My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier

I was assigned to read this in my Social Studies class. Since we where learning about the American Revolution it was a fitting read for this topic.

The book was about Tim Meeker. His brother Sam Meeker was enlisted in the American Revolution. The only problem was that his family disagreed with him. The Meeker’s were Tories which meant they where on the side of the British. The whole story is about how the war affects people.

I thought the first part of the book was a little boring. But just like all great books they pick up in the end. That is exactly what this book did. At the end of the book I realized it was a true story. Most of the things in the story where real.

Early in the book Tim was a young boy. In the first chapter he got so excited when he was going to milk Old Prue which was a cow.  Since his brother did it he thought it was so cool when he saw Sam do it. Of course it wasn’t as cool as he thought it was. I thought this sequence showed how little brothers always look up to there older brothers.

Later in the book Tim was working in the family tavern and sometimes he would get unsurprising visits from Sam. Sam wouldn’t come all the time of course. He would just come once or twice in about two years.

When you picked up the book from the start to end you could really see how much Tim progressed from a child into a adult. You could really see him take charge after his brother was gone off into the war. Another main theme in the book was violence. Readers are really opened up how the war just doesn’t affect the soldiers it affects everybody.

The town of Redding (which is the town Tim is from) is affected a lot because they have a lot of cattle and the soldier need it because there hungry.

-Max U.

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Coco

Coco was a wonderful film for everyone. It was about a young boy named Miguel who decided he wants to be a musician. The only problem was his family is against music.

I liked the movie really much. I thought it was visually stunning and told a very great story. It had basically any Pixar movie standard that you would see in other Pixar movies.

In the movie Miguel finds out that his hero is his great great grandfather. He then was inspired to go and compete in a music contest. He then takes his great great grandfather’s guitar and is sent to the Land of the Dead. In order to get back to the ordinary world Miguel has to get a family blessing. The only problem is that he wants to be a musician and all his relatives didn’t like music. He then realizes his great great grandfather could get him a blessing. In the story Miguel meets a man named Hector. Hector helps him go on his journey in finding his great great grandfather. In the process of finding his great great grandfather Miguel has many crazy encounters with many crazy characters.

The movie was very enjoyable. I thought it was both visually stunning and had a good story. The moral of the story was that in order to be a family you have to support one another and you shouldn’t force a life on your son or daughter that they don’t want.This movie reminded me a lot about The Book of Life. Which was another movie set in Mexico about the Day of the Dead. I liked The Book of Life which helped me like this movie.

There was one scene in the movie that needed so much detail to make it the scene it was. If I know one thing it is that Pixar tends to overdo a lot of their scenes which is always a good thing. There was also very bright colors that made the visuals even more better than they already where.

I really enjoyed Coco and would recommend seeing it.

-Max U.

An Appointment With My Brother by Yi Mun-Yol

This novella, An Appointment With His Brother, talks about the unseen interaction between North and South Korea. Basically what happens is, the protagonist’s father defected to North Korea, which is unusual because it would normally be the other way around. The protagonist finds out years later that his father had a new family. Since the father lives in North Korea, visiting each other is nearly impossible. However, one day he learns about the boundary line between North Korea and China. People would cross the border with the help of a broker and essentially escape. So the main character attempts to meet his father but ends up having An Appointment With My Brother instead. Once they meet each other, they talk to each other about their lives and compare them. They come to a realization about their lifestyles after talking–their lives weren’t as different as they thought.

There was a lot learned from this story, things that aren’t usually revealed in the news, and only something that those people know. Even though the book was difficult to understand, the underlying theme and message are important to one’s everyday life. Reading this book allowed me to put the prejudice views aside and really see the true events that occur instead.

-Phoebe L.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent was one of those books that everyone had read and I hadn’t and everyone loved when it came out. So I didn’t read it thinking that it was all talk and not a very good book. But, when I eventually got around to reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised.

This book is based in the future, in the city of Chicago.  It is divided up into five factions, the Abnegation who believe in selflessness, the Dauntless who believe in bravery, the Candor who believe in the truth, Erudite who believe in intelligence, and Amity who believe in peace.

Beatrice Prior, a 16-year-old that grew up in Abnegation transferred to Dauntless on the day of her choosing ceremony carrying a very dangerous secret. She is one of the divergent, she had an aptitude for more than one faction, something many of the factions leaders consider very dangerous.

Like most other dystopian society books, Divergent starts off as a utopia. Everything seems perfect. But it isn’t. The flaws in this perfect society show through and eventually chaos breaks out.

Overall, this book was great. It might not be as amazing as everyone has said it was when it first came out. But it is still a great read. So, if you haven’t read this book a would defiantly recommend it. It is fairly long though, but I would say it is worth it.

-Ava G.

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available online from Overdrive

Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn

Let me just say, this book was a lot better than I originally thought it would be. I usually don’t read WWII novels, I am more into the Civil War myself, so this was a different kind of read for me. But let me tell you it was worth it because it had me hooked after the first sentence.

In this book, Margaret and her best friend Elizabeth find a hut in the woods. At first, Margaret is scared to go into it, but with prompting, Margaret goes in. It turns out that Gordy (the class bully) is hiding his brother, a deserter, in the hut. To keep the secret, Gordy attempts to blackmail Margaret and Elizabeth. Along the way they get into many hardships, but they find a way through it.

The cool thing about this novel is that even though it is a children’s book, it isn’t written like one. This is the perfect book for a child to read because it is all very easy to understand and it is very intriguing. However, an adult would enjoy this book just as much as a child. The way the author portrays everything it is obvious she must have witnessed it. In my personal opinion, everyone should read this book. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you would like it, just trust me, you will.

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash

Like many others, one of my New Year’s Aspirations was to read more books. To help myself with this, I chose to do the PopSugar 2017 Reading Challenge. Along with a friend of mine, I began to check books off the list.

My first read of the year was back in January, but I still find myself thinking about it in March. Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash was my “Book With a Red Spine,” and it has made its way onto my list of favorites.

Until I came across Tom Barbash’s work, I had never much gone for short stories, much less collections of them. There was always something deeply unsatisfying about their brevity. I found myself anxious and yearning for more after the final page was turned.

But Stay Up With Me was incredibly real and terrifyingly relatable. Barbash has the power to make a reader fall in love with his characters in just a few sentences. The people in these stories are complex – they have failings and flaws in addition to their successes. Each one grows as a person and learns in the short course of their time in your hands.

And just as you are invested, just as you have committed the little idiosyncrasies of these characters to memory, the story ends.

Each time, as you feel the power of the final line, you are forced to wrench yourself from the story. There is a forceful discomfort as you move on, a sense of loss when their names are not printed on the next page.

All those people you just learned about? They’re gone. Everything there is for you to know about them is contained in those last few pages.

Stay Up With Me is collection of heartbreaking tales. Love, loss, and everything in between – Barbash does it beautifully.

-Zoe K., Grade 11

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

prideandprejudice_janeaustenWhat has made Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s 19th century book, so timeless? We no longer live in an era where the only way to do well is to marry well. But, as it turns out, not much is different.

People today hold prejudices, albeit of different scales. What makes this an issue is if a person acts on those prejudices, without getting to know the truth. For example, I don’t like papaya or kiwi. I don’t remember if I actually tried the fruit when I was younger, but to this day, I refuse to eat the fruit. Maybe I had tried one bad kiwi, or had been influenced when my sister got sick after eating papaya. either way, I never tried it again. My pride comes into play, because I never want to be proven wrong. What if I ate a kiwi and loved it? Then I would be embarrassed for my embargo that has lasted my whole life so far. So to me, it’s best to never risk it.

Thinking about it now, this is definitely the wrong way to go about things. It may not seem serious, but this issue becomes serious in other circumstances. What if, instead of hating a type of fruit, someone hated a group of people? Maybe this was only because of one bad experience they had (or even heard about). Sometimes this hate can even be unfounded. People constantly make generalizations about people, which add bias to their actions, and they forget the most important virtue: to understand.

People need to understand why another person might have acted a certain way. It’s unfair to make judgments about a person without actually getting to know them. Elizabeth, in Pride and Prejudice, proved this. She was cold toward Mr. Darcy the entire book, thinking him a stuck-up, unfeeling man, and she was content in thinking this. But she soon found how much she was missing, finding out what Mr. Darcy had actually done (rather than hearing it in rumors from Mr. Darcy’s “enemy”) and seeing how kind and good-hearted Mr. Darcy had been to help Lizzy’s sister. (Spoiler alert!) Once she got to know him, her opinion widely changed.

Before long, her prejudices were broken, though perhaps not entirely gone. Before, she was too proud to admit that she could be wrong, but by the end, she realized her mistake. She then had to convince others of her feelings, since her previous prejudices had rubbed off on the rest of her family. Long story short, she had a lot to learn by getting to know another person. Just by giving him a chance to explain himself, Elizabeth radically changed her (and Mr. Darcy’s) life.

Thus, a lot can be learned from Jane Austen’s novel. I mean, for me, I’m definitely going to try kiwi this weekend. But for the rest of my life, the message of Pride and Prejudice will stay with me. I hope that those of you who have read this classic will keep the message in mind. For those of you who haven’t read the book, I truly recommend it.

-Leila S., 11th grade

Pride and Prejudice is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.