. Those who live in the Districts are their lesser, not their equals, and because of this mindset, it is nearly impossible for them to seem Tributes as anything more than toys. They aren’t people, they are entertainment.

Painted, tattooed, surgically altered—they are everything that is disturbing about a culture that values appearance and entertainment above all else; and Katniss can only assume her stylist will be more of the same.

And then Cinna enters the room.

He is unlike any stylist she has ever seen. Dressed in plain black with his own naturally brown hair cut conservatively—he is the picture of normalcy in a world gone wild. But it’s not only his looks that are unexpected; his whole personality does not mesh with Capitol norms.

He is kind.

He is gentle.

He is able to understand that the Games are inhumane and cruel.

He is not from the Capitol.

Let’s rewind so I can explain my meaning. Let’s go back to the Reaping.

I don’t believe it was a coincidence that out of thousands of names, that Prim’s single entry was drawn. She was to be the sacrificial lamb, the innocent blood that would break the hearts of the nation. Katniss says herself that no one can help loving Prim, and I believe that. She would have been the love story that was needed. The Capitol, the other Districts, even her fellow tributes would have loved her; and her inevitable death would have rallied the nation against the cruelty of the Games because her loss would be felt in the hearts of every viewer.

The question then is who is behind this master plan to throw Panem into revolution? I think it was the same people responsible in the end: District 13- with help from the only surviving member of the District 12 Mockingjay Society: Haymitch.

District 13 needed someone with inside knowledge of the rebellion, of the Capitol, of the Games, as well as someone smart enough to implement their plan from the inside. They also needed someone who could be contacted covertly. Haymitch, whose status as a victor, a mentor, and as a drunk, fulfilled all of those needs, and the close proximity of District 12 to District 13 (as well as 12’s lax security) made him the idea man for the job.

It was Haymitch who selected Prim, the child of his friend and fellow revolutionary, to be the sacrifice. I believe that’s the reason he was so exceptionally intoxicated on Reaping Day-- the guilt of his action must have been insurmountable without the help of white liquor.

He would deliver her to the Capitol where other rebels were already in place. Together they would ensure that all of Panem would have no choice but to take notice of her, fall in love with her, and then watch her die.

But there was a flaw in the plan.

Prim was not able to assume the role of Tribute because Katniss volunteers to take her place. Surly, brash, and hard as nails, she was everything Prim wasn’t; how could a nation fall in love with her? The plan was on the edge of utter failure.

But then Katniss emerged from her goodbyes with a golden Mockingjay pinned to her chest; and across Panem, people began to talk in whispers about the girl from District 12 whose love for her sister was greater than her fear of the Capitol. It would be difficult, but the plan could be salvaged. If she could fight and win, it would be a slap in the face of the Capitol; and that could be enough. Which brings us back to Cinna.

He was a rebel plant from the onset. His initial task would have been to endear Panem to Prim, however, in the days following the Reaping, he had to change directions. Instead of presenting a lamb, he had to create a (symbolic) Mockingjay, a sign that would immediately register to all Districts that the time for rebellion had arrived.

Coal, that dull, downtrodden rock, formed out of death and oppression, but with secret power. Cinna’s flames were a loud announcement to Panem that they all carried the same capacity for defiance and rebellion that Katniss illustrated on Reaping Day within themselves.

Fire would be the right symbol, but the problem comes in the translation. How do you make a dress dance like flame? I believe that he found his answer in one of the other rebels planted within the Capitol: BeeTee. While I can’t prove it beyond more than my own gut feeling, I think it was BeeTee who engineered the flames for Katniss’s dress under Cinna’s direction. Again, there is no proof, but I just think the technology used has the ‘BeeTee feel’ to it.

Everything that followed, Peeta’s announcement of love, Katniss’s actions in the Arena, and her improvisation with the berries, were all icing on the proverbial cake that further served to cement Katniss as the rebellion’s call to action-- a call that was sparked the moment she took Prim’s place and that flared into action when she wore a dress made of flames.

Photo via the amazing burge-bug

To help change our world for the better, please see this page for information on the Hunger Games Literacy Revolution.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Mockingjay Society Assassinations

Earlier today I wrote an Op Ed for DownWithTheCapitol in response to the reports that the first planned explosion in District 12 did not take place in a mineshaft, but in a house. I wanted to elaborate some more on that idea, as I've received a great deal of feed back on both the site and on twitter. Before I start though, I want everyone to keep two things in mind:

1. These ideas are purely speculation on my part-- I am only trying to connect the dots with the very limited information we have received so far.


2. The movie will undoubtedly be different from the books-- but this fact doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing.

So brace yourself and hold my hand: we're wandering into unknown territory here...

Imagine Mrs. Everdeen and an eleven-year-old Katniss sitting in silence around their small kitchen table. Prim is asleep, curled up in front of a hearth that has long since gone cold. Mr. Everdeen's shift in the mines was over hours ago, and if anyone asks, he's gone out with a few of his co-workers to indulge in a little after-work drink down at the Hob; but the way Katniss's mother keeps glancing from the clock to the window and the paleness of her face indicates that this is no normal guys' night out.

Suddenly, the silence is shattered as an explosion rips through the night. Prim wakes up, screaming and crying, and Katniss looks to her mother to comfort her. Mrs. Everdeen is unmoving, her face ghost white and her eyes fixed on the door. Understanding that no help is coming from her mother, Katniss tends to her sister.

Hurried footsteps sound from outside, and the door crashes open. It is not Mr. Everdeen, but a man that Katniss has never seen before. He is dressed in the same miner's uniform her father wears, and as he stands in the open doorway, the smell of smoke fills the tiny kitchen. He is out of breath, as he looks at Mrs. Everdeen and says: "They've been compromised. There's nothing left." Mrs. Everdeen springs from her chair and runs from the door, leaving the man and her children behind. The man hesitates for a moment before leaving behind her.

Katniss struggles with herself for a moment before pulling Prim up from the floor and following the man and her mother out the door. She can see the flames licking the sky in the distance, but they are coming from a residential section of the Seam, not from the Hob. Confused, she takes Prim by the hand and starts to move as quickly as she can to the scene of the explosion.

Dozens of men, women, and children are gathered around the smoldering remains of a house. Katniss finds her mother easily, her blonde hair illuminated like a beacon among the sea of brown. She is standing motionless, staring as a few men enter the building; a search party.

"Were they all in there then?" a woman asks somewhere behind Katniss.

"All of them except for Abernathy-- he really was down at The Hob having a drink," answers a man.

Further back, a man mumbles something about there being "no natural gas pockets anywhere nearby, none big enough to cause a blast like this."

The searchers are coming out of the building now, the lead man walking directly over to where the Everdeens stand. He shakes his head briefly, and Katniss's mother lets out a single, anguished cry before collapsing onto the ground. Katniss is paralyzed as realization overtakes her, and isn't able to respond when the man offers the one item left unharmed in the explosion-- her father's Mockingjay pin. She simply stares at it as it lays in the man's open palm, not wanting to believe that it is the last remaining piece of her father.

It is Prim who finally reaches out and takes the pin.

* * *
Now, granted, I don't expect the movie to follow that exact sequence of events, but changing this particular flashback sets up a number of things for the film:
  • It establishes that there is unrest in Panem. This is important because it makes the rebellion that happens later more believable.
  • It shows the ruthlessness and untrustworthy nature of the Capitol, and allows the audience to understand the extremes to which the government goes to keep order.
  • It shows Katniss becoming leader of her household as well as her mother's breakdown.
  • It explains (and give significance to) the way people seem to revere her father after his death.
  • It (in the event that Madge is cut from the script) explains the origin of the Mockingjay pin and how it came to be in Prim's possession.
  • It hints that the Mockingjay is already a symbol of rebellion, and explains why, when Katniss wears it while she (unknowingly) defies the Capitol, people interpret as a sign to begin the revolution.
None of the above, I believe, takes away from the central themes of the Hunger Games or changes major plot points. Instead, it shows, not tells, the audience a great deal of background information in a short period of time.

Any anyway, it's all speculation (and a bit of fun) on my part!

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Photo Source
To help change our world for the better, please see this page for information on the Hunger Games Literacy Revolution.