Home Ec At Home: How To Braid

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This simple skill is important because you can use it on yourself or for others. It’s nice to know how to braid your own hair, or even your future child’s. Whether you are a boy or girl it is a good skill. It has more uses than just a hairstyle. You could use it in baking, for ropes, bracelets etc.

Step 1: Separate hair (or other item) into three equal sections
Step 2: Take one of the outer sections and cross it over the center(left or right)
Step 3: Take the outer section on the opposite side and cross it over the center as well
Step 4: Continue crossing the outer species alternating from each side

-Rachel R.

Authors We Love: Elisabetta Dami

Although the most acknowledgeable authors tend to be writers of adult novels or even young adult books, it doesn’t mean that children’s book authors should get any less credit. At around age seven or eight, I remember my mom and I would visit the Mission Viejo Library practically every week. I would always go to the children’s section and look for another book to read—specifically any book from the Geronimo Stilton series. Only now in my high school years would I finally reminisce on my past and realize who was behind all of the stories that established my love for reading.

An award-winning author with her worldwide Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton books, Elisabetta Dami was born in Milano, Italy. Her father was a writer himself before she was born, so by the age of 13, Dami was already working for him as a book editor. At 19 years old, she began writing stories of her own but only began publishing them later in her life. In her 20s, she went through a series of adventures by earning her pilot license, traveling all around the world, running marathons, and even immersing herself in indigenous cultures.

With a passion for seeing the world, volunteering for sick children, studying different cultures around her, and creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences, Dami incorporated her love for adventure into stories for children. This was essentially the birth of the Geronimo Stilton series. The first book was titled, Geronimo Stilton: Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye (2000), starring a shy mouse who owns a newspaper company, yet falls into the most dangerous situations and uses academic knowledge to find his way out.

As the popularity of the series grew, Dami continued writing more books that branched out to create a world of her own. Some of her best books include The Kingdom of Fantasy (2003), Cat and Mouse in a Haunted House (2000), and The Phantom of the Subway (2000). The author has written over 100 children’s books, published them in 49 different languages, and has sold 180 million copies globally. She continues writing at the age of 63 and helps kids all around the world develop a profound love for reading.

I used to be a huge fan of Elisabetta’s novels; as I look back on my childhood, I’m able to see how much of an impact her books had in my life. Although it’s relaxing to sit down with a nice book, I admit that my passion for reading has somewhat diminished. Perhaps it was easier to entertain children through the art of storytelling than in our modern age, or maybe it’s simply because I haven’t picked up an enticing book in a while. Nonetheless, it’s always nice to appreciate—and thank—the authors who hold a centerpiece of our childhood.

– Natisha P.

Jessie Burton: The Miniaturist

Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.

The Miniaturist, written by Jessie Burton, begins with a conclusion, which sets the scene for some confusion, though is soon explained over time. Furthermore, although the prologue is written aside from the rest of the book, it is, nonetheless, significant. 

Burton writes The Miniaturist in present tense, which is suitable for the storyline. Plus, as most modern literature is written in past tense, this difference plays a major role in the enjoyment of the work. In hindsight, the tense chosen intensifies tension, depth, and pace. It feels as though you read “a movie,” with each scene similar to that of an act, a continuous moment of time. 

Now, onto its plot. Nella (our main character) is an outsider. Johannes, her husband, doesn’t seem to have much interest in her. Marin, his sister, is distinct and stern, a woman in charge rather than complicit. Their servants (Cornelia and Otto), too, are more open and harsh than the average servants/maids. Though only when Johannes gives her a replica of their home does she somewhat feel accepted. However, even then Nella confronts trouble, for as soon as she takes interest in ‘the miniaturist’ (a craftsman who creates miniatures), an unknown woman begins to watch her, as though she weren’t there. 

Later, when Johannes comes to the decision to take Nella to a feast at the Guild of the Silversmiths, Nella must confront her vulnerabilities, together with the tension and competition aroused by other traders. In addition, a notable confrontation occurs in this scene; Nella meets the Meermans, who have tasked Johannes with the storage and sale of their sugar. As the Meermans have a supercilious nature (which is soon shown in their behavior, dialogue, etc), further questions emerge, those which at first have no answers. 

I must take note of the major twists that happen throughout the book, some of which might seem uncomfortable to some readers. Therefore, make sure you’re fine with topics such as marriage, race, servitude, illicit romance, etc. They’re important to the storyline and atmosphere! 

That takes me to a theme I’d like to go into. A portion of the book is dedicated to what it means to be a wife, as Nella finds a hard time fitting into her role (I won’t explain – it’d be a spoiler!). In the process, she questions the necessity of childbirth and the hidden potentials she has as a woman; talents and opportunities she’s missed because of the church’s (and society’s) view of women. Though this is a common theme, it’s a nice refresher to have every now and again, notably because parts of it are quite prevalent to modern times. 

One aspect I admire is its ability to make us examine. For example, the suspense and distrust between newer and older characters is never rushed, off-kilter, or unreasonable. In fact, its stable pace makes room for realism, characters that behave and act as we might, even if the era and context varies from our own. It’s a rare and difficult element to integrate, but one that, at length, drives this work to be a (possible) classic. 

In short, The Miniaturist warns to handle misfortune with caution, as it might lead to continuous trouble … 

-Emilia D.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

November 9 by Colleen Hoover was an amazing book that I read on November 9th. Colleen Hoover is one of my favorite authors and she is known for her plot twists and extraordinary romance books. This book broke me and put me back together again.

The book follows Fallon, an actress that suffered major burns from a fire accident, and Ben, who aspires to be an author. November 9th is the date that the accident Fallon suffered from happened. Fallon is about to move to New York, when she meets Ben she spends the day with him and they get to know each other. They immediately have a connection that most people never find. Fallon mentions that her mother told her not to fall in love until she is 23. So, when she’s about to leave they make a promise to meet on the same day every year until Fallon turns 23; no contact information just that one day.

“You can’t leave yet. I’m not finished falling in love with you.” Ben said this to Fallon and it is one of those quotes that I will always remember. Ben puts his heart on the line and admits how he feels. The fact that they had to part ways and not see each other for an entire year is beyond devastating.

They reconnect every year like nothing has changed. The book is split up into 7 November 9ths. Each one leaving you with a cliffhanger that makes you want to keep reading. Fallon and Ben’s relationship is a one in a lifetime kind of thing and it makes you think. How far will they go to have a happy ending? Those last few November 9ths were an emotional rollercoaster. But, the book does have a happy ending.

A quote I find powerful at the beginning of the book that foreshadows backstory that is revealed at the end of the book was, “One of the things I always try to remind myself is that everyone has scars, A lot of them even worse than mine. The only difference is that mine are visible and most people’s aren’t.” It really reveals how much emotion was put into this book.

Fallon and Ben have a love story for the ages. Everything between forbidden love and betrayal. Imagine loving someone and only seeing them one day out of the year. It has a powerful message about how most love is fictionalized while in reality love isn’t perfect. You want the other person to have fun and live their life but it breaks your heart that they are doing it without you. Is loving someone so much worth sacrificing your own happiness to see them be happy? Is love worth waiting for? These are the things I thought about while reading this book.

Overall, this book was a solid 5/5 stars. Definitely one of my favorites!

-Kaitlyn D.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover is avaialbe to download from Overdrive.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

It was a cute, riveting, and young love story. It captured the maturity of literature and poetry but was also able to include light-hearted contented and funny references to the well-known DC character Batman. I liked how the book was relatable but the dream that any teen girl would have about a brooding good-looking boy. I smiled a lot because it had the classic trope where the mysterious standoffish boy would end up being soft for the nerdy shy girl. It had all the elements that a cheesy romance novel would have too. Moved into a new town, a new girl at a new school, making new friends, etc. The author was able to bring in much humor and seriousness in such a relatable and casual way that I thought was interesting.

I hope to find similar novels that have a similar style that are well written and as captivating as this one was. So if you’re looking for a sweet, giddy read this is the book you should check out next. It is great. It is great. It is great. (You’ll get the reference if you read the book haha).

-Coralie D.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

The War of the Worlds is a highly-influential science fiction novel by H. G. Wells.  The story seems to be set around the late 1800s.  When a supposed meteorite crashes near the narrator’s home, little to no suspicion is aroused.  However, on closer inspection, the object appears to be a huge, artificial cylinder.  Ugly, grotesque aliens emerge from the cylinder, only to retreat back inside.  A group of people attempt to greet the Martian visitors, only to be shot down with a heat-ray.  More and more aliens arrive, and it becomes apparent that Mars has plotted an invasion of Earth.

This book is one of the first science fiction stories of its kind.  It seems almost cliche now for a science fiction story to include an alien invasion, but this was one of the first novels to explore that concept.  The story uses many creative elements that seem ahead of its time, such as tripod-like alien fighter machines that shoot heat-rays.  In a strange way, I enjoyed reading about the humans’ pitiful attempts to defend themselves against the Martians.  The Martians possessed highly-advanced technology, which made it extremely difficult for humans to defeat them with traditional weapons.

I would consider this book a must-read for science fiction fans.  It may be one of the most popular and influential books of its kind.  It is written in a way that makes it seem like an actual historical event, which makes it even more thrilling to read.  Like many of H. G. Wells’ novels, the tone of this book feels dark but engrossing at the same time.  Some people may find the book a bit hair-raising and even frightening, but I enjoyed it thoroughly and would highly recommend it.

-Oliver H.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

The fictional novel The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta tells the tale of a sixth grade girl named Kiranmala who is told that she is an Indian princess from another dimension. Readers are introduced to Kiranmala at the beginning of the story when she is complaining about always having to be an Indian princess for Halloween. However, once the Rakkosh demon shreds her home and her parents go missing, Kiranmala is taken back to her “home dimension” by two princes. There, she meets a girl of her age who is supposedly her cousin, winged horses, moving maps, and an irritating talking bird. To Kiranmala’s surprise, everyone helps her throughout her journey to find and save her parents. On her way, she finds out astonishing things about her heritage that had been hidden from her. 

This novel incorporates elements of many different cultures. I think that such novels, although fictional, can teach readers a lot! The story of the main character includes suspense, mystery, adventure, and humor. This novel is a hilarious and emotional rollercoaster, and a story everyone should read.

-Ayati M.

The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius who loves gardening, diagnosing medical conditions, and most of all, the number 7. Willow is bursting with knowledge and curiosity on the inside, but when she enters middle school, she discovers that the only people she finds comfort in connecting with are her adoptive parents.

Until one seemingly normal day morphs into the tragic disaster that becomes the center of Willow’s world—both her adoptive parents die in a car crash. What are the odds of losing both sets of parents in a lifetime? Apparently, Willow is right on the edge of the graph, in the one percent of the one percent. Twice without parents, she feels more alone than ever, because who is she with no family?

Willow embarks on a journey to find a permanent family to surround her. On her way, she finds her voice and casts herself magically on others. She helps to create an entire garden at a drab apartment building, inspires a taxi driver to continue his education, and makes her mark on everything she is involved in. She discovers herself surrounded by her loved ones, her chosen family, those whom she met on her journey.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan brings fresh emotion to readers—warmth, tears, and joy. Willow Chance shows readers that family is truly important, but that those you meet on your journey are just as significant as those you have known since you were born. I was thoroughly touched by this unexpectedly beautiful story. Willow may be a genius who makes all her meals with food grown in her backyard garden; but in the end, she’s just a young girl with feelings and emotions who will make readers completely rethink everything they’ve been through and appreciate all they have much, much more. Readers will close Counting by 7s with more than a new story under their wings, because this book is a lot more than that—it’s a whole new understanding of our world.

-Lam T.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan can be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Book Review: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is clever through its attempts to build character, plot, and atmosphere. Though classics are known for their rigorous word choice, Frankenstein is in fact in the middle of this type of spectrum. For the most part, language is simple to grasp, and does not shy away from the necessities of detail and plotline. In other words, it’s easier to follow than most classics you’ll encounter.

The story is set up as though the narrator were the author, recounting a tale a stranger tells him while on an expedition as captain. He, the stranger, is Victor Frankenstein, the inventor who would come to create a monster. This knowledge, coupled with Shelly’s other efforts to foreshadow, attributes to the tension and intrigue the narration creates. It allows for readers to engage thoroughly with the text, as we’re eager to learn the origins behind Frankenstein and his reasons for the creation of the creature. The more you discover about the character, the more you question his morals and decisions throughout the chronicle. 

The establishment of themes early on in the book makes way for their progression and development. For example, the idea of creation and dangerous knowledge is implied early on, and therefore clears a path for further acknowledgement of the main character’s lack of responsibility and recognition of consequences. Another important aspect to take note of is Shelly’s usage of weather. To illustrate, when Frankenstien is at the pinnacle of his misery (I won’t say why – that’d be a spoiler!), the tone/mood shifts to storm grey, which is supported by the thunderstorm that comes soon after. It is reasonable to assume a connection between unhappiness and rain, as such weather is known for its implications. Season, too, has it’s significance. The start of Frankenstien’s biggest woe occurs in spring, which is usually associated with rebirth and renewal. However, the shock of this major contrast between the real situation and the symbolism we come to know of with season leaves room for irony, and possible implications of doom for our “protagonist.” 

Near the resolution of Frankenstein, an important question arises: who is the “hero?” As I went through the plot and reflected afterwards, I came to the result that the answer to this makes Shelly a master of her craft. There is no hero – it’s more of who, or what, is the lesser evil. To explain, Victor is the creator of the monster, and therefore is responsible for the beast’s actions. Thus, his neglect, or lack of management over the creature created a domino effect, which led to Victor’s ruination. The fact that the monster was miserable and melancholy wasn’t exactly his fault. In reality, it can almost be concluded that Victor is more of a monster than the daemon he brought to life … 

-Emilia D.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

De-stressing without our phones

As we continue into the school year, things are becoming more and more stressful, we start looking for new ways to take breaks. However, most often that becomes using our phones and going on social media. While this is okay to use, it is not something that should be our first and only resort. With so many other things to do nowadays, we should start spending less time on our phones to take breaks and more time doing other things such as reading.

I have recently started my senior year and with a free period, I find myself often with nothing to do once I get all my homework done. When I am stuck at school, I think that the only thing I can really use is my phone but that is not the case. I often forget that we have other things we can do such as reading. I know that often we think that reading for school is enough, but it is important to take time to read things that interest us personally rather than just for class.

So as we start to learn again, make sure that we are all taking the time we need to not only get everything done, but do things to destress that isn’t just going on our phone every time we get bored or want to procrastinate. So the next time you need a break, try going for a book rather than a phone. 

-Danielle B.

Reading Slumps & Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

I like to call myself an avid reader. I enjoy reading, I read all the time, and I find a lot of joy out of it! I know some people aren’t like that, but I personally really enjoy it. Sometimes, I find myself getting into a dreaded reading slump. 

A reading slump to me is a period of time where I don’t read because I can’t find any book appealing to me, or when I just can’t bring myself to pick up a book. If there are times I don’t have time to read—I don’t call those slumps. Just times where I don’t feel like reading, most likely because I can’t find a book to read. 

I really hate getting into these slumps. I want to read a book, but I just can’t. Recently, I’ve gotten myself out of a long slump—and I got out of it by reading outside my comfort zone. 

Over the course of quarantine, I didn’t read. I mostly read online—short stories, comics, but not a long novel or a published book. It really confused me, because I had a shelf filled with books I have yet to read, but I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and read. I attempted to sit down and try, but I just couldn’t get into the story. The genre of the book was Young Adult fiction—a genre I always found myself reading. Yet, I just couldn’t get into the story. I wondered why. 

It honestly really concerned me. I feared I lost my love for reading, and that I couldn’t find happiness in it anymore. That was until I found myself reading another genre—poetry and prose. 

Most of my life, I’ve found myself staying in one genre—young adult fiction or children’s fiction. It was the genre that made me the happiest, and one of the easiest genres to read. I never really dabbled in historical fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, or poetry. It wasn’t that I didn’t like reading it, it was just that I didn’t feel comfortable reading those genres. I tend to get confused or bored—and once I get confused and bored, I just never finish the book. 

That was until I discovered The Waves by Virginia Woolf. 

I became very intrigued very quickly—the way Woolf wrote her characters and her style in The Waves was confusing, but I found myself enjoying it! It felt like reading poetry, or really flowery prose. It was beautiful, moving, and I found myself getting teary-eyed throughout. I had never read a book like this before, and it surprised me when I found myself absolutely falling in love with it. 

The Waves is what made me start to branch out of young adult fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I still read a lot of young adult fiction—but now, I feel comfortable reading other genres. After The Waves, I decided to read more older books, which meant I had to try harder at understanding the language. I decided to read Russian classics—Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Chekhov. It felt good to read those. 

I also started to read plays, like Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Coriolanus, Betrayal. When I found myself understanding the messages and getting really into it, I felt really good. Then, I started branching out into fantasy—Ender’s Game, American Gods, and The Gilded Wolves. 

That is what got me out of my reading slump! After The Waves, I ended up reading eleven books in two weeks. Yeah… it really shocked me how one book can get you out of a year long stump! And a book outside of my comfort zone, nonetheless. 

Reading out of your comfort zone can be daunting, but I promise it reaps so many benefits. You are able to talk to more people about the books you read, expose yourself to new themes and new styles of writing, and you never know—you may be able to expand your comfort zone to a wider range of books.

– Claire C.