Suzanne Collins picture book on the way

Nov. 29, 2012 at 10:59 AM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Scholastic says it plans to publish "Year of the Jungle," an autobiographical picture book by U.S. author Suzanne Collins, author of the "Hunger Games" books.

Set for release in September, the book will feature illustrations by James Proimos.

Scholastic also announced plans to publish the trade paperback edition of the second "Hunger Games" novel, "Catching Fire" in June, as well as re-packaged paperback editions of Collins' bestselling "The Underland Chronicles," a five-book series about Gregor the Overlander, featuring all new cover art next summer.

"One of the things Suzanne has done so masterfully in 'The Hunger Games' and 'The Underland Chronicles' is to give readers an honest portrayal of the effects of war," Scholastic's David Levithan said in a statement Thursday. "Now she has done it for a younger age group, in a way that is sympathetic rather than scary, relatable rather than raw. This is something that Suzanne, as a military child, lived with for many years, and it's something that all families will be able to share, whether they have a personal connection to the military or not."

"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."

"I had decided that I would not draw a single thing for a year and concentrate only on my writing," said Proimos. "In fact, I told this to Suzanne only minutes before she asked me to illustrate her next book. How could I refuse? The idea she laid out over burritos and ice tea during our lunch was brilliant and not quite like any picture book I had ever come across. The writing is moving and personal. What Suzanne does so well here is convey complicated emotions through the eyes of a child. The art had to do the same. We did not want this to be the kind of book that grownups put on a shelf, but instead be the kind of book that a kid would want to read again and again. Luckily, my brain is very much in touch with my first-grade self and my art skills have never left that general vicinity."

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