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Suzanne Collins follows 'Hunger Games' with 'Year of the Jungle'

Ever wonder what made Suzanne Collins come up with the idea for "The Hunger Games"? It's a pretty terrifying story: Teenagers are set loose in the woods and forced to fight to the death.

Hmm, maybe that year Collins' dad spent in Vietnam has something to do with it.

Her next book may shed some light -- although it will be an unusual light. "Year of the Jungle" is an autobiographical book about the year Collins was in first grade and her father was a soldier in Vietnam. But it's a picture book. For little kids.

Wait, what?

In its news release about the book, publisher Scholastic explains: "In Year of the Jungle, when young Suzy’s father leaves for Viet Nam, she struggles to deal with his absence. What is the jungle like? Will her father be safe? When will he return? The months slip by, marked by the passing of the familiar holidays and the postcards that 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."

That's certainly, um, heart-warming.

Scholastics' David Levithan emphasized the way Collins has been able to honestly portray the effects of war to young audiences -- before "The Hunger Games," she published "The Underland Chronicles," a series for middle-grade readers. “Now she has done it for a younger age group, in a way that is sympathetic rather than scary, relatable rather than raw," Levithan said. "This is something that Suzanne, as a military child, lived with for many years, and it’s something that all families will be able to share, whether they have a personal connection to the military or not.”

"Year of the Jungle" is for ages 4 and up. It is illustrated by James Proimos and will be published Sept. 10.

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Carolyn Kellogg: Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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