Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson follows a young boy named Jess Aarons who aspires to be the best and fastest runner in the whole fifth grade. One day, a new family is moving into the old Perkins home and Jess meets the young girl, around his age, who is moving in with her family to the country. Leslie Burke is a city girl. She is strange to others, they say she dresses weird and she isn’t like all the other girls. Leslie and Jess then become friends over time during school. They talk about things and enjoy each others’ company. They spend their days together hanging out and they even create their own secret and special place just for themselves. A place where they can just be themselves and have fun together called Terabithia.

Together they ruled Terabithia, letting their imaginations roam free in their kingdom. On one morning, an upsetting and horrible accident strikes for the two kids. But because of this event, Jess gains the courage and strength to move forward. It shows Jess that he could be more than he thought he could be and it gives him a new goal and reason for living.

This story was beautifully written. The characters had great chemistry with each other and worked well. All characters, including the side characters, were well written and enjoyable even if we didn’t get to interact with them as much. The ending was unexpected and abrupt which I thought brought more impact on the story; especially since the accident can easily happen just like that in real life. Warning! This book is better for more mature readers because of the topics it will go over. Overall, I enjoyed this story very much even though it was a quick read. Even in such a short story, it got me attached to the characters and impacted me hard. I really enjoyed it and would recommend to those who would be interested.

-Nicole R.

The Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Book Review: Candide by Voltaire

Comedic. Sarcastic. Dark. What is not to love about the classic novella by Voltaire? It integrates comedy with a whole lot of skepticism, and mocking of the wealthy…quite a unique take indeed! 

The story of Candide follows Candide himself, the main protagonist, who resides in his comfortable abode in Germany. The Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh owns the property which Candide resides in, along with the Barons daughter Cunégonde and the philosopher, Pangloss.

The Baron, catches him kissing his daughter and subsequently kicks Candide out of his home. Almost immediately, Candide is forced to enlist in the army, yet returns home to find that it was invaded by the enemy, and his beloved Cunégonde was killed in the aftermath. However, luckily for Candide as he travels to other parts of the Europe, he encounters people who help him navigate his life once more… 

After finding out that his precious Cunégonde is alive, Candide sets out on a series of endeavors in order to find her. He encounters people of all faiths, backgrounds, nationalities, and demeanors.

All of these help Candide oppose the idea constantly reinstated by Pangloss, the all-knowing philosopher, that “all is for the best”. However, contrary to his belief in his teacher, Candide begins to form his own perception of the world around him and towards the end of the book realizes that all is not for the best. 

The novella is extremely fast-paced. It is good for individuals who like a quick, fast read. I loved it because I was never bored, and the story was always straight to the point. Voltaire does a good job at employing sarcastic bits here and there and constantly uses Candide and Pangloss to mock the status quo present during his time.

-Haana F.

Candide by Voltaire is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

Film Review: The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin, a film adaptation of Herge’s comic series, is an underrated masterpiece. Here’s why!

To start, a brief synopsis of the movie should be given. It begins with Tintin, a young reporter who shops at an outdoor market in Brussels, Belgium. Attended by his dog, Snowy, he buys The Unicorn, a replica of an old ship. As mysterious characters attempt to obtain the model from him, Tintin discovers that it contains clues that lead to a hidden treasure, but before he can act on it, he is taken by the notorious Sakharine. 

Now with a little context, I can move on with my explanation! 

#1: Visuals! Tintin is considered a “Noir Film,” since it applies shadows and dark radiance in order to capture audiences. It allows for the atmosphere to feel mysterious, harsh, and prepared for action. 

#2: Scene transitions! It’s somewhat hard to elaborate upon, but shifts between events of a movie can be quite difficult to smoothen out, but Steven Spielberg (the director of this film) was able to capture these moments easily while remaining true to the spirit of Tintin. If you decide to watch the movie, consider this!

#3: Characters! Tintin is portrayed as an energetic, curious reporter, exactly as depicted in the comic series. However, the added element of obsession that stems from his search to uncover the “secret of the unicorn” makes him more fun to watch. 

In 2019, there was some debate on plans for a sequel, as the original idea was to have two more movies after the release of the first. However, there have been some delays, due to redrafts of the script, the recast of certain actors, and slow production. As a major Herge fan, I hope there’s a chance of a second film in sight …

Before I conclude, I’d like to recommend that you check out Herge’s original comics. They’re a terrific, sweet read, and quick to grasp! Plus, it might also assist in the film’s general enjoyment. Therefore, look for “The Secret of the Unicorn” and “The Crab with the Golden Claws,” as these had the largest impact on the motion picture. 

Side Note: Top 3 Favorite Tintin Comics 

#1: The Castafiore Emerald – it reminds me of Seinfeld; as much as its conclusion might frustrate you, the elements of suspicion, doubt, and wonder hold your attention

#2: Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon – written almost two decades prior to the Apollo 11 mission, Herge’s imagination gives significance to space exploration

#3: The Seven Crystal Balls/Prisoners of the Sun – not only is it filled with action, but it gives insight on old civilizations and customs thought forgotten

Final Result: a firm score of ★★★★★ 

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon tells the story of Eragon, a young man living in the quiet Palancar Valley, far from the eyes of the Empire. Eragon’s world is turned upside down when he finds a strange-looking rock in the dangerous Spine-which turns out to be a dragon egg. When the wicked King Galbatorix comes sends his monstrous servants called the Ra’zac to find him, Eragon must escape with his dragon, Saphira, and an old storyteller, Brom. While on their journey, Brom teaches Eragon and Saphira the ways of the Rider and how to use the ancient language to command magic. On the way, Eragon, Brom, and Saphira meet new friends and foes-and uncover new secrets.

Eragon is an incredible read that I would highly recommend. Paolini’s style of writing is extremely impressive, with his descriptions and imagery. The characters are very interesting as well, with Eragon thinking more on his feet, and Saphira being the voice of reason. The intricacy of Eragon and the different backstories, plot twists, and connections just add to the magic of Eragon.

I would recommend Eragon to anyone who enjoys long books about fantasy, magic, and mythical creatures. Eragon is part of a series, with three other books-Eldest, Brisingir, and Inheritance.

-Kelsie W.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

The newly-released sequel to Hafsah Faizal’s best-selling We Hunt the Flame is here, and it’s every bit as amazing as the first book, filled with the same spellbinding prose and darkness, as well as the characters who are dealing with the aftermath of their stay in Sharr.

We Free the Stars picks up right where We Hunt the Flame left off, with Altair captured by the Lion of the Night and the rest of the group aboard a ship, sailing their way to Sultan’s Keep, where they will be forced to confront Nasir’s father.

Zafira, after accidentally binding herself to the Jawarat in the previous book, is now dealing with the repercussions, as the Jawarat is a voice in her head that never seems to stop whispering, putting her on edge. She also continuously battles feelings of purposelessness now that she is stripped of her identity of the Hunter, with the Arz now gone and her father’s cloak long shunned.

Kifah remains as bold, hopeful, and action-oriented as ever, set on following through with their mission to return the hearts of each Sister of Old to their designated minarets across Arawiya. Nasir, on the other hand, finds that he is finally beginning to slowly melt away his hardened shell as he begins feeling and caring again, no longer the cold, lethal Prince of Death that all once feared. 

Something notable about this book is that, rather than the story being told solely through the eyes of Nasir and Zafira, Altair’s perspective is added to the mix, allowing for more angles to the story and more information about his and Arawiya’s past to be understood. 

This book is also considerably longer and more action-packed and heart-wrenching than the last; filled with much battle and loss, love and hope. 

All in all, though, this book ends this enthralling duology on a good note, but never shies away from the realistic fact that even with victory, heavy loss often still follows.

-Aisha E.

We Free The Stars by Hafsah Faizal is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi

Crispin: The Cross of Lead is a Newberry award-winning novel by Avi. The story is set in medieval England.  The main character is an unnamed peasant boy.  His mother Asta is his only relation, so he is known simply as “Asta’s son.”  Life is difficult for him, especially under the command of John Aycliffe.  Aycliffe is a steward watching over Stromford Village while Lord Furnival is away.  Aycliffe is cruel and ruthless.  He accuses Asta’s son of a theft that he did not commit.  Forced to flee for his life, Asta’s son must escape the village.  Before the boy embarks on his journey, a priest finally reveals to him his name: Crispin.

I enjoyed this book. I found it to be fast-paced and enthralling.  I especially liked a character Crispin meets in his travels, named “Bear.”  Bear is a large, portly juggler who compels Crispin to become his assistant.  I liked how Crispin’s trust and friendship with Bear grew as they were pursued by Crispin’s assailants.  Crispin trying to avoid the people who accused him of theft was very exciting.  As a fugitive, he must keep moving to new places, which gave the book an adventurous and exhilarating feel.

I have also read the sequel to Crispin, and I look forward to reading the third book in the series.  The Newberry award seems well-deserved. The characters are well-developed and the story is quite gripping. Crispin is a fugitive throughout the book and his life is in constant danger.  I was excited to learn about Crispin’s true identity. I would definitely recommend this book.

-Oliver H.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

This book was one of the first books that made reading more interesting for me, as it started off with some background information about how nine children, referred to as Garde, were tasked with saving Earth after their home planet, Lorien, was destroyed from the evil Mogadorians, from the planet Mogadore, that are planning to take over Earth, with mentors known as Cepan tasked with helping the Garde realize their abilities. Each of the nine were separated, however the Mogadorians have already killed three of the Garde. The story takes place in the narrative of Four, who takes on many aliases before the story but settles with the identity of John Smith, and his Cepan Brandon takes on the name Henri.

When I go back and read this book, I love how they always make it clear that John feels like an outcast compared to the rest of the high school kids in Paradise, Ohio, the city and state that he and Henri settle in, as he feels alone in this new school and doubts who he can trust to stay alive. Along with the emphasis of Four being a new student, he also deals with common high school issues that people deal with today, such as a high school bully in Mark James, a crush in Sarah Hart, and a best friend in Sam Goode. Although Four is meant to be a defender of Earth, the author does a very good job in humanizing Four and his struggles to balance his duty of survival and his personal life, relating to many teens in high school today who have to balance school, sports, and personal life.

Also, throughout the story, I found it interesting how John and Henri clash in their different viewpoints of the path moving forward. Although Henri feels endangered after his life was nearly taken while looking for answers on the Mogadorians, John wants to stay in Paradise, as he feels a strong connection and love for Sarah and a closer friendship with Sam, as Sam has little connection with his family. Since Sam finally has a friend in John and treats him like family, it is understandable why John does not to leave and argues with Henri. I found this similar to how kids often have to move schools due to their parents getting new jobs and moving houses and possibly even states, and have to leave friends behind. The tension between John and Henri over this decision is clear, but in the end, Henri supported John’s decision and fought to protect John like a father, even sacrificing his life to save John.

Overall, this book is a good read and worth taking a look into, as everything comes full circle in the story. I believe that high school students in particular would really enjoy this novel, as it highlights struggles to fit into a new school and make new friends, something that really shapes a high school experience. However, what always pushed me into reading this novel over and over again was how John perfectly fit into normal high school life and struggles, despite his difference in origin and powers. This kickstarted my interest in the Lorien Legacies and helped me find more interest in exploring all the possibilities in new books, which I believe will do the same for anyone that reads this book in the future.

-Lawrence B.

I Am Number Four by Patticus Lore is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, 1):  Stewart, Trenton Lee, Ellis, Carson: 9780316003957: Amazon.com: Books

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a classic mystery and adventure book, that I would highly recommend for you to read! The style of this book is similar to Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate events, and comes in a series for you to read! The book’s main characters are four young kids named Reynie, Constance, Sticky, and Kate. The book features only Reynie’s thoughts and insights, which is one downfall of the book. Personally, I would have enjoyed reading the book from all the character’s points of view.

Reynie is an orphan who has always felt out of place at his orphanage. Reynie decides to take a test from a mysterious sign he saw in his town, where he meets the other three kids who also happen to be orphans that passed the test. Shortly after, they meet Mr. Benedict, a strange old man who invites all four kids to help him with a secret mission. If you want to hear more about this thrilling story, you’ll have to pick up your very own copy of The Mysterious Benedict Society!

-Anusha M.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers is the story of a beloved nanny and the magical adventures that seem to follow wherever she goes.  Travers wrote several books about Mary Poppins.  In the first book, we are introduced to the Banks family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Banks and their four children: Jane, Michael, John and Barbara.  John and Barbara are the baby twins.  After their nanny quits, Mary Poppins appears seemingly out of nowhere to become the new nanny.  Poppins turns out to be much different than any other nanny they had known before.

The children realize right away that whenever Mary Poppins is around, amazing things happen.  I enjoyed reading about their unusual experiences.  One of my favorite characters is Admiral Boom.  He yells out random nautical phrases like “Land ho!” and “Heave away there!”  I also enjoyed a chapter called “Laughing Gas,” in which Mr. Wigg (also known as Uncle Albert) fills with laughing gas and elevates in the air when he loses control of his laughter.  For some reason, Mr. Wigg finds it especially difficult to control his laughter on Fridays, and when his birthday falls on a Friday he floats like a balloon.

This book is filled with many other quirky and amusing episodes.  However, one thing that surprised me was the personality of Mary Poppins herself.  She apparently has a vanity problem, because she always seems to admire herself when she sees her reflection.  I was also taken aback by the manner in which Mary Poppins treats the children.

For example, we read: “’Ask him.  He knows—Mr. Know-All!’ said Mary Poppins, nodding her head scornfully at Michael.”

As another example, we read: “’Oh, really?  I thought it was the other way round,’ said Mary Poppins with a scornful laugh.”

Yet another example of her attitude toward the children: “Mary Poppins turned and regarded him with something like disgust.”

There are many other examples of this kind of behavior by Mary Poppins.  She is not always mean-spirited toward the children, and she seems to have their best interests at heart.  I was just surprised to read about her snapping at the children from time to time.  Still, by the end of the book, the children seem to love her (for some reason).

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book.  There were many humorous and delightful elements to the story.  The book is also full of surprises, especially when it comes to the occasional rude or even scornful remark by Mary Poppins.  If you have seen the 1964 Disney movie, then you will be surprised by the differences.  I would say that the Mary Poppins character is much more gentle-hearted in the movie than in the book.  In spite of that, I would recommend this book, as well as its sequels.

-Oliver H.

Marry Poppins by P. L. Travers is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers

Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers is the sequel to Mary Poppins.  The story picks up just a few months from when the original book left off.  The Banks’ house is in complete disarray.  Mary Poppins had deserted the family without notice.  They had hired other nurses to take Poppins’ place, but none of them lasted long.  One nurse, for instance, had been spat at by young Michael Banks and quit immediately.  Michael fought with his sister Jane, little twins John and Barbara quarreled, the kitchen flue caught fire, the cherry trees were devastated by frost, and so on.  Mrs. Banks does not know what to do.  In despair, she sends the four children to the park so she can have some peace at home.  Jane and Michael decide to fly a kite to entertain John and Barbara.  As they pull the kite back in, to their astonishment, they see Mary Poppins herself holding the string and gliding down with the kite.

Within moments, Mary Poppins is already ordering the children around.  Much like the original book, Poppins assumes a stern and haughty attitude.  However, the children enjoy many new adventures in this sequel.  I enjoyed reading about their magical ability to fly above the park holding just one balloon each.  I also liked reading about the day they met an interesting man named Mr. Turvy.  The day happened to be the second Monday of the month.  Every second Monday, mysterious things happen to Mr. Turvy.  He flips upside-down, he finds himself outside when he wants to be inside, and he even feels sad though he normally feels happy.  This quirky episode is strange but I found it to be quite amusing.

Mary Poppins is as scornful as ever in this book.  She displays a short temper and even intimidates the children.  On one occasion, for example, we read: “Mary Poppins, in her fury, seemed to have grown to twice her usual size.  She hovered over him in her nightgown, huge and angry, waiting for him to reply.”  Poppins also proves to be quite vain.  For example, as she passed by a glass window, “Mary Poppins gave a little conceited nod to her reflection and hurried on.”  She also seems to be dishonest with the children.  After almost every adventure, Poppins denies that she had anything to do with it or that it even happened at all.

I began to wonder if all the tumult in the Banks’ household was caused by Mary Poppins herself, so that the family would appreciate her more when their situation magically improved.  Whether or not my conspiracy theory is correct, everyone still seems to love Mary Poppins by the end of the story.  Despite her periodic rude comments to the children, they seem to enjoy her company as much as ever.  The main reason for this may be that many exciting and delightful adventures seem to follow Mary Poppins wherever she goes.  These adventures make the book charming to read, if you can look past Mary Poppins’ less-than-perfect attitude and behavior toward the children.

-Oliver H.

Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.