When I woke to an email proclaiming ‘Suzanne Collins’ Next Book Called “A Year in the Jungle,” I did a little happy dance, my brain immediately spouting off with images of YA heroes racing around in some foreign land, fighting all sorts of beasties in a tropical jungle while a war rages on and –
And then I saw this cover.
And then I had to decide whether or not I was allowed to get annoyed at someone for writing a picture book.
The new story, which is illustrated by Jame Proimos, is autobiographical, detailing Collins’ own experience as a child while her father was in fighting in Vietnam. She offered her inspiration for the story:
“For several years I had this little wicker basket next to my writing chair with the postcards my dad had sent me from Vietnam and photos of that year. But I could never quite find a way into the story. It has elements that can be scary for the audience and it would be easy for the art to reinforce those. It could be really beautiful art but still be off-putting to a kid, which would defeat the point of doing the book. Then one day I was having lunch with Jim and telling him about the idea and he said, ‘That sounds fantastic.’ I looked at him and I had this flash of the story through his eyes, with his art. It was like being handed a key to a locked door. So, I just blurted out, ‘Do you want to do it?’ Fortunately he said yes. That afternoon, on the train ride home, the book started unfolding in my head. There’s a natural humor and sense of fun to his drawing style that makes the story approachable. As the emotional life of the main character evolves into darker places, the pictures beautifully keep pace with it, but they never lose that Proimos quality. His art made telling the story possible.”
After reading that, I had to tone down my internal grumbling at the fact that I wasn’t being handed another Hunger Games or Gregor the Overlander. In both those series, Collins’ makes her anti-war stance viscerally clear. The repetition of the theme makes it clear that war and its consequences are ideas that Collins’ simply cannot shake, and to be able to present the personal tale to children could not have been an easy task.
The publisher – Scholastic – did promise that, unlike some of Collins’ tales that would be a touch too terrifying for young children to read, A Year in the Jungle will be “sympathetic rather than scary, relatable rather than raw.”
I’m now endlessly curious as to how Collins and Proimos have managed to pull off such a tale. I will certainly be checking the book out when it drops on Sept. 10, 2013.
What about you, canaries? Will you read the book?
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