A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is the story of an old and grumpy man named Ebenezer Scrooge. The story is based in England the day before Christmas. Ebenezer owns a counting house. Bob Cratchit works for him. Cratchit gets paid a very small salary, so he isn’t very wealthy. Around Christmas, Cratchit likes to celebrate with his family. Right before Cratchit leaves for the day, he asks Scrooge if he can have Christmas off. “Bah! Humbug!” is Scrooge’s response. That night at Scrooge’s house, as he’s going to sleep, he hears a loud bang and chains dragging on the floor. Before him appears the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s dead business partner. Marley is completely chained up. Marley warns Scrooge that unless he changes his ways and becomes more selfless he will end up like Marley. Marley also warns Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts: the ghost of Christmas Past, the ghost of Christmas Present, and the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Throughout his encounter  with all three ghosts, Scrooge is shown something important to his life. The ghosts show him himself as a young man, the children of man, and what will happen if he doesn’t change his ways. After seeing the three ghosts, Scrooge wakes up on Christmas changed. The first thing he does is send a boy to get the prize turkey so that he can send it to Bob Cratchit. Then he donates a lot of money to buy the poor food and drink. Next he goes to his nephew’s house for his Christmas dinner. The next day, Scrooge tries to get to his office before Cratchit and he does. Scrooge notes that Cratchit is 18 minutes late, but it doesn’t anger him. When Cratchit arrives, Scrooge acts angry, but raises Cratchit’s salary, promises to aid his family, and becomes like a second father to Tiny Tim who ends up surviving.

-Emilio V.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Gone by Michael Grant

Imagine a world with everyone fifteen and older completely gone. Kids are fighting each other, food is running low, and some animals and children are mutating and growing powers. Gone by Michael Grant follows Sam, a regular teenager who lives in the FAYZ or the Fallout Alley Youth Zone.

The story follows Sam’s challenges of keeping everyone in control while at the same time, trying to hide his secret mutation. Surprising and shocking, Sam discovers that he can shoot light lasers out of his hands! Sam later finds out he has a brother that also has powers. But Caine, his brother, turns out to be evil! So, Sam and his group of friends have to fight Caine in order to keep their home town safe.

I really enjoyed this book because it emphasized how crazy the world would be if adults were gone. My favorite character by far was Sam because he was nice and had really cool powers! If I could choose one superpower, it would be super speed, like The Flash. Gone is a perfect book for middle schoolers and up. With a mix of mystery, thriller, and all around excitement, Gone is a book I would definitely recommend.

-Daniel C.

The Gone series by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

In the final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry knows that he will soon have to battle Voldemort. Now that Dumbledore is dead Harry knows what he has to do to defeat Voldemort. He goes to find and destroy the horcruxes with Ron and Hermione. The journey is tough and eventually Ron and Harry get into a fight and Ron decides to go home. Devastated, Harry and Hermione visit Godric’s Hollow to try and find a horcrux. They come way too close to being caught by Voldemort. A few weeks later Ron decides to rejoin the quest to find the horcruxes. His timing couldn’t have been better as he arrives just in time to save Harry’s life. They find another horcrux and destroy it with Gryffindor’s sword. After destroying the horcrux, they learn about three items known as the Deathly Hallows. If a person has all three, that person becomes a master of death. Harry realizes that he must find all three in order to stop Voldemort. As Harry’s journey continues he realizes that he is the last horcrux. This means that Harry must give up his life in order to destroy Voldemort once and for all. Harry meets with Voldemort in the woods and Voldemort kills Harry. Harry then sees what appears to be King’s Cross Station but all white. He can also see Dumbledore. Dumbledore gives Harry the choice of going back to the living world to defeat Voldemort or moving on. Harry knows what he must do so he returns to the world. Voldemort is shocked to see Harry alive and tries killing him again, but this time with all horcruxes destroyed, Voldemort is too weak and he is defeated by Harry Potter.

-Emilio V.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Decision Points by George W. Bush

When finding out something new about a person, it is best to hear stories in their own words. In doing so, you can find out their own thought process for decisions they had to make and their reasoning behind what they did. I discovered this when reading Decision Points by President George W. Bush. This book dove deep into the thought process of the 43rd President of the United States and relayed his own account of the many crises that occurred during his two terms.

He organized the book into chapters relating to types of decisions he had to make versus writing the book chronologically. Some examples for chapter titles were Personnel and Campaigning decisions. It was a very good read and I suggest to everyone that they should check it out, regardless of your political tendencies or beliefs because regardless of party or platform every president has to make tough decisions to try to better the lives of American citizens so it is interesting to see President Bush’s own thoughts on the subject.

A few weeks ago I actually had the opportunity to go out to Dallas and participate in Camp 43 at the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the SMU campus.  Twenty-three students and I were given scenarios in which to make decisions under a time limit and understand the good and bad consequences of what we decided. The camp lasted three days and we heard from a variety of different speakers and participated in a variety of decision making scenarios. I had a great time and it was so fascinating to combine what I already know, what I read in Decision Points, and what I learned at camp to be able to make better decisions in my life and in my career later in life.

-Kyle H.

Decision Points by George W. Bush is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free using Overdrive

Lunch Money by Andrew Clements

Lunch Money is the story of Greg Kenton’s comic book business in middle school. Ever since he was a kid, Greg has liked making money and having money. He mows lawns, shovels snow, and walks dogs for money. When Greg finishes fourth grade, his dad tells him to put his money into a bank where he’ll earn interest. Then, in fifth grade, Greg forgets his lunch. A school lunch is two dollars and he only has one dollar and fifty cents. He asks his teacher if he can borrow fifty cents but she says no. Then the teacher asks the class if anyone has an extra fifty cents that Greg could borrow. Most of the class raise their hands and Greg realizes something. He calculates that around a hundred dollars in extra money comes into the school every week. Greg then makes a plan to sell candy and gum. However he soon stops because the students take the candy and gum into classrooms which is against the rules and could get Greg in trouble. Instead of flat out stopping, Greg starts selling toys, but soon the kids get tired of the toys. Greg then also stops selling toys right around the end of fifth grade, but he has an idea. By the start of sixth grade, Greg has multiple handmade comics that he’s ready to sell. He chooses comics because they’re like books and teachers love books. He names his comics Creon: Return of the Hunter. However, like always, his neighbor Maura Shaw copies his idea and also starts making her own comics. This leads to a big fight between the two. Eventually the two come together to make comics. The principle soon finds out and tells them that nothing is allowed to be sold at the school. In response, Maura and Greg go to a city council to argue the school’s decision. The compromise they come to is that Maura and Greg get to make a store in school for their comics, but the school gets 10% of their sales. The council agrees and the comics continue to be made.

-Emilio V.

Lunch Money by Andrew Clements is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Overdrive

Summer’s Over!

We can’t deny the fact any longer: school is fast approaching. Whether it’s elementary, middle, or high, it’s inevitably…SCHOOL. How these 6 letters can make our eyes widen in dismay or whoop in excitement (the latter not my case, but still), the answer to this can only mean one thing.

Summer…is over.

No longer can we awaken and look at the clock and tumble out of bed and yelp, “What? It’s 11:30? How can this be?” Or smirk when we see our backpacks not bulge with the weight of millions of textbooks and those mountains of homework that the teachers claim are, “Barely enough.”

It’s all gone the moment the 1st period bell rings. When your new teachers step into their classrooms, with the desks freshly scrubbed and gleaming under the fluorescent lights, the sound as every stands in unison to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in homeroom. It’s all so familiar to us, from the day when we first toddled to school on unstable legs and clutching onto Mom’s hand, to many years later, walking or biking to school with friends, laughing and chattering among ourselves. It’s all the same, in essence.

But for me, it’s a goodbye. A final farewell to the school that I have seen for the past 8 years. Graduating from the elementary school next door to emerging into the hectic, bustling life of middle school, I have loved it all the same. Now, as an 8th grader (I feel so old…), it’s my final year here. A year that I’m certain that will be filled with love for my teachers that have guided and supported me, brimming memories with friends, and jokes that I’ll be sure I never forget for the rest of my life.

I’ll miss my friends as we part ways, scattering with the winds to different high schools. Who knows, maybe we’ll still be the best of friends when we turn eighty-five, or maybe we’ll just never come back in contact again. Although it pains me to think about it, it’s the way life works. I bet high school will be an even more amazing and rewarding experience that middle school has been, no matter which one we attend. In the end, school isn’t something that I really groan over. I would be lying if I said I loved it with all my heart (just take a glance at my Geometry homework and you’ll understand), but I’d be lying also to say I’d never miss it at all.

Ah, school. Something that has followed us since years after we were born to this day. Every single moment in the classroom we have been endlessly learning, absorbing new knowledge, although it can be quite tedious (want to compare notes, anyone?). No matter what happens in the future, I wish to make a memorable last year here as an 8th grader, spending one final year surrounded by all those I love most.

Adios, summer!

-Katherine L.

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien is a science fiction, dystopian novel. It takes place in the Forge School of the Arts, which is the site of a reality TV show. The school had 100 kids enter in each year, but 50 of them are cut, and do not receive this world-class education. The cuts are based on each person’s ranking, and these ranking are determined by the viewers, who watch the kids 12 hours a day. They vote, and the ones with more votes rise in rank, and make the cuts. The rest of the 12 hours are for the kids to sleep because it is believed that more sleep allows them to have more creativity. Each kid is given a pill to take, and its purpose is to help them sleep better and allow more creativity.

The main character of the book is Rosie Sinclair. She is in the school for film editing, and is ranked very low days before the cuts. Because of this, she skips taking her pill one night and goes out to explore because she does not have any regard for the consequences. In her exploration she finds a whole new world beyond the cameras. This encourages her to put more effort into staying up in the ranks in order to unearth the dark secret that the school is covering.

The premise of the book for me was interesting enough to pick it up off the shelf. I started to read it, and it was a bit difficult to get into. The story started with a pretty simple plot line, and a lot of the beginning was what I already read from the book summary. However, I loved to read about Rosie’s backstory because it made me root for her. Then, a few expected “turns” happened, and the story sort of plautead. I continued to read, and was happy to see the action pick up again. This propelled me to read the rest of the story, and I enjoyed the ending. Even though the beginning was a bit difficult to get through, I would recommend this book for an interesting, thought-provoking novel.

-Anmol K.

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library