The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Six Traits Blog - Word Choice: An Excerpt from The House ...

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a poignant coming-of-age book centered around a young Latina girl, Esperanza, in 1960s Chicago.

In a series of vignettes, or short stories, Cisneros examines themes of maturity, belonging, poverty, and femininity. The vignettes are told from Esperanza’s point of view, laden with rich imagery and symbolism, and hazy- like they are being told in a dream. Each vignette focuses on small events in Esperanza’s day to day life, and provides insight into her thoughts and desires.

Cisneros skillfully presents the dichotomy of Esperanza and her family’s life- many of the vignettes center around happy moments in their lives, like playing outside with friends, getting a first job, or going to a neighbor’s party, but even so, the abject hopelessness and desperation of their situation lurks just below the surface. The entire book is a masterful study of not only Esperanza’s situation, but the human condition- a careful examination of ritualistic maturity, traditions, gender norms, and youth. 

Cisneros writes in a simple, easily understandable vernacular, complete with sentence fragments and a lack of quotation marks that makes each vignette easy to read. Nonetheless, the book contains a depth of emotion and, often, desperation that was immensely heart-wrenching to witness. I grew up in circumstances close to those of Esperanza’s, so reading about her experiences took me back to my own childhood, to times when I felt the same way she did. Personally, I would rate this book a 10/10. 

This book contains some mature themes.

-Vaidehi B.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

TV Show Review: Gilmore Girls

As you may have guessed, this television show features the girls of the Gilmore family.

I have probably watched each Gilmore Girls episode at least 3 times. I love the show. The series follows a hilarious and iconic mother-daughter duo living in a tiny town in Connecticut called Stars Hollow. 

Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory(Alexis Bledel) who play the mother and daughter are best friends first, mother and daughter second. This special relationship is a result of Lorelai having Rory when she was very young (16). Right after having Rory, Lorelai left her wealthy, extravagant life that her parents were living and raised Rory all on her own. 

The show starts with Rory beginning her sophomore year of high school and trying to gain admission into a prestigious, and expensive, private school. In order to afford the tuition, Lorelai must swallow her pride and ask her rich parents for financial aid in order to send Rory there. This leads to an agreement where Lorelei and Rory must have dinner at the Gilmore house every Friday night.

The two live in a small fictional town named Stars Hollow. There are many interesting characters living in the town. There is a grumpy, but loving diner owner Luke, the delusional dance teacher, Ms. Patty, the tight knit town mayor, Taylor, and many more cooky characters. 

The show features the amazing lifestyle of Rory and Lorelai, the rich lives of Emily and Richard, the weird characters in Stark Hollow, every Friday night dinner and every laugh relationship in between. This show will have you laughing out loud but also has its sad and serious aspects. No matter what comes between the two they always have each other’s backs as they navigate life.

Gilmore Girls can be found on Netflix. It has 7 seasons, starting with Rory’s sophomore year of high school and ending with her college graduation.

-Hidaya R.

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers is the story of a beloved nanny and the magical adventures that seem to follow wherever she goes.  Travers wrote several books about Mary Poppins.  In the first book, we are introduced to the Banks family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Banks and their four children: Jane, Michael, John and Barbara.  John and Barbara are the baby twins.  After their nanny quits, Mary Poppins appears seemingly out of nowhere to become the new nanny.  Poppins turns out to be much different than any other nanny they had known before.

The children realize right away that whenever Mary Poppins is around, amazing things happen.  I enjoyed reading about their unusual experiences.  One of my favorite characters is Admiral Boom.  He yells out random nautical phrases like “Land ho!” and “Heave away there!”  I also enjoyed a chapter called “Laughing Gas,” in which Mr. Wigg (also known as Uncle Albert) fills with laughing gas and elevates in the air when he loses control of his laughter.  For some reason, Mr. Wigg finds it especially difficult to control his laughter on Fridays, and when his birthday falls on a Friday he floats like a balloon.

This book is filled with many other quirky and amusing episodes.  However, one thing that surprised me was the personality of Mary Poppins herself.  She apparently has a vanity problem, because she always seems to admire herself when she sees her reflection.  I was also taken aback by the manner in which Mary Poppins treats the children.

For example, we read: “’Ask him.  He knows—Mr. Know-All!’ said Mary Poppins, nodding her head scornfully at Michael.”

As another example, we read: “’Oh, really?  I thought it was the other way round,’ said Mary Poppins with a scornful laugh.”

Yet another example of her attitude toward the children: “Mary Poppins turned and regarded him with something like disgust.”

There are many other examples of this kind of behavior by Mary Poppins.  She is not always mean-spirited toward the children, and she seems to have their best interests at heart.  I was just surprised to read about her snapping at the children from time to time.  Still, by the end of the book, the children seem to love her (for some reason).

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book.  There were many humorous and delightful elements to the story.  The book is also full of surprises, especially when it comes to the occasional rude or even scornful remark by Mary Poppins.  If you have seen the 1964 Disney movie, then you will be surprised by the differences.  I would say that the Mary Poppins character is much more gentle-hearted in the movie than in the book.  In spite of that, I would recommend this book, as well as its sequels.

-Oliver H.

Marry Poppins by P. L. Travers is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott

Jo’s Boys: the final book of Louisa May Alcott’s precious series, beginning with the famous Little Women. 

Jo’s Boys is a fast-forward of ten years after the events that take place in Little Men, and is, once again, just as lovely as its previous two installments. It features all of the characters that were at the forefront of Little Men and takes the reader through what everyone’s life looks like ten years later. Jo is now a successful children’s writer, and the children are now all grown up. 

Just like the other books, Jo’s Boys never fails in showing the beautiful relationship between the parents of the story and their children, and showing the differences in wisdom and in youth, and the lessons and beauty that can be derived from each.  I enjoyed Jo’s character in this book more than ever, as she is such a wonderful mother and incredibly loving, wise, and warm as a character. 

Her advice that she gives throughout the book to these young individuals is always one that is heart-warming and insightful as she helps the young men and women of Plumfield navigate the beginning of a new chapter of life. And with the beginning of this new chapter, this gentle entrance into adulthood, the book closes the chapter on childhood and instead focuses on growing up, navigating through life’s difficulties, and staying true to your morals and beliefs. 

Unfortunately, despite this being such a wonderful book and the last of the trilogy, I did not find myself enjoying the last few pages as much as I thought I would have, but, nevertheless, this series now owns a new spot on my list of favorites, due to the beauty in this simplistic series. The wonderfully life-like characters, the writing style, the moral lessons, the descriptions of different aspects of life, and the passing of time all make up this book as well as the other two, and it is for these reasons that I have enjoyed them so much.

One thing I enjoyed quite a bit was how this book made certain references, often in conversation, to events that happened in the first book. This made the books feel like a continuous stream of life, like an inside look at the March family, rather than just a fictional set of stories. I also enjoyed seeing how each of the Plumfield pupils turned out later in life, both in terms of career path and character. All in all, I would recommend Jo’s Boys, and the entire series, for that matter, to anyone from any season of life.

-Aisha E.

Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Book Cover, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, 1947 | Objects  | Collection of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

A Streetcar Named Desire is a tragic play written by Tennessee Williams. It is centered around Blanche DuBois, a fragile thirty year old woman who is detached from reality. After being fired from her previous job as a schoolteacher and losing her home, Blanche decides to go and stay with her younger sister, Stella Kowalski. Stella Kowalski lives with her Polish husband, Stanley Kowalski, a plain and straightforward man. Despite falling out of touch with her sister, Blanche arrives with her large trunk at the Kowalski household.

The title of this play is very crucial to its message and illustrates its entire plot. In the beginning, Blanche recounts her journey to her sister’s house. First, Blanche rode a streetcar named Desire. Then, she took a a streetcar named Cemeteries, which took her to a street called Elysian Fields. Elysian Fields is the land of the dead in Greek mythology. This entire journey symbolizes Blanche’s life and her fear of death. At first, Blanche allows her sexual desires to overcome her and ruin her life. As a result, she is evicted from her childhood home, and lastly, she is taken to an asylum and ostracized completely from society.

Throughout this entire play, we watch as Blanche DuBois gradually becomes completely out of touch with reality. Because of her adherence to lies, fibs, and illusions, she clashes with Stanley. Stanley is a grounded and vicious man who represents the vital force, the strength which animates all living creatures. Everything that he does, he does with extreme passion; he loves passionately, treats Blanche cruelly, and is extremity loyal to his friends.

In the end, after Blanche’s depressing and indecent past is revealed to Stella and Stanley, they decide to send Blanche to an insane asylum. The final moments of this play are heart wrenching and painful. As a broken, depressed, and insane Blanche pleads for her sister to save her, she is lead to the asylum like a prisoner.

Despite its tragic finale, this play discusses very important themes such as death, illusions, and sexuality. Overall, this was an extremely intriguing and deep play that I would recommend to anyone who does not mind a sad ending and loves to explore complex themes.

-Yvette C.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Christmas Movies!

Home Alone (1990) - IMDb

During the winter season, there are a plethora of different Christmas movies to choose from. Once I sit down to watch Christmas movies with my family or friends the hardest part is choosing which one to watch. There are varieties of different Christmas that appeal to different people. I will be breaking down my favorite Christmas movie of all time.

My personal favorite Christmas movie of all time has to be Home Alone. I have watched it over and over again since I was a kid. Starring Kevin McCallister played by Macaulay Culkin this movie is a comedy that will never grow old. Beginning with young Kevin who got in trouble and was sent to sleep in his family’s attic.

The following day Kevin’s family was going on their holiday trip, but they forget Kevin at home. Kevin thought his wish to have no family, since they were mean to him, had come true. Living up his solo life until 2 thugs come to try and rob the McCallister’s house. Kevin then sets up bobby traps and tricks to try and protect his house from the robbers. Kevin successfully fights them off multiple times, but the robber’s Harry and Marv will not quit. After many battle rounds Kevin was finally able to fight the burglars off permanently. Later on, Kevin befriends an elderly man, who was known to be a criminal, but finds out he is just a man who lost his connection to his son and feels lonely. After Kevin encourages him to make up with his son, he realizes that family is important along with the impact children have on their parents. During all these events Kevin’s mother was finding the fastest way home from Paris to make sure Kevin was safe at home. Once his whole family returns they get to spend the Christmas holiday together and realize the importance of family.

Though it may be a little cheesy, this movie remains one of the best Christmas movies. Not only is it a classic, but it is also a rollercoaster ride. The character development from a bratty kid to one that is able to spread joy and love. The action scenes are also a great laugh. We get to see a little boy beating up two full-grown men with his mischievous little tricks up his sleeve.

-Lilly G.

Home Alone is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Is it a kid’s book or all ages one?  Madeleine L’Engle’s classic (but not too classic) story A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children focuses on Meg and Charles Wallace Murry and their new friend Calvin O’Keefe through time and space on a mission to save Mr.Murry.  While some argue that this work of science fiction is aimed at youth, it is actually a timeless piece that will transcend time and space itself.  

A Wrinkle in Time tackles different scientific theories by putting them into play and describing them with simple words and emotions making them easily comprehensible.  For example, L’Engle talks about tesseracts or anything which is four-dimensional.  As the three heroes move through time and space, or tesser, L’Engle uses simple but effective words coupled by vivid descriptions of the event.  This allows readers to fully grasp the advanced scientific and mathematical concepts.  Some confuse L’Engle’s use of basic vocabulary as a way to aim her story at children.  While I am sure that she is pleased for children to read her story, this does not mean that A Wrinkle in Time is a kid’s book.  The use of base-level vocabulary simply makes these ideas accessible to everyone and not just rocket scientists.  

Moreover, L’Engle’s characters all deal with absent and neglectful parents, a theme which is definitely not aimed solely at children.  The Murray children practically grew up without their father who was kidnapped by the evil It.  Charles Wallace had not ever even properly met his father.  Calvin O’Keefe’s mother struggled to keep the house in proper sanitation and neglected her children.  While these ideas are important for children to understand, it is certainly not limited to them.  For all I know, reading about how these parent’s identities have shaped their children could give some parents a wake up call.  In any event,  the theme of unideal parenting is one that can resonate with any generation.

Further still, A Wrinkle in Time focuses more on timeless themes and morals than anything else meaning that it will withstand the test of time for all generations, not just children.  L’Engle’s’ story, though it is classified as science fiction, is largely about love and how it connects all of us throughout the universe.  From Meg’s sisterly love of Charles Wallace, Charles Wallace’s love of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, to Calvin’s love for Meg, love is all over.  Love is something timeless and will never fade away, and neither will A Wrinkle in Time.  

It almost goes without saying that any book which has obtained a Newbery Medal is fantastic, but Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is a truly extraordinary work of science fiction. Though many declare that it is a children’s story, it is in actuality a story for all ages or anyone who likes scientific theories explained simply, themes about absent or neglectful parents and enjoys a good old fashioned story about the power of love.

– Ainsley H

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway

Cat in the Rain - Ernest Hemingway - listen online for free

One rainy day an American couple visiting Italy stayed in their hotel. The husband was reading in bed and the wife was standing by the window looking out at the view when she came across a cat crouched under a dripping green table. In a spirit of compassion, the wife decided to carry the cat back to her room in the rain. But when she got down, the cat was nowhere to be seen. The wife returned to her room in great disappointment. A maid was standing at the door with a large tortoise-shell cat, which the landlord had given to her wife.

The novel comes to a screeching halt, leaving the reader with plenty of room for imagination. Cat in the Rain is one of the few short stories that reflect female consciousness. In this novel, the heroine does not have a name, but the author gives her different titles in different situations. This paper analyzes the desire and awakening of the female subject consciousness of the hostess princess in the patriarchal society from the perspective of appellation. It embodies Hemingway’s simple narrative style and implicit stylistic characteristics.

The novel was written in the early 1920s, when the status of women in the United States was undergoing great changes. The new women redefined their roles in the family and society. They demanded to be equal to men and no longer played the roles played by traditional women who were sheltered and subordinate to men. In fact, the new women are more like men, looking and acting like tomboys: they wear short hair, short skirts, play golf, drive cars, smoke, and drink like men. They are open-minded, enthusiastic and pursue fun. Cat in the Rain fully reflects Hemingway’s profound thinking on the status of women in the family and society under the background of that time.

Cat in the Rain is one of Hemingway’s few works with a female protagonist. In this novel, Hemingway delicately described their inner desires, anguish, needs, words, and deeds from the perspective of women, conveying the subordination of women in the patriarchal society and their strong desire to change the situation. Even with the gradual awakening of their self-consciousness and their struggle against the society, the theme of women in the works is more implicit, profound, and thought-provoking, implying Hemingway’s understanding and attitude towards women.

As a nameless woman in ordinary life, the American wife has no choice and no ability to choose between inner needs (desires) and external temptations during the journey of life, so she can only create an unreal world for herself to seek temporary satisfaction through whispering. The reason why women have a special liking for cats is determined by the specific aesthetic characteristics and perceptual requirements of women under the social conditions at that time. A woman and a cat are naturally linked by her natural maternal instinct and compassion. Cat in the Rain inspired the American wife’s desire to find the lost self, which was the inevitable result of women’s understanding and thinking about their own destiny.

-Coreen C.

Emma by Jane Austen

Amazon.com: Emma (Dover Thrift Editions) (0800759406487): Jane Austen: Books

Emma’s control of Harriet’s marriage cannot be said to be selfish. She did care and love Harriet, and throughout much of the book she is seen worrying about Harriet’s marriage and drawing inspiration from it herself. Out of an intolerable conceit, she fancied she knew the secrets of every man’s affections. As it turned out, she did it all wrong. But when she learned that Harriet was in love with Knightley, she suddenly discovered that she had always been in love with him. In a sharp turn of events, she and Knightley become husband and wife. She had objected to Harriet’s marrying Martin, and was glad that they were at last united. In Emma’s opinion, Martin was as unfit to be Harriet’s husband as Harriet was unfit to be Knightley’s wife.

Marriage should be matched by family, which was exactly the marriage relationship in the society at that time. The solution to women’s problems (including marriage problems naturally) put forward by Austen was serious, but her works added comedy color. At the beginning of the 19th century, sentimental novels were popular in England, and Austen’s realistic novels gave readers a fresh breath.

In her novel Emma, Austen tells most of the family trifles in ordinary life, and the author creates a female image with intelligence and independent thinking. Emma, the protagonist, demands the equality of men and women in the patriarchal society, and has her own clear views and values on marriage. It also reflects the feminist views of Austen to some extent. With her unique perspective of supporting women, Austen profoundly cut through the reality of the society controlled by men and the situation of women in social life. The author criticizes the unfair phenomenon of male superiority and female inferiority while affirming the social status of women. Therefore, to a certain extent, this novel has far-reaching social practical significance.

Film Review: The Secret Life of Pets 2

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) Final Poster.jpg

I know it might sound a little bit childish for some of the people out there, but The Secret Life of Pets 2 was definitely a very good movie for me. At least, in my opinion, the addition of more characters added more flavor to the movie as a whole. Not only was it funny, but it also portrayed the theme of family, love, friendship, and loyalty

To start off, family has always been a big thing throughout the two movies. It was first the introduction of Duke, and then Liam the son of the family. By overcoming jealousy and eventually falling in love with the new members of the family, Max has demonstrated what the firstborn of many families have gone through.

And as for love, it would be the next stage of family. For one thing, Max became overprotective over Liam and was unwilling to let him cross the street, run into people and different things, and go to preschool. It was not after when Max himself was trained by Rooster to save the little lamb hanging on a branch did he know how important independence is to a person.

Friendship has always been a big thing for the movie series. From Max saving Hu to Daisy fighting off the wolves, it’s all revolving around friendship. And again, through a series of adventures and dangers, the white tiger cub was saved.

Lastly, what I really wanted to mention in this movie is something people normally don’t pay attention to—the wolves. They might look very evil, malicious, and atrocious, but at the same time, they are very loyal to Sergei no matter what he does to them. I’m pretty sure they could’ve just run away since they weren’t chained anyways. Under the threat of killing them and not giving meals, the wolves still strived to complete their missions and obey every single command Sergei the circus owner gives. This way, I think that they resemble dogs for their loyalty but not amiability.

-Coreen C.