Hunger Games Companion Book Review: Katniss the Cattail

Welcome to another pre-premiere guest posts!

Companion books are a much debated part of The Hunger Games fandom, so wouldn’t you love a like help deciding whether or not a certain companion is for you? The fantastic HGBC is here today to do just that!


A little bit of salt goes a long way.

Reading ‘Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games’ by Valerie Estelle Frankel is like adding a little bit of salt to your Hunger Games experience.

Click here to check it out!

Click here to check it out!

It’s a simple book. It dips its foot into the literary criticism genre without being pretentious or super scholarly. ‘Katniss the Cattail’ is a reference guide intended to be used over and over again to make connections between characters, name meanings, and historical figures.

A little bit of salt brings out the flavor. You see, you could read ‘The Hunger Games’ just for the plot, or maybe because you enjoy a little romance in-between intense action scenes. But ‘The Hunger Games’ has many layers – a complexity to it that needs to be unveiled. That is where ‘Katniss the Cattail’ comes in…

Until I read ‘Katniss the Cattail’, I didn’t understand the degree to which Suzanne Collins built this world of Panem. Most of the names of characters that come from the Districts are derived from botanical sources: Katniss (a plant commonly known as arrowhead or duck-potato), Prim (as in primrose), Rue (sometimes called a “death herb”), Buttercup, the Hawthorne family, etc. On the other hand, the majority of the names of characters in the Capitol have Roman names. Not only can we learn about these Roman figures from historical sources – such as ‘Plutarch’s Lives – but most are featured in Shakespeare’s plays, such as ‘Julius Caesar’, ‘Coriolanus’, and ‘Troilus and Cressida’. I recognized some of these Roman names when reading through ‘The Hunger Games’, but had no idea the scope or the historical background until perusing this little guide.

Some names have these connections to history, while others require more speculation to the meaning behind Collins’ choice for that particular name. For example, I found it fascinating to learn that “the hawthorn root-wood makes the hottest wood-fire known (Grieve). Gale’s fire for survival, and especially for revolution, indeed burns hotter and stabs more sharply than everyone around him” (Katniss the Cattail, pg 19). Each name or symbol is mentioned briefly to give you inspiration or a starting place for more research. Frankel has written other books that go into more depth on some of these topics: ‘The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen’, ‘The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend’, and ‘From Girl to Goddess’, to mention a few. Overall, I found this book to be well researched and thought provoking. Though the title’s alliteration was catchy, I disagreed with the cattail part, finding Frankel’s description of the duck-potato as the katniss plant to be more accurate.

‘Katniss the Cattail’ describes many of the symbols in ‘The Hunger Games’ such as bread, ‘The Hanging Tree’ song, the nickname of Katniss – The Girl Who Was on Fire, the pearl, President Snow’s rose, etc. Learning more about these symbols deepens the experience of watching the movie (soon to be plural!) or re-reading the trilogy. Frankel digs briefly into some of the over-arching themes of war, reality television, Greek myths, and more.

Here’s the thing, folks… nobody wants to eat just salt! Salt is meant to enhance another food. And ‘Katniss the Cattail’ is meant to enhance your understanding of ‘The Hunger Games’ – to take your thoughts in a new direction or see characters in a new light. So, dear readers, may you savor your literary food and, of course, “may the odds be ever in your favor”.

Hunger Games Bookclub


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