Bestselling author Suzanne Collins will examine the effects of war for a much younger readership than that of her Hunger Games series with the autobiographical picture book Year of the Jungle, which Scholastic will publish on September 10, 2013. The book, to be illustrated by Collins’s longtime friend (and Hunger Games dedicatee) James Proimos, follows the struggles of a girl named Suzy while her father is serving in Vietnam.
“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,” said David Levithan, v-p, publisher and editorial director at Scholastic, in a statement. “Now she has done it for a younger age group, in a way that is sympathetic rather than scary, relatable rather than raw.”
According to a release from Scholastic, Collins had long considered how to turn her memories of her father’s time in Vietnam into a story; the idea crystalized over a lunch conversation with Proimos. “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.”
Proimos, who has written and illustrated more than 20 children’s books, including The Best Bike Ride Ever and 12 Things to Do Before You Crash and Burn, first met Collins when they were both working in television; Collins credits Proimos with suggesting she try writing for children. “What Suzanne does so well here is convey complicated emotions through the eyes of a child. The art had to do the same,” said Proimos in a statement. “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.”
Scholastic also announced that the paperback edition of Collins’s Catching Fire will be released in June 2013, and redesigned paperback editions of her middle-grade Underland Chronicles will debut next summer, as well. Collins and Proimos are both represented by agent Rosemary Stimola of Stimola Literary Studio.