Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Eleven year old Harry Potter knows little of what he is capable of. After all, he’s lived with his Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and their son Dudley Dursley ever since the death of his parents in a supposed car crash. Living under the cupboard in the Dursley household is the miserable life Harry has become familiar with- nobody to celebrate his birthdays with, nothing to call his “own,” and on top of all this no one to call his mother or father.

All this changes the day he receives a mysterious letter, via owl, inviting him into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In that moment, he finds out he is a wizard! Harry, eager to leave his aunt and uncle, accepts the gesture. He befriends Hagrid, gamekeeper of Hogwarts, who assists Harry in gathering the necessary materials for his first year at school.

In a single year at wizards’ school, Harry has had more fun than all his eleven years combined! He is acquainted with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, two other first year students at Hogwarts. In addition, he uncovers his natural ability of flying on a broom! Harry joins the Quidditch team, where he is able to fly around the field to his heart’s content. Not only this, but he also learns much about the history of magic, potions, and even spells! There is still much for Harry and his friends to uncover as they discover what magic lies within the walls of Hogwarts.

J.K. Rowling has whisked me into the mythical journey of Harry Potter. I haven’t read a book so quickly in such a long time; I couldn’t seem to put it down! I am very excited to see what other adventures unfold for Harry as he discovers his true talents.

-Skyler K.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Interwoven by a single object, the three lives of children are forever changed by magical harmonica in the novel Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

The story begins with a young boy named Otto, who meets three sisters when he gets lost in a forbidden forest. Interacting with them, Otto realizes the mysterious nature of them. The sisters guide him home, and give him a harmonica with a special “M” seal. The harmonica makes its way to a young boy named Friedrich in Germany.

Hitler is rising, and the Nazi’s party influence is very prominent; resistance to it is very difficult. Discovering the special harmonica in the factory his Father works in, Friedrich plays it and realizes there is something special about it. Because of unforeseen circumstances, he is forced to get rid of the harmonica.

It travels next to Mike, an orphan, in Pennsylvania. Constantly taking care of his younger brother, Mike is looking for a break to help himself and his brother out of their destitute lives. Musically gifted with playing the piano, Mike discovers the special harmonica. He and his brother are eventually adopted, but there are some complications with their new guardian. The last child in the novel is Ivy. Receiving the harmonica, her special talent for playing is recognized by her teacher; her teacher chooses her to play a solo in a special concert, but Ivy’s Father receives a job, forcing her to move way. Her Father’s job is to take care of a farm of Japanese family, while they are in an internment camp. The neighboring farms are anti-Japanese, and some vandalize the property. The harmonica helps her adjust to the move. Each of the children’s lives have their own story with the harmonica, but the ending ties them all together beautifully.

Even though this book is intended for younger children, anybody of any age would enjoy this novel because of its simplistic nature and “feel-good” element. My favorite part of this book was how there were multiple stories, and they were told in such detail, that one was able to connect and understand the individual characters. It is also relatable because of the backdrop of the second World War, and how it impacted people differently depending on where they lived. The “magic” element made the novel all the more enjoyable because it captured the innocence of the young children.

I loved Echo, and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a light, quick read.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Film Review: Wonder Women

I was really excited when I heard that DC had finally made the iconic Wonder Women into a movie. And I wasn’t disappointed. DC did a great job with the movie keeping Wonder Women the iconic female superhero that everyone remembers.

Diana is just a little kid who wants to fight. Who wants to be just like all the other Amazons on Themyscira, even though she is the only kid on the island. But her mom, Hippolyta doesn’t want her to. So she trains in secret.

But one day, Steve Trevor crashes into the island. Not far behind him, an entire army of Germans. The amazons, defeat the army, but they lose many and Steve explains the raging war, World War 1, the war to end all wars.

Only Diana believes this is the war, created by Ares, that the Amazons were created to defeat.  So she sneaks out, with Trevor, and they sail to Europe.  Where she finally sees the full-scale of what she is dealing with. As well as how different modern life is compared to life on the Amazons island.

She fights. Becoming the hero everyone needed. Helping give courage to those around her. Until she finds Ares.

I really loved this movie. And I would recommend this movie to anyone who loves superhero movies.

-Ava G.

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

It’s said that a mother is one of the most important people in a person’s life. To Maya Angelou, her mother, Vivian Baxter, was no exception. As Maya Angelou said about her mother, “You were a terrible mother of small children, but there has never been anyone greater than you as a mother of a young adult” (197).

Mom and Me and Mom follows Maya Angelou through her journey learning to trust and love herself and the people in her life. After being abandoned and sent to live with her grandmother until her early teenage years, Maya was astounded that she would have to live with her “movie-star” mother. Maya just could not get used to Vivian Baxter; she was so different than her grandmother. It would take years before Maya would call her mother Mom, frequently referring to her as Lady or Mother. Also, though Maya asked for advice from her mother, she took no charity and moved out to live on her own as soon as she was able.

But thanks to her mother’s guidance, Maya led an extraordinary life, raising her son and working so many unique and varying jobs that took her all over the world.

This novel was incredible! Maya Angelou is such an inspiration, with what she made of her life, despite some of the situations she was dealt. My favorite part of the book was how easy to read it was, even when dealing with tough topics. Maya Angelou told it as it was, with a level of grace that was amazing.

I heard about this autobiography through Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads. Emma Watson, in tandem with her work for UN Women, created Our Shared Shelf to promote feminism and equality. Their current recommended novel is The Handmaid’s Tale, which I can’t wait to read next!

– Leila S., 11th grade

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

The novel Shooting Kabul by N.H. Sense is about a boy named Fadi who lived in Afghanistan. His family had no choice but to leave Afghanistan because the Taliban rose to power and they didn’t bring the good like they promised.

Fadi’s father, Habib, had secured the family a safe passage to America in the summer of 2001, as long as they crossed the border. The plan was to meet a truck that would carry Fadi’s family across the Peshawar, Pakistan. While Fadi’s older sister, Noor, was helping her sick mother, Fadi was in charge of taking care of his sister Mariam. All was going according to plan until the Taliban showed up.

Mariam is accidentally left behind because she dropped her barbie doll and she jumped off the truck to get it back. The rest of his family made it safely, but they were unable to properly move on with there lives until they knew Mariam would come back safely. While staying with his relatives in San Francisco, school had just started and he had to adjust to a new life. His new friend, Anh convinced him to join the school’s photography club and there was a competition where the first place winner gets a new camera and a trip to China, Kenya, or India. Then Fadi realized that India is right next to Afghanistan and if he won the competition, he could fly there, find Mariam, and bring her back home. Fadi spent all his time photographing the sights of San Fransisco. He knew that failure wasn’t an option, so he took the perfect picture of his grandparents and submitted it.

Later, there was news that terrorists had crashed planes into two skyscrapers in New York at the Pentagon in Washington DC on September 11. Many people believe that all Muslims are terrorists who support the men who hijacked the planes. Bullies at his school started picking on him because of his Muslim faith. Fadi truly believed that he would win the photography competition, but when he heard that he didn’t win, he was devastated. Fadi isn’t able to go to Afghanistan to find his missing sister. But, he did get an honorable mention for his entry, which attracted the attention of one judge who specialized in photographing war zones. The judge offered to show him some of his most recent work, which was taken along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. While looking thorough the photos, Fadi saw a picture of Mariam playing with some other children at a refugee camp. Mariam was tracked down and she boarded a flight to San Fransisco to be reunited with her family.

I would would recommend this book to anyone who likes novels that involve historical background. This book was interesting and it involved the tragic event of 9/11.Throughout the the novel, you get to see the journey Fadi went through to save his sister in Afghanistan.

-Vanessa T.

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

In my 5th grade literature class, I was introduced to a charming little novel called The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. When I read through it as a 10 year old, I thought of the book as an exciting adventure and I remember thinking how humorous it was that the main character was an arrogant china doll rabbit that wore silk suits. But now, I go back and read it and I see more than a rabbit toy.  Encased within the text is a message of the importance of humility and compassion and the power to prompt the reader into self-reflection of their habits and heart.

Spoiled Edward is a parallel and a mirrored reflection of who we are as a society. Today’s culture is the epitome of arrogance. Just like how Edward stared at his own reflection and never ceased to be amazed at his own fineness, we try to be the person on social media with the most followers, we buy nice clothes and take immense amounts time caring about what people view us as. This is our image on the exterior. But on the interior, we are too full of arrogance and too empty of compassion. Luckily, this tale displays a miraculous change of heart. Edward gets lost and falls out of the comfortable life he lives with his rich owner. He witnesses broken hearts, lost dreams, hopelessness and death for the first time in his entire existence. His ego slowly disintegrates and at the end, a lonely, depressed Edward utters a very significant quote in this novel. He states, “‘I have already been loved . . . I have been loved by a girl named Abilene. I have been loved by a fisherman and his wife and a hobo and his dog. I have been loved by a boy who played the harmonica and by a girl who died. Don’t talk to me about love . . . I have known love’” (193). This journey is the catalyst that leads Edward’s cold heart into a state of vulnerability. His entire china body aches with grief because once he finally understands what love means, it is too late, for all the people he learned to love are gone. Edward, the king of his own little world, understands that the finest things in life are not gold pocket watches, imported hats and dashing reflections.

We can learn from Edward that we need to step away from ourselves and take time to love others who are less fortunate or in need of affection. Civilization can be swept away by arrogant ignorance which ultimately leads to destruction and turmoil. Therefore, this novel counters the coldness in our hearts and saves us from the cruel consequences of our actions. As Edward’s painted on eyes open to the conclusion that life’s greatest gift is love and love alone, the audience is awoken with him.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Holes by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats, a boy who has bad luck due to a curse placed on his great- great-grandfather, is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp, for a crime he did not commit. Stanley and the other boys at the camp are forced to dig large holes in the dirt every day. Stanley eventually realizes that they are digging these holes because the Warden is searching for something.

As Stanley continues to dig holes and meet the other boys at the camp, the narrator intertwines three separate stories to reveal why Stanley’s family has a curse and what the Warden is looking for. I thought that the stories were great because they kind of blended in with one another and revealed the history of Camp Green Lake one step at a time.

Anyways, one day, as Stanley is busy digging holes, he finds what other than a lipstick tube with the initials KB imprinted on it. He discovers that the initials stand for a famous outlaw nick-named Kissin’ Kate Barlow. Stanley knows that the Warden, a woman who happens to be a descendant of Charles and Linda Walker, people who are enemies of Kate Barlow, is interested in this find and he speculates that perhaps Kate Barlow used to live in the area.

What treasures might the mysterious and dry Camp Green Lake hold? Read this book to find out!

Holes by Louis Sachar is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.