The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

What if your family had no choice but to pack up all your belongings into a small car and travel a thousand miles on the road? And the destination is no place like home? What would you do?

Set in the “Dirty Thirties” during the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, the Grapes of Wrath highlights the Joad family as they plan their new future in California, where workers are needed. In their eyes, California is their dream land and the rumored “Promised Land.” The family of thirteen people pack their necessities and are determined to take on the rigorous road to California.

Tom Joad, one of the main characters, leads his family through the obstacles on the road that include starvation and extreme heat. Each family member looks onto the road while facing internal and external challenges. The novel essentially teaches the importance of holding onto dignity and hope during hardships. The Joad family not only maintain hope for a better future, but they also unite together as a family.

Steinbeck additionally embraces the ideal American dream that, in reality, starts within the individuals with hope and determination. His use of symbols and literary devices portray the motif of endurance.

Overall, Steinbeck’s novel makes the reader go on his or her own journey while reading about the up’s and down’s of the Joads. At the end of the long path, the reader realizes that the obstacles they had to face teach them more about their ultimate destination.

-Zohal N. 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Authors We Love: S.E. Hinton

S.E. Hinton is an American author we are often introduced to in school. Her classic novel The Outsiders remains one of the most popular books in youth literature to this day. The Outsiders tells the stories of the lower class (Greasers) and the upper class (Socs) from the perspective of narrator Ponyboy Curtis. The novel explores hostile interaction between social classes and is often seen as Hinton’s greatest work due to its stark realism and relatability. 

Rumble Fish is another one of Hinton’s greatest works. Rumble Fish follows the life of teenager Rusty James who struggles to live a life in his brother’s shadow. His brother, the Motorcycle Boy, had taken a trip to California and left behind a notorious, criminal reputation that Rusty James tries his best to embody. Unbeknownst to Rusty James, Motorcycle Boy never truly made it to California and was battling his own mental strife. In the end, Motorcycle Boy’s life is ended by his final, fatal encounter with the police as he tries to steal “rumble fish” from a local pet store. Possessed by grief, Rusty James decides to make his own trip to California and reaches the ocean in honor of his lost brother. Through this intense story, Rumble Fish teaches readers that the world becomes less dark if we know where to find the light. 

One of Hinton’s lesser known works is That Was Then, This is Now. That Was Then, This is Now contains many of the same elements as The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, but takes place a few years later. Now, social classes are less defined, and violence between Greasers and Socs is less frequent. The current omnipotent issue is no longer gang fights; it’s drug abuse. Main characters Mark and Bryon are close friends, and consider themselves brothers. When Bryon’s mother is hospitalized and needs surgery, the two scramble to find sources of necessary income. Bryon finds a job at a supermarket, while Mark supplies money without an obvious source. During this time of financial stress, their friend M&M goes missing until Bryon finds him under the influence of narcotics. M&M is hospitalized, and Bryon finds out that Mark has been selling drugs in order to help pay for his mother’s surgery. Bryon must choose justice for M&M or Mark’s life. In the end, their brotherly bond is severed when Bryon reports Mark and Mark is sent to prison. This story shows readers that the world is not divided into black and white, or good and evil. The most difficult decisions are often made in the area of divergence between the two extremes.

S.E. Hinton’s is one of the greatest authors of the 1900’s, and her books have remained popular, years after publication. Her didactic novels continue to teach modern youth crucial life lessons that will never die with age.

-Katie A. 

The works of S. E. Hinton are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I was very astonished by the author’s premonition of our current society. He uses Montag as a prototype of human disconnection and the power of electronic devices on us these days. However, the only thing different between Montag and people these days is that he has between dissuaded from the importance of electronic devices but the people these days haven’t.

Truth proved that TV and smartphones are very addictive these days, which the reason why a lot of teenagers are sent to rehab centers, not for drugs or something else, but merely because they cannot stop playing games or going on their phones and computers. But who can say that this is a less horrible addiction than drugs? Not only the kids are like this, but the parents are no different. Some parents often hand their children the iPad to merely keep them quiet, or instead of wasting their time and playing with them, they’d rather the children play with their gadgets. Therefore, Mildred actually exists everywhere, and in my opinion, she is only a symbolism for this phenomena.

Lastly, this novel serves as an admonition to people in our current society. We have no more feelings and are numbed by the excitement and easy amusement offered by the TV. But once the connection is severed from those that we love and those around us, it is very unlikely to pick it up when the only thing we care about in this world is the happiness of ourselves the how many electronic devices we should have to accomplish that.

-Coreen C. 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: The Secret Life of Pets 2

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) Final Poster.jpg

I know it might sound a little bit childish for some of the people out there, but The Secret Life of Pets 2 was definitely a very good movie for me. At least, in my opinion, the addition of more characters added more flavor to the movie as a whole. Not only was it funny, but it also portrayed the theme of family, love, friendship, and loyalty

To start off, family has always been a big thing throughout the two movies. It was first the introduction of Duke, and then Liam the son of the family. By overcoming jealousy and eventually falling in love with the new members of the family, Max has demonstrated what the firstborn of many families have gone through.

And as for love, it would be the next stage of family. For one thing, Max became overprotective over Liam and was unwilling to let him cross the street, run into people and different things, and go to preschool. It was not after when Max himself was trained by Rooster to save the little lamb hanging on a branch did he know how important independence is to a person.

Friendship has always been a big thing for the movie series. From Max saving Hu to Daisy fighting off the wolves, it’s all revolving around friendship. And again, through a series of adventures and dangers, the white tiger cub was saved.

Lastly, what I really wanted to mention in this movie is something people normally don’t pay attention to—the wolves. They might look very evil, malicious, and atrocious, but at the same time, they are very loyal to Sergei no matter what he does to them. I’m pretty sure they could’ve just run away since they weren’t chained anyways. Under the threat of killing them and not giving meals, the wolves still strived to complete their missions and obey every single command Sergei the circus owner gives. This way, I think that they resemble dogs for their loyalty but not amiability.

-Coreen C.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

I read this play last year and had my own thoughts on there. I did like the characters despite their overdramatic characteristics. Moreover, the plot was generally not tedious and did offer some twists which I like such as Juliet faking her death and Romeo not receiving the letter explaining all of it in time.

Through this play, I also learned how family feud can lead to very bad results. If both families would just allow this pair of young lovers to unite then nothing of this sort would have occurred at all. It also shows how distant and nonchalant are parents toward the psychological activities of their children. All they possibly think about is the reputation of their standing in society and who they think upon marrying their child with will bring them the most benefit. Nonetheless, I was touched by the avid love between Romeo and Juliet and how they were willing to sacrifice everything for each other’s sake.

One of the other things that I find interesting is the duel scenes. Originally, Tybalt might not have hated Mercutio and Romeo so much if it wasn’t for the fact that they are rival families. So again the theme of family feud plays a part where blinded hatred caused the two to break the probable peace between them since Romeo and Juliet were already married. So overall, my opinion on this play is that although it can be overdramatic and a little unrealistic in our life, it teaches the fact that parents should give enough attention to their children to prevent any suicidal thoughts.

-Coreen C.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Fictional Food: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

There are many reasons I love to read: the characters, the settings, the story … and sometimes the food. Not that it’s the force that drives me when I pick up a book to read, but I enjoy reading about what the characters eat. Maybe it’s because the little culinary details make the story so much more immersive, or because seeing the characters eat makes them more relatable. Ultimately (however silly it may seem), food can add extra depth to a story.

In her Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling adds little comments about what the characters are eating, which is one of the many reasons I enjoy reading her stories. Here is some of the food mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that may or may not interest you.

“Stale cornflakes and … tinned tomatoes on toast” (Rowling 50): This is the breakfast eaten by the Dursleys and Harry during Mr. Dursley’s failed attempt to evade the senders of Harry’s Hogwarts letter. This slightly dreary meal matches the mood of Harry and the Dursleys on this random, unplanned trip.

Hagrid’s sausages: When Hagrid appears at the little shack where Harry and the Dursleys escape to, he roasts some sausages over the fire and offers them to Harry. After sleeping on the floor of a shack in the middle of a storm, this warm food must be a relief to Harry–a relief which parallels what he feels during his departure from the Dursleys into a wizarding world that treats him with warmth.

Chocolate and raspberry ice-cream with nuts: Harry is given this ice-cream from Hagrid after he first meets Draco Malfoy. Despite the doubtless deliciousness of this treat, Harry eats it a bit unhappily as he ponders his unpleasant conversation with Draco (but he soon learns not to place value in Draco’s statements).

Pumpkin pasties: The pasties are among the assortment of sweets Harry purchases from the trolley witch on his first journey to Hogwarts. They have a part in the beginning of Harry’s friendship with Ron, for it is a pasty that Harry offers Ron in exchange for one of Ron’s sandwiches. A pasty may also be the first wizarding sweet Harry tastes.

In J.K. Rowling’s stories, the food assists in conveying the characters’ emotions along with adding interesting facts for the readers. Knowing what the characters are eating adds a new layer of complexity to the books.

-Mia T.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone) is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This novel was one I was assigned as a summer reading assignment which, undoubtedly deterred my interests from the story. It took a lot of psyching myself up to finally delve into the world Marquez had exquisitely painted. But immediately the book was extremely intriguing. The first line of the novel was an eye-catcher stating “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.”

This novel, in the beginning, was confusing. The book was not written in chronological order as suggested but instead jumped around in time. This constant shift through time made it hard to understand a cohesive story during the early stages of reading. However, after a few chapters, the story came together. So as a suggestion, do not let this initial confusion deter you from reading this book.

By the end of the novel, this jumping through time helps create a more intriguing story, creating suspense because the author can choose specific information through different times to give to the reader.

This story is also accurate to the customs of the place in which the story was written. So, it gives an almost realistic feel to a seemingly horrific action. It also allows readers to have some insight into the practices of a different era and different location. This story, stating that the main character was to be killed, then follows the actions which allowed the main character to suffer such a horrific fate. This story ended up being one I extremely enjoyed. I finished the book in a day because I just could not put it down. So, sometimes these books that we are forced to read because of school can actually be enjoyable. It gave me something to do over the summer which was fun.

This book is a nice short read for anyone who is interested in a mystery book. I would suggest it to anybody looking to read something different than the popular books that are being written today. For, this book brings a totally different perspective to the way books can be written.

-Ava G.

Chronicle of Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.