'Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes' Fiction and Nonfiction Tie-Ins

How did Suzanne Collins dream up Panem and the Hunger Games? Influences range from Roman Gladiators to the Vietnam War, as this booklist shows. 

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie still


Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

PG-13. Theaters. Nov. 17.
In this prequel to the blockbuster trilogy, a young Coriolanus Snow mentors the girl from District 12 in the 10th Annual Hunger Games. White actor Tom Blyth and biracial (white and Colombian) actor Rachel Zegler star.



Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon. Bloomsbury. 2017.
Gr 5-8–12-year-old biracial (Black and white) Robyn Hood joins the rebellion after a corrupt governor takes control of Nott City in this sci-fi adaptation of Robin Hood. Middle grade readers looking for stories with strong heroines fighting back against tyrannical governments will enjoy this fast-paced dystopian adventure.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman. Simon. 2016.
Gr 8 Up–Set in a future world where science has cured all disease, “scythes” are tasked with culling the population. Teens Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice as scythes, but only one of them will win the position and that scythe must cull the loser. Readers looking for a thought-provoking, dark dystopian read will enjoy this series starter.

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. Katherine Tegen. 2019.
Gr 8 Up–In dystopian a society where women are trained to be perfect wives, Latina teen Danielle finds herself falling for her biggest rival—her husband’s second wife—after joining an underground rebellion. A lushly written futuristic tale with a side of romance.

The Getaway by Lamar Giles. Scholastic. 2022.
Gr 9 Up–Black teen Jay lives and works in Karloff Country, a resort protected from the climate crisis that is ravaging the rest of the earth. But when disaster strikes the outside world, the Trustees take over, and life for Karloff employees devolves into nightmarish conditions. With social commentary on race and class, this menacing apocalyptic story is compelling subversive.

Curriculum Connections: Historical influences
Author Suzanne Collins pulled inspiration for “The Hunger Games” from Greek myths, Roman gladiatorial games, and America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. If your students want to learn more about any of those topics, here are some books to check out.

Gladiators by Ben Hubbard. Cavendish Square. 2017.
Gr 9 Up–A comprehensive take on fearsome warriors for sophisticated readers.

“Mythology Around the World (series). ReferencePoint. 2022.
High School–Besides myths from familiar traditions, —Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian —this series includes stories from ­non-Eurocentric, nonwhite cultures, e.g., African, Chinese, Hindu, Polynesian, Middle Eastern, and Indigenous American.

Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge. Viking. 2018.
Gr 7 Up–Rather than offering a history of the causes and effects of the Vietnam War, Partridge brings the conflict to a personal level, with accounts of eight men, two women, four U.S. presidents, Martin Luther King Jr., and Vietnam Veterans Memorial architect Maya Lin.


Curriculum Connections: Media coverage of conflict
The 10th Hunger Games were the first to be televised, an innovation that changed how the Games were played. Check out these books on how media has influenced historical events.

Close-Up on War: The Story of Pioneering Photojournalist Catherine Leroy in Vietnam by Mary Kronk Frankel. Abrams. 2022.
Gr 7-10–Catherine Leroy left France in 1966 at age 21 to photograph the rising conflict in Vietnam. Though she had no journalism experience and had never even handled a camera, Leroy had an innate sense of the news and the confidence to ignore and overpower the sexism she confronted as the only female photojournalist. This is really three books in one—it tells of the work of Leroy, describes the daily workings of war correspondents of that era, and gives a glimpse into life during the Vietnam War—excelling at each.

Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration by Elizabeth Partridge, illus. by Lauren Tamaki. Chronicle. 2022.
Gr 5 Up–Art reflects the harsh realities of life in this emotional look at the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans, filtered through the lenses of three very different photographers. Tamaki’s gorgeous black, white, and red illustrations work in tandem with Lange, Miyatake, and Adams’s photographs to paint a devastatingly beautiful picture of both the injustice of the incarceration and the right to humane treatment, which they were denied.

What the Fact?: Finding the Truth in All the Noise by Seema Yasmin. S.& S. 2022.
Gr 10 Up–Yasmin is a doctor, journalist, and published author who tackles facts by meticulously moving through topics, such as hoaxes and conspiracy theories, to share tips on discerning fact from fiction in a media-rich environment of the 21st-century, opening with a story about a viral Facebook post related to COVID-19. Adeptly breaking down how information has been shared for centuries, the book provides language to navigate the murkiness of the truth.

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