Authors We Love: Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is the author of many fictional books for children.  Most of his books were illustrated by Quentin Blake.  I have always enjoyed these books as well as the illustrations.  Dahl uses very inventive language, including interesting words such as “gnazzle,” “knid” and “snozzcumber.”  His books are very funny and full of entertaining nonsense.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about a boy named Charlie who lives in a small home with his poor family.  Willy Wonka, the owner of a famous chocolate factory, announces that five lucky children will be invited to tour his factory.  The children would be selected by finding one of five golden tickets hidden inside the wrappers of chocolate bars.  By sheer luck, Charlie receives one of the five golden tickets.  As the story unfolds, we discover the wild and zany rooms in Willy Wonka’s factory, and finally we learn the real reason why Mr. Wonka invited the children to his factory.

The BFG tells of a little girl named Sophie who lives in an orphanage.  Sophie is captured by a twenty-four-feet-tall giant, who takes her to a cave in a faraway land called “Giant Country.”  There she learns that the giant’s name is the “Big Friendly Giant,” or the “BFG,” for short.  The BFG is actually the runt of nine other giants, who are about fifty feet tall and are very wicked, unlike the BFG.  The other nine giants like to gallop off to different countries to gobble up about two to six people at a time.  Sophie and the BFG come up with a plan to put a stop to the other giants’ evil deeds.

In Matilda, a girl named Matilda learns how to read at a very young age, but her parents mistreat her and hardly even notice her talents.  When she starts school, Matilda encounters the giant, nasty headmistress named Miss Trunchbull.  The headmistress terrorizes the entire school until Matilda discovers special powers within herself.  This is my favorite of Roald Dahl’s books because of the charming characters and wonderful story.

Most of Roald Dahl’s books are about ordinary children who discover extraordinary things.  Dahl usually includes fantastical characters, such as man-sized insects and little people known as “Oompa Loompas.”  It is for good reason that his books are very popular and are considered classics for young readers.  I highly recommend these books to people of all ages.

-Oliver H.

The works of Roald Dahl are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Three Theban Plays: Tragedy, Tragedy, and more Tragedy!

Image courtesy of Britannica.com/biography/Sophocles

Oh, Sophocles–the man, the myth, the legend. According to my English teacher, he’s arguably one of the greatest playwrights of all time (don’t worry, Shakespeare, we haven’t forgotten you either). But personally, I kind of…yeah, okay, I have to admit it…despise plays (insert drop the mic gifs here). I mean, reading about two people yammering on in verse to one another for three hundred pages, versus being immersed in a totally epic duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort? I think the choice is obvious here, but who knows, maybe it’s just me.

So how do you get an anti-play person to read one? Answer: assign it for English homework! Now, English Honors as a freshman is pretty fun; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it so far. Then, well, the tables turn big time when the teacher straight up announces, “Class, we’re going to reading Oedipus Rex from Sophocles’ Three Theban Plays!”

English took a pretty big plunge down the “Favorite Classes List” after I heard that one.

I’d started dreading going to class, and all because of one dumb play. When you start enjoying Honors Algebra 2 Trig more than English, you know you’ve run into a serious problem, because I was always sort of a bookworm (where are my Percy Jackson fans at? Just checking).

Anyways, we started doing some background learning about Greek plays, especially tragedies. The Greek part interested me a little, since I’m a total mythology fan, but the Theban Plays looked pretty boring to me. I’d never read tragedies before–again, the awesome sword-fighting stuff in fiction books literally kills me, no pun intended.

So anyway, I pretty much figured out (with a considerable lack of enthusiasm, may I add) that the main characters of the play were this guy named Oedipus, who’s king of Thebes, his wife Jocasta, a blind prophet named Tiresias, Jocasta’s brother Creon, a Shepherd, a Messenger, and friends. So yep, boring.

I figured Greek tragedies, how tragic can they get? Probably a lot of death and stuff, but super tragic, as in “oh nooo, what a poor guy!” sort of thing? No way.

Ha…ha…nevermind.

I’m not really going to go into detail about what exactly makes Oedipus Rex tragic, because it’s, um, really tragic. But if you do read it, whether for fun or for school, let this be a warning that this sort of tragedy is unexpected. You might expect to feel sad or something along those lines (at least, that was what I was anticipating), but I ended up being…disgusted. Revolted. The whole, “WHAT?!” moment.

I know this is infuriating, but no, I simply cannot tell you the crux of this tragedy. If you’ve already read this particular play, good for you! We can be mildly–or highly–disturbed together! Just a side note, though: I’d only recommend this play for older readers, as the content gets pretty icky as the play goes on.

So after this whole ordeal? I actually think the Theban Plays are a pretty good read (collective gasp). I think I was too stuck up on my own definition of tragedy–the whole cliche, feeling depressed afterward, stuff like that. Nah, Oedipus Rex was more, “WHAT NO WAY DID HE JUST–NO, EW, ARGH, THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE, HOW COULD–NO, STOP RIGHT NOW!”

But anyways, Sophocles himself wrote one rollercoaster of a play, which, yes, I would like to commend him on. The use of dramatic irony, keeping the audience in suspense as Oedipus’s life unravels and chaos falls upon the city of Thebes, is incredible. And, I have to admit, interesting.

Besides, Greek tragedies–despite all their horror–reveal important life lessons through the Chorus, our a group of singing, chanting men who represent the city’s citizens. Again, read the play for yourself to discover the ultimate moral; I’ll have to keep you in the dark again.

So if you do decide to read the Theban Plays, well, I wish you the best of luck. But for now, I’ve got a character analysis on Oedipus I’ve got to write, which I’m totally looking forward to…but anyways, happy reading!!!

-Katherine L

The works of Sophocles are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary is one of my favorite authors.  She has written many short fiction books, most of which are set in an American town during the middle of the twentieth century.  Her works include Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ramona, and Otis Spofford.  Her books are among my favorites because they are easy to read and they contain many amusing stories.

I really enjoy reading Henry Huggins.  This book is about a boy named Henry who finds a dog on the street.  He names the dog Ribsy because it is skinny.  Henry tries to take Ribsy home on a bus with strict rules against dogs.  Henry does funny things to hide Ribsy on the bus.  I enjoy reading this book very much because of the way Henry becomes friends with Ribsy, even though the dog can be difficult to control.

Beezus and Ramona is another funny book.  Beezus (nickname for Beatrice) lives with her four-year-old little sister, Ramona.  Ramona gets into all kinds of mischief.  One time, she wrote her name all over a library book.  Another time, she put a doll in the oven.  Many other funny things happen in this book.  This may be my favorite book written by Beverly Cleary because of Ramona’s many misunderstandings and escapades.  Anyone with a mischievous little sibling can relate to this book.

I also find Otis Spofford to be very funny.  Otis gets into lots of trouble.  One time he dressed up as a bull and attacked a matador during a mock bullfight at school.  Some of his classmates were not amused by his behavior, but the situation is humorous.  I enjoy Otis’ lively personality.  He is always trying to stir up excitement.

Even though they are written for young readers, I still thoroughly enjoy Beverly Cleary’s books.  I have read some of her books several times.  I highly recommend them, not only for young readers, but also for anyone who feels like reading a short and charming book.

-Oliver H. 

The works of Beverly Cleary are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They are also available to download 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.

Authors We Love: Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow was born on June 10, 1915, and passed away on April 5, 2005. He was born in Lachine, a small village located in Quebec, Canada and immigrated with his parents to Chicago, United States with he was eight. Due to this reason, Hyde Park, Chicago was the backdrop of a lot of his famous works because he was the most familiar with it.

Both of his parents were from Russia and were very strict Jews. They wished Saul Bellow could be a rabbi or a violinist playing in church when he grows up. However, he couldn’t overcome his passion for writing and therefore did not relinquish to these two occupations even when his mother passed away. He went to Chicago University and later switched to Northwestern University because he felt the former disliked Jews and therefore mistreated them. Bellow did his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin.

As a Novel Prize Literature winner, Pulitzer Prize fiction winner, and the only writer to win the National Medal of arts three times, Bellow in his entire life has composed a lot of works. These include Dangling Man, The Victim, The Adventures of Augie March, Seize the Day, Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, Mr.Sammler’s Planet, Humboldt’s Gift, The Dean’s December, More Die of Heartbreak, A Theft, The Bellarose Collection, The Actual, and Ravelstein. He also wrote a lot of plays and some nonfiction as well.

One thing which marks his unique style is his philosophical views embedded amongst the paragraphs and in characters’ dialogues. It provides on his insight of life, death, marriage and other themes which he values as important. Although some critics argue that this style of approach can be very elusive and a form of digression, I thought if sociology and anthropology are vital in Bellow’s life, he should put it down to let people who he really is.

-Coreen C. 

The works of Saul Bellow are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: John Green

OK, nerdfighters, it’s time to talk about John Green. As one of the most celebrated authors in the genre, John Green has published five young adult novels, of which four have been nominated for an award and three have won in their respective category.

So what is it about his writing that makes us fall in love with the characters, the situations, the settings? While I can’t say for sure, there always seems to be a haunting realness to the stories he tells, drawing us in and allowing us to feel as if the characters are people in our own lives and that we are a part of their story.

The voice that Green takes on as he writes makes for startling accuracy, capturing the teenage spirit and creating lifelike characters to play out the situations presented in his stories. Something about the characteristics of each person and the adventures they embark on makes them seem more connected with us, which is truly one of Green’s greatest gifts.

In Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, the tight-knit cast of characters all vie for an answer about life, existence, and the spirit of searching for one’s self, ultimately a concept that burrows itself into the process of growing up. The universal ideas that Green writes about are things that are very closely linked to the human spirit as a whole, connecting the readers and the author in one group together.

And, of course, the nerdiness. Green brings his own interests into the books that he writes — things like Star Wars, music, and knowing the last words of famous figures throughout history. Though they seem trivial, small things like this give more depth to the stories and make the characters so much more realistic and believable.

If ever in pursuit for something thoughtful and charming to read, turn to YA’s John Green. The characters, the emotions, the heartwarming, and the sad. It’s all there — all you have to do is open to the first page, and consequently, open up your heart to a new world.

—Keira D.

The works of John Green are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Authors We Love: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Born in 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle started life as a doctor, earning his Doctor of Medicine degree in Scotland, and practicing in the medical field for nearly twenty years. However, Conan Doyle is not known for his work in medicine, but rather for his incredible work in the literary field, which gave enduring gems to nearly every genre of literature.

Over the course of his lifetime, Conan Doyle created many different and complex characters for his stories. For example, his 1912 novel The Lost World stars the boisterous and occasionally insolent scientific genius Professor Challenger, whose radical opinions about strange locations and events are often proven true, much to the exasperation and secret admiration of his friends and his rivals. The title of this book may sound familiar, and it should – Conan Doyle’s work was the inspiration behind the movie Jurassic Park: The Lost World.

Conan Doyle also dabbled in other genres, varying from quasi-memoirs to historical adventure to horror. The Stark-Munro Letters, which were written and published in 1895, are a thinly-disguised account of Conan Doyle’s early years in the medical field. Seventeen short stories feature Brigadier Etienne Gerard, a French soldier who tells the tales of his adventures during the war, which are engaging to any and all readers, even without an in-depth knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars. Additionally, in the short stories The Case of the Lady Sannox, The Brown Hand, and The Brazilian Cat, Conan Doyle harnesses his eye for the macabre to deliver quick but lasting packages of terror and mystery that the reader cannot easily forget.

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

Statue of Sherlock Holmes, located in London, England

 

Of all the products of Conan Doyle’s pen, perhaps the most well-known is the reclusive and eccentric yet brilliant consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, along with his less-intelligent comrade and biographer, Dr. John Watson. The first adventure starring the dynamic duo, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1886 in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. It was an instant national success, and it was followed by another novel, The Sign of Four, and twenty-four short stories.

 

 

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Statue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, located in Crowborough, England

Eventually, Conan Doyle became tired of writing about Sherlock Holmes, who he believed was “standing in the way” of his greater works, so he killed off the great detective in 1893’s “The Final Problem.” However, public pressure convinced Conan Doyle to continue writing about Holmes, with a new novel The Hound of the Baskervilles and the resurrection of Holmes in “The Adventure of the Empty House.” In the end, Holmes and Watson are featured in sixty stories – all of which are beloved by both the avid crime critic and the casual reader. 

Sadly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack in 1930. Interestingly, his last words were spoken to his wife: “You are wonderful!” In the end, over the course of seventy-one years, Conan Doyle’s work has imprinted itself on the hearts and minds of all who read it, and “the father of the modern detective” will not be forgotten even in the farthest of futures.

-Mahak M.