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USPS to Honor Renowned Novelist Toni Morrison with Commemorative Stamp

by Riya Adhikari, age 11

Toni Morrison was a famous novelist who wrote non-fiction books about African Americans. She passed away on August 5th, 2019 at the age of 88 years old.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is designing a stamp in honor of Toni Morrison. She wrote about the struggles of being an African American in the United States and created a voice for many people.

Toni Morrison's writing was beautifully created and artistically worded. Some of her most famous novels are “Beloved,” “The Bluest Eye,” and “Song of Solomon.” After writing some of her best work, she taught literature and writing at Princeton University for 17 years. [Read More]

Movie Review:
The Right to Read

by Kadjata Bah, age 18

A new documentary film called The Right to Read adds to growing national debates about literacy and the science of reading. This timely and compelling film is streaming for free until March 9, 2023.

Directed by Jenny Mackenzie and produced by LeVar Burton, the film follows a long-time activist, a teacher, and two families as they navigate the future of education.

Kareem Weaver is an Oakland-based activist with the NAACP. He is an experienced educator, and his mission is to create a world where 95% of children can read. Working with Sabrina Causey, a rookie first grade teacher in Oakland, the two make a case for a new curriculum for their students based in the science of reading. [Read More]

Book Review: Night

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 17

Night, by Elie Wiesel, is based on his own personal experiences with his father in Nazi German concentration camps. Some may not consider the book a memoir since it does not follow the memories of Wiesel himself. However, it is clear that the testimony, story, and emotional truth from Eliezer—the book’s narrator—are primarily those of Wiesel. Even though some minor details are changed, what happens to Eliezer is what happened to Wiesel during the Holocaust.

At the start of the story, in the early 1940s, Jewish teenager Eliezer lives in the town of Sighet in the then-Hungarian region of Transylvania—known today as Sighetu Marmatiei and located in Romania. During this time, Eliezer studies the Torah—the first five books of the Hebrew Bible—and the Cabbala—the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible—with a teacher named Moishe the Beadle. However, his learning is interrupted when Moishe is deported for being a foreign Jew. in, led everyone on board into the woods, and murdered them according to a fixed plan. [Read More]

Book Review: It Ends With Us

by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 16

Colleen Hoover's It Ends with Us is a standalone romance novel. The slow burn story follows Lily Bloom, a 23-year-old college graduate, as she begins her new life in Boston where she meets neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid. After some unconventional encounters, they eventually fall in love. However, over time Lily and Ryle’s relationship becomes complicated. What will happen when Lily meets her first love again, Atlas Corrigan, who is the owner of Lily’s favorite restaurant Bib’s?

Just as her life seemed too good to be true, she found herself in a similar position as her mother had been in, an abusive relationship with Ryle. Although she always vowed to never be in a domestic violence relationship, she found herself in one and could not find a way to leave.

The book is truly heartbreaking. It contains a lot of mature content, such as domestic abuse and violence from a first person perspective. Sometimes love can be complicated and this book shows us exactly that. Lily struggles with facing and accepting the reality of her relationship: that it is no longer healthy and was becoming both toxic and abusive. Although it took too many situations in which Ryle would rage and act physically violent, she eventually chooses the safety of herself and her pregnancy to leave her partner. [Read More]

Complement vs. Compliment: What’s the Difference?

by Leilani McNeal

From grammar and punctuation to spelling and vocabulary, the complexities surrounding the English language can be difficult to digest. While several linguists and experts alike have unfolded its functions, there remain certain kinks and crinkles that are hard to iron out. Consider the words “compliment” and “complement” and their similar, yet contrasting meanings.

Misusing “compliment” and “complement” is a common mistake – however, a precise breakdown of these seemingly fraternal pairings will surely resolve your confusion.

Historically, these two words have the same etymology, hence why it’s no coincidence that both the spelling and meanings share similarities. Complement used to mean to compliment, but that definition has become obsolete. [Read More]

Book Review: Unwind

by Elim Eyobed, age 11

If you're looking for a suspenseful dystopian fiction detailing one’s rights to their own body, then Unwind is the book for you. Unwind is a fantasy full of action, mystery, romance, and horror. This dystopian book written by Neal Shusterman starts with a boy attempting to run away from his parents for signing a contract to “unwind” him.

To “unwind” is essentially when the parents have the legal right to redistribute their child’s body parts before they’re 18. The parts keep their muscle memory but are transplanted onto strangers. The “unwind” law was passed after a civil war broke out over reproductive rights, an idea similar to present-day conflicts regarding abortion. The two sides made a compromise: you could “unwind” your child if you decided it was right for you or your family.

Connor, the protagonist, meets two others, Lev and Risa. Lev is a rich “tithe,” which is a person conceived and raised to be unwound. He is helpful at first but a bit problematic. On the other hand, Risa is a ward of the state, living in a “state home.”She is a talented pianist, but according to the shelter, not talented enough to be kept alive. Later on, these three characters run away from the police force to avoid being unwound. [Read More]

Gwendolyn Brooks Made History with Her Words

by Katina Maclin, age 15

Amanda Gorman is a well-known poet, scholar and activist in America today. But before there was a young, powerful, Amanda Gorman, there was Gwendolyn Brooks.

Gwendolyn Brooks used her passion and command of language to advocate for change during the Civil Rights movement. She experienced many changes of American history in her lifetime, Gwendolyn Brooks found her voice, and her voice as a Black women, through writing.

Today, Brooks is remembered as one of the most respected writers of the 20th century. She was a Poet Laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner. [Read More]

Book Review: The Distance Between Us

by Camila Cruz, age 15

“The Distance Between Us” by Reyna Grande is an autobiography. The book was first published in 2012. The story begins in Mexico with Reyna, her two siblings – Carlos and Mago – and her mother. Early on we find out that Reyna's father has crossed the border from Mexico to the United States, also referred to as “El Otro Lado.'' He left when Reyna was very young and a picture of him was all Reyna had to remember him.

In January 1980, Reyna’s mother would be getting an unexpected phone call from her husband, Reyna's dad, asking her to join him and make the journey to the United States. Reyna’s dad quickly faced hardship and realized it was not as easy in El Otro Lado as many expected. He wanted her help to pursue his dream, the reason why he left his family in the first place. His dream was to earn as much money as he could, to build his family a house in Mexico and be able to return to his homeland and provide for his loved ones.

When the ladies from la Colonia of Guadalupe found out that Reyna’s mom had received the call from her husband they all felt resentful. Most of the men who cross to “EL Otro Lado'' with the same dream, after a while would eventually forget about the family they left behind and some would even start a whole new family in the United States. [Read More]

Book Review: We Were Liars

by Sandy Flores Ruiz, age 16

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is a book whose title you will want to remember. We Were Liars details the summers of Cadence, the oldest granddaughter of the Sinclair family. She tries to find answers on why her cousins stopped talking to her, why she has daily painful headaches, and why she stopped going to “the island”. Along the way, she discovers a dark secret that her family hid from her.

The liars—Cadence and her cousins Jonny, Mirren, and Gatwick (Gat)—were close until the summer when Cadence was fifteen, the summer when everything changed. Cadence got into a serious accident that left her very injured with no memory of what her life was like before. For that reason, she decides to take it upon herself to discover what happened.

All Cadence remembers is that the liars went to their grandparents' private island off the coast of Massachusetts every summer and that she was also in love with Gat—who was Johnny's mother’s partner's nephew, meaning he was an adopted cousin. [Read More]

Book Review: Artemis Fowl

reviewed by Theodore B. Morrison, age 13

Artemis Fowl is the first book in the Artemis Fowl book series written by Eoin Colfer. The fantasy novel follows Artemis Fowl, a twelve-year-old boy prodigy who lives on a fantasy Earth where magical creatures, known as fairies, live underground.

The plot begins when Fowl kidnaps a Lower Elements Police (LEP) recon officer in hopes of obtaining a ransom of a one-ton of 24-karat gold. The story describes how the kidnapping plays out for Fowl and his personal bodyguard nicknamed “Butler.” Artemis Fowl is such a unique book as it has a young, highly intelligent, and villainous protagonist whose story will keep you at the edge of your seat.

This book takes a unique approach to the good guy. bad-guy formula by telling the story of the bad guy (Fowl), the anti-hero. The story displays how ruthlessly far Fowl is willing to go to achieve his goals, which he does in a cold and emotionless manner. [Read More]

The Four Key Ways to Create a Story

by Leilani McNeal, age 17

As an avid staff writer at Simpson Street Free Press, I believe it’s only fair to explore the four ways a writer can construct a story. Whether one chooses the complex, detailed route of descriptive writing, or the logical, clear-cut direction of expository, all writing styles contain their own unique purposes to both readers and writers.

Expository writing means to explain or expose a topic in a chronological order. This type of writing is the most common and can be found in textbooks, business writing, and journalism. The writer synthesizes multiple sources of information into an unbiased, factual, easy-to-understand paper. Some elements of expository include compare and contrast, cause and effect, and analysis. The main goal is to inform the reader about the topic at hand.

Narrative writing is when the writer tells a story to the reader. Unlike expository writing, a narrative doesn’t have to be read chronologically; the writer’s sole focus is to maintain the reader’s attention. Narratives can be fun, compelling, evoking, and even personal. Whichever direction is taken, the goal is to make the reader feel a part of the story. [Read More]

Book Review: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Reviewed by Katina Maclin, age 16

Many of us are aware of the racial injustices that society has been fighting against for many years, especially these past two years. Through these years, many shortcomings pertaining to black disparities in education have been exposed. Change comes in many different stages and society is beginning to evolve into a stage of education so that injustices can be avoided altogether.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is a nonfiction detailing the stories of countless individuals who were treated unfairly in the criminal justice system. Stevenson is a social justice activist and an American lawyer. He is most famous for representing an innocent black man, Walter McMillian, and gaining his freedom from death row in a racist criminal justice system. Then later he won the emancipation of another innocent black man, Anthony Ray Hinton. Stevenson’s work is famous nationally and is very controversial. A hidden figure in the black community, he has contributed much of his life to winning justice for underserved people through his non-profit, the Equal Justice Initiative.

This book essentially details Stevenson’s journey of restoring justice. It dives deep into what most criminal justice systems wouldn’t want people to know and it allows readers to understand the lives of people facing the system. Stevenson also analyzes the emotionally taxing parts of his job. He narrates the background, history, and interactions he has with individuals, some of which are emotional and graphic. [Read More]

Book Review: The School for Good and Evilby Josepha Da Costa, age 17

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani is the first installment of a six book fantasy and fairytale series. This is a young adult book aimed towards middle schoolers, although anyone could give it a read. [Read More]

Book Review: Life of Piby Hanna Eyobed, age 17

Life of Pi is an acclaimed fiction novel written by Yann Martel. The riveting tale is “a story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction,” according to the Los Angeles Times. While this book depicts a life very different from my own, it touched my soul and I’m sure it will touch yours too. [Read More]

Book Review: The Hate U Give — by Yani Thoronka

As Winter break draws to a close and marks the beginning of another stressful semester; a good book may just be the remedy to ease back into the remaining portion of the school year. If this is the case, I have the perfect book suggestion, The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. This book was published in 2017, and following its release, a movie was soon developed. [Read More]

Book Review: Front Deskreviewed by Aissata Bah, age 11

I recently read Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, a book that won the 2019 Asia/Pacific American Award for Literature. Front Desk is a story about Mia Tang, a 10-year-old girl whose family immigrated from China to America, and the challenges that come with living in a new country. Aspiring to be a writer and even a motel owner, Mia wants to feel like she belongs. She experiences many difficulties including navigating a new school and environment, being stereotyped, and feeling the need to hide her immigration status. But that isn't even half of it, there are even more! With all these challenges, will she do it all? [Read More]

Book Review: Four Secretsby Allison Torres , age 13

Four Secrets by Margaret Willey is a book that follows three best friends Katie, Nate, and Renata who end up getting in trouble. They find themselves in detention accused and facing charges of kidnapping and druggin Chase Dobson. Chase is an infamous bully at school. His parents are rich and his grandfather used to be the mayor. What matters is that Katie, Nate, Renata won’t stand up for themselves against Chase. They also made a big promise and can’t break it. They would be able to go back home and return to their normal lives. [Read More]

Puss in Boots Sequel Set to Air Late 2022 — by Amare Smith, age 18

In 2011, the Puss in Boots movie was released. It was a spinoff of the hit movie “Shrek.” Since the film's release, many films have been made and displayed on Netflix. Ten years later, Puss in Boots finally has its sequel! The sequel will center around Puss getting his nine lives back after losing eight. To get his lives back, he must go on a journey to find a genie to grant him a wish. [Read More]