The Little Things That Count

Though it may seem cliche, it’s undeniably true that it’s the little things in life that count. Never underestimate or overlook the little things. Even if only the dewdrops clinging to the blades of grass in the morning or the sight of the setting sun, never let these little things escape your notice. Noticing and acknowledging the little things in life are keys to enriching the life you are already living in. Because sometimes, you are not able to change your circumstances and in truth, we don’t actually need to change our reality, but rather our perceptions.  And one of the simplest, yet easily undermined ways to do this is to pay attention to the little things.  Hold on to the little things, and the rest of life falls into place.

Of course, the only way to consciously make an effort to do so is to be aware. And sometimes, we don’t like feeling aware, whether it be of ourselves or our surroundings. Many of us don’t want to sit still with the thoughts in our mind or notice that piece of litter on the side of the road. And I understand that. Yet, you can’t see the wonderful things without noticing all the not-so-wonderful things, because of course,  that is how you gain perspective and gratitude for the little things that you do have. 

After all, you can’t possibly come to be grateful for a gift that you were too blind to notice that you had in the first place. So do not fail to take notice. 

Although at first, it may feel uncomfortable or unimportant to really and truly open up your mind and your heart to experiencing things in greater magnitude, more often than not, many people find this to give them a sense of peace. 

Noticing the small things means taking extra time and care, even if only mentally. But as we all know, your mental state plays a huge factor in the way that you live and see your life. If your mind can consistently remain slowed, calm, and focused on the good things no matter how small, then no matter your surroundings or the circumstances, and no matter how dark the night, you will be able to know that the sun will come again in a short while. 

There’s a common quote that’s often used simply put: “No rain, no flowers”. In order to notice and appreciate the flowers, you must also notice and come to appreciate the rain.

Hardships in life are never easy, but they are what make us learn and grow, so that when you stumble out of the storm and see the newly-bloomed flowers, you come to know what relief and gratitude mean, and you obtain the wisdom as to know that the storm you were caught in was not for nothing at all. 

So, to whoever may read this, feel no sheepishness or guilt in “stopping and smelling the roses” today. Notice the little things, but also do them. Maybe you can be someone else’s living proof that the world isn’t so bad after all, so do not hesitate in offering that kind word or extending a giving hand when the opportunity comes your way.

-Aisha E.

Book/Musical Review: Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen is a popular Broadway musical created by Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul. Its powerful storyline, incredible soundtrack, and the talented cast has made it the winner of six Tony Awards and a favorite of theater aficionados across the world. Dear Evan Hansen is also very unique and innovative, as it addresses issues such as teen suicide, depression, and social anxiety. It speaks to the audience in a new, powerful way and has increased awareness of the mental health struggles that people of all ages may be facing. Dear Evan Hansen has been re-made by numerous off-Broadway production groups across the world and has also been adapted into a novel in collaboration with Val Emmich.

Dear Evan Hansen follows the life of its title character, who struggles with extreme social anxiety. His therapist recommends that he writes letters to himself, discussing the positive aspects of the day. At school, Evan has few friends but develops a crush on a girl named Zoe Murphy, who becomes the subject of many letters. Zoe’s twin brother, Connor, has a reputation for being rebellious and aggressive and is angry when he finds Evan’s letter about Zoe in the school printer. Connor takes this letter with him, leaving Evan in fear of what he may do with it. A few days later, Evan finds out that Connor committed suicide later that day with Evan’s letter still in his pocket. This causes Connor’s family to believe that Connor and Evan were close friends, which develops a bond between Evan and the Murphy family. Connor’s mother feels guilty for his death, whereas Zoe struggles to feel grief due to Connor’s awful behavior towards her and their family. With the help of his friends Alana and Jared, Evan starts the Connor Project, which is an online community dedicated to remembering Connor’s life. As Evan grows closer to Zoe and the Murphy family, he begins to drift away from his mother, Heidi, and his old friends. Alana and Jared find out that Evan never really knew Connor, and threaten to share this information with the Murphy family. Evan then claims that the letter to himself was actually Connor’s suicide note, which gets posted to the Connor Project. As a result, many begin to blame the Murphy family for Connor’s suicide and they become the subject of hateful, threatening messages. Evan realizes he must come forward and confess and tells the Murphy family about his deception. He explains that he did it because he believed it would help them cope and because he felt like he needed friendship. Later, he also reconciles with his mother, who promises she will help him through his pain and always be there for him. 

A year later, Evan contacts Zoe, who agrees to meet with him at the orchard that has become Connor’s memorial. Evan apologizes again, and Zoe forgives him, telling him that he brought her family closer together. After Zoe leaves, Evan writes himself one last letter in his mind while looking around the orchard and reflects upon what he has learned from this experience and the impact the Connor Project had on people across the country.

Dear Evan Hansen is an incredibly powerful musical and book that really speaks to today’s younger generations. Not only does it help readers learn empathy for those dealing with mental illness, but also provides solace for those who are experiencing something similar to characters in the book. It has encouraged people to reach out to others and offer one another support and friendship during difficult times, because, in the words of Evan Hansen, “we’re not alone, none of us.”

-Katie A.

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Online Schooling

Online Schooling. An idea most never thought about, but now is a reality for almost every student in the United States in the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Many people that I know do not like any aspect of the whole concept. They find themself always distracted and unmotivated to sit in front of a computer for hours. But due to an unexpected part of our education, I have found myself taking the opportunity of having so much more free time. Personally, I have a fairly large family. With 3 other siblings all trying to stream a class at the same time. But unlike most, I have a different view on the idea of schooling on a computer.

Though it may be an unpopular opinion, I have found myself striving for the past 7 weeks of online schooling. Though I am taking many hard classes, having an online perspective is much more motivating for myself. My personal favorite aspect would be the pre-recorded lectures. Normally, I would find myself struggling to get down the important information that is being thrown at me at a very fast pace. But most of my teachers this year have been recording their lectures that students then watch on their own time. I find myself grasping the complicated concepts much faster due to the new aspect of being able to pause a lecture and write down information at your own pace.

Another factor of online schooling that seems to be going away for myself is procrastination. Normally on a school day, I would go to school around 6:50 am and not leave till about 5-8 pm. By the time I got home, I would be exhausted. Not mention my work would not start when I first got home. I would have to eat, then usually rest for a little bit of time before I could physically get myself to start work. But now, always being at home, I have found myself thriving even though I have hours of school work. Now, on a regular online school day, I get out about 1 pm and complete homework straight till about 11 pm. Give or take a couple 10-15 minute breaks. I just began to imagine having this much school work on top of my hours of extra curricular’s that I normally would have to balance.

If I could give any advice to anyone about to start their online journey would be this, take the opportunity of time that has been given, and improve your work habits. This time last year, I procrastinated beyond compare. I would always leave assignments untill the day they were due. Now, I have seemed to reinvent how I take my education. I complete the assignments the day they are assigned, and I ensure I fully understand the ins and outs of the concepts. Without this online schooling, I most likely would not be in as great of a position school wise as I am now. I am aware that my option is most likely far from most, I encourage for some to accept the new normal of most children’s education.

-Lilly G.

Being an Introvert

I am an introvert. 

Now, when this word comes to mind, many automatically think of someone who is shy, meek, or quiet. I’m sorry to say that, although many introverts may happen to have these characteristics, that is not the definition of what an introvert is. Introverts are simply people who obtain their energy from being alone, rather than with people, unlike extroverts. Introverts are not always shy, however. I’d like to make that clear, despite the irony in the fact that I, an introvert, very much so identify as a shy individual until I feel comfortable with someone. Once I do feel comfortable, however, I am an incredibly talkative person and can easily spend hours discussing things from every which subject. That being said, although I do enjoy having good conversations and spending time  with friends and family like any other person, at the end, I usually will feel drained and exhausted.

That’s my introverted side. The desire to be alone, especially after a long duration of socialization– not the trait of shyness. This is because socializing, especially in large groups or in loud settings, can be overstimulating all at once, and for the introvert, the way that they can revert back to base one is by being alone, away from all of the hustle and bustle. 

So yes, contrary to popular belief, introverts do in fact like going out (on occasion).

Being an introvert does not mean you want to be alone twenty four hours of the day, seven days a week. It just means if you had to, you probably could without losing your mind. And yes, while humans are naturally social with one another, sometimes, being around other humans can be mentally exhausting, even if for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on. Thus is the nature and life of an introvert.

A key point about introverts is that, when it comes to people, wanting to be away from them is honestly not personal in the slightest, nor does it signify that we dislike most people. In fact, you can love the person you’re being around and still feel exhausted after spending a long period of time with them.

For introverts, not wanting to be around other people, especially loved ones, should not be taken as a personal offense. It just means we need some time, alone and only alone, to clear our heads. Simply put, being in the presence of another person hinders us from achieving this. Introverts will simply just continue to nosedive in energy and dwindle in liveliness the longer that they are forced to stay out and about and with others. It sounds stupid, maybe, or even a bit stuck-up. But, I promise you, introverts don’t mean to be rude. They don’t hate people. But they’ll be in much better spirits if you just leave them be for a few hours when they ask to be left alone. 

All this being said, many people don’t really know if they are introverted. 

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself and think about. 

Do you thrive off of time spent alone? Find inspiration and motivation coming to you when you are alone? Wish you had more time to yourself? Feel up for doing a social activity or attending a social gathering after you’ve already spent a good portion of time alone? And, if you go out or spend time with others, upon your return, do you usually notice that you feel drained? By drained, I mean, do you often notice you feel tired? Irritable? Scouting for a place to be that is quiet? Not in any mood to talk? With a headache, maybe? If so, you are most likely an introvert.

Welcome to the club of “I-Often-Need-Time-To-Myself-Please-Leave-Me-Alone-Thank-You”.   

I know some might consider it to be awfully selfish to “need” down-time. Such a first-world problem, one might scoff. But then again, when it comes to being an extrovert, I can’t possibly begin to see how someone could get need to get their energy and their mood up from constantly being in the companionship of others. To me, this is a bizarre concept to imagine being my reality. But, see, that’s why everyone’s different. Some of us are introverts, some of us are extroverts. And some of us are stuck somewhere in the middle: ambiverts, as the term has been coined. 

With all of this being said, never feel bad if you are in fact a quieter soul; an introvert in a world that seems to cater only to extroverts. Never feel that craving time to yourself and silence is a bad thing. After all, everyone’s always preaching about how good it is to begin your day in silent meditation or to have some sort of ritual where you are alone. Many have only just begun to discover the joys that come along with being alone, and the hidden wisdom’s behind it as well–something introverts have known all along. Because, truly, silence will always feed your soul thousand times more than noise.

Who Was To Blame in Romeo and Juliet?

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is often considered to be the ultimate tale of romance – two children of warring families meet, fall hopelessly in love, and commit suicide in a woeful twist of fate. However, fate itself has quite little to do with the actions undertaken by the two lovers throughout the play. Though the tragic events of Act V, Scene III of Romeo and Juliet are often attributed to the two lovers’ distinct lack of luck, the blood shed at the end of the play is truly the fault of one character: Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who both Romeo and Juliet turn to in their time of need, only to be led astray.

Despite knowing the potential tragedy that could follow, Friar Lawrence nevertheless encourages Romeo and Juliet in their wish to wed, not because he wants to see two young lovers be happy, but because of his own desires. Though the friar appears old and wise, he does not dissuade Romeo from his course, for the friar does not seem to particularly care about Romeo’s happiness – he has an underlying motive. He later tells Romeo that he will consent to wed the two lovers not because he believes in the true love between them, but because he wants to end the feud between their families. 

The marriage between Romeo and Juliet eventually leads to ruin, when Romeo is exiled from the city and Juliet is being forced to marry Count Paris. To avoid this, Juliet visits Friar Lawrence and desperately begs him for a solution to the problem. Friar Lawrence concocts a plan, in which Juliet will fake her death to both avoid marrying Paris and reunite with Romeo in Mantua. This plan is infamously imperfect. For one, the entire plan hinges on Romeo being aware that Juliet had faked her death before Friar Lawrence retrieves her from the Capulet tomb. Unfortunately, the exact opposite occurs, and, in his grief, Romeo commits suicide. Juliet, upon waking to Romeo’s corpse, stabs herself and dies.

The irony of the play is that, in the end, Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, not their marriage, is what ends the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, which was Friar Lawrence’s intent all along. Friar Lawrence, supposedly the wise and reasonable adult of the play, ends up being the most blameworthy character, both because of his deliberately neglectful and ignorant words and actions in regards to the lovestruck pair, as well as his continual promotion of his own overarching agenda. 

All in all, while it may appear that the tragic events of Romeo and Juliet can be solely credited to the cruel hand of destiny, the true blame for the two lovers’ deaths lies in the hands of Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who leads Romeo and Juliet into a situation from which the only escape is death.

-Mahak M.

The Relevance of The Hate You Give

If you’ve been on any type of social media, or practically any corner of the internet, you are probably aware of the current Black Lives Matter movement and its impact. As a current activist writer, it only felt right for me to talk about this subject which I am very passionate about. So, I wanted to write a little something about one of my favorite books that address racial injustice – The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. Its story follows the journey of a Starr Carter, a black 16-year old high schooler who witnesses her best friend, Khalil, become a victim of police brutality.

Reading this book and subsequently watching the movie made me feel incredibly emotional and break down into tears. It was a truly heartbreaking experiencing Starr’s inner turmoils and the fear she had about speaking out, and it highlighted the vast difference between privileged and underprivileged communities. This story was filled with all sorts of obstacles for Starr, from having to hide Khalil’s motives due to underlying gang conflicts, to deaingl with a racist friend who was insensitive and misinformed. As the story progressed, it was infuriating reading that the police officer who killed Khalil was not going to be prosecuted. However, this led to many protests that demanded justice for Khalil, a perfect parallel to current events that have been occurring all across the country, and all around the world.

Though, in the end, (spoiler alert for those who want to read it!), Khalil’s murderer does not end up being prosecuted, Starr still fights to keep his legacy alive and remains active in the fight against racism. Similar to today, people are continuing to fight for those who have not gained justice for being killed due to the prevalence of xenophobia. However, recognizing the importance of this book and the lessons and information it contains about our society can lead you one step closer to understanding how you can help raise awareness and demand change, especially in a world overrun by oppression. NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!!

Helpful link for those who want to find ways to contribute: https://blacklivesmatter.carrd.co

-Julianne T.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Fictional Food and Illustrations: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Nearly a year ago I wrote a post about my fascination with fictional food and its function within books (“Fictional Food: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”). In the post, I discussed a few food items mentioned in the first Harry Potter book and how they contributed to the mood of certain scenes, the relatability of the characters, and the complexity of the story overall.

Here, I’d like to revisit some of the delicious food from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that I included in that post (along with unmentioned items), this time with some illustrations to accompany them. I hope you enjoy this visual feast :).


At the beginning of chapter 2, Harry finds himself at the zoo with Dudley and his friend, Piers Polkiss, to celebrate Dudley’s birthday. While a visit to the zoo in itself is an unprecedented treat for ten-year-old Harry, Harry’s good fortune seems to persist: at the zoo, “The Dursleys bought Dudley and Piers large chocolate ice creams at the entrance and then, because the smiling lady in the van had asked Harry what he wanted before they could hurry him away, they bought him a cheap lemon ice lolly. It wasn’t bad either, Harry thought” (Rowling 33). The treats for Harry didn’t stop there. When Harry and the Dursleys ate lunch at the zoo, “Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory wasn’t big enough, [and] Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first” (34). I guess some good can come out of the spoiling of Dudley Dursley. 

Chocolate ice creams, ice lollies, and knickerbocker glories are left behind when, overwhelmed by the persistence of the letters inviting Harry to attend Hogwarts, Uncle Vernon pulls his family on a wild excursion to “Shake ‘em off,” during which the Dursleys and Harry spend a night at “a gloomy-looking hotel” where they eat “stale cornflakes and cold tinned tomatoes on toast for breakfast” (50). At this same meal, the hotel owner informs them of a surplus of letters addressed to Harry with the exact number of the room he is staying in. At this point it looks as if, despite Uncle Vernon’s admirable efforts, it’s going to be a bit harder than he thought it would be to “shake ‘em off.”

Despite the apparent futility of his efforts, Uncle Vernon does try harder to escape the Hogwarts letters. His determination culminates in Harry and the Dursleys spending a night in a hut on a rock, stranded by turbulent waves and a storm of wind and rain. Did Uncle Vernon think this through? Not thoroughly. Though, to his credit, he did bring some rations: “a packet of crisps each and four bananas” (53). The insubstantiality of this meal makes the next food that enters Harry’s mouth extra delicious.

After Hagrid enters the hut (by breaking down the door) and deduces that Uncle Vernon is not going to offer him tea or a drink (or anything, for that matter), he takes a number of objects out of his coat, including “a copper kettle, a squashy package of sausages, a poker, a teapot, [and] several chipped mugs” and proceeds to cook the sausages over the fire. Soon, Hagrid offers “six fat, juicy, slightly burnt sausages to Harry, who [is] so hungry he ha[s] never tasted anything so wonderful” (57, 58).

While Harry meeting Hagrid is a defining moment in itself, Hagrid’s sausages may be the first tasty food offered solely to Harry out of kindness and care. This is one of Harry’s first tastes of a world where he is regarded as important and admirable and not as a messy-haired nephew who ought to be hidden in a cupboard under the stairs. 

The delights of Hagrid’s generosity continue when he buys Harry “chocolate and raspberry [ice cream] with chopped nuts” in Diagon Alley (89). Whenever I read this part, this ice cream sounds so delicious, and I marvel at the fact that the simple inclusion of these little details makes the story so much richer and entertaining. Where Hagrid bought these delectable desserts is not stated, but I think it’s reasonable to guess that they were crafted by Florean Fortescue, the owner of an ice cream parlour where Harry spends much of his time two summers later.

Once at Hogwarts, Harry enjoys more food with Hagrid at Hagrid’s cabin, though perhaps it’s not as tasty as the ice cream in Diagon Alley. On Harry and Ron’s first visit to Hagrid’s, Harry introduces Ron while Hagrid pours “boiling water into a large teapot and [puts] rock cakes onto a plate … The rock cakes almost broke their teeth, but Harry and Ron pretended to be enjoying them” (154). Although Hagrid’s rock cakes are not the most scrumptious or easy-to-eat delights, I think they’re still endearing and fitting to the story—Harry and Ron don’t visit Hagrid for the food. Plus, maybe if you soaked the rock cakes in tea or milk they would make a delicious treat (or at least a softer one). 

Here’s an illustration of the steak-and-kidney pie served at Hogwarts the night Professor McGonagall discovers Harry’s talent as a Quidditch Seeker (I’ve accompanied it with some pumpkin juice, though it’s not mentioned in the book). By the time Harry’s done telling Ron the news that he has been made Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Ron has “a piece of steak-and-kidney pie halfway to his mouth, but [he’s] forgotten all about it” (166). We know a piece of news is important when it makes Ron forgets about food.

In his state of excitement from unwittingly finding himself on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Harry probably does not forsee the state of his nerves on the morning of his first match. While “the delicious smell of fried sausages” pervades the Great Hall, Harry does not even want to eat the “bit of toast” Hermione tries to coax him to eat. His appetite is probably diminished further when Seamus reminds him that “Seekers are always the ones who get nobbled” while “pil[ing] ketchup on his sausages” (200). 

The last two illustrations are inspired by Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts:

“Harry had never in all his life seen such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys, mountains of roast and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce—and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table … Flaming Christmas puddings followed the turkey” (220).

After a “happy afternoon having a furious snowball fight in the grounds” with the Weasleys and a chess game with Ron, Harry enjoys “a tea of turkey sandwiches, crumpets, trifle and Christmas cake” (221).

I really enjoyed illustrating these dishes and treats from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which wouldn’t have been possible without J.K. Rowling’s detailed and generous descriptions. I loved learning about new kinds of food when I looked up pictures and descriptions of Yorkshire puddings, rock cakes, steak-and-kidney pie, chipolatas, trifle, and flaming Christmas puddings for reference (if you’re interested and haven’t seen a flaming Christmas pudding, I would suggest looking up an image—they look so cool!). I hope these illustrations were entertaining for Harry Potter lovers and food lovers alike!

– Mia T.

Books to read this summer

Some people may find it hard to find books that they like, so I am here to help. These are three books that you will absolutely find captivating. The names of the books are called Counting by Sevens When You Reach Me, and The Fault in Our Stars.

The first book Counting by Sevens by Holly G. Sloan is about a 12-year-old girl named Willow Chance. Willow is very smart and loves nature and diagnosing people with medical problems. She has never really had a great connection with anybody besides her adoptive parents. Then suddenly her parents die in a car accident and she is confused. She then starts to realize that she can connect to people. This book is extremely interesting and you will find it hard to put it down.

The second book When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is about a girl named Miranda that starts receiving mysterious letters from a person that knows her. Yet what’s even stranger is that the letters contain events that have not happened yet. The letters make her think she can prevent a very tragic death from happening until they make her think she is too late. This book will have you wondering what will happen next in each chapter.

My third and final book The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is about a girl named Hazel Grace who has cancer attends a support group. She then meets a mysterious boy named Augustus Waters who also had cancer. They end up bonding and learn stuff about each other. They later find out about Hazel’s favorite book author and how they can talk to him about how they felt about the book ends. This book is one hundred percent worth your time and if you have to choose one book this would be my choice.

In conclusion these three books are my top three choices for you to read this summer.

-Veronica S.

Stay Home – Don’t Stay Bored

2020 has proven to be a difficult year. Each and every one of us is trying each end every day better than the one before it. Even if we are not directly affected by the Corona Virus either by loss of a loved one, a family member on the front lines or an essential worker, we can all do our part by staying home. In an effort to ease the pain and self control required for this, we turn to the media to keep us entertained and content. This leads to us powering through our pile of “to read” books, binging Netflix and catching up on YouTube series. The next day we turn around and all of the things that we thought we were never going to get to are done. We are like the hero of a story just after the climax. We are in the “what now?” period of the resolution in the narrative of our media consumption journey. Below are 11 different types of book suggestions to restock your inventory of “to read” books so you can have a new goal to work towards.

  1. A series:  Eye roll, I know.  But hear me out when I say completing a series over Quarantine will make you feel accomplished.  You know how you feel when you finish a book and pride comes over you?  When you read a series, multiple storylines together, you just one the book Olympics!  Series can be daunting to some but they are very rewarding.  Sure they take more time to finish that just one book but in the end you will ultimately feel refreshed.  Besides, you have time nowadays anyway, right? 

Some suggestions for book series that are tried and true are:  The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series, The Harry Potter series, The Giver Series and the Time Quintet Series (Starts with A Wrinkle In Time).

  1. Books all by the same author: Similar to a book series but different storylines.  Reading different books by the same author is a good way to study their writing style.  This can be immensely 
  2. helpful for people who would like to become a writer themselves.  This can be extra effective when you read a set of books by one author and then another set from a different author to compare their styles.  Want to take it a step further?  Read a group of books from different authors from relatively the same timeframe to set them in an even playing field.  This can be a really insightful tool to study writing styles and techniques.  Some author suggestions who have a large assortment of books to choose from who tend not to write in a series are:  Charles Dickens(Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol), Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma), and John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns).
  1. A fairytale:  If you’re anything like me you are a sucker for the videos on YouTube that harold, “The True story of Peter Pan!” or “What Really happened in Alice in Wonderland?” and even, “The Untold Truth of Cinderella!”.  Yah, I’m a little addicted to these.  Maybe it’s because I feel cheered by society that they altered the story.  Maybe it’s because I genuinely want to know what happened in the story.  Maybe, if I accept the video’s version of truth, I can infer so much more about the societies which told these stories.  In any event, seeing a different take on these classic stories makes me think.  So, reading a fairy tale could be fun for you to.  Sometimes you can buy or listen to just one story but more likely they will come in a collection with other stories so you can see all of the ones Disney rejected.  However, if you think that these are going to be cute and all have happy endings like the Disney movies, do yourself a favor and don’t use them as a bedtime story as you are led to believe that they were.  Some suggestions for collections of fairy tales are: The Brothers Grimm Stories(Most copies should include Repunzel, Hansel and Gretal, Cinderella, Little Red Cap aka Little Red Riding Hood, The Sleeping Beauty or it may be revered to as Briar Rose, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Iron John etc.), The Complete Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Ugly Duckling, The Snow Queen, The Ice Maiden etc,) and also even though it is not really a classic Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling is a really quaint book and you don’t have to know anything about Harry Potter to read it.  
  1. Plays, screenplays and scripts:  Tired of watching shows?  Read one instead!  I always like to read the screenplay of different shows or movies that I have watched and come across a certain line where I couldn’t tell what the character was saying and see it laid out on the page so I can finally tell.  Moreover, sometimes it’s just nice to read something straight on without all of the prose that is in an ordinary book.  Some suggestions of plays, screenplays and scripts are: The works of William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream etc.), The screenplay of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Truman Show Screenplay.
  1. Poems:  I know, eye roll again!  You’re not a poem person, I get it.  Poems can be very small.  Just try some tiny ones.  Like vegetables, if you have a little of them every day, eventually you will like them, I promise.  Poems get stereotyped as “old fashioned” and “boring”.  I say to those haters that they just have not found a poet that they like.  There are so many great modern poets who write in words that anyone could understand.  Please give these poems some consideration: The House on Mango Street (a novel written in vignets) or anything by Shel Silverstein and/or Robert Frost and if you do like poems challenge yourself with something like the Iliad and the Odyssey, epic poems accredited to Homer.
  1. Historical Fiction:  While you are sitting at home complaining about quarantine, read a historical fiction book so that you remember how good you have it while you are “suffering” with running water and electricity.  Ooh, burn!  But not all historical fiction is dark and depressing.  Some of it has happy endings.  For example, if the protagonist is an American soldier in the Revolutionary War and survives or an enslaved individual who makes it to freedom.  Historical fiction can be a great way to reflect on the past and appreciate the present.  Some examples of historical fiction include Number the Stars, Johnny Tramain, and (eye roll, I know you will it’s okay) The Magic Treehouse Series!
  • As a side note, biographies or autobiographies about or by a certain historical figure can tell you a lot about a certain time period that you are interested in.  Examples include Anne Frank’s Diary and Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave.
  • Also, any piece of text written during the time period you were interested in can teach you about it.  So, if you like the Victorian Era, read  Harlem’s Dickens who wrote books which took place in Victorian England.  
  1. Short Stories:  Short and sweet, these stories give you a little taste of literature without commiting to an entire book.  I find that short stories are often more passionate than a full length novel because they are more condensed.  Some short stories that I deeply treasure are:  The Mongoose by Rudyard Kipling, Harrison Bugeron by Kurt Vonnegut, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
  1. Books for kids!:  Maybe you are a kid.  Maybe you know one.  Maybe you want to pretend that you are a kid.  In any event, kids books are fun to read.  I love looking through my old books just to remember old times.  Should you find yourself in any of the above three descriptions, here are a few recommendations:  It’s Mine by Leo Leionni, The Story of Zachary Zween by Mabel Watts, Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson and Charlotte Voake, The Madeline Series by Ludwig Bemelmans and anything by Rohld Dahl.
  1. Choose your own story books:  A surprisingly few people know about the wonders of choosing your own story books.  For those who do not know, a choose your own story book is exactly what it sounds like, a book where the plot pitchforks and you choose what happens next.  For example, let’s pretend that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a choose your own adventure book.  The book would go something like: Now it was Harry’s turn to get sorted into a Hogwarts house.  He comes up to the stool and Professor McGonagal places the hat on his head.  “Hm” the hat said, “You would do well in Slytherin or Gryffindor, which one would you rather have Harry?”.  Then there is a pause in the story and there are two options.  One would go something like: If you choose option A, Slytherin, then to page 72 and If you chose option B, Gruffindor, turn to page 85.  From there, you would get a different version of the story that goes back and forth and all around making each reader’s experience different.  These are really cool books that you are sure to have a good time with; Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton, My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran, To Be Or Not To Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North and Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure also by Ryan North.
  1. Mystery:  With your new skills from choosing your own adventure books, you will be able to envision dozens of ways a crime could have worked out in a mystery book!  Don’t be scared, not all mystery books are bloody and gruesome with vivid descriptions of a corpse, although as a full disclaimer many are.  In my view, mystery books are a great way to get your mind “up off the couch” while you have not moved all day.  Without even realizing it, mystery books keep your brain sharp which is something we could all use right now.  You will end up spending all of your free time trying to riddle out “who done it”, thereby working your brain’s reasoning and logical thinking muscles.  They say that you may as well use the time spent in quarantine to work on a skill.  Your friends may come out better at art, better chefs, some may have knit scarfed for everybody, but you my friend will be ready to be a full on detective.  Up to the challenge?  Try these gripping mystery books:  The Nancy Drew series by Mildred Wirt Benson and anything by the queen of mystery, Agatha Christie, such The ABC Murders, And Then There Were None, and Death on the Nile.

I know you are bored, I am too. I know you are tired of quarantine, I am too. But if these book suggestions tempt you to stay in bed and stay home to read for a little while, making quarantine just a little more bearable, then I feel that I have done some good in our ever-changing world.

– Ainsley H

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