Event Recap: Newhart Middle School Book Club

bookstack2Last month, students from Newhart Middle School in Mission Viejo met to discuss Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (see my book review here).

The night opened with an exciting game of Pictionary with a twist, using key objects from the book as clues.  These words ranged from Peregrine, to airplane, to psychiatrist (that was a hard one!). After several rounds, the final score –  Boys: 12, Girls: 10!

After the game, everyone sat down to discuss different aspects of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  A few questions that brought the most discussion were:

  • What kind of atmosphere did the house in Wales have?

Answers were varied:  Some described the house that was bombed, the house that Jacob explored, as “creepy and mysterious.”  Others described the original, occupied house in 1940, as “predictable and carefree.” A discussion ensued about how the repetition of the loop day made for a predictable life for the peculiar children. Nevertheless, when the students challenged the accepted set of laws for time travel, the group became collectively mind-boggled!

  • Which peculiar child had the trait you would most like to posses?


A majority of the group would have preferred to either to levitate or to see the hollows, since that would keep you safe.  When the group was asked “Who would want to have a back mouth?” most did not wish to have that trait.  However, one student did reply that a back mouth would be helpful if someone had you in a headlock, because then you could just bite the pursuer and escape!

“The next book in this series comes out in January (2014), but it doesn’t have a title yet,”  Mrs. Wendehost said at the conclusion of the meeting. And who will read it?? That is up to the students at Newhart Middle School to decide, if they wish to be part of the Newhart Book Club in the future.

About the Newhart Middle School Book Club

Mrs. Michelle Wendehost is a sixth grade teacher at Newhart Middle School. During her first year at the school, she and another teacher started this fun book club. That was six years ago, when they used to read and discuss two books at each meeting. The other teacher left, and Mrs. Wendehost now leads this group on her own; however, is frequently accompanied by parents who join their middle schoolers for these lively discussions. Mrs. Wendehost’s most memorable book club meeting was when they read Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. A large group of girls came to discuss this book.  And so did one boy, who said his mom made him read the book.

And what is Mrs. Wendehost’s overall goal for the Newhart Book Club? To get kids to realize reading is fun and to read more often!

-Leila S., 7th grade

Event Recap: Lauren Oliver Author Visit

laurenoliver1Back in March, I went to the Lauren Oliver book signing event at the Mission Viejo Library. When she got there, the first thing she did was introduce herself and talk about her life as a writer.

She then explained what inspired her to write. Her
father influenced her a lot. She started writing at the early age of nine. She said she used to write fan fiction, which is a short story about a book you like.

In middle school, she started to write her own stories. In her freshmen year, she attempted to write her first novel. In her senior year of college, she finished her first novel– a different one than she started in high school.

She then earned a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. She also learned to write from working as an editor for Penguin Books. As she edited, she learned to write. After she talked about that, she described her books and read a few pages of her latest novel, Requiem, to us.

laurenoliver2Later, she took questions from the audience. Some of her favorite authors, when she was a kid, were Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl, and
J.K. Rowling.

Someone asked how she comes up with titles and names for characters. She said she keeps a list that appeals to her. She also does not believe in writer’s block. She feels it’s just an excuse not to write. Her
advice to writers is to read a lot and write a lot. Also, to practice all the time and don’t get stressed.


While I was there everyone in the audience seemed to be very excited. Some people even dressed up as characters in her book. When she signed my book she was asking me questions about reading. Lauren is very nice and funny. I’m so happy I got to meet such an amazing author.

-Sabrina C., 7th grade

Event Recap: Kaleb Nation on Social Media

Kaleb_Nation01On Wednesday, May 22nd, a very special guest visited the Mission Viejo Library and spoke to teens of all ages. Kaleb Nation is a well-known author, YouTube personality, and successful entrepreneur. He hosted his first radio show at just 14 years old, published his first book at age 20, and is the creator of websites with over 10,000,000 hits. In addition, he creates YouTube videos with over 50 million views and 73,000 subscribers.

harken_coverKaleb began his presentation by telling the audience how his unique story began a few years ago. Curious and wanting to be different, he played a prank on his friends that was based on the famous book series, Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. Little did he know that this small action would lead to his future fame and success. The prank immediately went viral online, and this prompted Kaleb to create TwilightGuy (a website that explains the Twilight series from a guy’s perspective). This subsequently opened the door to his weekly YouTube videos, which led to Kaleb becoming the author of the Bran Hambric series and his latest novel, Harken.

Although Kaleb claims that he is an introvert, his style of presentation connects strongly with his audience and shows a very vibrant and outgoing personality. His overall motto and message to the audience was “small things lead to bigger things.” He also pointed out that we should always be careful of what we say online. Things that you post on the Internet can never go away and you never know who will see your posts. As Kaleb advises, always ask yourself, “If 20,000 people suddenly saw this, would I be ok?”

Kaleb_Nation02In order to become successful, he stressed, “You need to be different, be a voice for people like you, and be a brand, or way of presenting yourself. You need to set yourself apart from others, and most importantly, just be you!”

Kaleb Nation is a very interesting and unique person. At just 24 years old, he has become a very successful person in social media. I thoroughly enjoyed his informative presentation and felt that his speech delivery was hilarious. For those who will leave a digital footprint, Kaleb Nation definitely gave valuable insight on the new world of social media!

-Kaylie W., 8th grade

Event Recap: Eoin Colfer Author Visit


Last weekend, a very exciting and rare event took place at the Mission Viejo library.    Mr. Eoin Colfer, the author of Airman, the Artemis Fowl series, and the newly released The Reluctant Assassin, visited the library, and spoke to many eager and excited kids and adults.

Before Mr. Colfer came out to speak, a magician entertained the audience with a few funny card tricks. The magician was quite engaging and had the audience in stitches.  Mr. Colfer was then introduced. He began his presentation by telling an entertaining story about the Irish sport of hurling. One day, he was in America talking about his books, and a little girl asked him what he liked to do for fun.  He responded by saying that he enjoyed hurling. It goes without saying that the little girl thought Mr. Colfer was referring to something besides the Irish sport. The whole conversation between Mr. Colfer and the girl went downhill from there.

eoin_colfer04Once the audience was laughing, Mr. Colfer began talking about the famous Artemis Fowl, and how he got the ideas for the characters. Artemis was based on his little brother, who was always getting into troublesome situations, like the time his little brother got out of art class by drinking water mixed with paint. Then, he told the audience that even though his wife did not want Mr. Colfer to base the character of  Artemis Fowl’s mother on her, he did it anyway. Mr. Colfer would get the character’s traits by asking his wife sneaky questions from time to time. Beckett and Miles, the two little brothers in the end of Artemis Fowl, are characters based upon Mr. Colfer’s sons, Finn and Shawn, even though Finn is now a teenager. However, Mr. Colfer admitted that Butler, Artemis’ butler, is merely a character which was born out of his imagination.

reluctant_assassin_coverMr. Colfer also spoke about the background of his first book in the W.A.R.P. series.  While he tried to make it scary, it did not turn out as scary as he hoped, even though one of the main characters is a psychotic killer magician who makes his apprentice murder people. Mr. Colfer ended his talk by reminiscing about his childhood, and how he was always bullied for reading. Mr. Colfer answered questions, one of them being from this author. I asked him if it was easier to write his Artemis Fowl books after he had written the first one, and he answered yes.

Mr. Colfer’s interview was very exciting, and was one of the most exciting events that I have attended. Mr. Colfer is a very entertaining speaker, and I would definitely recommend going to hear him speak next time he is in town.

-Will R., 8th grade

Event Recap: Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess Tour

cassandra_clare_mariah_picIn March, authors Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Maureen Johnson made a stop at the Mission Viejo Library for Clare’s latest release, Clockwork Princess.

I was extremely thrilled to meet all of them, and the feeling was definitely echoed throughout the room. As we waited for the authors to arrive (they got caught up in LA traffic), we watched the book and the movie trailer, and in two contests, fans competed for posters of, Will and Jem, popular characters from Clare’s books.

Once the authors arrived, they jumped right into answering our questions about their books and the upcoming City of Bones film.

Here are a couple of them:

Cassandra Clare, where did you get the inspiration for your books?

She got the idea of Shadowhunter from one of her friends who was a tattoo artist and talked to her about the history about tattoos. They were believed to give people strength in battle and during journeys, and Clare thought that it would be cool if there was a race of people for whom these tattoos would actually work.

What characters are the three of you most like?

After thinking the question over for a moment, they agreed that Sarah is like Magnus Bane because of her fiery personality, Maureen is the most similar to Alec, and Cassie was compared to Jace because of her ability to “have a little faith” like he does in times of trouble.

They then moved on to lightning round:

Who do you like more: Tessa or Clary?

She couldn’t decide between the two. Tessa is more like her, but she admires Clary for her bravery and recklessness.

Do you all eat, or do you survive solely on the tears of your readers? (This seemed to be a recurring question.)

Clare responded by saying that she likes to take the hearts of her readers and put it in a cocktail glass and make a heartini.

How much involvement do you, Cassie, have in the film adaptation?

She has had a good amount of input into the film. She answered questions that the production team had, and she had a heavy involvement in the casting process.

Once the Q&A session was complete, we were able to get our books signed! Overall, the event was one of the best signing that I’ve attended. All three of the authors were incredibly funny and kept me laughing the entire night. They joked about the ways they toy with our emotions and all of the wonderful boys in the Infernal Devices and Mortal Instruments series. It was an honor to meet all three of the authors, and I want to thank them for visiting Mission Viejo.

-Mariah W., 11th grade

Event Recap: Eoin Colfer Author Visit

Eoin Colfer, renowned author of the Artemis Fowl series, visited Mission Viejo this past weekend and made a very exciting presentation of all his experiences and books. Many fans in the audience flipped through his new book The Reluctant Assassin, anticipating the moment when Colfer would reveal himself. A serious mood hung over the room as we wondered what this famous writer was like in person. What would he tell us today? A humorous magician broke the silent anxiousness of the crowd, and also related to a magician in Colfer’s new book. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the moment we all had been waiting for arrived.

eoin_colfer01Turns out Colfer has a very bright and funny attitude, as proven when we were treated to hilarious tale after tale from his past (even one about his Irish accent). Amid our laughter, he explained about his process of writing, which includes putting real people and experiences into his book. For example, Colfer recalled basing Artemis’s mother on his own loving wife. We also had the privilege of learning about how he began writing. When Colfer was a little child, his father’s friend brought over his own book for him to review. After Colfer peeked inside, he immediately decided he wanted to become a writer too. Quite obviously, he succeeded, seeing as over twelve years he has created the world famous Artemis Fowl series.

reluctant_assassin_coverLucky for us, Eoin Colfer also introduced us to his new series called W.A.R.P. Inside the pages of The Reluctant Assassin, An apprentice named Riley struggles to evade the great magician Garrick, who has taken a liking to murder. Colfer shared with us how he tried to make him as sinister and terrifying as possible, and his experiences in writing the story.

Overall, we all had a very fun day, learning about the writing process and Colfer’s sources of inspiration. Book signings are definitely very engaging and fun, along with getting the signature of the author himself! I am very grateful to Eoin Colfer for coming all the way out here to inspire us with his stories and experiences.

-Phillip X., 7th grade

Event Recap: Lauren Oliver’s Requiem Tour


Boy, had I been missing out!

Ever been to a book signing? As surprising as it may be for some people, I had never been to one before. And boy, had I been missing out! But I was lucky enough to have had Lauren Oliver’s book signing at the Mission Viejo Library as my first ever. She was such an engaging speaker, full of funny comments and remarks that created a relaxed and fun vibe during her presentation.

Lauren Oliver started off by telling us about how she became a writer because she has had a “lifelong love of reading.” She explained how ever since she was little, she would read a book, completely fall in love with it, but then sadly it would have to end. (Know the feeling?) So, she would write short stories or sequels about the books she read, which I thought was pretty cool. I had never thought about doing that before. And yet it was interesting to hear that the first time that she wrote a complete novel was not until her senior year in college! Continue reading

Event Recap: Oh, What a Beautiful Evening!

rodgers and_hammerstein

Composers Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II

Although this blog is focused on teen literature, even the most avid reader takes their nose out of a book eventually, right? If you like the performing arts, there are many opportunities to appreciate a variety of arts and culture in Mission Viejo.

“Oh, What a Beautiful Evening! The Music of Rodgers and Hammerstein,” presented by the the singers of the Orange County School of the Arts and Timeless Melodies at the Norman P. Murray Community Center in January, was an enjoyable tribute to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, though not without flaws.

The selection of Rodgers and Hammerstein music was wonderful and the host presented each set of songs with an informative introduction. Unfortunately, as someone very familiar with the musical selections, I found that there were a lot of technical vocal issues in several of the performances. In addition, there sometimes lacked a balance between the singers in the group numbers as some were much louder than others, thereby making the performance sound out of tune.

Nonetheless, there were a few performers that were very talented and have a lot of potential. These singers filled their songs with emotion and heart and were a lot of fun to listen to. Overall, I enjoyed myself as I always get excited when I see singers with a lot of talent and potential, but I have to say the event was just mediocre as there was a lack of performance quality. Thus, although “Oh, What a Beautiful Evening!” was a mixed experience, there were a few stars that shined bright.

– Kiera C., 12th grade

Event Recap: Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess Tour

On Friday, March 22, Mission Viejo’s City Hall was taken over by crazed book fans toting around tall stacks of books, sporting Shadowhunter runes, and failing to hide their excitement.

Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare, and Maureen Johnson speak to fans in Mission Viejo

Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare, and Maureen Johnson speak to fans in Mission Viejo

Authors Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan ran a little late because of the infamous LA traffic, but arrived at the scene with the knowledge that their fans were waiting anxiously. The atmosphere of the room was that of complete awe for Clare’s newly released novel, Clockwork Princess, its book trailer, the trailer for The Mortal Instruments movie, and for the great company of those who love the same story.

The Q&A portion of the event consisted of questions ranging from the creation of Cassandra Clare’s books to the production of the film adaptation of her first novel, City of Bones, releasing in August later this year. Fans were captivated by the stories that Clare told of her childhood. She mentioned that her storytelling past and her first computer at age 12 are what began her book writing career. Clare also discussed her inspiration for the Shadowhunters books: a tattoo artist friend. Clare would hear stories about tattoo symbolism and the people who lived according to them, which sparked her imagination, leading her to the question, “What if there was a race of people whose lives revolved around tattoos and their meanings?” And with that, the Shadowhunters of her novels were born.

Cassandra Clare also gave advice to aspiring writers, saying that there are “many small steps to a large goal.” Also, when asked whether Clare enjoyed “torturing her fans” by destroying their ships, pairings of characters created by the fans, she simply said, “What is the point of a ship if not to sink it?” And with that, the room exploded in uproar and applause.

Clare’s presentation was not one that anyone would regret attending, and being in the company of those who shared the same love only made it a more enjoyable experience. It was an absolute pleasure to have attended, as it was my first author event!

– Danielle G., 11th grade