The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden is a great choice for readers who like calm, adventurous stories. This novel is about a spoiled, rude, sour girl named Mary Lennox. Her parents don’t ever pay any attention to her as she spends her childhood being raised by servants and constantly changing tutors. When a cholera outbreak leaves many in her town dead, including her mother and father, she is sent to live with her uncle.

A private, secluded and upset old man, Archibald Craven takes Mary in. Mary no longer has everyone to do her bidding, and she must get used to not being the most important subject to every one. Although Mary tries to find out more about her mysterious uncle, his constant journeys away from the house and the timid servants keep her from discovering much.

I liked this book because not only is Mary trying to discover her real self, but there are always questions the reader wants answers to that come gradually throughout the story. As the story progresses, I enjoyed meeting different characters and seeing them develop during the story, especially Mary and one of her new friends.

The author is able to develop the plot very well so that the book is more enjoyable to read. While reading the book, I was faced with many interesting discoveries. I liked how the book doesn’t reveal too much about something until it actually happens or is discovered by the characters and doesn’t make it too hard to keep track of all the different characters, their actions, and their thoughts.

I would rate this book a 10/10.

-Peri A.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I really enjoyed reading Little Women. It is one of my favorite books and a great classic. 

This novel is about 4 sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy living in the 1860s. Meg is the oldest, Jo longs to be a successful author, Beth is quiet, shy, and kind, but loves music, and Amy, as the youngest, can be selfish sometimes and dreams of being an artist. Their mother, Marmee, takes care of them with the help of Hannah, their maid who lives with them. The father of these 4 girls is away at war.

They soon become friends with a rich boy who lives next door to them with his grandfather. Laurie is a boy who would rather not pay attention to his teacher (he learns at home) Mr. John Brooke. 

The reader is introduced to many characters throughout the book, but the author develops them all so well, dedicating time and attention to each of them and their varying personalities. 

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy face many troubles, have disagreements, worries, and are all worried about their father, Mr. March, who is away at the war. 

Things begin to go downhill after a while; several of the March family members have near-death experiences. There are many different lessons included throughout this novel, and the many experiences of the family, especially the 4 sisters, help to develop those life lessons. 

I liked how every character in the book had very different personalities, especially Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The author was able to create an amazing story with great characters. This enables the reader to be able to identify themselves with one of the characters in the story. There is also a natural feel to the story because it isn’t confusing to read or doesn’t skip a lot of things which happened to them. Every chapter is very interesting and enjoyable to read. I would definitely recommend you to read this book.

If you have already read this book and enjoyed it, Louisa May Alcott also wrote some sequels to Little Women, called Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

-Peri A.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

Little Men, the second book after Little Women, once again written by Louisa May Alcott, is truly just as warm and cherishable.

Anyone who loves Alcott’s classic Little Women will undoubtedly love Little Men just the same. Though this book regards less about the characters in Little Women, save for Jo and Mr. Bhaer, it revolves around a new generation of children, including Meg’s children and Jo’s children. As we know from Little Women, Jo went on to establish a children’s school named Plumfield, which is where nearly all of the events in this book take place, as it revolves around the pupils who live there. Plumfield serves as a school and home for young children who have no other place to go; many of which are orphaned, poor, or alone whom the Bhaer’s kindly take in. 

The story begins by following a storyline but then changes course to be a series of random days and happenings at the school, following no particular order. This change in the way of writing is quite pleasant, as Alcott captures little flashes and special moments in the school. 

Warm sunny days and cold, yet cozy winters around the fireside. Berry picking, pie-making, pillow fights and storytelling, naughty instances and sweet moral lessons.

Now, in terms of one of the most arguably beloved characters from Little Women, Jo, readers can now see what Jo is like all grown up; a school teacher, a mother, and a wife. She is older, quite motherly, and much more mature, but never lost her amusement in spending time with boys or her wild side.

 In this book, Alcott truly captures the spirit of both parenthood and childhood and the dynamics between the two. Though this book is about children and more so directed to young readers, it is a heartfelt, beautiful read for any age. Similar to Little Women, it’s characters are easily lovable yet do not lose a sense of realism and are each incredibly well-written. I highly recommend this book!

-Aisha

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Bernett

No matter what age you are, almost anyone can enjoy a whimsical and well-written children’s classic. In fact, my most recent favorite is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Bernett. 

The Secret Garden tells the story of a girl named Mary Lennox who whilst residing at her uncle’s house tries to figure out how to get into the secret garden, which has been locked up for a decade. Along the way she makes friends and leaves her mark on the dull and somber manor. 

One aspect of this story I loved was the character development. When we first start out the book Mary is an insufferable, harsh brat who knows nothing about friendship because of her circumstances in the past. But once she opens up to people and learns to see the good in things and people alike, everything changes for her and she transforms into a kind and caring child. 

The character development isn’t limited to just Mary though, her uncle’s son, Colin Craven has been thought to be dying for all of his life. But with Mary’s help, everything seems to change for the better. 

The Secret Garden is very predictable, in the way almost all children’s classics are, but I am in no way complaining. In fact, the predictability makes way for you to become more attached to the characters because of all of their arcs. 

Now if you couldn’t tell I have an infatuation with children’s classics. To me, they are such simple and impacting stories that always change your outlook on life. Frances Hodgson Bernett is my favorite children’s book author right now, seeing as she’s written both of my favorites, The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Both books which I wholeheartedly recommend. 

In short, if you’re a fellow devotee for good children’s classics like me, then you’ll love this book. 

-Asli B.

Book vs. Movie: Little Women (2019)

Though I haven’t seen any other adaptations of Little Women, from reviews I’ve read online, this movie seems to be the best of the bunch. But I highly recommend reading the book before watching it, as the plot can be confusing if you don’t. 

Little Women (2019) shifts time frames constantly, moving between the two different books. When I first put the movie on, much like almost everyone else, I was confused. Throughout the movie it was hard to tell what timeline we were following, the actresses looked the same and they were never explicitly named. 

But as the movie went on, I grew to love it. The shifting timelines were unique and something I never considered could work. The switches really helped the viewers see the parallels, and also see how the girls have matured. 

With an 800 page book made into an hour and 15-minute long movie, you obviously can’t have all the scenes. One of my favorite parts of the book was when the sisters all got gifts for meemaw on Christmas in the first chapter, but sadly that part didn’t make the cut. But some of my favorite scenes include the infamous porch dance, Meg’s ball, Laurie’s proposal, and Beth playing the piano at Laurence’s house. 

Even though I finished the book the very same day I watched the movie, I somehow felt a very strong sense of nostalgia. The movie had a really great way of not only keeping the warmth from the book but expanding on it. Throughout the movie, I ended up feeling even more connected to the book and the characters. 

Speaking of characters, let’s discuss the casting. With very reputable and well-known actresses such as Meryl Streep and Emma Watson, it was appealing form the get-go. I enjoyed all of the performances of the cast, especially Laurie and Amy. When I read the book I despised Amy, but the movie put Amy March in a much better light. It portrayed her not as a person who is bitter about what she has, but someone who knows how to get what she wants and will do whatever it takes. Well, almost everything. 

Although I may have cried at the dinner table while reading the book. After a certain scene in the movie, I was sobbing for half of it. I could feel my parents looking at me troubled but I could not keep my emotions in check. Seeing particular heart-wrenching scenes from the book played out in the movie did not help my tears in the slightest. 

The movie also added some new ideas to the famous story. The newer movie has traces of feminism such as Amy’s speech about marriage that make this classic more modernized. The more current ideals fit with the characters perfectly, as the girls were raised with very modern ideas for the time period. 

The biggest aspect that translated very well from the book was the family dynamic. The movie revolves around the sisters, and the comfortable bantering and bickering really sold it for me. You can tell that the cast was really close while filming, and the movie conveyed the exact feelings of coziness and home that came when I read the book. 

Although the 2019 Little Women adaptation is one of my favorite movies to date, the books will always be better. I encourage you if you’ve only seen the movie to read the book, as it is a classic tale full of family, love, and sisterhood. 

-Asli B. 

Little Women, in all of its adapted forms, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

To touch, to see, to hear, are all senses given to us. What is not given to us, through birth, is the power to feel. Feeling is something humans pick up on through their surroundings and their journey through life. Being 15 years old, I have not begun to feel, until I had read The Little Prince.

Teaching us the lessons of ignorance through adults and helping us understand that keeping some part of an inner child is valid to survive through life, this story by the talented Antoine de Saint-Exupery, opens with a pilot who crashes into the middle of the desert and soon meets a blonde-headed boy, with eyes filled not with tears, but of innocence.

Realizing, he is stuck and has nothing better to do, the pilot begins to ask questions about this strange young boy, until it is revealed that this boy is from a planet far from here and is the prince of that planet (hence the title). As I read further into this book, I had realized that to repel misery from looking for you for company, that you should have a heart. Though some may argue that having a heart makes one more vulnerable, it also makes one get out of bed every morning, smile, and most of all find purpose in life.

As I have stated earlier, this book does teach to keep some part of your inner child, what I mean is that children normally have fuller, more giving hearts than adults, which is why they are so much happier. All in all, to live is to be happy and to be happy you need a heart, which is why I love this book so much, because I now know how to fully live my life.

-Kimi M.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Kino, the novella’s protagonist, is a young Mexican-Indian pearl diver married to Juana; they have a baby named Coyotito. Their lives seem rather peaceful, but their tranquility is threatened when a scorpion bites Coyotito. Juana tells Kino to go to town and get the doctor, but Kino and their neighbors tell Juana that the doctor will never come to where they live, so Juana decides to take matters into her own hands and sets off with Coyotito to the doctor. Kino accompanies Juana, and many members of the village follow them to see what will happen. At the doctor’s house, the doctor’s servant tells Kino and Juana that the doctor is not at home — in truth, the doctor is home but will not help Coyotito because Kino cannot pay the doctor as much as the doctor wants, but also because the doctor is prejudiced against Kino’s race.

Kino goes to work diving in the Gulf for oysters from his canoe; Juana tends to Coyotito in the canoe by applying brown seaweed to his shoulder, which is swollen from the scorpion’s bite. As Kino is collecting oysters on the ocean bottom, he spots a larger-than-usual oyster, collects it, and returns to the canoe. Kino does not want to open the oyster immediately, but Juana prompts him to open the oyster; when he does, he finds a pearl the size of a sea gull’s egg. Juana gazes at the immense pearl; she then goes to check on Coyotito and discovers that Coyotito’s shoulder is no longer swollen. Kino is immensely happy about both the pearl and Coyotito, believing that this a type of heavenly good luck.

However, the pearl twists Kino’s mind. As a man tries to take Kino’s pearl one night, Kino fatally kills the man, resulting in him as a wanted man.

Juana, Kino, and the now healthy Coyotito, have to make a run for it. They take Kino’s canoe, cast it into the water, and quickly sail off. They arrive in a heavily wooded area, which provides shelters. But there are riders upon horses keeping a close eye on Kino and his family, trying to find him and execute him. Kino and his family find a water hole, where they stop to drink and rest.

Kino, Juana, and Coyotito then hide in the cave and wait for an opportunity to escape back down the mountain. The trackers are slow in their pursuit and finally arrive at the watering hole at dusk. They make camp nearby, and two of the trackers sleep while the third stands watch. Kino decides that he must attempt to attack them before the late moon rises. Just as Kino prepares to attack, Coyotito lets out a cry, waking the sleepers. When one of them fires his rifle in the direction of the cry, Kino makes his move, killing the trackers in a violent fury. In the aftermath, Kino slowly realizes that the rifle shot struck and killed his son in the cave.

The next day, Kino and Juana make their way back through town and the outlying brush houses. Juana carries her dead son slung over her shoulder. They walk all the way to the sea, as onlookers watch in silent fascination. At the shore, Kino pulls the pearl out of his clothing and takes one last, hard look at it. He remembers what this pearl has cost him, and the hard journey he has gone through because of it. Then, with all his might, under a setting sun, he flings the pearl back into the sea, watching it sink, sink, and sink deep below the surface, never to be seen again.

-Katherine L.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those classic books that everyone has to read. I was forced to read it in English class, which immediately meant I was a bit more reluctant to read it than a normal book and I admit, it is not the most action packed book.

But personally, I felt that while reading the book, I grew really attached to the characters, especially Scout. She is a young girl who grows up learning about the prejudice in the world around her. Through following her story, you get really attached to her and, because of the way Lee writes the book, it really makes you feel like you are right there in the story. Which, really gives you a lot of insight of what the South was like in the 1930’s.

Another thing I really like about this story is that the two main characters, Scout and Jem, are kids that act like normal kids. So, they can really grow up as the story goes on. Which really shows how life was like for them and how much influence other people can have on you.

The second half of this book is defiantly way more interesting than the first half.  So, I would really suggest finishing this book once you started it. Though I agree, that some of the beginning of the book moves slowly and can be pretty boring.

Though, the main reason everyone should read this book at one point or another is that is really just a part of our American history. It really shows how far we have come.

-Ava G.

Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive and Hoopla

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a classic novel by William Golding. It begins on an island in the middle of nowhere where a group of boys have been marooned. Nobody knows their whereabouts, and neither do they.

However, this book is not just a typical story about survival. It tells of the darkest, deepest secrets of humankind, and how those ordinary, nice boys turned into completely different people under those circumstances. Into savages.

The first two boys introduced are the main protagonists of the story: Ralph is among the oldest of the boys, handsome and confident, while Piggy, as he is derisively called, is a pudgy asthmatic boy with glasses who nevertheless possesses a keen intelligence. Ralph finds a conch shell, and when he blows it the other boys gather together. Among these boys is Jack Merridew, an aggressive boy who marches at the head of his choir. Ralph, whom the other boys choose as chief, leads Jack and another boy, Simon, on an expedition to explore the island.

There is plenty of everything on the island, including food and drink. At first, all of the boys are reluctantly to kill, as what the huge decision would mean loomed upon them. But eventually Jack is the first one to make that move, and as he keeps on doing it, he becomes more and more comfortable with it.

Jack Merridew is one of the first boys to go savage, creating himself a group of savage hunters that kill and hunt for fun. The only ones that remain goodhearted are Ralph and Piggy, who’s glasses represent knowledge and wisdom. They know that the goal is to get rescued, nothing more.

But the question is: will these group of boys survive on this island? Or will they be doomed forever?

-Katherine L.

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive.

Book vs. Movie: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gastby encompasses life in 1920’s America. Nick Carraway moves to New York to experience life in the stock market, whereupon he rents a house next door to Jay Gatsby. Throughout the summer, he becomes involved with Gatsby’s affairs, helping his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and Gatsby reunite after five years apart. On top of that, Daisy’s husband, Tom, has found his own contentment in Myrtle Wilson, one of many women he has seen since being married. As one might expect, these many secrets are not kept hidden for long, and of course, Nick gets involved.

As a novel, I understand why it may be chosen for required reading in English. There is a lot of material to work with. For me, reading it on my own, there were some parts that I felt were missing that could have been analyzed further in an English class. However, I did enjoy the book, as I felt it was an accurate portrayal of life in the 1920’s.

The movie, on the other hand, was not what I expected at all. The parties that Gatsby held at his mansion were more like parties of this century rather than anything from the 1920’s. On it’s own, the movie is extravagant and well executed. It’s present day twist is similar to Romeo+Juliet, the 1996 rendition of the romantic tragedy also starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Both films, directed by Baz Luhrmann, appeared to cater to present day audiences more than stay true to their respective literary works.

Despite the discontinuities between the novel and the movie, I enjoyed and recommend both. I just wish someone had given me a heads up about the movie.

– Leila S., 12th grade

The Great Gatsby, both the film and book versions, are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.