Flashlight Tales

by Stefani on 3-June-2010

Hey y’all!

Been kinda quiet here this week, huh?

That’s because we’ve been slaves to our books. If you could peek into our windows you’d probably come away thinking we were the laziest bunch of good for nothings this side of the Mississippi. Well, all accept for Papa. He’s busy filming documentaries about bees and top secret military robots. But the rest of us have been shamelessly lazy and lost in the pages of our books.

Even the dog.

We do hereby declare it the Summer of the Flashlight Tale and we have made it our mission to seek and find all the very best, can’t put it down, stay up late and read until  your eyes forcibly shut themselves of their own accord, books.

First up, The Hunger Games and its sequel Catching Fire.

Over the weekend my sweet sister in law, Leah, told me that I had to read these books. Now, given their premise I never, EVER, would have picked them up if anyone else had said to, but I trust her opinion implicitly.  I’m hoping that you’ll afford me the same trust.  I know, they really do sound… well… odd, to say the very least. They are so far outside of  my normal book fare.

Basically they are about a government, some time in the future, who keeps its thumb on its citizens by holding a blood chilling annual reality show. Two children (12-18 years old), a boy and a girl, are chosen  from each of the 12 districts. Then they are forced to play in this sort of Survivor-like game. Only you don’t get voted off, you get killed.

I will tell you this : the story is insanely compelling. I got the first book, The Hunger Games, on Sunday evening. I started reading and could. not. stop. I kept promising myself that I’d read, “just one more chapter.” Then I looked up and can you guess what time it was? 3:30.


And I still kept reading for another half hour!

I told my sister in law, and do you know what that crazy lady did? She brought me a frozen coffee concoction and the second book, Catching Fire.

I love her. I really really do. She makes killer desserts too, but that’s another story.

I tried to control myself. I tried to put off reading Catching Fire until the kids had gone to bed, but I only lasted about an hour. Just like before,  I just couldn’t put it down. She brought it yesterday afternoon and I’ve already finished it.  Now I’m just biding my time, chewing my fingernails and waiting anxiously for August, when book three comes out.

You have to read them. You just do.

A couple of things:

These books are meant for about age 12 and up. So, even given the basic plot, it’s not really as gory as you might imagine. One reviewer described it so well saying, “…rather than being repellent, the violence is strangely hypnotic. It’s fairy-tale violence, Brothers Grimm violence–not a cheap thrill but a symbol of something deeper”

That’s kind of what makes this tale so interesting. No one wants to kill exactly. They just want to stay alive. Its an impossible situation which is probably why it sucks you in. You just keep wondering how, how on earth can this be resolved?

It’s also, in some ways, a love story, but it’s not at all the normal gooey, shallow teen love affair. It’s all very chaste and more about the implications of love than act of it.

It’s set in the future but it’s not futuristic in a Star Wars sense. While I guess technically it is “Sci Fi,” the label seems too limiting.

So, grab the books and your flashlight. Turn your ringer off and block out a couple of days. You’ll thank me. I know it.

Angela Sondrol June 3, 2010 at 11:40 am

last year we read the “Hatchet” series by Gary Paulsen they had the same effect on my son and I, I would reccomend any of his books to anyone with boys, but this series is a really great place to start!! I continue to love your blog everyday!!

Sunburg, MN

Stefani June 3, 2010 at 2:16 pm

You know what? I have Hatchet on my bookshelf (thank you Paperback Swap) and haven’t read it yet. I’m going to have to pull it down and get busy!

Carol June 3, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Oh my goodness! I just finished both of these books and am waiting with baited breath for the third. Being a busy homeschool mom of 3 boys like yourself, I can’t remember the last time before this that I read a “grown-up” book for myself- these were definitely worth the wait.

Along the same lines, if you haven’t read Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” and “Gathering Blue,” I think you’d enjoy them.

I’d love to hear what your boys are reading this summer. Thanks, Angela- I’ll try Hatchet. Sign of the Beaver was great outdoorsy book for my 6, 8, and 10 year olds, and they also loved My Side of the Mountain.

Stefani June 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm

You know what? I read The Giver (and I remember loving it!) in high school but have not read Gathering Blue. I’m going to have to see if I can find those. Thank you!

As for Sign of the Beaver and My Side of the Mountain, we read both a month or so ago and really loved them both so much. Such good boy tales!

molly June 3, 2010 at 12:13 pm

ok! i’ve got them on hold and am anxiously awaiting some late nights. i’ll have to charge the batteries for my head lamp!

Stefani June 3, 2010 at 2:15 pm

YAY!!! I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Hannah June 3, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I’ve had those books on my TBR list for a while, even though every time I read their description I think “huh? I don’t usually read books like these!” But if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard them recommended …
I think you’ve finally broken me. Must them on hold at the library immediately.
I noticed one of your kiddos reading the Mysterious Benedict Society. We own the trilogy and I love them! Ian hasn’t made it through the third but he did enjoy the first two.

Have you read anything by Shannon Hale? Those might call for some flashlight time as well. If you like the fantasy element of the Collins books, you might enjoy her books (both YA and adult, although the adult books are not fantasy). Ian would highly recommend her graphic novels, Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack, for your boys.

Obviously, I can really go off about books! 🙂

Stefani June 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm

He *was* reading the Mysterious Benedict Society, but then he stopped. Just wasn’t into it. I’ve read about half myself and I think it’s pretty cute… different and funny. I think he just needs something with a bit faster pace.
You know, both my older boys like to read, but they don’t choose it on their own usually. If I let them stay up late to read or offer it as the more interesting option of two(aka, clean your room or read) than they will dive in. Once they do, I can’t tear them away. (Like the last couple of days)
I’m really hoping that this is the summer that reading becomes a passion for them because their current ambivalence just breaks my heart and I’ll admit it kind of makes me feel like a failure. I read to them all the time. I let them choose their own books. I am always, ALWAYS willing to buy books or take them to the library. I read a lot myself. So, I feel like I’ve done all the “right” things to inspire my kids to be readers. But they aren’t VORACIOUS readers like I’d hoped they would be.
Anyhow, I will definitely check out Shannon Hale. I do have one boy that loved the Amulet graphic novels, so that might be right up his ally.

Stefani June 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm

p.s…. I tried to comment on your chicken hacking prowess over at your blog today but couldn’t for some reason. In any case dear, you crack my can right up, and I’m proud of you for taking on that bird!

Relyn June 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

I love a girl who can “go off” about books. I have to tell you, my daughter loved Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack, too. She thought they were a hoot. We keep waiting for new ones to be published. My daughter is only 8, so I am having a hard time finding enough appropriate graphic novels to keep her satisfied. Are you having this trouble?

Hannah June 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Hi Relyn,

Yes, I wish there were more high-quality, appropriate graphic novels out there, but here a couple that my son has read and enjoyed:

Mouse Guard
Mouse Guard II: Winter 1152 (this, he said, was actually a bit too spooky for him). Both of them take place in the Middle Ages. Both by David Petersen

We haven’t read this one yet but it’s new and looks good:
Thunder from the Sea by Jeff Weigel

Stefani, hopefully you received my reply to your comment via email.

Good discussion, gals!

relyn June 14, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Thanks, Hannah. I recently found a wonderfully illustrated graphic novel version of The Wizard of Oz and another of Pride and Prejudice, which my daughter is currently lost in as we speak. I’m off to request Mouse Guard and Thunder now. Thanks again.

Stefani June 8, 2010 at 8:28 am

We haven’t gotten too into the graphic novels for that very reason. I hear that there are some great graphic novel retellings of classic stories (shakespeare, Swiss Family Robinson, Tale of Two Cities), but the ones we came across just didn’t appeal much to my boys. I think they’re still a bit young for that. My middle man did like Amulet and it’s sequel, as I told Hannah.
I am really excited to see more of this one though: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127483926
It looks like just the thing!

Relyn June 14, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Oh, I love anything that has to do with NPR. Thanks for the link.

Birgitte June 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I put these on my TBR list at goodreads.com. (BTW, are you on there?)

Stefani June 3, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I’m not, but it sure sounds like I should be! I’ll check it out…

Sherry-Ann June 3, 2010 at 2:26 pm

What exactly is the TBR list?? our books sound so interesting I will be sure to suggest them to my girls!

Stefani June 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm

“To Be Read”…. I think. I’m in the dark half the time with all the acronyms too, Sherry-Ann!

Cath June 3, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I was surprised how much I loved the Hunger Games books. It wasn’t until after I read the first that I saw it was a young adult book, but a friend of mine had aggressively recommended it. The third and final of the trilogy is coming out soon!

Theresa June 4, 2010 at 2:15 am

Totally agree with you on Hunger Games and Catching Fire. REALLY good reads! My son and I both loved them and can’t wait for the third to come out.

Lucia June 4, 2010 at 2:37 am

You are not alone…we are also anxiously waiting for the third book…hoping I get it in the mail before my husband does 🙂

Have you read “The Book Thief” yet?…that one also kept me up late. You are lucky to have such a good sister-in-law close by. I love swapping book ideas with my sister-in-law and wish she lived close enough to deliver books and treats.

And has your family read “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”? It’s one of our favorite family reads ever. Happy Reading!

Stefani June 8, 2010 at 8:30 am

We LOVED Hugo Cabret! We read it oh… maybe a couple of years ago. I think it might be time to pull it back out!

I’ll look into the Book Thief, thanks for the tip!

Brittany June 4, 2010 at 8:28 am

Thanks for the recommendation! I’m a school librarian but I’ve not worked in 3 years so I’m totally out of the loop with my YA books. Can’t wait to read these! I’m quite sure your kids have done the Percy Jackson series already but if not, check those out!

Stefani June 8, 2010 at 8:31 am

You know what? We have not read that series. I’ll check it out!

Tai June 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Ok…just reserved The Hunger Games at my library…3 ahead of me so I might have to wait a couple of weeks. Looking forward to the read! Thanks for the recommendation.

Stefani June 8, 2010 at 8:32 am

Oh I don’t know… if they’re anything like me it won’t take too long for those three folks to read it and come back for the second!

Relyn June 6, 2010 at 9:16 am

I do the same thing: find myself trying hard to compel people to read these books. They are strangely hypnotic – like the snakes in a cobra dance. I love YA literature anyway, but these books… Oh! They raise the bar quite a bit. I am so anxio0us for the next book, we’ve prepaid for them so and they will be delivered to our house on the day they hit the shelves. I’m nervous, too. What if Katniss ends up with the wrong guy? The wrong ending? So nervous.

Don’t you love books that are good enough to do that to you?

Relyn June 6, 2010 at 9:20 am

Well, I just now read the comments and I can tell that I have some friends I need to go and meet. Quite a few people with the same tastes as I have. Please let me second – yes – do read Hatchet. Aloud, to your boys. Excellent and just the right amount of gross. Also, I highly recommend that you join GoodReads. It’s as interactive and socially networked as you want it to be. Or, you can simply use it to keep track of books you and your boys have read. I’ll send you a friend request, if you’d like. It’s fun.

Stefani June 8, 2010 at 8:32 am

Okay, sold! I’ll get on there in the next day or two and we’ll have to be friends! What fun!

Relyn June 14, 2010 at 7:45 pm

I’m wondering if you got my friend request on GoodReads. I can never tell.

Diane June 8, 2010 at 8:27 am

I also loved reading The Hunger Games Series and looking very forward to the new one coming out. Can’t wait to see where they take the story. My daughter is hooked on The Warrior Cat Series of books. They are great for boys if anyone is interested in trying them out. The same author also has a entire series on bear called The Seekers. I read The Mysterious Benedict Society and liked it but now that my 11 year old will probably think it is a little slow.

Stefani June 8, 2010 at 8:33 am

I have seen those Warrior Cat books but not looked into them much. I will have to fix that! Thanks so much, Diane!

Grace June 15, 2010 at 9:48 am

OK, I totally would never have picked something like that up. But given your recommendation, I’m totally going to do it. It might be just what the doctor ordered, given all the chaos we’ve been having lately!

kerry June 17, 2010 at 10:48 am

There is nothing better than summer reading, whether it is by the shade of a tree, on the floor right by the air conditioning vent, or by flashlight (or booklight) late at night. Thanks for the recommendations. I am almost done with my latest book club pick and would love to “take a break” with a fast-paced, exciting read!
(That sister-in-law of yours sounds amazing! Lucky you!)

shannon June 18, 2010 at 8:49 pm

This is perfect. I just finished a string of non-fiction and was thinking I need some reads I can gobble up like candy. I, also, probably would not have picked these up at random, but they sound intriguing…I have a long wait, though…I just put them both on hold at my local library and I am number 46 and 88 (!) on the hold lists!!!

I’m glad this doesn’t happen when The Boy wants a book about slugs or spiders. 🙂

Heather June 29, 2010 at 7:08 pm

I love this post. We spent all spring out of doors. Sometimes we’d drag a pillow and pile of books and sit on the awning swing reading. But mostly, we’d just goof around outside. Playing in the mud. I’d toil away in the garden. Lots of imaginary play. But now that it’s so HOT and the skeeters are biting something awful, we spend a lot of time indoors. Reading.

BTW, wanted to let you know, your blog was the first blog I had ever read. That was years ago. Got me hooked on momma blogs, homeschool blogs, and book blogs. Now I’ve launched my own. Thanks for the inspiration!


Relyn July 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Missing hearing from you more regularly. I hope all is well for the Blue Yonder Gang. I was actually just dropping in to wish you and the Blue Yonder Boys the happiest Independence Day. May your day be full! May you enjoy laughter shared with family, great food shared with friends, fireworks to make you gasp, a lump in your throat at the anthem, and a full and grateful heart at all we have been given. Happy Fourth of July, my friend!

jm July 5, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I miss reading about your adventures. I hope all is well.

Candice July 6, 2010 at 7:43 am

I have really missed reading about your family adventures. Hope your Independence Day was great and full of fun, and your family is well.

Crystal July 8, 2010 at 9:56 am

Just checking in… Miss your posts. Hope all is well.


beth lehman July 11, 2010 at 5:15 pm

oh, boy. i immediately put these on hold and with no time for reading myself – got my husband hooked. i didn’t see him for a weekend…. i just finished hunger games and am reading catching fire. great reads and perfect for long/late reading and a great deal of thinking, actually. echo the other comment about the giver – which we just listened to on a trip – my husband and I – not our kids.

April July 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm

missing your posts….Hope all is well with you and your family. Looking forward to your return!

Lisa Payne Kirker July 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm

So many lazy summer readers (like me!)…glad to know I’m not alone. I’m going to check the library later in the week. I’m always up for something different and Hunger Games sound VERY different!

As far as recommendations…The Book Thief (mentioned a few times above) has become my second favorite book of all time. It’s YA fiction, but mesmerizing, heart-wrenching, soulful and thought provoking. (How’s that for a recommendation!) 🙂

Enjoy your lazy days of summer!

Sarah July 13, 2010 at 9:22 am

Knock, knock. Where you been missy? 🙂

Kelly July 23, 2010 at 6:41 am

thanks for the review! i had been seeing lots of young folks reading these but wasn’t sure if they were, ‘too much’, kwim? thanks for the insights and hope you’re enjoying your summer!

CathyT July 24, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Just read the Hunger Game sand we got the seond book from the library yestersy. Four of us (two teens and two adults) loving them all. Thanks for recommending them!

Emily from Homespun Light July 24, 2010 at 11:33 pm

It looks like you have a lot of great book recommendations here in the comments! I love love loved The Hunger Games, too. I just read a book that was right up there with it (and similar in many ways) that I wanted to tell you about. It’s called The Maze Runner by James Dashner. You can see my review here: http://homespunlight.blogspot.com/2010/07/maze-runner-by-james-dashner.html
I hope all is well!

Janelle Neely (Benji's mom) July 25, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Yo yo yo! What up Girlfriend? Where are you? Startin’ to wonder if you’re ok. hmmm…

s August 6, 2010 at 11:20 am

stumbled across your blog and since I am always interested in books, came across this post. I am in midst of reading Sign of the Beaver to my 8yo son. I am thinking of getting The Hunger games series for my daughter for xmas – she’ll be close to 12.

A series she has been enraptured with this summer is the Fablehaven series – she has been gobbling them up. We just got book 5 from the library because she didn’t want to purchase it with her gift certificates (not released as paperback yet). I am hoping to start that series with my son as a read aloud next summer. He does NOT enjoy reading at all. This summer I’ve just given him very short and easy non fiction stories as his read on his own books and saved the larger series for our read aloud time. I also got him a Henry Huggins audio book which I’ll have him listen to next week.

LOVE books! My youngest grabs as many as he can when its story time for him – he is really into blue’s clues right now but we don’t have too many of those and they are hard to find at library since Blue is passe I guess!

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