Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a short, yet classic allegorical novella of dystopian and political fiction. The book takes place on Manor Farm, a large farm where animals constantly feel oppressed by humans. Their anger towards the human race motivates them to rebel against rulership by kicking their farmer out of the farm and running the farm on their own. In Animal Farm–where all animals are supposedly equal–the lives of the animals turn upside down when pigs and dogs begin to rise in power through manipulation and propaganda. Throughout the novel, there’s a gradual progression where the pigs of Animal Farm begin to resemble humans both physically and psychologically.

Although this novel can be a fictional book for children, adults and teens are able to look past the plot and truly understand the story’s meaning. I, myself, am grateful to have read this at an older age so the themes are more prominent and prevalent to real life. Considering that George Orwell himself was a democratic socialist, the novel was a direct form of criticism towards communism, totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, and two infamous dictators–Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Orwell also includes various ways in which the ruling class ridicules and manipulates the working class. The working class is often seen giving up energy and resources for the benefit of the ruling class, yet they’re brain washed into feeling content with their lives, believing that all their hard work is contributing to the farm as a whole.

After reading the novel, I was amazed by Orwell’s writing. I’ve never read a novel which thoroughly portrays the political maneuvering of totalitarianism. The message woven into the book was strong and clear, yet also written in a disturbing manner that will stick to readers for quite a long time. Personally, I enjoy these heavy topics, so it’s interesting to see Orwell’s light twist on the topic so the novel seems more kid-friendly. I also admire the author’s creativity when writing the book. It’s rare to see a writer eloquently convey a revolution. However, it’s more unique to see an author write an ironic revolution that comes back in a full circle and leaves the characters in the same position as they started. The symbolism of personified farm animals surprisingly pushes the plot forward as well, allowing readers to understand and connect with the characters more than humans ever could.

Would I ever recommend this to a child? Definitely not. I believe that it’s important to understand the true message of the novel, regardless of how dark the message may be. Even though many of us don’t live under a totalitarian regime or a communist society, it’s important to understand how we as individuals play a role in our current society and political system. Are we idly standing by, waiting upon others for a better future? Or are we making our own decisions for the future we want to achieve?

– Natisha P.

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids is exactly its title.  I, however, found that I had a difficult time enjoying the book.  Because I am what you may call a “Do it Yourselfer” I like to develop my own practices and ways of going about things by experiencing the world for myself. I would rather teach myself how to paint rather than take lessons from a professional in order to develop my own unique style.

In the same sense, when reading, I analyze it my way. Foster may think that he is merely helping young readers learn to see the signs in literature that lead us to understand it for themselves (though had that been his true intention the title of his book might have been something like How to Read Literature For Yourself) but in reality, he is molding young minds to see literature as he does. The way that I see it, the more people who read this book, the closer we are to a dystopian thought process.

Literature is an art form, much like painting, music or drama, and should be treated as such.  Foster subtly suggests that it is, in fact, an equation that can only be solved one way, his way, such as a computer program. Of course, like anybody would, Foster denies this, claiming that he is only showing you that the signs exist. If this were true, he could have written a persuasive essay instead of a book about what these sights mean. Somebody reading this book is obviously struggling in the field of English. Does he really expect them to have the ambition to interpret the sigh an on their own? No, they will simply take his word for it. If Foster says pasta is a protein, they will blindly believe it.  Being an outspoken advocate for individuality, this book struck quite a chord with me.  I think that everyone’s own ideas are beautiful and that symbols don’t always mean one thing, that we should have conversations about what a work of literature means to us, not settle on one theme.  The quarrel over a scene’s outcome, not just accept the way it turned out to be morally correct if you feel that it is not.  We must stay true to ourselves and our view of the world based off of our morals, not let our minds be re-arranged to match others.  On a more positive note, I must amend Foster on the wide range of books, short stories, etc. in which he uses as examples to express his thoughts.  After reading this book, I found numerous new titles to explore.

If you are familiar with the works of Rick Riordan or John Green, you will find that Foster’s writing style and tone reflects there’s.  Perhaps this is for the audience he presumably is addressing, which the book recommends for 8 to 12-year-olds.  Some may be exasperated by my comparing of these authors to one who wrote a book aimed at that age group, so allow me to elaborate:  Foster writes in a laid back, childlike manner in order to appeal to the age group as Riordan and Green write in a laid back manner, because, well, the characters that tell their stories are still (to some extent) children.  I am not trying to poo-poo that style of writing, I am merely making a comparison.  If you are attracted to that style, you may find this book a refreshing alternative to the likes of Call of the Wild or Oliver Twist (not to cast shadows on those either).  

Calling all Hermiones:  You’ll have a field day correcting some of Foster’s mistakes about Greek Mythology.  I would not go as far to say that I know everything about everything when it comes to Greek Mythology, after all, there is probably still more crumbling under the weight of the ruins that lay atop them like a crown.  However, I know enough to know that Foster either got a few points wrong, or one of us took a wrong turn in our time machines back to Ancient Greece.  If you are a free thinker: never read this book, ever.  It is a waste of your time and your beautiful mind.  If you could use a little help in the good old subject of English, you may find this book informative.  Either way, like any book, take it with a grain of salt.  

-Ainsley H. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids by Thomas C. Foster is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

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.