Shmoop – Website of the Day


The website offers free help with topics in literature, history, government, economics, biography, math, and more. It’s unconventional, fun approach is as off-beat as its name. Shmoop also offers very reasonably-priced online test prep classes. If you are getting ready for AP tests right now, you might want to check it out the courses for just $12.95. According the Shmoop, each AP test prep class includes:

  • Deep topic review (that won’t put you in a deep sleep)
  • Practice Drills
  • 2 Full-Length Practice Exams
  • Test-Taking Tips & Strategies
  • Step-by-step guide to tackling your Essay Questions
  • Earn Points. Climb the Leaderboard. Win Shmoop Gear.

You can also get AP prep help by stopping by our library and checking out one of our AP prep books. Come by today!

Mira Costa Visit with Author D.J. MacHale

D J MacHale presents
D J MacHale presents

On Tuesday, April 19,  we had the great pleasure of hosting best-selling author D.J. MacHale at the Mira Costa Library. It was an extra special treat to have him visit our school on publication date for The Black, his newest novel. And, Margot Farris, one of the co-owners of {pages}, our local Manhattan Beach bookstore, was there with copies of it! I was so excited to get my hands on the book and to know that I was one of the first to have that priviledge. Here I am about to get my book signed:

D J MacHale and Mrs. Lofton

And here are a few of our students at the book signing:

D J MACHALE and student 2machale and studentD J MacHale and Student 3

I got copies of The Black for the library, as well as one just for me. Come by the library and borrow a copy soon if you didn’t buy your own. 🙂

Mr. MacHale graciously presented sessions three times during the day, reaching more than 350 total Mira Costa students. In his talks, we learned how his road to authorship actually began with a dislike of writing. In one of his slides, he shared how “I hate to write.”


For one assignment in high school, he got the idea that he, along with several friends, could create a movie in lieu of a writing assignment. The teacher agreed. While MacHale and his friends thought they were dodging a writing task, they were, in fact, doing lots of writing to produce the film! From then on, he used the vehicle of film for writing assignments as an alternative to traditional essays whenever he could. For university, MacHale attended Villanova and NYU and studied film at both schools. He then launched his career in film, and worked on many television series. Eventually, he came up with a story idea that he thought would work better in print than film. His Pendragon series, consisting of 10 books, and was born, and his career as a book author began. Now, he is working on the Morpheus Road Trilogy. The Black, published on Tuesday, is the second book in the trilogy.

MacHale cautioned students that if they want to write, they will have to expect — but not accept — hearing “no” a lot. He encouraged them to write about what they know and “what comes out.” While he emphasized the importance of a college education, he urged students to go to college — not to learn to write — but to study everything else, and then write about it.

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to D.J. MacHale for visiting our school. I would also like to thank Margot Farris of {pages} for working with us on book sales; Heidi Snively, Library Specialist at Grand View Elementary School, for kindly making the introduction to D.J. MacHale; and the many library volunteers who helped to make the event a success.

Here’s a slideshow of more photos from his visit:

What did you think about D.J. MacHale’s visit, and what did you learn? Please leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan

IMG_0470In February, I was delighted to attend the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Annual Children’s Authors and Literacy Dinner (see my earlier post about it.) One of the wonderful authors I got to meet was Sherry Shahan, author of the new book, Purple Daze.

Here’s a booktalk to introduce you to this enthralling free verse novel set in the San Fernando Valley in 1965 and depicting the impact of the Vietnam War and other historic events on six teenagers:

Original Letter-Vietnam

(The booktalk was recorded using VoiceThread. You need Flash and a mic on your computer to hear and view it. If you don’t have one or the other, you can see the text here.)

And here’s a photo of a letter Sherry Shahan received from her friend stationed in Vietnam who was the model for Phil in this autobiographical novel:

School Library Month & Creative Writing Contests

school library monthApril is School Library Month. In honor of this event, AASL (The American Association of School Librarians), a Division of the American Library Association, and and a free online community for teen writing, are offering four teen writing contests. There will be a new contest each week, and the judges will be four great Young Adult authors:  Alyson Noel, Lauren Oliver, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Gayle Forman.

Here’s information from the Figment site: “Each week in April a new contest prompt in a different genre of creative fiction will be announced. Figment users will vote to select the finalists and then that week’s guest author judge will select the winner. Winners of each weekly contest will receive autographed books from that week’s judge and one grand prize winner will receive a Kindle. All finalists and winners will be featured on the Figment and AASL websites.” For week 1, Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay, is the judge. Click here to learn details about this week’s contest, with entries due by April 10. I know it’s spring break, but don’t worry. If you miss this one, there will be three more coming this month.