My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

My Brother Sam Is Dead by Christopher CollierJames Lincoln Collier |  Scholastic
This is the cover of the book My Brother Sam is Dead

My Brother Sam is Dead is a historical fiction novel that takes place from 1775 to 1779. This book is all about the Revolutionary War and how it impacted the daily lives of those living in the Colonies. The story revolves around a young boy named Tim Meeker, and his brother Sam. Sam believes in the Patriots and longs for freedom from England, while Tim, being the ripe age of 12, is not quite so sure.

As the story progresses, It becomes painstakingly clear how difficult war makes life for the innocent. With the growing gap between Tim’s father and brother and Tim’s growing curiosity, this gorgeous tale evolves into something deeper than just a book. As the economy falls and hardship after hardship is forced upon the Meeker family, Collier and Collier make it apparent as to how they feel about war.

This story touched me deeply. After I finished, my whole perspective on the war changed, which is what I think the authors wanted. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a short but deep read. It is truly astonishing how much a book can impact us.

– Apoorvi S:)

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

How to Remedy Reading Slumps

I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but sometimes I just don’t want to read. I absolutely love reading, but sometimes I just can’t bring myself to sit down with a good book. Most of the time I can’t focus on a book because something else is drawing my focus away. When this is the case, I have a dry spell of not reading, and by the time I actually have the time to read, I have forgotten the previous chapter and can’t get back into the book.

Now I’ve been through my fair share of what I call “reading slumps” and there are a few things that I like to do to get back into my reading groove.

The first thing I like to do is set a time that I’m going to start reading and commit to it. Usually, this means the upcoming weekend, very late at night. I find that when I read late at night, it reduces the number of distractions I have. My family is usually off watching TV or asleep, and the notifications on my phone are a minimum.

The second thing I do is pick the right book. I may be right in the middle of a great book, and in that case, I’d continue reading it, but sometimes I’m in a lull in between books. So, to help get me back into reading, I would reread an easier book. I would pick books that I already know that I’ll love and could fly through and enjoy them. Some quick recommendations would be Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan if you wanted some Greek mythology/fantasy. For a simple and charming young adult romance, a fantastic series is The Selection by Kiera Cass. And for a more contemporary book, any Nicola Yoon book is amazing!

Finally, the last thing I do is make sure that I have a comfortable spot to read. Whether you enjoy reading at a desk or in your bed, make sure that you are comfortable! This is because the less you are worried about external factors, the more you can focus on your book. Oh, and a bonus would be to sneak in a couple of snacks to munch on throughout your read.

I hope some of these tips help you come out of whatever reading slump may occur. Happy reading!

-Katherine L.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel/comic that was adapted into a movie. The novel is an autobiography with true events that happened in the late 1900’s. The black and white panels of the novel can effortlessly grab the attention of any reader and make it entertaining.

Persepolis follows a young girl named Marjane who lives through the revolutionary changes in her home country of Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The most interesting part is that the ongoing crisis and corruption is viewed from a child’s perspective despite how complex it is. In a way, the reader grows and learns more about the government and cultural contexts along with the maturing Marjane.

Satrapi does not fail in grasping the reader’s attention and making them feel the rollercoaster of emotions along with the main characters. The series visits very critical and mature topics during the late 1900s that the Iranians/Marjane face. Thus, more mature readers should be able to handle these topics. 

Satrapi’s series is emotional and very moving. The oppression and government conflicts can be seen as a parallel to our world today. Just like Marjane who speaks up against the corruption of her government to maintain her rights, many of us participate in rallies or protests to uphold our values. 

Similar to Marjane who is facing a revolutionary change in her nation, many of us are currently facing a new change in our nation as well. Before Marjane knew it herself, her world changed for the better! Thus, just like Marjane, we must find the will to stay strong, inspire others, and survive. 

Ultimately, Marjane’s spirit and growing perspective of the world around her is inspiring. This series is not only a best-seller but also studied in academic literature courses all over the world as a work in translation. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is struggling to pick up a book during quarantine or in their free time (ahem, I know that’s some of us). It also opens up your ideas of Iranian culture and Islamic politics during the 1900s. 

I also recommend it for anyone who wants to try a new format of reading: comic-style. The panels are very easy to read and the black and white colors are used in such a captivating way. In fact, I read this entire novel in one sitting. I definitely hope others feel the same way as well. 

-Zohal N. 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Authors We Love: Ruta Sepetys

Ruts Sepetys is one of the most well known young adult historical fiction authors ever! With historical fiction being my favorite genre, I consider myself proud to say that Ruta Sepetys is my favorite author of all time. I have read all of the books she has written and I consider every single one of them to be some of my favorite books. 

Unlike many historical fiction authors, she doesn’t exclusively write about one event in history. With a setting like New Orleans, Barcelona, and Siberia, Sepetys takes us into a plethora of historical events, with different time periods, people, and settings. 

One specific thing I love about historical fiction is you learn something along the way, and all of Ruta Sepetys writes about overlooked events in history. These aren’t things you learn from your history textbook, they’re much more than that. Her books take you on a journey through events like the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that took 10 times the lives the Titanic did, and is the biggest maritime disaster of all time. But for some unknown reason, nobody talks about it, except for Sepetys.

Not only does she shed these huge historical events to light, but she does also these events justice. Although what she writes is fiction, the historical events they’re based on are all too real. Sepetys does an amazing job of research. In her most recent novel, The Fountains of Silence, the back of the book offered more details about her writing and research process, as well as pages of her notes. Sepetys do years and years of research for just one novel, and by reading the books you can tell how much effort was put into them. 

As for her World War Il novels, she has interviewed countless figures, both strangers and family, that were involved in those events, and based some of her books off of real events her family has gone through. 

Another part that I really love about her books is her writing style. With short and quick chapters, the writing allows you to be constantly engaged. The constant point of view switches keep you on your toes and makes every single one of her books a page-turner.

Between Shades of Gray (2011): Not your everyday World War 2 novel, Between Shades of Gray shows the dark side of Polish deportation and labor camps. With a knowledgeable protagonist and a family trying not to fall apart in the face of war, this brutal novel is a must-read. My Rating: 9/10

Out of the Easy (2013): Out of the Easy is a novel describing the life of the daughter of a prostitute longing to be free and live her own life outside of the bustling city of New Orleans. When a customer at her bookstore is found dead, she finally finds the escape she’s been looking for. My Rating: 7/10

Salt to the Sea (2016): The biggest maritime disaster, and the long path refugees are forced to take to flee Germany, this story tells the tale no one wishes to tell about World War 2.  In this novel, everyone has a secret to tell, and with them come guaranteed tears. My Rating: 10/10

The Fountains of Silence (2019): the Fountains of Silence tells the unknown story of how the Spanish people recovered after their own civil war. Told through the eyes of a photographer tourist from Texas, and a hotel employee who works hard for every penny she earns. This novel shows the trials and tribulations of most families during the reconstruction, but the star of this novel is truly the romance. Greatest of all, you get to learn about what’s really happening with the Spanish government behind closed doors. My Rating: 9/10

-Asli B. 

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

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

In the wake of the unrelenting movements spanning across the globe on gender equality, an achingly honest account on the female experience rises from contemporary beginnings. Leni Zumas masterfully crafts together a mosaic of triumph and misery through the lives of five women:

  • A desperate list-making biographer whose anguish feeds her fire
  • A student brighter than the sun, knee-deep in an undesirable predicament
  • An exhausted wife/mother, carrying in her hands her breaking marriage
  • An arrested mystic guided by her own lunacy
  • And finally, an unacknowledged polar explorer of the nineteenth century.

In brash, burning, and heartrending prose, Zumas teaches us the interconnectedness of one life to another and the vibrancy of hope in tumultuous times. Set in a United States where abortion is banned and IVF illegal, Red Clocks is a novel of forward thinking and revolution. It’s witty and full of relatable quips – a reflection of life’s pitfalls and mountains and written with the hand of a skilled writer.

Zumas writes inside the heads of her characters – each sentence a gunshot ringing clear in the minds of the protagonists. Each woman wielding her own flaws, dreams, and faulty beauty, the reader gains a true and sometimes alarming insight into their lives. The novel is incandescent with the fire of the strange, sparking with the light of life.

Ultimately, through pain and reward, the women of Red Clocks learn their own lessons in the novel’s revelation. While its mature themes are not for everyone, there are countless aspects to love in Zumas’ political, hilarious, and gorgeous testimony to the horrors and beauty of a woman’s life.

-Esther H.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Jesse Aarons lives in a big family with four sisters and being the only boy pulls him down sometimes. But he never would have imagined that there would be a girl named Leslie Burke beating him in a foot race, becoming his class’ fastest runner. His confession of this fact led to the starting point of their relationships as chums.

As friends, Leslie and Jesse create an imaginary place to hide from the troubles of the world. There is a narrow rivulet in between the two worlds, sometimes when it’s raining the water roared and raved its intensity with the thunder and the rainwater never really got mollified. During sunny days, the singing water just lets it’s tender skirt trickle along the moist shore, showing happiness and relaxation with the caressing of the soothing sunlight. A decrepit rope connected the two of them as they created an imaginary bridge to the Kingdom Of Terabithia.

There were fewer things in the modern society compared to this magical kingdom. Ogres, fairies, and trees that can extend its flexible branches and help people are components that fall under this natural shield. The first thing after school isn’t homework anymore, but to implement their duty as queen and king to patrol in their own kingdom with the guard dog Prince, Jess and Leslie were inseparable.

It wasn’t until when Jess’s dream came true that he went to this art museum with his music teacher Ms. Edmunds, unaware that tragedy strikes while he is away. A miracle could happen, only so that Jess could be salvaged immediately from the interminable guilt.

-April L.

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

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Pretty much all his life, Call’s dad has warned him away from magic. Every child who has the slightest chance of being able to practice magic is summoned to the Iron Trial when they’re twelve, but often under different guises—like auditions for dancing, etc.—so most people who don’t have a background in magic don’t know that magic is real. Call has to go, otherwise (and this is implied) the mages will force him to go through the trial anyways.

During the trial to enter the Magisterium, a magic school, Call is supposed to mess up—and he does—sometimes without even meaning to—but the results are unexpected. Instead of failing (which he technically did), Call is chosen to train under the most prestigious mage at the Magisterium. Taken away from his dad, Call learns about things his father never wanted him to know, making friends along the way and learning dangerous secrets about himself.

The Magisterium series is a fantasy written in a collaboration between Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. I really like both authors, so I was stoked when I found out they wrote a book together, and I wasn’t disappointed. Each character has their own personality, interesting backstory, and the plot is intriguing. There is great world building, and the history narrated by some of the characters also reflects their respective personalities in how they deal with the knowledge of their pasts. There are parallels to Harry Potter, but I didn’t think it took away from the book—it was enjoyable as its own read.

-Aliya A.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Image result for the grapes of wrathThis is a story about Tom Joad and his family immigrating to California. Their homeland in Oklahoma is being cultivated by tractors from the bank and the police officers beat them to hell more often than breathing.

In this miserable and harsh trip, their grandparents died, and Tom’s sister’s husband ran away. His brother wasn’t able to move with them so he stopped at a desert in the middle of the trip. The government camp provided hot water and the protection away from the deputies. But other times, people are treated akin to pigs, but without the slosh their owner pour in the mange every day. The people craved for slosh but found none.

To me it’s really inscrutable why people separate from their family, it’s like the fear will devour you into the black hole in the galaxy and the entire world fades away from your fingertips. And the bank in this novel sounds brutal to me, just because they want to expand some business land, the people and tenants living there are forced to leave their beating hearts on the land and left with their inane corpse. Ma is the person that resonated with my emotions and logic because she was like the leaves of the family tree. Sometimes, when autumn comes she turns yellow and shrivels a little, but her greenness brushes the entire forest with freshness and was the food and shelter to a lot of people when spring emerges. Without the oxygen, we won’t survive. The animals and the oxygen is the buttress of the inveterate root to keep stretching. And that’s Ma.

-April L.

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Last Time I Died By Joe Nelms

Image result for the last time i diedChristian Franco and Ella Franco are brothers and sisters, but the incident of their father murdering their mother and abusing her violently before destroyed the bond between them.

It wasn’t until Christian met his wife that he first relished the reminiscent taste of love. But as time slipped bypass his crude fingers that he realized the love he gripped it too tight that his wife was escaping because it choked her from it. He was once again abandoned by his family.

Struggling to cope, he depletes himself by testing experimental medicine from a former physician that now treats dogs bred to fight. This is a tragedy of one person’s life, but he was able to collect the pieces of his mom’s death and eventually muster them together as a complete puzzle. His life then lingered between comedy and tragedy.

-April L.

The Last Time I Died by Joe Nelms is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Creative Writing: Adventures in Ilvermorny Part 2

This is part two of a short story about some kids that attend llvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (US version of Hogwarts). These characters are entirely made up by me, and my descriptions of Ilvermorny are no doubt very different from what J.K. Rowling’s are. Enjoy!

Cyrus shook her hand, “Well then Jane….?

“-Ingram, Jane Ingram”, Jane affirmed.

“Jane Ingram, are you a first year too?”, Cyrus questioned, “Because I’m stressed beyond belief.”

Jane nodded. “Yea, but I bet you have more of an idea of what’s about to happen. My mom’s a Muggle-born and so she thought it would be best if I was raised without magic until Ilvermorny, like her. Supposedly it will make me appreciate magic more, but I just feel like I’m ten steps behind everyone else.”

Cyrus waved a hand. “Nah there will be plenty of Muggle-borns who just found out about magic weeks ago. That’s not even the issue, its not like Eyla and I get our wands any sooner than everyone else. What’s nerve wracking is the sorting. Eyla is set to be a Wampus, but I’m not really sure where I’d fit”. Cyrus shrugged, looking a little embarrassed to have just shared this with a stranger.

Jane smiled sympathetically, “My mom says the carvings never lie. They know you better than you know yourself.” Jane’s smile slowly turned into a quizzical expression. “Wait did you say that Eyla is a first year too? She’s as tall as many of the 7th years!”, Jane exclaimed a little too loudly.

Eyla, in hearing her name, turned to face Jane again. “Yea, and that’s what’s going to get me to be the first female admitted onto the Quidditch team as a first year”, Eyla announced proudly. “Although, I do wish Ilvermorny had basketball, the one thing I will miss from living so close to muggle cities”, she stated mostly to herself, while sighing.

A smooth woman’s voice on the crackling intercom abruptly interjected the conversation.

“Ladies and gentlemen we are now boarding flight 934 from Miami to Massachusetts, repeat, we are now boarding flight 934 from Miami to Massachusetts”