If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, odds are good you have read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy and joined in our discussion here of that series’ artistry and meaning. If you haven’t read the books (or even if you have), it’s still likely you know the stories from the disappointing adaptations of the novels into films. You may even have read Collins’ five Gregor the Overlander novels, books that will never become movies, fascinating and enchanting as they are. I bought and Collins’ first book post Hunger Games, an illustrated childrens book called Year of the Jungle, but I don’t know anybody else who has.
I learned about another book while writing ‘Whatever Happened to Suzanne Collins,’ one she wrote in the midst of her Gregor series (2005). It is When Charlie McButton Lost Power, a children’s book in rhyming AABB quatrains that was illustrated by Mike Lester.
In brief, Charlie McButton is a child addicted to video games who goes into withdrawl when the electrical power goes out at his house and his computer won’t work. He has a battery-operated game — but there are no batteries in it! He tries to take the ones in his younger sister’s dolly, is punished, and yells at his sister. He repents — and, when his time-out punishment is over, he plays imaginative games with his sister and discovers how great life can be without video games. The End.
The poetry, a la Dr Seuss, is clever and captivating, and the Lester illustrations are funny. What is bizarre about the book, though, is its relevance today. See Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows or Jean-Claude Larchet’s The New Media Epidemic if you’re not aware that we are all Charlie McButton, and, short of an epic catastrophe depriving us of electrical power for months, there is little hope that we will escape those shallows for the happy ending Collins’ Charlie experiences.
It’s a book worth reading once — and even to purchase and own if it completes your Collins Collection as this one does mine! Or you can just listen to it being read aloud below!