The Hunger Games Prequel–The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes–Release Date: May 19, 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – screenshot of Scholastic Press product page


It’s been 10 years since the release of Mockingjay completed The Hunger Games series. As a student of malignant leaders and toxic organizations, I was engrossed by the insightful ways author Suzanne Collins wove truths about social control and trauma throughout the narratives.

Her series gives us a rich source to mine on abuse, resistance, and resilience. I posted an analysis of how those features fit with Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria for identifying a “cult” of “totalist psychology” control. This series includes discussion questions for abuse survivors, people in their support network, and organizational developers. My hope is these questions will help build bridges among these audiences.

I also developed a Hunger Games reference fansite for the book and film series. Check it out for links to sources for the books, audiobooks, movies, games, and related materials for study. What have been social impacts of the series? Do you think some fan items may have contributed to over-the-top Capitol-type consumerism?

And now, a prequel novel will be released on Tuesday, May 19th. We can at last return to the nation of Panem, this time to the roots of Districts’ rebellion and The Hunger Games, and the origin story of Panem’s eventual president, Coriolanus Snow. What The Hunger Games did for us in exploring the range of social control tactics, perhaps the prequel(s) will do for us in displaying the route someone takes to complete the searing of their conscience in choosing the pathology of power.

NOTE: As I rummage around online and find other details to add, I’ll include them here without additional notice.


The official Scholastic Press site for The Hunger Games book trilogy and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a key location since promotional activities are online due to Covid-19. Scholastic provides some cool downloads on their Virtual Party Kit page.

The Scholastic YouTube channel has the official book trailer video.


Scholastic Press editor David Levithan worked with author Suzanne Collins on The Hunger Games trilogy and this prequel novel. This BookPage Q&A article gives some of his perspective on that process.

Levithan also appears in some of the special features on The Hunger Games movie. Check out “The World is Watching” and “Featurettes” sections on The Hunger Games, halfway down this page on the Movies Quadrilogy and Bonus Features Lists. Clips from interviews with Levithan and others from Scholastic Press are woven into some of the features.


Once Scholastic Press announced there would be a prequel, there was much speculation as to exactly when, where, and who would be central to its storyline. (I’d especially hoped Mags would figure into this, as she could be from one of the earliest Hunger Games.) Finally, a tantalizing few pages from the first chapter of Ballad were released this January, letting us know that Coriolanus Snow was key to the plot. You can read that here, at Entertainment Weekly’s book section.

There were more surprises to come — I just listened to an 11-minute audiobook excerpt from chapter one that was posted only this week. I had wondered who else beside Snow would show up in the cast of characters. But the audiobook excerpt had a significant character reveal in the first 75 seconds! Listen for yourself and hear who it is …


You can secure a copy of the regular edition of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes from your favorite bookstore or from the publisher, Scholastic Press. [ISBN 9781338635171.]

There are at least two exclusive book editions also available from North American sources: Barnes and Noble, and Target.

The B&N exclusive edition contains the transcript of an interview editor David Levithan conducted with Suzanne Collins. It also has a discussion guide. Note the video at the bottom of the B&N product page for Ballad for details from Levithan on an upcoming online discussion May 29th for B&N’s Young Adult Book Club. [ISBN 9781338674453.]

The Target exclusive edition is hardcover (as is the B&N edition). It includes “Bonus Exclusive Content. Collectible In-World Panem Poster.” Pre-orders are already sold out as of May 15th, so, on release date, check back on the product page for availability. [UPC 191907348149.]

I suspected other items are part of pre-order packages at various stores, and sure enough! These include: bookmark (Walmart), and for independent booksellers, some combination of exclusive songbird patch (such as shown on the Children’s Book World pre-order), temporary tattoo (Changing Hands Booklover Care Package), and/or bookmark. There is also an exclusive limited edition tote bag available as part of a pre-order package, but this seems to be just from European booksellers, such as Easons. Many pre-order packages are already sold out as of May 15th, but these add-on items may appear on eBay or other secondary markets eventually. [Click on image for full-screen view.]

Screenshot: Children’s World Exclusive Patch


Screenshot: Changing Hands Booklover Care Package Exclusive Temporary Tattoo, Bookmark, Patch


Screenshot: Eason’s Exclusive Tote


Just last month (April 8th), a Scholastic Press news release noted that “Tony Award-winning actor Santino Fontana will narrate the audio book edition of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” From the recently-posted audiobook excerpt, sounds like he was an excellent choice.

Scholastic Press offers a CD edition of Ballad [ISBN 9781338635195], and Audible dot com has a streaming edition available.


Lionsgate — which produced The Hunger Games movie series — announced April 21st that a film based on The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is already in the works. It features the same creative team as The Hunger Games movie series, with Francis Lawrence directing. The Wrap has one of the most extensive movie industry articles about that announcement.


In case you want to read more from author Suzanne Collins, or know children for whom The Hunger Games series is too mature, consider Collins’ earlier five-book series, The Underland Chronicles. It is likewise available in print and audio editions. You’ll find publication details, links, and online resources on this Underland Chronicles case study page. I find it as fascinating of plotlines for middle-readers as THG is for young adults.