One of the most heavily buzzed-about titles of 2008 was Suzanne Collins’s dystopian novel The Hunger Games, and there’s already plenty of anticipation—and news—ahead of the second book, Catching Fire, due this fall from Scholastic Press. Here’s a roundup of the latest, including an earlier release date for Catching Fire, as well as a new contest, which is being announced for the first time here in Children’s Bookshelf.

As Bookshelfpreviously reported, Catching Fire will have a 250,000-copy first printing. And fans (and booksellers) should take note: the book’s on-sale date has been bumped up a week. Originally scheduled for September 8, Catching Fire will now be released on September 1. Scholastic moved the pub date in response to retailers’ requests for the book to be out in time for the Labor Day weekend. “Hallelujah—that makes a huge difference,” says Carol Chittenden, owner of Eight Cousins in Falmouth, Mass., who says she had begged her sales reps “on bended knee” for an earlier pub date. “Before the school year kids have more time and inclination to have a go at it. Once school starts, pressures are elsewhere.”

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The Hunger Games.

• Scholastic is also launching a writing contest to promote Catching Fire. From March 16 to May 15, readers ages 12 to 17 can submit an essay describing how they would survive the fight-to-the-death games chronicled in The Hunger Games. The winner will receive a lunch with Collins and her editors at Scholastic in New York City; the winner and 100 runners-up will also get an ARC of Catching Fire and a mockingjay pin (the bird featured on the books’ covers). Details and official rules are available at Scholastic’s Hunger Games Web site.

• Meanwhile, The Hunger Games continues to gain momentum across the globe—rights have been sold into 33 territories—and in the film world, according to Collins's agent, Rosemary Stimola. Last week, Nina Jacobson’s Color Force production company snagged film rights to The Hunger Games (Jacobson is also producing the film adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid).