Scholastic has announced it will publish Year of the Jungle
, an autobiographical picture book by Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games
trilogy. The picture book will be published in 2013 and illustrated by James Proimos. Collins credits Proimos, a longtime friend, for initially suggesting she write books for children while they were working in children's television together.
The autobiographical picture book is intended for ages 4 and up. It is based on the year Suzanne Collins's father served in Viet Nam. In the book Suzy struggles to deal with her father's absence after he leaves for Viet Nam. Little Suzy wonders what the jungle is like and whether her father will be safe and when he will return. The months that slip by are marked by the passing of the familiar holidays and the postcards her father sends. With each one, he feels more and more distant, and when he returns, Suzy must learn that even though war has changed him, he still loves her just the same.
Suzanne said in a statement, "The Underland Chronicles
, with its fantasy world and eleven-year old protagonist, Gregor, was designed for middle readers. The Hunger Games Trilogy
features a teen narrator, Katniss Everdeen, and a stark dystopian backdrop for the YA audience. Year of the Jungle
attempts to reach the picture book readers by delving into my own experience as a first grader with a father deployed in Viet Nam."
She also explained the origins of the book: "For several years I had this little wicker basket next to my writing chair with the postcards my dad had sent me from Viet Nam and photos of that year. But I could never quite find a way into the story. It has elements that can be scary for the audience and it would be easy for the art to reinforce those. It could be really beautiful art but still be off-putting to a kid, which would defeat the point of doing the book. Then one day I was having lunch with Jim and telling him about the idea and he said, 'That sounds fantastic.' 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. As the emotional life of the main character evolves into darker places, the pictures beautifully keep pace with it, but they never lose that Proimos quality. His art made telling the story possible."