Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Progeny Press Study Guides: Hunger Games/The Giver (TOS Review Crew)

Progeny Press Review
Having reviewed for Progeny Press  with the TOS Review Crew in 2012 (Pride and Prejudice and the Bronze Bow) and in 2013 (The Hobbit and Treasure Island), and having purchased a few study guides in the interim, I was quite pleased when the TOS Review Crew was offered the opportunity to review more titles this year. *See the reviews linked above for more details on the "process and structure" of the Progeny Press Study guides, this review will deal with our specific impressions of the particular guides we used this time. 

My eldest was VERY excited, as she noticed that Progeny Press has come out with a study guide for The Hunger Games. This was at the top of her list of literature options this year. It was also fortuitous that one of the other books being offered for review this time was The Giver. Can you say time to study Dystopian Societies??? 

*Be sure to scroll down to the end, and click the link to read more TOS Reviews, as some families reviewed The Courage of Sarah Noble, and Frog and Toad, which also caught my interest, as well as upper elementary titles like The Door in The Wall, but Junior High and High School dystopia won out here.

Many of my daughter's friends in public school have been reading dystopian novels in their high school literature classes. I have found the choices of books to be on a lower level of writing than The Hunger Games, *and* without the benefit of a Christian Worldview literature guide. While I don't care for The Hunger Games as movie entertainment, as dystopian literature, it is very well written, and worthy of discussion and analysis. 

Progeny Press makes their literature guides available in print, and electronically. The electronic versions can be accessed on the computer (in interactive fashion~ answers can be typed directly into the pdf files on the computer), as well as via a reader. 

My daughter opted to access the guide via my new Kindle Paperwhite, borrowing the actual book from  Amazon Prime (also on the Kindle), and writing her answers in a notebook. The advent of the Kindle in our home made it easier for her to take her schoolwork with her on the go... Nice on sunny warm days to be able to hang the hammock up at the lake a get some schoolwork done! :) 

My Middlest varied between accessing the guide on his ipod, and answering the questions in his notebook, and sitting with me to go through the guide, typing the answers directly into the pdf file on my computer. 

Now that you've heard the mechanics, what about the content? 

The Giver was my Middlest's first introduction to Dystopian literature. I am so happy that Progeny Press has taken on some of these stories that provoke so much thought and great discussion, as it is VERY helpful to have a Christian Worldview when discussing them. It helped to emphasize that fact that while well-intentioned, a true Utopia (without God) is impossible. 
  • Vocabulary: The activities were typical of Progeny Press, and a Middlest made good use of the Dictionary. 
  • Study Guide Questions: These questions are fairly straight-forward "Does the student understand the basic story. 
  • Thinking About The Story Questions: This time I found that if I left Middlest alone with the guide, he didn't really think about what the questions were really asking, and tried to answer them as simply as possible, more like the generic study guide questions. However, when I sat down with him and went through them, he was able to look a little deeper into the story and come up with the sort of answers I was looking for. Some of this had to do with the fact that this story *is* dystopian, and not the sort of thing that he likes to think about or dwell on, which I'll take as a good thing (Philippians 4:8). ;) 
  • Digging Deeper: This section is again, the portion where the story is examined through the lens of the Bible, which was extremely interesting simply because of the dystopian basis of the book. 
Side note: Progeny Press recommends that the student read the book in its entirety, and then re-read or skim through the chapters for each lesson to find the answers that they don't remember. In the case of The Giver, my son followed that directive, but ended up wishing that he hadn't, as some of the questions in the early chapters were more difficult to answer based on the knowledge he had from further chapters. 

The Hunger Games
, as I have mentioned has been a highly anticipated study guide in our household. My Eldest was jumping for joy (after her fashion) when she heard that we would be reviewing this book. She finds the Progeny Press guides challenging and enjoyable. She really appreciates how the guides make a person *think* about the stories differently than they might otherwise. 

Because she had read The Hunger Games more than once before starting this study guide, Eldest was more familiar with the story than the other two guides that she had used from Progeny Press. The text wasn't as difficult to read and absorb as The Hobbit or Pride and Prejudice simply because it was written with more recent language, but the concepts that were being presented and discussed were challenging. It follows the same format as the other PP guides, as detailed above in the review of "The Giver."

The Hunger Games is obviously dystopian, and perhaps somewhat controversial based on the subject matter, so we were very curious to see how the study guide would incorporate a Christian perspective. There are clearly elements of self-sacrifice, and striving to "do the right thing" juxtaposed with obvious evil and "self-gratification." Having worked through the guide, my daughter wanted to express for parents concerned about the content, that the Progeny Press guide is a excellent tool to use ~ allowing your teen to walk through the book with a good, moral commentary, and thoughtful discussion on the side, through a Biblical lens. 

Eldest really *loves* the Digging Deeper questions, and the Overview Questions which she feels "Ties the package of the entire study of the book neatly together." 
The Progeny Press Study Guides inspire more used up "white space" in the pages of my eldest's notebooks than just about any other subject that she has studied, and The Hunger Games study guide was no exception. 

One of the pre-reading activities was to write an essay on what a Utopian nation would be like. Eldest had that activity in the back of her head throughout the study of The Hunger Games, and rather than an essay, she came up with a thesis.

"A Utopia can NOT exist outside of the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world, and Heaven. People who try to create a Utopia (like Hitler and his Aryan race, for example) end up creating a dystopia instead. The more a society tries to create a Utopia, the more dystopian the society becomes. The parallels to our present society can be frightening... "

I'll take that! Love a good book (and great study guide) that inspires that sort of reasoning! 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can find Progeny Press on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube
Many of the guides have samples available to download on their product pages on Progeny Press, so that you can know what to expect.
*each completed high school study guide may be expected to complete 1/4 of a high school credit, based on information found in the guides.

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