The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 51C8Tg0TCaL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

The first time I read The Book Thief was when the book was given to me by a family friend years ago. The second time was for school, to analyze it in English class. The third, and so far last time, was a few weeks ago. Every time I have read it, it has always been very enjoyable.

The novel takes place in Germany during the Second World War, a time of great tragedies and massive casualties for both soldiers on the battlefield and civilians at home. That tone is accentuated by the choice of the author Markus Zusak to have the narrator be the personification of Death himself. Death is not merely cold and unforgiving as society often perceives him. His character is far more solemn and sympathetic to the struggles of the characters.

And who are the characters? Well first there is the main one: Liesel Meminger, a young girl who is adopted by foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. There is also Max Vandenburg, a Jew who hides in the Hubermann household, and several other more minor but no less interesting characters. 

Zusak does an excellent job of developing these characters and making the reader develop an emotional connection with them. Even Rosa Hubermann, who often seems rough and abrasive at the beginning, grows on the reader as the book goes on. That emotional connection makes all of the struggles and tragedies that afflict the characters throughout the book all the more heartbreaking.

Along with the theme of mortality and struggle is the theme of reading. Throughout these hard times, Liesel often finds an escape by reading several books. Liesel uses reading to connect with the ailing Max Vandenburg. The Nazis, being the antagonists of the book, often burn books that question their regime. The theme of reading contrasts sharply with the theme of mortality. Reading offers hope to the main characters while they deal with the trials and tribulations they are faced with.

And how relevant is that theme? The past year has been a struggle for all of us, and we often found reading as an escape from the problems we dealt with. During the beginning of the pandemic, when it felt like society was shutting down, we used reading to give us a glimmer of hope and as an escape from the stress of world events, just as how Liesel uses reading in the book.

Thus, The Book Thief, a book written a decade and a half ago remains relevant to the struggles we face today, and remains one of my favorite books of all time.

-Adam A.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Staying Focused During Summer

Making sure to stay focused and on task is hard during the school year, but it can be especially hard over the summer. With little to no daily structure to keep us in check, we often fall into the pattern of waking up late, doing little with our days, going to bed late, and repeat. I find myself falling into this routine every summer, then finding it hard to bounce back when the school year starts again. So I’m setting goals for myself this summer and I urge you to do the same. 

One of the big things that I think helps is to make sure that the routine we keep during the school year stays around the same during the summer. Sure, waking up at 4:45 A.M. is unreasonable to ask of anyone, but maybe being awake by 8:30 A.M. is more manageable. By getting up at the same time every day, we are training our bodies to make sure that we have a schedule for the day. The same goes for going to bed. Try to go to bed at 11 P.M. rather than 1:30 A.M. With a solid schedule in place, you might find yourself with more free time than you thought. This then creates not only more time to do any summer school or reading that needs to be done, but also more time for hanging out with friends. 

Also making sure our brains stay engaged is important. Making sure that we are doing little things to stay on top of our learning, such as finding a book or topic that interests us and learning more about it, can help us as we go into the next school year. I have found in years past, and this year with summer starting out, that I am able to ease back into the school year much better with a routine and something to keep my brain focused during this break. So in between sleeping in more than usual and hanging out with friends, make sure to take the time to create your own routine and keep engaged. 

-Danielle B.

Nathan Pesta Biography

Nathan Pesta, going by the name of Npesta on Youtube and Twitch, is a famous content creator with a large following. Like many other content creators on these platforms, not many people know about his personal life. Pesta was born on August 1st, 2002 in Pennsylvania, where he would continue to live even today. His followers know him for streaming on Twitch and uploading stream highlights to YouTube, but the large majority of the internet knows him for having a very loud and funny reaction to beating a level in the game Geometry Dash. Ever since this reaction became a meme and was featured in a Pewdiepie video (a very famous Swedish Youtuber), Pesta’s Youtube and Twitch channels have been growing exponentially, with his Youtube having 160 thousand subscribers and his Twitch having 53 thousand followers. Along with Geometry Dash, he also loves to stream other games such as Super Mario Maker, Osu! Mania, Minecraft, and others. Pesta has also hired an editor who goes by the name Doggie on Youtube and Twitch. Unlike Pesta, Doggie only streams and uploads content related to Geometry Dash. Pesta hiring Doggie as an editor has contributed to his massive growth, as Doggie’s edits are really good at amplifying Pesta’s funny and vibrant personality. Today, because of the Covid-19 virus, Pesta has taken leave from college (due to online classes being expensive and therefore not worth it). This has allowed more time for Pesta to stream and make content, as he does not have to worry about school work.

-Jeremy L.

Authors We Love: Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones was a British novelist and children’s fantasy writer born in London on August 16, 1934 as the eldest of three sisters. In her early childhood, she was evacuated to Wales as a result of the bombings taking place during the Second World War. Throughout the war the family moved frequently before settling in 1943, but the result was a very complicated relationship between her and her parents, as she was largely left to care for her younger sisters. However, this only fueled Jones’s passion for reading despite struggling with dyslexia, and later transformed into a passion for writing as she wrote many short stories for her younger sisters.

She went on to study English at St. Anne’s College in Oxford, attending lectures by two very prominent authors, C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. By the time she graduated from college, she married John Burrow and had three sons with him. She read to her children as many mothers do, but this also inspired her to create Children’s books of her own. Jones submitted her works to several publishers but they were ultimately rejected until she published the Changeover, one of her few adult novels.

Overtime, her most popular works included the Chrestomanci series, the Dalemark series, and especially Howl’s Moving Castle from the Moving Castle Series. Howl’s Moving Castle soon inspired the creation of the 2004 film Howl’s Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli and Japanese director Miyazaki Hayao. She would later go on to write dozens of many more works for both children and adults, along with winning multiple writing awards such as the British Fantasy Award, the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the Mythopoetic Award.

-Elia T.

The works of Diane Wynne Jones are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

What Should Schools Teach?

Education is considered a basic human right in today’s standards. Nearly everybody in today’s America has received at least a high school level education. However, a lot of the stuff people learn in high school ends up not helping them in life. Although it may not seem obvious at first, so much time sitting in class is wasted. 

To start off, so many pieces of information that we learn during our school days are never used. According to studies from Oxford University, the best way for the brain to store information and remember things is through repetition. Specifically, studying a certain thing for 10-15 minutes per day. The thing is, once that certain chapter test or quiz is over, there is no need to keep studying that subject, so we forget it. There is not a single job in the world that requires you to know how to graph logarithmic equations except for two: mathmetician and algebra teacher. So if these two occupations are the only ones that require to learn this skill, then why do schools bother teaching it anyway? Especially considering that students will forget these skills within the next couple of months really questions the importance of learning these in the first place.

So if schools should not teach these subjects, then what should they teach? Well schools do actually do some things right. When schools offer classes like computer science or band, it opens learning opportunities for kids that will actually be useful to them later in life, as there are actual careers based off these classes. However, as these classes may be useful, there are so many other classes that should be offered. One of which is personal management, specifically talking about finance. The way society sees it is that if you have money, you are considered successful. However, so many people waste their potential and hard work through poor financial management and decision making. Another class that schools should offer are social skills. Although schools already do offer some courses similar to this, they usually are optional and do not last longer than a semester. Some scientists on forbes.com have posted that “we share mirror neurons that allow us to match each other’s emotions unconsciously and immediately”. The problem is that so many people today have terrible social skills, either saying the wrong things at the wrong time or just straight up not talking at all. 

Everybody knows that education is one of the most important things in life. However, the important thing is that people need to receive the right education and skillsets.

-Jeremy L.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Dannie Kohan knows where she will be in five years. Or at least she thinks she does. Her path seems clear, realistic, achievable. In fact, she basically has her life planned out by the year, and so far her plans have worked.

However, the night of December 15, 2020, Dannie has a vision of the future exactly five years from the present–something more solid than a dream, and something so vivid that her logical, corporate lawyer-oriented brain cannot pass it off as a mere fragment of imagination. What frightens her is that the future she sees is farther from her planned version of the future than the earth is from the sun.

The rest of the book takes place primarily in 2025–during the months leading up to the vision of the future that Dannie saw on December 15, 2020.

What I particularly liked about this book was the setting. Dannie lives in New York, a little star in a thriving, pulsing sky of skyscrapers and fashion and business. The fashion, the food, the language, and the references were all relatable to today’s young generation.

I also loved Rebecca Serle’s voice. The book is full of beautiful, flowing words interluded with sharp, short sentences brimming with emotion. Her descriptions–of food, characters, emotions–are incredibly detailed and vivid, and I think they add so much richness to the book.

Lastly, the characters. From determined, rational, detail-oriented Dannie to joking-but-serious and caring David (Dannie’s boyfriend) to spontaneous, beautiful, loving, and imaginative Bella (Dannie’s best friend), the characters of In Five Years are all so endearing in their own ways. I loved how realistic they seemed–from their aspirations to their worries, their strengths to their flaws, their language to their quirks.

If you enjoy books that you just can’t stop reading until you’ve finished them, I would highly recommend this book. It’s fascinating to see all the pieces of Dannie’s vision enter her real life, to turn page after page wondering what will happen–wondering if Dannie’s vision will really come true.

I would recommend this book for older teens and adults, as it is a romance with characters in their early thirties. In addition, there are some intense parts when Dannie faces loss and heartbreak.

I think In Five Years is a beautiful, sad, inspiring book that will leave readers with a multitude of emotions and thoughts about how they live their lives. The story might also make readers think twice if anyone were to ask them where they see themselves in five years.

– Mia T.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

AP Studying??

AP test month can be one of the most stressful periods in your entire high school career. Unlike regular tests AP exams demand a year’s worth of information from you. The best way to handle the overwhelming stress is to be prepared for what is coming. I have taken many AP courses and have found some of the more efficient ways of studying along with the methods that are not beneficial. 

Perhaps the most important variable to consider when studying is making a clear cut schedule for studying that aligns up with your AP test day. For example, for history or science based tests designating a certain time block to study each unit a day is very helpful. Personally, about a month out from my AP world exam I started studying half a unit every single day. This way revisiting information is not overwhelming when test time comes. 

Now that you have a set time for studying it is very important how you spend that time you have created for yourself. I have personally found that simply rereading a textbook and labeling that time spent as studying is not efficient when trying to remember information from an entire year. If you are someone who enjoys using notes to study rather than just rereading them add an extra layer. First look at the topic for the section and try to recall all the information you can about that topic. Next read the page/pages of notes. Lastly, and most importantly, outloud recall all of the information that you just reread without looking at your notes. Doing so stimulates your brain to try and read the information rather than simply forgetting the info minutes later.

When studying for history and science based tests there is so much information that no one can remember every single detail. So, when reviewing try to focus more on patterns that you recognize or different relationships. It is important to remember the college board does not just test you on verbatim facts that you have learned. The test evaluates you on different thinking processes so you have to be able to understand different relationships between time periods or scientific concepts. 

Now for the English based tests such as AP Lang one of the best tips I got was to focus on the News. At first I did not understand how this would be helpful. But, for some AP tests you must write papers where evidence comes straight from your brain, no documents. On these occasions you have to think of different important events in history to make your argument. Therefore, listening and keeping up with the news a month before testing seasons can provide you with great relevant evidence to incorporate into your essays. 

For some people, the hardest part of preparing for such a demanding test is getting the motivation to actually sit down and review. For these people, I recommend getting a study partner. As cheesy as that sounds it can be beneficial for those lacking motivation. Having someone that is supposed to study with you every day holds both your partner and yourself accountable to actually reviewing. Your partner does not need to be studying for the same AP, but having someone who is also preparing can force you to sit down and just begin. If you have a close friend you can study over facetime or at the library(considering after COVID). Other ways are finding study discords servers or zoom servers that are offered online where you can study with other people with the same goals as yourself. 

-Lily G.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World: Aldous Huxley: 9780060850524: Amazon.com: Books

One of the most prominent dystopian novels of all time, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World explores a horrifyingly relevant potential society in which all individuals are in a perpetual state of bliss and “innocence,” and are unaware of pain or unhappiness. However, like all seemingly utopian worlds, there is a dark side.

In the World State, people are no longer born – they are “decanted” and treated according to their predetermined place in the extremely rigid caste system, from the intelligent Alpha Pluses to the Epsilon Semi Morons who have their development stunted.

Rather than contemplate the morality of this, the citizens are brainwashed to not care through sleep hypnosis techniques, which convince each class that they are best suited for said caste, and that they should not challenge it, completely eliminating free will from a young age.

Additionally, to keep the citizens complacent with the control of the World State, they are encouraged to participate in activities that bring pleasure, while at the same time discouraged from getting pregnant or becoming parents (a slur in the World State). The people continue to be submissive through an excessive consumption of soma, a drug that induces feelings of happiness and bliss.

When Alpha Plus Bernard Marx and his date, Beta Plus Lenina Crowne, travel to a Native American reservation and meet John, a “savage” with connections to the World State, their lives are changed forever. John’s inability to reconcile his idealistic notions of love and life, obtained from old copies of Shakespearean works, and the reality of the World State causes conflict between himself and Lenina, who he loves.

All in all, Brave New World is a fascinating read, not only for those who enjoy dystopian fiction, but also as a warning for an overly mechanized future, in which individuals are not treated as such, and are instead manipulated into becoming perfect cogs in a reproductive machine.

-Mahak M.

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career by Kevin Rafferty

As an aspiring Imagineer myself, Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career was an amazing book. Kevin Rafferty, a legendary Imagineer tells the story of his life, and what led up to him working for the famous Walt Disney company.

Having to have worked from the very bottom to one of the most respected Disney Imagineers is something that is very difficult to do. Mr. Rafferty talks about his challenges and what brought him to where he is today, now working with other legends that worked with Walt Disney himself. He explains numerous projects that are now at the park, including Car’s Land, Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, and the new ride coming to Disneyland soon, Mickey’s Runaway Railway! As I prepare to work towards the goal of becoming an Imagineer, Kevin’s book was very informative, filled with funny anecdotes at the Walt Disney Company, and so much more! If you are a Disney fan, I would 100% recommend this book.

It was especially interesting because I had the chance to hear Mr. Rafferty speak at 2019’s D23 Convention which is a Disney convention where avid Disney fans get together and listen and meet the biggest Disney stars. This book is filled with life lessons, advice and a sense of magic, provided by one that is behind the fantasy of what happens at the Disney parks around the world.

– Amandine K.

Creative Writing: Forest Kitten

This is a little creative writing piece exploring imagery and setting. I hope you enjoy!


A snowy white kitten slinks through the grass that sparkles with pearls of dew in the soft dawn light. Droplets of water slide from the gently bent grasses onto the cat’s fur and sit like tiny gemstones on its pallid coat. Thin sprigs of thyme and sage brush rustle lightly at the disturbance of the soft, padded paws. 

As the cat swiftly shoots beneath an overhanging heliotrope bush, the cluster of little purple flowers dips and showers his pale pink nose with dew. Green eyes determined, the cat continues his flight through the underbrush, shaking off the glimmering droplets that shine like lost diamonds on the forest earth behind him. The woody scents of damp bark and soil lose prominence as the cat reaches a thin creek whose crystalline body streams like liquid glass over stones smoothed and mossy due to years, perhaps eons, of running water. 

After leaping from the soft muddy bank onto a weathered stone protruding from the center of the stream, the cat pauses to lick his left paw before jumping delicately to the other side. The only thing to indicate his crossing of the river are small prints on the surface of the river stones where his padded paws lifted the frost that curls over the gray and dusty pink surfaces. 

When he reaches a wall of dense ivy, the cat slows and dips his head beneath the dark leaves. The vines of ivy sway and rustle for several moments as the cat crawls towards the meadow beyond. Then the vines are still, and the only bits of white left visible in the forest are the reflections of dewdrops on leaves and some star lilies dusted with frost.

– Mia T.