Don’t Let Age Kill To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a beloved work of fiction that has definitely left its mark in the world of literature. That being said, many modern readers roll their eyes at the thought of reading “classic” literature and opt for more current works to fit their current palette. Classics, Little Women, A Tale of Two Cities, Tom Sawyer, etc., tend to get a bad rap for not being applicable to today’s obstacles. However, if we take these books out of their settings, they have valuable lessons to teach us. To Kill A Mockingbird is a prime example.

For Starters, The Strong Female Heroines

From Scout to Miss Maudie to Helen Robinson, To Kill A Mockingbird is chock-full of heroines. Scout, with her “tomboy” appeal and rugged attitude, throw off the social norm. Refusing to give in to the petty gossip of Aunt Alexandra’s lunch group, Miss Maudie is a strong advocate for girls. Helen Robinson going to work to support her family in place of re-marrying. All of these ladies are heroines in a town where Atticus gets to be the ringleader of morality.

Secondly, The Timeless Appeal

Despite the fact that the story is set in the time of the Great Depression, the story has minimal markers of its period. For example, if the characters were traveling in a covered wagon, we would presume that the story took place in the past. Also, the characters are not time traveling. By not adding these elements, the author shows that the story is not set in another time period. Because there are not factors that make you feel that you are indefinitely stuck in one time period or another, you can imagine the story in your own context, therefore personalizing it. When a reader can personalize a story, the theme resonates more strongly with them.

The Theme

Today, the world is undergoing major construction in the frontier of equality. The most prominent theme of To Kill A Mockingbird is to treat others as one would like to be treated. Considering the tremendous strides in activism that have happened recently, To Kill A Mockingbird will stoke the flames in today’s advocates just as it was meant to do when it was published. Now more than ever, as a society we need this energy to keep up the good fight for justice.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee was a phenomenon in its day. Due to being deemed a classic of literature, it has lost the appeal in today’s reader’s eyes. However, it still has so much to offer from the strong female heroines, it’s a timeless theme and the way that it can empower us to keep fighting for equality.

-Ainsley H. 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Harry Potter: Pets

Among its enchanting world, characters, plot, and locations, the Harry Potter series possesses numerous pets that add charm to the books and, at times, contribute to the plot. From some perspectives, their importance to the story of Harry Potter may not seem of importance; however, some of these pets have invaluable parts, either in the story or their owners’ lives. Here are a few of these treasurable little creatures. Please note that there might be spoilers from books 1-6.

Hedwig: The snowy-white dignity of Harry’s loyal owl is one reason to admire Hedwig. She keeps Harry company when he is trapped at the Dursley’s house, and she delivers many important parcels to and for Harry throughout the series. One of my favorite moments with Hedwig is when she flies to Harry’s friends to make sure they remember to send him a birthday present.

Trevor: Even though his attempts at escaping are constant, I think Trevor really likes Neville Longbottom as his owner–he always seems to (however unwillingly) let Neville find and care for him. As with Neville, his dedication to his pet toad is admirable, for another boy might have long ago given up searching for a rebellious pet. Trevor’s relationship with Neville enriches Neville’s perseverant character and his ability to overcome difficulties–in his classes, with his grandmother–with resilience.

Crookshanks: Even though it is this ginger-haired cat that causes so much tension in Ron and Hermione’s friendship in their third year, Crookshanks proves his intelligence and dependability when he sees Sirius and Scabbers for who they are. Nearly all the other characters believe Scabbers harmless and Sirius a dangerous villain, but Crookshanks knows the truth about both–Scabbers is the danger, while Sirius is not. The courage and insight of Crookshanks shines in the third book so brightly that even Ron can no longer deny the loyalty of the cat.

Scabbers: It is true that Scabbers results in being Voldemort’s servant disguised as Ron’s (at first Percy’s) rat for many years. However, he does contribute admirably to some scenes in the series. On their initial trip to Hogwarts, Ron’s unsuccessful demonstration of a spell on Scabbers plays a part in the building of his friendship with Harry. Furthermore, Ron grows fond of the rat before he knows its true identity, and many games of chess and laughs in the common room no doubt occurred in Scabber’s presence.

BuckbeakStormy gray and confident, Buckbeak is a key player in Harry and Hermione’s rescue of Sirius. The hippogriff also saves Sirius from some of the loneliness of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place during Harry’s fifth year. Held dear by Hagrid as well, Buckbeak (or “Witherwings”) has the respect and appreciation of many characters who fight on the side of Dumbledore’s Order.

The pets named above are merely a fraction of the many that hold importance in the Harry Potter series. Their interactions with the characters–comforting, assisting, escaping–lead to a better understanding of the characters, while establishing the pets as individual characters themselves.

– Mia T.

Books set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded online for free from Overdrive

How Mission Viejo Differs from Seattle

I moved from Mission Viejo, California to an island in Washington by Seattle. I lived in Mission Viejo for the first 18 years of my life, and never moved. Moving to Washington, I don’t know how much of what I’ve noticed is specific to cities or is state-wide. Nevertheless, here are the random differences I’ve noticed.

  1. Axolotls are Illegal in CA

Axolotls only exist naturally in one polluted lake in Mexico, so catching and taking home wild axolotls is highly illegal due to their high endangerment in the wild. Because of California’s proximity to Mexico, axolotls are not allowed as pets to prevent axolotl trafficking. They are also illegal in New Mexico, New Jersey, Virginia, Maine, and Washington D.C. Don’t ask me why they’re illegal in the other states. But they’re legal in most states, including Washington, because they are distributed humanely.

  1. People Aren’t as Friendly

In Mission Viejo, everyone is always smiling and trying to look happy. Washington? Not so much. The gloomy weather leads most to not want to leave the house and gaze sadly out the rain-spattered window. It’s hard to seem happy when it’s always raining and foggy, and people in Washington just don’t care enough to portray themselves as happy. There are ups and downs to this. I feel people in Orange County are more fake nice and always trying to get on your good side to cash in the favor later, while people in Washington aren’t concerned about what you think of them and are more honest with their feelings.

  1. It’s Rainy

California is very sunny. Growing up 15 minutes from the beach, I didn’t realize how special that was. In Washington, if it’s sunny out, vendors will abandon their shop to stand outside in the sunshine. It’s a state-wide event. People will wear sundresses and constantly be talking about how nice of a day it is. When it’s sunny in California, it’s just a day. It’s crazy how a lot of the world only sees the sun a few months of the year.

  1. Everyone is Pale

I didn’t realize how much sunscreen I was using in California! Up here, you don’t need sunscreen. Ever. And everyone is super pale. In Orange County, everyone is always talking about how they need a tan. Here, everyone is pale and proud of it. I have not seen a tanning salon. It’s nice to be so comfortable with my pale self, as I always felt ashamed of not having a tan in Mission Viejo. But it’s weird having people not care about having a tan after being in Orange County!

  1. They Drink Coffee All Day

I thought people in California drank a lot of coffee. But I hadn’t been to Washington. Coffee is their water. Everyone always has a cup of coffee in their hand, even at 6pm! There are cafés everywhere, as well as drive-up coffee stands in every parking lot. I’ve never seen one in California, but they’re everywhere in Washington! Starbucks started in Seattle, and I think that says it all. People up here drink coffee all day, every day. I have never heard someone say, “You shouldn’t drink coffee right before bed!” They do not care. They drink it as their dessert. Washington is also the only state to have free coffee at every rest stop. They really love their coffee.

  1. Racial Diversity

Both Mission Viejo and Seattle are diverse. Both have mainly Caucasian people, but Mission Viejo has significantly more Hispanic people and Seattle has significantly more African American people.

  1. Storage Units

There are storage units everywhere here. I don’t know why, but here’s my theory. Orange County is newer, so people move there with few belongings, knowing how high rent is going to be. In the Seattle area, there are many retired people who don’t have space for their growing belongings and can’t afford a new house. But that like folding laundry and having band rehearsals. Storage units are used more actively here, opposed to dusty places you forget your own.

  1. Everyone is Sad

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real. It’s depression due to lack of sunlight, and it’s very present in Washington. For example, there is only light out from 7:52am-4:16pm in WA on Dec 15, 2019m only about 8 hours of daylight. On that day in California, there are about 10 hours of daylight from 6:47am-4:44pm, California almost has two more full hours of daylight! Having less Vitamin A causes depression, which is probably why Washington’s suicide rates are above the national average, while California’s rates are below.

  1. There Are Fewer People

Just Orange County has a population of roughly 3 million, while all of Washington is 7.5 million! And Washington is half the size of California. There’s is a much lower population density state-wide in Washington, but Seattle is very packed. There are also just fewer people overall. California has a population of almost 40 million, over 5x that of Washington despite being twice as big!

  1. It’s Right by Canada

In California, people go to Mexico on the weekends, but in Washington, people go to Canada on the weekend. Both states border another country and seem to have more people visiting the US than Americans traveling across the border. Washington is the go-to for Canadian gamblers due to legal casinos and is more of a place to visit for foreigners, while Mexicans seem to move to California.

So yeah! Those are the random things I’ve noticed from basically moving from the Mexican to Canadian border of the U.S.

-Jessica F.

Comparison: High School Musical vs. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Flashback: It’s January 20, 2006, you’re sitting in front of the TV, as the beginning credits play for the new Disney Channel Original Movie: High School Musical. Now fast forward 13 years (crazy isn’t it?), you have the Disney+ app opened on your device, about to play the first episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

Now, if you were a big fan of HSM like I was when you were younger, chances are, there probably was some speculation, wondering if the new HSM would be just as good as the original. In my opinion, I personally think that the new version is actually quite good. It’s not as good as the original, of course, but it isn’t a complete fail.

Basically, the new version is like a musical inside of a musical (if that makes sense). It’s kind of like in Teen Beach Movie, where the main characters were stuck inside of the movie, in the actual movie. It revolves around the kids who attend the actual East High School, and are putting on their own rendition of the musical itself. The characters of the actual show (Ricky, Nini, EJ, Gina, Big Red, Kourtney, etc.), then audition for the parts they want (Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, Ryan, Chad, Taylor, etc.).

So far, there have only been four episodes released, packed with tons of drama, comedy, romance, heartbreak, and of course, tons of singing. If you were a High School Musical fan when you were younger, the new version might be a little too young for you, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.

-Phoebe L.

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

How Fiction Can Give Us a View Into Reality

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” Tom Clancy’s analysis on the divergence between the realm of fantasy and the confines of the real world shows us that reality and fantasy are really not as different as they may seem. One example of this is Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, which centers around the trials and triumphs of a former U.S Marine lieutenant turned history teacher as he becomes entangled in the world of international espionage and warfare.

The series’ first book, Patriot Games, depicts Ryan’s chance encounter with Ulster Liberation Army terrorists in England and sets the tone for how this will alter the course of his career and family life in the books to follow. Although this book was written for entertainment purposes, it does give us a window into the international political climate at the time of the book’s release(July 1987). The Provisional Irish Republican Army was fighting to end British influence in Northern Ireland and reunite Ireland at the time of publication. This book was not based on a true story, but it does allude to the real-life political climate in the UK at the time, which helps readers gain a greater understanding of a time period that they may not have experienced.

Another author who drew inspiration from the world around him is John Steinbeck. Steinbeck’s famous Of Mice and Men is a book many read during high school English courses. It tells the story of two close friends, George and Lennie, as they attempt to seek work in California during the Great Depression. This story is categorized as fiction, though some of the characters and events Steinbeck described were people and things he met and experienced during his time working on a ranch in central California. Of Mice and Men’s setting helps readers understand the desperation that unemployed Americans faced in trying to find jobs during the Great Depression. Lennie’s character also shows the rejection, stigmatization, and ignorance of mental illness during this time period, which was a very real and prevalent issue in the real world. Many believe that books categorized as fiction are simply nothing more than stories created to entertain literary enthusiasts on a rainy day.

History, politics, and social structure are all topics that are traditionally reserved for textbooks or newspapers. However, Clancy’s series and Steinbeck’s works are some of the many examples of how fiction can give us a glimpse into the past or present reality. It is interesting to see just how much we can learn about a past time through our favorite novels and fantasy stories and may encourage those who stick to the world of non-fiction to branch out into other genres.

-Katie A.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel, published in 1960 by Harper Lee, deserves every ounce of fame it has thus far received. Although the subjects that are addressed by the novel are shrouded by controversy, it addressed issues that needed to be addressed, such as racism and the crimes that can be committed under its name.

The novel is told from the perspective of six-year-old Caucasian Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the most reliable lawyer in her town, Maycomb. He takes on a case defending a black man who is wrongfully accused of raping a white woman, and this sends the entire population of their town into a frenzy. Scout and her brother, Jem, experience the metaphorical splitting of the town as everyone takes a side. They are attacked and harassed for the actions of their father.

The plot deepens and thickens, unfolding with an uncanny message: racism is a real issue, and it remains as such, even though To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. In fact, Scout and Jem are attacked at night and nearly killed in retaliation of their father’s case. The town is violently over-involved in Atticus Finch’s case, and most of its citizens actually attend the trial for sport and entertainment. People are quick to take sides and are adamant and passionate about whichever one they end up on.

To Kill A Mockingbird is also semi-autobiographical- Scout’s childhood is based loosely off of Harper Lee’s. However, Lee quickly became reclusive due to her book’s fame and all the attention it received. The novel was groundbreaking, but Harper Lee hardly did any interviews, book signings, or any public event of the sort. In fact, Harper Lee was barely involved in the making of the movie adaption of the novel, which became a box-office hit (it made over three times its budget!).

Overall, To Kill A Mockingbird is a magnificent literary tapestry, with intricately woven characters and artfully spun plots and subplots. It addresses issues that were relevant in its time and, some may argue, even more, relevant today. It is a novel that has affected people’s lives, in ways that are clear but also subconscious, and has educated many on the subject of racism amid the early 1930s.

-Arushi S.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive