Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Republic, MO

     On our way back to Illinois from a quick trip to Texas, we stopped again near Springfield, MO, to see:

The Ray House

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Park
6424 West Farm Road 182
Republic, MO 65738-9514

Phone
417-732-2662, ext. 227

www.nps.gov/wicr/

      Wilson’s Creek was a major American Civil War battle fought just outside of Springfield, MO.

     The battlefield is open daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The battlefield closes at Noon on December 24 (Christmas Eve).

     Visitor Center hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

     Park (Tour Road) hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

     The entrance fee to the park is $5.00 per adult to a maximum of $10.00 per vehicle. The receipt is honored for seven days.  An adult is defined as anyone 16 years old and older.

      There is a Visitor’s Center with a small Civil War Museum which includes a diorama explaining the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.

     A 4.9 mile paved tour road provides a self-guided auto tour. There are eight interpretive stops at significant battle-related locations.

     Having lived in Missouri for six years and read about the Battle of Wilson’s Creek during that time, it was a very interesting experience to see the park.

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Wild Animal Safari, Strafford, MO

Ostrich animals at drive thru park

     Recently, while on a trip to Texas, we stopped near Springfield, MO, both on the way down and on the way back, to see a couple of things which we found very interesting.

     On the way down, we visited

Wild Animal Safari

124 Jungle Dr.

Strafford, MO 65757

Phone:
417-859-5300

     The park is 5 miles through 300 acres of wilderness.  There are both a walk through area with caged animals, and a drive through area where the animals roam free and will come right up to your vehicle.  Bus tours of the drive through area are also  available.

     The current admission prices are as follows:

Adults $16.95
Seniors (65+) $12.95
Children (3-12) $12.95
Toddlers (2 & Under) FREE

     For more information, visit their website: http://goanimalparadise.com/Missouri/

Last part of discussion on the “Hunger Games” books and movie

     One final blog with discussion on the Hunger Games books and movie.

     “Natalie”:  Thank you for including the link to The Lottery… I think it might be beneficial for me and my HS senior to read.

     I had not heard of The Hunger Games at all until a PS teacher friend asked me a couple of weeks ago if I had read it and if I was going to the movie. Based on her description and the reviews of the book and movie I’ve read, The Lottery jumped into my mind. It was required reading for me back in the 80s also, plus one of my teachers had us watch the film version.

     I strongly doubt I will read the book or watch the movie… the review at the following link makes the case that the book series/movie is based on situation ethics, of which we need to be wary.

      http://www.credenda.org/index.php/Reviews/christians-and-the-hunger-games.html

Christians and The Hunger Games       
Written by Douglas Wilson    
Friday, 23 March 2012

     There are ethical dilemmas, and then there are the phony baloney ones. The famous National Lampoon magazine cover did not pose a genuine ethical dilemma—buy this magazine or we shoot the dog.

     Many years ago I was working on a television show with the local PBS station at WSU, and Nancy and I were invited over to dinner by the producer and his wife. They were very gracious, and we enjoyed our time with them. But one of the events of the evening that turned out to be a dud was when our host brought out a game which was called, I think, Scruples. Something like that. At any rate, the point of the game was that you drew a card that dealt you some kind of ethical thumb-sucker from a stack of ethical conundra, to make up a funny-sounding plural. If you are stuck in a lifeboat, and you will most certainly die if you don’t do something, do you eat the fat guy or the skinny guy first? That kind of thing. You were then supposed to say something like whoa, and think about it for a while, twisting in the wind. I can really see how a living room full of wealthy relativists in an upscale neighborhood in the eighties could really be flummoxed by the game, but we were no fun at all. There are certain things you just don’t do because the Ten Commandments were not suggestions, and the game is over.

     This said, The Hunger Games specializes in a similar kind of elaborate set-up for situation ethics. In this review, I will not be going after the book for stylistic faults. It does not open itself up for that kind of thing the way Twilight did. The writing in this book was competent enough, and the pacing delivers what it promises. The premise had a lot of potential—gladiatorial games meet reality television in a dystopic future.

     The country is Panem, set in a future and really messed up North America. The place is run by the Capitol, and there are twelve districts run by the harsh and cruel guys in the Capitol. There had been a war of rebellion sometime back, and the Capitol had won it, and now exacted a harsh and inflexible penalty on all the previously rebellious districts. Those districts have been utterly cowed.

     The book is written in the first person, and the protagonist is a young girl named Katniss Everdeen. Her father was killed some years before in a mining accident, her relationship with her mother is strained because of how her mother had collapsed after her father’s death, and the only person she really loves is her younger sister, Primrose. But then Prim, as she is called, is chosen by the lottery for the Hunger Games. Katniss volunteers to take her place, which is good and sacrificial and noble, and that is the point of the whole set up. We’ll come back to it.

      Every year, each district is forced by lottery to send one boy and one girl (between the ages of twelve and eighteen) as tributes to the Hunger Games, where they are all put into a closed off area, a vast outdoor arena, and forced to fight it out to the death. The arena is full of cameras everywhere, and everybody in Panem is forced to watch the games. As I said earlier, the premise is one full of dramatic potential.

     Katniss is tough and edgy enough to be a survivor in the Hunger Games (which means she will have to kill other people’s brothers and sisters), and soft enough to be likeable. The reader can begin to identify with her . . . if the reader takes his eye off the ball. I don’t like books that make me choose between the fat guy and the skinny guy.

     Suppose the Capitol bad guys had decided to set up a different required sin in their games. Suppose it were the Rape Games instead. Suppose that the person who made it through the games without being raped was the feted winner. Anybody here think that this series would be the bestselling phenomenon that this one is?

      In short, when you have the privilege of setting up all the circumstances artificially, in order to give your protagonist no real choice about whether to sin or not, it is a pretty safe bet that a whole lot of people in a relativistic country, including the Christians in it unfortunately, won’t notice.

      As the book progresses, the ethical problems are effectively disguised. The first way is by having a number of the wealthier districts send tributes who are semi-pro. In other words, they are not reluctant participants, but are eager for the glory that attends winning the games. When that kind of guy comes after you, everything is self-defense. Then there is the fact that there are a bunch of them out there killing each other, and Katniss doesn’t have to do it. And the third device, and the one that keeps you turning the pages, that the author does not reveal whether or not Katniss will be willing to kill when it gets down the bitter end, and her opponents are innocents like she is. In other words, you have a likeable protagonist who is fully expecting to do something that is perfectly appalling by the end of the book.

      There is a twelve-year-old girl named Rue that Katniss teams up with, and there is an expectation that later in the games the alliance will be dissolved . . . and you know what will happen then. Rue is the same age as Prim. There is a boy from her own district named Peeta who has been in love with Katniss forever, and who gave her family a loaf of bread a number of years before. Is he going to kill her or vice versa? I hear that spoilers are supposed to be bad, so I won’t tell you what happens.

     The Capitol is hateful, and cruel, and distasteful, and obnoxious, and decadent, and icky . . . but not evil, as measured against any external standard. The Capitol is to be disliked because the Capitol is making people do things they would rather not be doing. But nowhere is there a simple refusal. There is a desire to have it all go away, but everybody participates with an appropriate amount of sullenness.

     The story is told with enough detachment and distance that you feel like the participants really do have to cooperate. Resistance is futile . . .

     But think for a moment. Someone tells you to murder a twelve-year-old girl, or they will kill you. What do you do? Suppose they give the twelve-year-old girl a head start? Suppose they give her a gun and tell her that if she murders you first, and she will be okay?

     This is what situation ethics specializes in. Suppose a woman is in a concentration camp, and she can save her husband’s life, or her child’s life, through sexual bribes given to the guards. What should she do? Suppose you could save one hundred thousand lives by torturing someone to death on national television. What should you do? The response should be something like, “Let me think about it, no.” As Thomas Watson put it, better to be wronged than to do wrong. It is not a sin to be murdered. It is not a sin to have your loved ones murdered. It is not a sin to defend your loved ones through every lawful means. But that is the key, that phrase. Every lawful means only makes sense when there is a law, and that only makes sense when there is a Lawgiver. Without that, everything is just dogs scrapping over a piece of meat. And once that is the framework, there is no real way to evaluate anything. The history of the Church is filled with families being martyred together. Survival is not the highest good.

     Back in the Cold War, a joke was told about an admiral who was inspecting a destroyer, and was making the rounds while they were out at sea. He came upon a lookout, a lowly sailor, standing there with his binoculars. “Lad,” he said, “what would you do if a Russian destroyer appeared on the horizon there?” “Sir,” the man said, “I’d nuke ‘em.” “Oh,” said the admiral. “What would you do if ten of them appeared?” “I’d nuke them too, sir.” “I see,” said the admiral. “What would you do if the whole Russian fleet appeared there?” “I’d nuke them all, sir,” came the reply. “And,” the admiral said, pressing his point home, “where are you getting all these nukes?”

     “The same place you’re getting the Russians, sir.”

     When you are imagining some kind of scenario, it is easy to construct one exactly to the needs of your plot, and the sub-creating author can create a world in which it is not true that “God will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able to bear.” Your tributes are in the arena with a command to kill or be killed, and in this place it is not true that with every temptation there is a way of escape. For faithful believers, the way of escape might be martyrdom. Daniel’s three friends worked through it that way. They said that their God was able to save them, but whether He saved them or not, they weren’t going to bow down to the statue.

     If you hate spoilers, you can stop reading here. Katniss does survive, and she does so without doing anything perfectly appalling. But this only happens because of luck, not because she learned anything about how the world is actually governed. There is a functional omniscience that the Capitol has in the arena—everything is filmed—and she has real distaste for that functional omniscience, but without any sense that there is any other kind of omniscience. And she does kill one of the bad guy tributes right at the end, but as this is arranged in the book, it is a mercy killing.

     Out of five stars I would give this book three. In terms of holding your interest, Suzanne Collins gets four. In terms of keeping a sense of ethical tension in a world without ethics, she would get a five. That’s something that is hard to do. But in terms of helping Christian young people set their minds and hearts on that which is noble and right, we can’t even give it one star. We would have to assign, in this last category, one burnt out asteroid.

     — http://www.credenda.org/index.php/Reviews/christians-and-the-hunger-games.html

     “Abby” did not agree with Mr. Wilson:   The story that The Hunger Games tells is as old as Theseus and the Minotaur. I’m sure the author has to have been influenced by that story. So it seems rather bold of the author of this review to trivialize the ethics addressed in the story. Yeah, there’s no God in these stories. That’s why they end on such a downer. Without God there can be no redemption. So in this story, the only good thing Katniss has to hold on to is the good things she’s seen other people do. And even those things don’t offer us as readers a feeling of inspiration or redemption. Mankind cannot save itself. I think that’s a good reason to read the story…to see an example of humanist morality at work and to see that it fails, ultimately.

     As for the ethics being situational and therefore unrealistic, I’m glad the reviewer knows with such certainty that he would  always make the moral choice, but for the rest of us, I think there are some very real dilemmas. And even if you think your Christian faith would sustain you in whatever decision you made, there is the rest of the world…those without faith. And for them, the ethics are very real. For us who have to live among non-Christians, that means we have to deal with the fallout from the actions of the immoral people around us. Either way, I found The Hunger Games to be a relevant trilogy of books.

     But that’s just my humble opinion 🙂 They were very violent, though, and based on that I probably won’t let my kids read it until they are teens.

     Wayne here:  To each his own.  I would tend to trust Douglas Wilson’s judgment over someone who argues that situationism may be all right under certain circumstances.  As with the Harry Potter, Series of Unfortunate Events, and other popular children’s books which do not present a Biblical worldview, I personally cannot recommend them, but at the same time I cannot say that they are absolutely sinful or that parents who let their children read them are sinning.  However, I feel that it is necessary to continue warning us all to be very careful what we allow in the minds of our impressionable young children, because the devil still goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  And, apparently, I’m not the only one.  Here is one more such warning.

Why are schools promoting violent ‘Hunger Games’?
Russ Jones – OneNewsNow – 4/5/2012

     There are rising fears that the “Survivor-style” theme in the blockbuster film The Hunger Games glamorizes violence and could promote copycat behaviors.

     In its second week on the big screen, the movie that appeals to teens has out-billed such icons as Snow White and Greek gods — in 3D even. Set in a dystopian future where an all-powerful, high-tech centralized government rules over “districts” of impoverished populations barely surviving in Third World conditions, The Hunger Games is based on the bestselling trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. 

       Dr. Brenda Hunter, a psychologist, practicing psychotherapist, and co-author of From Santa to Sexting, has serious concerns about the movie.
 
     “My concern as a psychologist is that children seeing this movie will have a gut or visceral reaction,” Hunter tells OneNewsNow. “What children read affects them differently from what they see. In fact, one authority said the brain rushes in to protect a child when a child is reading about graphic violence.”
 
     The violent blockbuster movie appeals to girls 12 and older. Released March 23, the PG-13 rated film portrays a dark humanistic worldview that ironically dehumanizes life itself, a concept public schools seem to be promoting — a response that Kristen Blair, an education columnist and Hunter’s co-author, laments.
 
     “Middle schools across the country have taken instructional time out of the school day and have transported kids in school buses to see this Hollywood film,” she notes. “And this support has been so extensive that The Associated Press ran an article last week talking about the level of school support for this film through field trips.”
 
     Recording the third-best opening weekend ever, The Hunger Games includes no portrayal of God or the supernatural world.

     — http://www.onenewsnow.com/Culture/Default.aspx?id=1572230

The “Hunger Games” books, #4

     More discussion and information about the “Hunger Games” books and movie.    

     “Vicki”: Thank you for sending this out. Our Youth and Government group voted to see this movie tonight and it is comforting to think that we will at least be spared some of the blood and gore.   [Wayne: One of the previous items, a review of the movie in World Magazine, said that some of the blood and gore was toned down in the movie.]

     “Patti” said, I am really just shocked at the numbers [in churches of Christ] who have expressed great anticipation re: this movie….not here but, my fb friends, preachers and such! Can’t we find happy, feel good movies to support. I always ask my children, “if Jesus was one of your school friends, would you ask him to go there, do that, or see this movie with you?”. And then say, “he is!”. Where ever you go he is there, would you be embarrassed for him to see you walk into this movie???? (I don’t know because I’ve not read the book or seen any of the movies). It’s just a thought!!!!

     “Elizabeth”:   I am against this type of thing too.

     I have an 18 yr old daughter who became obsessed with Twilight, vampires, etc. I don’t think she likes Harry Potter. Maybe that’s how she started, I don’t know. She was a good girl and I did not allow this to be viewed or read in our home. However she accessed it at the Public Library, and when we requested they restrict her computer use there, they said they couldn’t even though she was under 18 then.

     Long story short, she is very depressed by all of this and she left home on her 18th birthday to pursue this “life style”. Don’t think this life style doesn’t exist. She is self abusive, choking herself and starves herself, and sleep deprives herself. We tried to get her psychiatric help before she turned 18, she was already past the age of consent- 16, so she refused. She has no mental illness or disabilities other than those caused from participating in this.

     Prior to getting into all of this she was not depressed and although strong willed, she was a good girl. She’s still a good girl. She’s very lost into this in real life, it’s not a fantasy to her.

     Please pray for her.

     (We’ve also had a child into Goth over 20 years ago, it was no way near  as destructive as this.)

     “Laura”:   I have not read the books although at some point I likely will honestly. I rarely pay to view movies at the theater so I doubt I will see the movie any time soon. But, knowing my son will be exposed by peers I feel I need to at least be knowledgeable about the books so I can have honest discussion about them. The storyline that I have been reading in reviews very much reminds me of a short story called The Lottery by Shirley Jackson that was required reading in my school during the 1980s. You can find the story at http://www.d.umn.edu/~csigler/PDF%20files/jackson_lottery.pdf. While the topic is dark and heavy, it raised some important questions that I/we still think about and discuss today concerning traditions, value of life, and family. While I much prefer the happy, feel good movies, sometimes stories and topics brought up in popular literature can be a big spring board to discussing Biblical morality and why we believe what we believe.

      “Patti”:     I agree it can be a great springboard for discussions, I was stating my shock at such glorification, enthusiasm and hype given by Christians…..for example all the folks I saw on fb “can’t wait”, “putting off their mission trip a day so that they can catch the show” and “mightnight premiers” and “are any of you wearing costumes”, “I’m taking my kids!” You may not have seen any of these conversations but my board was full of it! Very disheartening to me!

      Wayne: Two things.  First, I don’t understand this “Our children’s peers will be reading these books or seeing the movie, so our children have to read the books or see the movies so they can discuss it with them” line.  Or have we quit trying to teach our children the importance of being different from the world?  Some of our children’s peers may well be into pornography.  Should we expose our children to that so they can discuss it with their peers?  What’s wrong with just saying, “These things are not good and profitable from a spiritual standpoint, so they are just not acceptable in our house”?  Some thing may well provide a springboard to discussing Biblical morality and why we believe what we believe, but honestly, is it worth wading through all the world’s garbage to find them? 

      Second, here is some information about the Hunger Games movie.  I realize that it discusses the film rather than the books, but much of what it says about the movie will equally apply to the books.

Blockbuster ‘displays evil brilliantly’
Charlie Butts – OneNewsNow – 3/26/2012

     The Hunger Games premiered nationwide on movie screens and made millions of dollars its first weekend — but an expert who has seen it is issuing another warning to parents.

      The Hunger Games (PG-13), the first in a series of movies based on Susan Collins’ trilogy by the same name, is a story about children killing children with adults watching on. Online ticket sales in the week leading up to the release resulted in sellouts at the more than 4,300 theaters where it was showing — and on its opening weekend, the film dwarfed all other competitors by pulling in $155 million at the box office, making it the third best debut in history.
 
     Dr. Brenda Hunter, co-author of From Santa to Sexting, tells OneNewsNow while the movie is beautifully crafted — and obviously quite popular — it also offers much for parents to be wary of.
 
     “We saw a 12-year-old killed with a spear, a boy mauled to death by hybrid dogs, a girl sliced and diced,” she tells OneNewsNow. “The film is powerful, but it’s deeply disturbing. In fact, I’ve never seen a movie that displays evil this brilliantly.”
 
     After viewing the movie, the psychologist chatted with members of the target audience — middle school age children. One young boy, she says, was quite honest.
 
     “I said, ‘What do you think will be the impact of this movie?’ He said ‘I’ll probably have nightmares.'”
 
     More importantly, Hunter believes children will be desensitized to violence, and will neither be afraid nor concerned about what they see in life.
 
     Hunter is aware of some middle schools taking children out of class and busing them to see the film — so she talked with one principal. “He thanked me very much,” she shares. “I’m sure he probably won’t change his plans, but at least I registered a concern as a psychologist.”
 
     Her recommendation to parents again is to say no to children who want to see the movie.
 
     The second film adaption in the series, based on Collins’ novel Catching Fire, is slated for release Thanksgiving week of 2013.

      — http://www.onenewsnow.com/Culture/Default.aspx?id=1563486

The Hunger Games books, #3

     Not everyone agreed with the negative assessments of “The Hunger Games” series of books.

      “Melanie” wrote the following:  I’ll be a bit of a dissenter, I guess. I enjoyed the books, and found them to be quite thought-provoking. There’s a lot of room for discussion to be found. Yes, the situation in the books is horrible, but it’s so easy to see how it really would not take much for the culture of today to lead right to the setup in the books. It’s also a lesson in “those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” – it’s essentially the late Roman Empire, right down to the names of the people in the ruling district to the name of the whole country. (Panem, as in “panem et circenses” – bread and circuses)

     I’d be willing to give more details of the books if anyone wants to email me off-group, if you’re still trying to decide.

      “Becky” responded thus:  I read the books also. They were dark and vivid and sad in many ways, especially because they dealt with children murdering and being murdered. However, some of the same themes and sad events could be found in a history curriculum or even in the Bible. My husband and I struggle daily to determine how much we need to shelter our daughters from and how much exposure to current worldly events and ‘ fads’ will actually allow them to be articulate in their faith and relevant in their ability to discuss things their peers are familiar with.
     Our conclusion with this book series was directly relational to each of our children’s age and maturity. But honestly that goes for every book, tv show, movie, or any other activity we let our kids participate in. It is a prayerful job to raise children……

     “Shonya” also replied:  Just thought some might be interested in this review from:
http://www.worldmag.com/webextra/19336

     [Here it is:]

Conscience killer?
The Hunger Games is a compelling story that can sensitize or desensitize teens to darkness | Emily Whitten

     Decades into America’s dystopian future, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone) stands in her mother’s worn, blue dress—waiting. Along with the other young adults ages 12-18 in her district (much like a state), she and her little sister wait to hear who will represent their home in the far-away capital for The Hunger Games. Every year, the government chooses a girl and boy tribute from each district for something akin to American Idol meets Lord of the Flies. With obvious allusions to the games of the Roman Coliseum—horse-drawn chariots, golden laurel wreaths for the victors, and a game show host named Caesar—these games are what you might expect in a similarly banal but technologically advanced culture: It’s a fight to the death for the entertainment of the masses. Small wonder then that it’s rated PG-13 for “violent thematic material and disturbing images.”

     What might surprise some based on the bare bones of the story is the strong moral center to the film, beginning with Katniss herself. When her sister’s name is called from the podium as the tribute from District 12, Katniss unhesitatingly steps to the front and yells, “I volunteer!” It’s a death sentence for herself, or so she thinks, yet she has essentially been mother to her sister, Primrose, for years now. To give Prim over to such a gruesome death is unthinkable. And from that point on, though she doesn’t share her love interest Peeta’s conscious moral high ground, she fights to save not just her own life but also the lives of the other tributes she comes to love. Perhaps the most moving scene of the film occurs midstream, when Katniss kneels with a dying tribute, singing her a lullaby as the young girl loses consciousness. The value of life, even in such horrific circumstances, is drawn with bold colors.

      Author Suzanne Collins’ previous work in kids’ television (including Nickelodeon) is evident throughout the movie. The action moves succinctly and the plot manages depth, despite less opportunity for introspection than the book. And the movie-makers go to great lengths to dampen the more horrific moments: During violent scenes, the camera shakes or in some way obscures the carnage. Death comes quickly to the tributes, most of whom die off-screen. A few moments rise to the level of Scream or other teenage horror flicks, but this is no Silence of the Lambs. In general, fans of the books will find the movie delivers the action-packed story without losing its heart.

      Still, is it good for kids? Following the sorcery of Harry Potter and the vampires of Twilight, at what point do “violent thematic material and disturbing images” become too dark? And at what point does kids’ entertainment run the risk of pushing young adults into that darkness?

      An interview with Suzanne Collins is instructive here. When asked why she thinks people are enticed by TV reality shows, she replied, “Well, they’re often set up as games and, like sporting events, there’s an interest in seeing who wins.?…?Sometimes they have very talented people performing. Then there’s the voyeuristic thrill—watching people being humiliated, or brought to tears, or suffering physically—which I find very disturbing. There’s also the potential for desensitizing the audience, so that when they see real tragedy playing out on, say, the news, it doesn’t have the impact it should.”

      This is a very poignant criticism of our culture, and one that deserves to be taken seriously. But for all the beauty and moral high ground this story contains, it’s just as true that the world Collins has created is terribly evil. Teenagers are dispatched throughout the movie by knives, swords, and mutated dogs; adults are either too powerless or corrupt to help; and Katniss herself experiences an inward despair that will (in coming installments) lead her to attempt suicide. For some viewers at least—especially younger or more impressionable teens—The Hunger Games may produce the same deadening effect on the conscience that Collins seeks to warn us against.

     —http://www.worldmag.com/articles/19312

     Wayne here:  I understand the function of “dystopian” literature and the benefits that it can have.  Older, mature teens and adults can learn important lessons from reading 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Giver by Lowis Lowry, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and even The Lord of the Flies by William Golding (as disgusting as it may be) if they desire.  However, my opinion as a father and a professional reviewer of children’s literature is that books such as these are NOT for impressionable young children (even though The Giver won a Newbery Medal) but for “those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12).  The only books of this nature which I’ve found suitable for younger readers is Margaret Haddix’s “Among” series since they lack the objectionable elements of the others.

Hunger Games Books, #2

     Having posted a review of the “Hunger Games” books, I thought that you might be interested in some of the discussion that it provoked.

      “Katie”  wrote, “Thanks, Carrie. Your impressions confirmed my suspicions.”

      “Shonya” wrote, “Hunger Games, hmmmmm. I read the series in the Fall of 2010, but will share a few thoughts as I remember them.

     1) I would definitely not recommend parents allow a child to read the series without having read it themself first.
     2) I would not recommend it under age 14ish, depending on the child, possibly even older or never.
     3) Its merit, in my opinion, is as a dystopian novel and from a literature discussion standpoint. It will remind the reader of classics such as “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, “The Most Dangerous Game” (forgetting the author of this short story and don’t feel like looking it up, ha!), and the novel “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. In fact, I would (and did) require a reading of this literature as a prerequisite to The Hunger Games trilogy.  The books are thought-provoking and worth discussing from this standpoint, imho, not as a “free reading” or fad. There are themes such as freedom, big government, blindly following tradition, the sanctity of life and so forth–if read and discussed from a Christian worldview, it can be beneficial.
     4) These books are brutal. I mean that word with every connotation that it has. It is definitely not for the sensitive reader. I am not a sensitive reader–you might call me “desensitized”. My children have received much more direction in their reading choices than I did.
     5) Having said all this, my 16yod has not read them. She is a sensitive reader and it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to her or to me. My 14 yos recently read them. He did not like them. Oh, the characterization and plot captured him at first so he read them quickly as he wanted to know what happened. But in the end, he does not recommend them and I sense he is even a little put out with me for encouraging/allowing him to read them. Even as a “farm kid” who is not sensitive or faint-of-heart, he thought it was heartless and brutal and he thought there was more focus on the boy/girl relationships than there needed to be. He has no desire to see the movie–he expects it to be sexualized and graphically violent. I expect he is right.

     “Linda” wrote, “I appreciate both Carrie’s husband’s and Shonya’s reviews of this series. I had already decided that The Hunger Games wasn’t appropriate for my children and these reviews support my opinion. ”

     “Denise” wrote, “Hello, All! I was not following the thread on the reading until I saw Hunger Games pop up. I have not read nor intend to read them myself, but was aware of their increasing popularity. I do not speak as an ‘expert’ or one who thinks she has made all the right decisions, nor one with perfect children.  Just a few thoughts on reading:
      First, we need to do a good job as they are younger of guiding them by selecting excellent reading to share with them, and then by setting an example ourselves. Give them an appetite for good literature. The Italians have an expression: “Appetite comes with the eating.”
     Secondly, as they grow older, we need to ‘loosen the reigns’ and begin to let them select their own reading material. That is the whole point isn’t it, of our instruction, is to teach them to make decisions? It happens little by little, and I’m sure with some mistakes along the way; ours and theirs!
     Thirdly, the process and timing may be different with each of our children.   There are no hard and fast rules here, but a discerning parent will know each of his children and take his or her character and maturity into account.

     It is a joy now that most of my children are adults and we are able to discuss and share reading material. They are making recommendations to their parents. 🙂 Not that I share all their tastes or choices, but then, we are all unique. They are no longer answerable to me, but to God. Not that I don’t let them know what I think! lol Guess my kids are never in
doubt there. 🙂

      Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

      “Ellyn” wrote, “Thanks, Shonya, and the others who reviewed these for us. I really appreciate all the insight.”

     More to follow.

The Hunger Games Books, #1

     Because I do book reviews primarily of children’s literature (see my book review blog at http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolbookreview/ ), I am often asked what my opinions of variou books are by parents who are concerned about what their children read.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have time to read every book, or, for that matter, every good book.  And the more I read, I am deciding that it just isn’t worthwhile wasting my time reading bad books just to see what they are like when there are so many good books.

     For example, when the Harry Potter craze was in full swing, I bought the first volume, and reading it confirmed all the negative opinions that I had heard about it.  Later, someone sent me a copy of one of the “Series of Unfortunate Events” books by “Lemony Snickett,” and I found that it was just about as bad as what others told me it was.  So I chose not to read any of Phillip Pulliam’s books simply because I did not want to support his anti-Christian atheism.

     More recently, I was asked about the “Hunger Games” books, about which there was much hype when a movie was made from one of them.  For instance “Ellyn” wrote me, “Thanks, Wayne, for the list of sources. I really like your blog and have used it! Keep reading and reviewing, especially young adult stuff, that is where I get nervous. What do you think of the Hunger games books? Or anyone else?? Heard some people reading them don’t know whether they are appropriate for my 15 yo son. Thanks!”  And  “Katie”  wrote, saying, “Yes~ thanks, Wayne, for the good work!  Having some voracious readers in our home, I can use all the help I can get, finding good material.   I’m interested, also, to hear a review/opinion of the ‘Hunger Games’ books.”

     Well, to be honest, I had not heard of these books until I began to see advertisements for the movie.  Right about this same time, I was attending a homeschooling conference in St. Louis, MO, and was talking to a friend of mine who operates a “family library” to provide godly books from a Biblical worldview for people, so I asked him if he had heard of the Hunger Games books, and he said that he hadn’t either until he began seeing the movie advertisements.

     However, never fear.  Thankfull, there are other people who can provide the needed information.   “Carrie” responded to the request by saying,   “My husband has read the books and published a review of The Hunger Games on his website:
http://sojournersandpilgrims.com/tag/hunger-games/ .  We, as a family do not reccommend these books. I would be interested to know what opinions others have, as our opinion about these books is not a popular opinion.”

     Here is the review:

What About Your Twelve Year Old?
6 March, 2012
     Have you ever used the phrase, “enough is enough”? If you have uttered those words, when? I must confess, I have recently found my heart hurting and have to shout enough is enough!

     My dilemma, you see, comes from a recent series of ‘best seller’ books that is sweeping the tween and teen world along with many adults. Reviews for these books use words such as thrilling, engaging, a must read, a fantastic book with a wonderfully creative plot.

            Cautious, responsible parents will even be encouraged by reviews such as: “This will be a terrific discussion starter for middle-school literature groups, in which students will quickly make fruitful connections to our own society.” (www.commonsensemedia.org)

     Hurray! A great book for my child. Wait!!!

     With the same breath, on the same website, we read this…

      Violence: Torture and deaths of many important supporting characters, with limbs blown off, faces/bodies melting, and necks broken by frightening beasts hunting them in sewers. Lots of weapon use, both in combat and for hunting. Constant sense of danger and peril. Bombings with many casualties — even hospitals and large groups of children aren’t spared.

     And this:

      Drinking, drugs, & smoking: Lots of a drug called “morphling” — which has the same effects as morphine — is given out to sick patients, including main characters; some become addicted to it. Haymitch is a recovering alcoholic at the beginning of the book, but only because alcohol isn’t allowed in District 13. He’s back to drinking heavily when he leaves.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg of what our children have to look forward to when they read The Hunger Games. Do we really believe this is how our children will make ‘fruitful connections to our own society’?  I don’t like rotten fruit, it makes me sick!

            We must wake up to the hypocrisy of the world. Our society tells its children to “say no to drugs” while encouraging reading about excessive drug and alcohol use and says “it’s just a book, it’s not real”. It goes on campaigns against bullying and violence against women while it shouts hurray for a sixteen year old heroine whose only goal in life is to find revenge through murder.

            The author of the Hunger Games presents a world of suffering and pain to the point that the only way of escape is alcohol, drugs, or suicide. And our eleven and twelve year olds are eating it up like candy!  And we parents sit back and wonder what affects the high teen suicide rates in this country.

     Shame on us for allowing this to happen without speaking a word of common sense or, more than that, a word of godly sense.

     Speaking of the evil men speak, Jesus says “…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Mt 12.34b-35)

      Jesus was right; we become a product of what we feed our minds.

     God and His word is the source of hope, happiness, blessings, and eternal life. The world is the author of misery, murder, and the loss of all hope.

     I ask you…what is your twelve year old reading? What are they feeding their minds?
      — http://sojournersandpilgrims.com/tag/hunger-games/

      “Carrie” added, “BTW, I should have mentioned that after finishing the series, my husband had terrible nightmares and could not get the evil from these books out of his head. It haunted him for days. I don’t think our children and teens need those images in their heads.”

     (More to follow.)