Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The young adult novel, Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell, is a heartwarming, but the soul-wrenching story about two sixteen-year-olds in Omaha, Nebraska from 1986 to 1987. The unique red-haired girl catches the heart of Park by merely sitting beside him on the bus. Their slow love sparked when she secretly reads his comic books, believing that she was sly enough to not get caught. Over time, Park noticed and decided to allow her to borrow his comic books.

However, at home, the young girl finds herself dealing with family issues revolving around poverty, so she ends up keeping to herself. She is terrified by her abusive stepfather and fears for her future to end up like her mother’s. Her thoughts are mostly clouded with judgment about her weight, which affects the way she thinks about her relationship with Park.

On the other hand, Park is trying to get through high school by being popular enough to not get teased but also finds it hard to fit in. He becomes an outsider, like Eleanor, but within his own house. His father and brother both have a liking towards sports and trucks, however, Park feels himself attracted to music and books.

The book duals between the narrative of Eleanor and Park, thus allowing the reader to connect with both of the characters. Teens can deeply connect to both characters, from the way they think to the way they act. The duo rides an emotional rollercoaster, taking the reader with them every step of the way.

Rowell does an exquisite job in taking in the attention of the reader and leaving them wanting more with this romantic, light read.

-Anyssa P.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin

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This is another semi-autographical novel which makes it itself another classic and the first major work Baldwin has written. For one thing, I feel like a lot of children should be able to sympathize with John Grimes: we all wish and hanker to be our parents’ favorite child. We take care of our younger siblings because we want our parents to feel proud of us. But then a lot of times life treats us as unequally as how it treats John Grimes, his father abuses him because he wasn’t of his blood, but merely the child between his mother Elizabeth and another man he doesn’t know.

And then there is Gabriel’s sister Florence. In my opinion, she really hates her little brother again because of how unfairly their mother treated her. This religious woman, although strict toward her son, made Florence do everything and even denied her of her education. Sexism forced Florence to leave home and doubt religion altogether with the existence and faith in God because such a sinful man like Gabriel could become a preacher.

My two favorite characters: John and Florence both serve as the centers of the theme of injustice. They didn’t do anything wrong or egregious for their parents to hate them, but one because of her gender, the other of his blood denied them of any attention and love they could possibly get which really saddens me a lot according to the descriptions they were given in the book. Since this is semi-autobiographical I am surmising here that the author James Baldwin probably was not the favorite child either if not the least favorite child liked by his parents with eight siblings.

-Coreen C. 

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel set in the distant future when humans have accomplished interstellar travel and faster than light communications. In this age, humans are threatened by the existence of the Formics, commonly known as the Buggers, an alien race that nearly wiped out humanity in two previous invasions. Ender’s Game is a science fiction classic with lots of physiological themes.

The protagonist of Ender’s Game is Ender, a child prodigy with exception intelligence. Ender is recruited for Battle School, a space station where exceptional children like Ender are trained to become commanders and leaders to combat a future Formic invasion. At Battle School, students are sorted into “armies,” which are their groups for a game similar to laser tag, but in a zero gravity situation. These armies are extremely competitive, and Ender soon finds himself many allies and enemies as he emerges as the best of the best.

Ender’s Game also has many psychological aspects, as Ender is constantly forced to outsmart and outplay his enemies. For example, Ender states that he constantly beat one of his bullies at the beginning of the novels to win the current fight and all future fights. There’s lots of psychology in the book since the novel is about geniuses.

Ultimately, Ender’s Game can be considered a masterpiece. It is a must-read for science-fiction novel fans and is simply a very enjoyable book.

-Josh N.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

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Another masterpiece written by African American author James Baldwin revolving around the theme of homosexuality and bisexuality. At first I was really abashed by the outright description of the characters and the erotic actions they commit, but then I realized that here the message James Baldwin wanted to convey was the high sense of reality our world and society currently needs but avoids for most of the time.

This novel attempted to tell us that not all people are the same. Especially for those homosexual people, it is a stab in the heart when they realized their sexual preference and will face the problem of confiding and admitting this fact to their friends and family, which at the same time they have to prepare against any antagonism from any outside forces. They will be condemned for their difference, but that won’t stunt them from pursuing their passion and maintaining faith in themselves.

Hella and David loved each other. However, when Hella was away David falls in deep love with Giovanni and he returns this love. But then Hella comes back, and David numbs his true feelings but telling himself that he mustn’t leave Hella, which resulted in the loss and imprisonment of Giovanni. Nevertheless, Hella and David break apart at last and David can no longer reunite with Giovanni anymore as a criminal who will be sentenced to death for murder. This taught me a lesson-never deny your real identity and embrace it, for later on right after your denouncement of yourself you will never be YOU again, but merely a wandering soul residing in a live corpse sharing the same name.

-Coreen C. 

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Reading Rocks! An Event Summary

Reading Rocks! is a great volunteer opportunity for the summer! Teens can come in and be read to by an elementary school age child practicing their reading skills, keep up their reading over the summer, and gain confidence in reading. You help the child pick out a book they are interested in from a book cart, give gentle corrections of mispronunciations, and provide lots of encouragement to keep them motivated! If you have younger siblings, this is a great opportunity for them to improve their reading skills.

The program runs every Saturday from June 15 to August 31. There is a mandatory one-time orientation you must attend, and they occur 15 minutes before each session at 10:45. The program starts at 11:00 and runs till 10:45, so it’s 45 minutes long, but you can count it as an hour of volunteering. Grab an application and sign up at the Mission Viejo Library’s Children’s Reference Desk! 

Parents, you can sign up your child for this program by visiting the Children’s Reference Desk or calling 949-830-5107.

-Kaitlyn S.

Authors We Love: James Agee

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Born on November 27th, 1909 and died on May 16, 1955 was this brilliant American poet, novelist, and writer for and about motion pictures. Written about in Encyclopedia Britannica, Agee grew up in Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountain area, went to Harvard University, and wrote for Fortune and Time after he graduated in 1932. Although his movie criticisms weren’t widely known, his humorous comments on movies still gained a lot of support from the audience instead of merely evaluating musicals and movies like an insider.

If you don’t know yet, his book A Death in the Family actually won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Now, I think this has a lot to do with his experience as a child, as this is an autobiographical novel. Not only the name “Rufus”, who was the main character in that particular novel but moreover it was James Agee’s middle name. His father, Hugh James Agee, like Jay Follet was killed in an auto accident when he was merely seven.

In addition, just when he was ten years old, his mother enrolled him in Saint Andrew’s boarding school. Remember something now? Yes, this is exactly the same setting as his other book The Morning Watch.

Although I haven’t read or watched all his other plays and featured stories, there is one thing I can tell: James Agee is a legendary author who utilizes his own family background and experience to produce outstanding stories and mold characters into the best shapes he can.

-Coreen C. 

The works of James Agee are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney

I just finished The Meltdown,the 13th book in the Diary of a Wimpy kid series, and I really enjoyed it. I liked The Diary Of a Wimpy kid series as a whole, I own the whole series and when I found out a new book was coming out I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. Sometimes I wonder how it would be living in a colder place where it snowed like where Greg Heffley lived, as I live in California. This book really portrayed the pros and cons of it. I found interest in the neighborhood feud and Greg’s point of view on snowy and hot weather. Also how he deals with it. “I don’t know which is worse, a planet that’s too HOT or one that’s too COLD” (Kinney, 53)

I really appreciate Jeff Kinney’s books and how I can relate to Greg, as he is also going through middle school. Like when he forgot to do his project and has to compromise. Greg’s life gives an interesting twist on middle schoolers while still being very relatable and enjoyable to read. “Speaking of SURVIVAL, right now, I’m just trying to get through middle school”( Kinney, 9)

I really love the whole series and love how it keeps me so interested even after so many years. I can always count on it to put a smile on my face. I really enjoy Kinney’s writing style and how amusing his stories are. Can’t wait for the next book!

-Rudy H.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library