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For Students

How much water and electricity do you use each day? Do you know how to forecast your own weather? Knowing exactly how much water and energy we use, as well as being able to determine what the weather will be, are things we have to do on a daily basis when we’re living and traveling on a sailboat. As this page develops, we plan to talk about and show you a little more about our lives aboard a boat.


July 25, 2017

A Note by Justine

After spending a couple of hours sorting through my numerous English essays, I’ve planned to use this page as a home for some of them. I will be posting any essays relating to literature or film here in order to show you how my life has given me a unique look on popular works. And to have an excuse to talk about books and movies that I like. There’s that too.

2015-2016 Grade Ten

Analysis of Shark Life

As Peter Benchley states in his book Shark Life, “It’s hard to care deeply for something that might turn on you and eat you” (48). He is, of course, talking about sharks–some of the most feared creatures in the sea. Yet, right after he states that, he goes on to say why we shouldn’t fear sharks and should instead respect and protect them. This might seem like a preposterous thing to suggest. Why should we protect something that might eat us? In 190 pages of true stories, facts, and humor, the author of Jaws tells us exactly why we should listen to him. In the end, I was convinced to agree with him.

Benchley makes his opinions clear, but that still brings us back to the question: Why should we listen to him? He does not hesitate to provide his reasons in a way that’s hard to ignore. Clearly and directly, he states, “Sharks are critically important to the health of the oceans and the balance of nature in the sea” (49). He also mentions that sharks are not the man-eaters we think they are and how the facts about them tend to get distorted. This means that not only is he saying that sharks are important, but that what we know about them might be wrong. It is an attention grabbing thing to do, luring us to read more.

At this point, Benchley might have our attention, but we don’t know yet if what he is saying is true. That’s why he backs up his opinions and reasons with evidence. He provides statistics from the International Shark Attack File to show how shark attacks were down in the “Shark Summer” of 2001 despite what the media was saying. He tells stories of both good and bad experiences he and people he knows have had with sharks. He lists facts and accounts from shark scientists and experts. He also demonstrates the role of sharks in our planet’s food chain and the negative effect their disappearance would have on humans. While doing all this, he avoids logical fallacies by making clear distinctions between fact and opinion with statements such as, “Don’t take as gospel my (or anybody’s) list of bad actors in the company of sharks” (67). Even if he does occasionally put an opinion in fact form, he still backs it up. With all the evidence he provides, his opinions quickly turn from outrageous to understandable.

Now, logically, we know why we should protect sharks, but as Benchley pointed out it’s hard to care for them. We cannot project human characteristics onto creatures that do not breathe air or care for their young. Still, through detailed stories told with good nature, Benchley does his best to appeal to our emotions. In one sentence filled with loaded words, he says, “In their appearance, their efficiency, and the striking evidence of their incredible adaptability, sharks are–to me, anyway–among the most beautiful creatures on earth” (116). He works to teach us how to admire sharks and to invoke in us a sense of horror at what is happening to many species. A part in one of his stories goes, “They saw that the sharks had not only been killed, they had also been mutilated. Their fins had been slashed off…and the sharks had been thrown back into the sea to bleed to death or drown” (119). “Striking,” “incredible,” “mutilated,” and “slashed” are words that can take us on an emotional rollercoaster from awe one moment to horror the next.

In Shark Life, Peter Benchley gives it his all to convince readers why we should not only respect and admire sharks–creatures that have been known to kill humans–we should protect them too. He states his opinions and his reasons for his opinions clearly, provides a book full (literally) of evidence, avoids logical fallacies, and appeals to our emotions with loaded words. It is hard to argue with his logic, especially since he acknowledges multiple sides to the argument involving sharks by admitting when certain cases are only his opinion and that sharks are still dangerous no matter what. By the time I got to the end of the book, I agreed with him; sharks are important to our planet, and they are disappearing because of us. They are animals that are being overfished, not monsters with a thirst for human blood. As Benchley states in the last few paragraphs, “This problem can be solved only by us” (189). This statement is one opinion he doesn’t back up, but instead leaves open to interpretation. It’s like he’s saying, “You’ve heard what I’ve had to say. Now what are you going to do?” I believe him. Do you?

2015-2016 Grade Ten

Taoism in Modern Times

There are many different ways of life, and many of them are always changing. In some ways, however, things never change. We often identify with stories and philosophies created hundreds or maybe even thousands of years ago. One such philosophy is Taoism, which was founded by Laotzu several hundred years before Christ. There are many aspects of it that still apply to today.

In passage eight of the Tao Te Ching, Laotzu states, “In work, do what you enjoy.” This part of his teachings can be very useful in the modern day United States (and many other countries). It is not uncommon for people to have boring, tedious, or stressful jobs that make it hard for them to enjoy life. Of course, some people have no choice and must do what they can to make money, but it is those that do have a choice that this part of Taoism can apply to. Laotzu was most likely suggesting to pick a job that you enjoy doing instead of just choosing the one that brings in the most money. In other words, happiness is better than materialism.

In that same passage, Laotzu says, “In family life, be completely present.” All too often today, one or even both parents spend most of their time working, leaving the kids alone or with a sitter. This can create a more distant relationship between family members, and the kids receive less guidance growing up than they would if their parents were present all the time. My dad’s work used to only let me see him on the weekends. Not only did this make it hard to have a close relationship with him, it was also very sad waiting a long time for him to come home and then watching him quickly leave again. Family life was much happier when he finally quit his job to spend more time with us. Parents should do what they can to follow Laotzu’s advice and give their kids attention when they need it.

In a way, it’s amazing how old philosophies can apply to the modern life. Taoism applies to many common situations today. Laotzu’s policy of happiness over materialism is kind of like the slogan of Life is Good, “Do what you like. Like what you do,” in terms of doing a job you can enjoy. Laotzu also understood the importance of spending time with your family, which is something many parents fail to do nowadays. I believe if more people practiced the Taoist values, then there would be more happiness in the world.

2015-2016 Grade Ten

Law v. Belief in Antigone

Would you break the law–risking your life in the process–to do what you believe is right? That is the question the Greek tragedy Antigone brings up, as Antigone defies her uncle’s degree for religious purposes and is thus sentenced to death. By the end of the play, there is much death, and the audience may be left wondering if it was all worth it. I personally feel there were better options available and, had Antigone made another choice, some of the suffering could’ve been prevented.

I do not believe what Antigone did was wrong. She was willing to sacrifice herself to do what she thought was right: “This death of mine is of no importance; but if I had left my brother lying in death unburied, I should have suffered” (Scene 2, lines 69-71). If she had been alone in her opinion, then defying civil law would’ve seemed more like an act of anarchy, but this was not the case. Antigone believed that Creon was the one who was wrong, but everyone else was too afraid to speak up against him despite agreeing with her. She says, “All these men here would praise me were their lips not frozen shut with fear of you. Ah the good fortune of kings, licensed to say and do whatever they please!” (Scene 2, lines 99-102). This is confirmed by Haimon and the terrified sentry, showing that the majority opinion was actually against Creon, not Antigone.

It was not what Antigone did but how she did it that I feel was a poor choice. I think she acted too rashly. Though she was willing to accept her death at first, what purpose would dying serve? She knew Creon was acting like a dictator and felt she had to do something about his decision to ignore religious law, but I think that it would be hard to solve a problem while dead. It would’ve been better, in my opinion, had she used patience and caution by gathering more support and by trying to convince Creon to change his mind first instead of boldly defying him in a way that wounded his pride, leading him to angrily order her death. In the end, there was only mourning on the part of both Antigone and Creon.

2015-2016 Grade Ten

Comparing King Arthur and Sundiata

We often identity with heroes, such as King Arthur and Sundiata, especially when we are children. These great heroes often start out as ordinary people, like most of us, before they beat all odds and become magnificent kings. Each hero also has a quality we admire, and we find ourselves learning from their actions. Arthur demonstrates generosity despite having been wronged. Sundiata shows determination when faced with the impossible. We take the messages our heroes tell us and apply them to our own lives. However, these stories were created long ago, so one might be more relevant than the other.

I believe that Sundiata’s epic has the more relevant message for children today. Despite being the son of a king, Sundiata had a disappointing childhood. In the beginning, he is unable to walk or talk and is not liked by the other village children. This makes it seem impossible that he would ever become great. However, wanting to do something right for his mother, a very determined Sundiata wills himself to stand up and walk for the first time, even though it requires much physical exertion. Because of his determination, Sundiata is able to conquer the impossible.

Sundiata’s story tells us that if we put our minds to it, then we have a chance to overcome even the most difficult of odds. This message can be very meaningful to many young people, especially those in difficult situations. It is important to believe that, when things are hard or you feel like nothing special, you have the ability to achieve a better life. This is different from Arthur’s story, as the young squire pulls the sword out of the stone with little effort. While it is admirable when Arthur forgives the nobles for denying him the throne (generosity is a virtue), I believe determination will ultimately get you farther in life than generosity.

2015-2016 Grade Ten


Hic sunt dracones. That is Latin for “here be dragons.” From sea serpents to fire breathing beasts, dragons have been appearing in writings and paintings for thousands of years. It has been argued whether dragons actually existed (or do exist) in real life, but in a way the answer is already known. Dragons live among us, on our shelves and in our hands, and we encounter them everyday. They have served as important parts of literature for centuries, and without them our stories wouldn’t be the same.

Dragons have existed in literature since long before Christ. The leviathan from the Book of Job and the guardian of the apples of Hesperides from Greek mythology are both considered types of dragons. Dragons wove their way into stories written in the Middle Ages, such as those of the heroes Beowulf and King Arthur. They continued to live in the Twentieth Century in well known stories, including L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. Now they have crossed over into the present century with other famous books, like J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle. In this way, dragons have continued living among us in the tales we love.

The fact that dragons still live among us is a testament to their power in literature. When a dragon appears in a book, it almost always plays an important role. It might be an obstacle the protagonist has to get past to reach his or her main goal. Romance heroes, such as King Arthur and his knights, often must slay a dragon while on a quest, proving they are worthy to proceed. Other times, the dragon is the main goal. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins and a group of dwarves set off to take back the dwarves’ home from the great dragon Smaug. More recently, dragons in many stories act as aids to the protagonist (or one may even act as the protagonist). For example, Harry Potter and his friends use a dragon to escape from the deepest vaults of Gringotts Bank, and Eragon of The Inheritance Cycle is bonded to the dragon Saphira. Dragons, whether intelligent or not, are important characters in many works of literature.

While these ancient creatures may act as characters in stories, they are significant for another reason. Dragons are symbols of something greater and more powerful than ourselves. They are often portrayed as deadly, scaled beasts that may spit fire or poison, fly or swim, and have one head or many. It is a right of passage for a knight to kill one, for only the bravest, toughest, and most skilled knights can successfully slay a dragon. Some dragons are written as being intelligent creatures, wiser than any human. They may give advice to humans they like or outwit and trick those they don’t. This symbolism is what helps keep dragons alive in stories.

Dragons are amazing creatures that have served as important parts in literature for millennia. They live in stories from Ancient Greek myths to modern fantasies and are vital characters that can serve the role of protagonist, guide, or antagonist. These reptiles are the embodiment of power and wisdom. Without them so many stories, including The Hobbit and Harry Potter, would have to be rewritten to include different obstacles, sources of conflict, and symbols. What’s more, dragons represent the unknown–the things still undiscovered in a world we learn more about each day. Dragons are truly magical beings because, as much as we search for them in our world, they have yet to reveal themselves.


Works Cited

Carswell, Beth. “Here Be Dragons in Literature.” AbeBooks. AbeBooks Inc, 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.

“Dragon.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.

“List of dragons in literature.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016.

2015-2016 Grade Ten

Relevance of A Separate Peace

Friendship, jealousy, sports, broken rules, hidden truths–these are things that sound like they could make up a modern high school drama. They certainly make their way into Devon in John Knowles’s A Separate Peace. Interestingly enough, the novel was first published about half a century ago and takes place during World War II. This shows that some teenage problems don’t change, no matter what time in history it is.

The question of loyalty is frequently brought into focus in the novel. Finny is unquestioningly loyal to Gene, never doubting his friendship. Gene, on the other hand, is more unsure and is unable to bring himself to call Finny his best friend. Gene is frequently resentful of Finny and even believes him to be his enemy at one point. As things change, they do their best to remain friends and keep things normal, even going so far as to make up fantasies to achieve this. The doubts and troubles surrounding friendship and loyalty are certainly things many teenagers these days are familiar with. Loyalty is often a test, and it is sometimes all too easy to be jealous of a friend. Gene demonstrates that friendship can be hard, and I’m sure many people can relate to that.

The novel also has to do with facing the truth (or even the darkness) that hangs over us. Gene and Finny frequently deny the truth, not wanting to face the consequences. Finny denies that there is a war. Gene refuses to completely face the truth about his involvement in Finny’s accident. Both boys also silently agree not to look at the facts about what happened to Finny. It isn’t until outside influences force them to that they finally acknowledge the truth about everything, but not before some people get hurt. Not wanting to face the truth because of the trouble or change it will bring is another common problem people face today. For me, it often feels easier to deny a problem’s existence rather than to deal with its stress. However, like the novel demonstrates, postponing a problem sometimes makes it worse.

I believe A Separate Peace will retain its relevance in the future. If you strip away everything except the characters and the basic conflict, then it is easy to compare it to current situations. It is a story that revolves around the friendship of two boys. Many modern teenagers can probably relate to the troubles of Gene and Finny’s friendship and to the desire to remain ignorant. As we make the transition into the adult world, things often change that we don’t want to change. We gradually lose our innocence. That is what happens in A Separate Peace, and that is what still happens today.

2015-2016 Grade Ten

Proposed Solution for Homeless in Hawaii (History Exercise)

As you know, the problem of homelessness in Hawaii is a big one. It has one of the largest homeless populations out of all the states. This is even more of a problem because of the fact that the Hawaiian Islands are not very big. There is not enough room. The shelters are full, and the parks and sidewalks are clogged with tents and sleeping bodies. There are also many complications. I propose we reevaluate our efforts to help. We must accept that there is no simple solution; it must have many parts.

On local level, the shelters pose a problem. Even when there is room, few people consider them an option. Bedbugs, undercooked food, and loss of freedom are the real and accurate fears that surround the shelters. Many places also have no-pet laws, resulting in people choosing to remain on the streets rather than lose their companions. However, the streets are often only the lesser of two evils. Substance abuse, prostitution, and mental illness are just a few problems that plague the residents of the camps. I believe the only way to address the situation should be by addressing all problems.

I propose we organize groups to inspect and help out at the shelters in order to make them more suitable places of living. We’ll need a little professional help though. Arrangements need to be made with people such as doctors and counsellors to assist those that are struggling with illness or addiction. Volunteers should be collected for tutoring positions to give education to whoever wants it. A connection with the Hawaiian Humane Society would also be beneficial, as it specializes in protecting the rights of pet owners. Whatever we do, we need to remember that all people are entitled to their rights. We must not do anything against anyone’s will.

On a national level, the mainland poses a problem. I’m sure some of you have heard about the rumors of the other states sending their homeless to Hawaii. Those rumors are true. Many states give people a one way ticket here because it is warmer. However, as we all know, Hawaii cannot support its vast homeless population. Maui attempted to solve this problem by sending people back, but that developed another one. Some people found ways to abuse the system and figured out how to get multiple free tickets back and forth between Hawaii and mainland. I believe we are dealing with a lack of coordination. If a group of ambassadors could be created, then we could find ways to coordinate with the other states in order to work together to find a solution.

As you can see, homelessness is a large problem. This project will be a massive undertaking, but I believe with it improvements can be made. This is at least one step on the path to a solution.

Note: This was simply a writing exercise for American History. As much as I would like to help those without homes in Hawaii, my future plans involve doing good on the earth in a different way. The purpose of posting this was more to raise awareness so that people elsewhere know what is going on and to potentially inspire them to seek out a solution. Mahalo.

2015-2016 Grade Ten

Thoughts on the Future of the U.S.

I’m unsure what the future of the United States will be, but I do know that, whatever happens next, things are getting ready to change. In just a few months a new President will be elected, and that will be either Clinton or Trump. If Clinton is elected, then we will have our first woman President. If Trump is elected, then there will be many new changes, and power will shift back over to the Republicans.

I fear slightly for our foreign relations. America’s position as a world leader and its tendency to interfere with other countries’ business has made it unpopular with other nations. The people from other countries that I have met tend to believe insulting stereotypes about Americans, find our politics ridiculous, and never miss a chance to explain how their country is better. Now Trump is already causing a tense situation with Mexico with his plans for new immigration laws and border security. I feel that if our country doesn’t back off a bit, then we may end up in another tense foreign relationship.

On the home front, as the nomination of Clinton and the previous election of President Obama have demonstrated, there has been great progress made in overcoming discrimination. However, it has yet to be completely overcome. There are people that believe women have not achieved gender equality, and there are still feminist groups pushing for that equality. Recently, the media has been highlighting racial inequality and the fights that have happened between African Americans and cops. This demonstrates that, even though progress has been made, the problems still exist.

So much has changed over the years, and so much will continue to change. I’ve noticed that in some ways things have gotten more complicated. Politics aren’t quite what they used to be. Technology has contributed to a lot of new developments; it has changed how we live our lives, how we fight our wars, and even how we run our country. Progress has been made in some areas, such as social equality, but problems have developed in others, such as the harmful uses of technology. The future of the US will be interesting to say the least.

2015-2016 Grade Ten

Lost and Found Dreams in “Sea Fever”

There is no feeling like being at sea. John Masefield accurately captures that sense of freedom and adventure in his poem “Sea Fever.” The speaker is an old sailor who wishes to travel the seas one last time. He wants a final taste of adventure—of being at the mercy of the elements. He wants to ride the wind and feel the salt spray with the gulls and whales as his companions. He longs for the camaraderie that comes from sharing such a trip with other sailors. He also wishes for a peaceful rest when it’s all over.

Though the sailor’s dream is probably an old one or one he has had many times, I don’t feel like it’s a lost dream. It is clear that he (or maybe even she) has spent some time away from the sea, but now his desire to return to it has fully reawakened. Because of this, I believe it is a found dream. He has rediscovered his sense of adventure (unless it never left in the first place) and can no longer stay away. As he clearly states, “I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide / Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.”

I believe the sailor will achieve his dream in one way or another. I speak from personal experience. To use Masefield’s extremely accurate choice of words, my family and I also live the “vagrant gypsy life.” Though cruising has changed a lot over the years, this poem proves that some things remain the same. There is no describing the sense of freedom that comes from being at sea, though Masefield comes about as close as you can get. The feeling of exploring new horizons with nature as your only master—smelling the salt and feeling the wind on your face—is something that cannot be found on land. Once you make the trip out to sea, it changes you. When you go back to land, you discover that everything is different, but not because it has changed; it is because you have changed. It’s like you catch a permanent disease. If you leave the water for too long the fever sets in, and nothing can prevent you from finding your way back.

2014-2015 Grade Nine

Letter to Anna Quindlen

Dear Anna Quindlen,

I was very happy to read your essay because you share a lot of the same thoughts I do on homelessness. I am currently in Honolulu and, because Hawaii has more homeless than any other state, I see them everywhere. It’s well known that the other states give them a one-way plane ticket here.

I agree with you that a lot of homeless do not go to shelters out of pride so that they do not forfeit the ability to shape their surroundings to themselves. There is this one couple that lives on a section of grass that my family and I have to pass whenever we walk to the grocery store, the mall, or the park. Their things are always arranged neatly, and I often see them sweeping their area clean.

I also agree that they should be treated as individuals. I always feel guilty when I use the term homeless because I feel like I’m classifying them as something else, though I often cannot find a better word. However, especially here in Hawaii, there are so many without homes that it is extremely difficult to treat them as individuals. What I mean is, how can the problem of homelessness be solved if you try to focus on what every single person wants? I’m not saying we should discriminate against them. I believe most of the homeless are just like you and me, who are people, and should be treated as thus. At the same time, if you try to make everyone happy, then no one is going to be happy.

There is one problem that you didn’t mention. A large number of the homeless (at least here in Hawaii) are mentally ill. I have seen many people dancing in the street and talking to poles, and you get nowhere if you try to have a rational conversation with one of them. How do you help them? How do you treat them as individuals when they’re not all there? One man was urinating as he was strolling down the street. Later, that same man made guns with his fingers and pretended to shoot me while I was walking past. How do you deal with that?

I agree with so many of your thoughts, but in the grand scheme of things I’m not sure your ideas can help all of them. I guess if you get two groups of people and have one group concentrate on homelessness as a whole while the other group works on helping individuals, then perhaps a bigger difference might be made. Thank you for helping me think about this more. I hope that one day there will be no such thing as homelessness.



December 12, 2014

Nim’s Island Movie Review

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live on a remote island, far from any known land? In the movie “Nim’s Island”, a small island, uninhabited except for eleven year old Nim (portrayed by Abigail Breslin) and her father, Jack Rusoe (Gerard Butler), is suddenly the center of an ocean of trouble. One of my favorite movies, “Nim’s Island” is a heartwarming, funny, and unique story. It has plenty of action and memorable characters people of all ages can relate to. Besides the fun it can give the whole family, “Nim’s Island” has a meaning that makes it unforgettable.

The movie begins with Nim telling the story of her mother’s death and how that led to Nim and her dad discovering their island. It then cuts to Nim, now eleven, and shows her life on her island with her “friends”, a sea lion, a lizard, a pelican, and a sea turtle. Her father, renowned scientist Jack Rusoe, ends up leaving the island and Nim behind as he goes on a trip to collect nanoplankton, but gets caught in a storm that causes his boat to get stuck at sea. When Jack doesn’t return and a cruise ship full tourists arrives at the island, Nim emails agoraphobic writer Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), thinking she is famous adventurer Alex Rover, for help. Even though Alexandra hadn’t left her apartment for sixteen weeks, she goes on a very long and trying journey to help Nim. All three characters struggle to save or reach Nim’s island.

Instead of focusing on just one main character, “Nim’s Island” revolves around three. All of them, Nim, Jack, and Alexandra, are certainly memorable. Nim is brave, reckless, and resourceful, but becomes terrified when she thinks her dad isn’t coming back. Jack has a love of science, but an even greater love for Nim. Had she not been waiting for him, he would have given up trying to survive. Alexandra was scared of a lot of things, but attempted to overcome them because of a young girl’s cry for help. These things have been true of real people today. Audiences of all ages can also relate to the characters in different ways. Younger audiences can connect with Nim and her fun ways. Adults, especially ones with kids, can connect with Jack and his fight to get back to Nim, and Alexandra and her attempt to overcome her fears to save a girl that is miles away. By forming connections with the characters, it makes it easier for people to cheer when Nim scares the tourists or Alexandra and Jack find the will to keep going, and gasp when they surprise us. I assure you that these are characters you will never forget.

The plot of “Nim’s Island” constantly surprises the viewers by taking turns they don’t expect. A girl has to fight off “pirates”, an agoraphobic writer has to cross the Pacific Ocean, and a man on a dismasted boat has to get back to the remote island he came from. The plot is suspenseful and filled with action, but doesn’t have the killing that is so common in movies today. Different from many other movies, the closest thing to describing “Nim’s Island” is that it is like a reverse “Robinson Crusoe.” It has quite an attention-grabbing plot.

The characters and the plot make the movie fun to watch, but there is a deeper meaning to the movie that makes it something to watch time and time again. In the movie, all three characters have to overcome fear and not lose hope. If they were to lose hope they would lose all they were fighting for. Watching the characters facing their internal struggles as well as the environment around them can teach people to have the courage to face their own fears, especially to protect the people and places they love.

“Nim’s Island” is a unique movie that is great for people of all ages. It has memorable characters, an attention-grabbing plot, and a lesson to teach everyone. On a scale of one to ten, I give this movie a nine. With the amount of suspense and humor it has, I believe many other people will enjoy this movie as much as I did.

2014-2015 Grade Nine

Between Shades of Gray Book Review

Almost everyone has heard of the Jewish genocide that was caused by the Germans during World War II. Those genocide camps were discovered sometime during the end of the war, and the tales of the captives and conditions spread quickly. Between Shades of Gray, written by Ruta Sepetys, is a novel that takes place during World War II, but it tells the story of a different kind of tragedy, one that was kept secret for over fifty years. The book is about a fifteen year old Lithuanian girl by the name of Lina. One night she is taken from her home, along with her mother and brother, by Soviet soldiers. They are tossed into train cars with hundreds of other people from the Baltic regions and no explanation as to why. The story gives readers a chance to follow Lina as she journeys across Russia, through labor camps, to stop at Siberia. Based on a true story, Between Shades of Gray is a tale of love, hardship, family, art, and tragedy. Even though both the book and train stop in Siberia, it is not the end of the story. It is up to the reader to decide if love, hope, and art win out against fear, anger, and despair. Does this story have a happy ending, or did the Soviets win after all?

Readers don’t have to be interested in historical fiction to like this book. The author classifies this novel as a love story, but I think it’s more than that. The book deals in facts and history as well as emotion and art. Between Shades of Gray is truly a book like no other. It doesn’t show things as good or bad, or black or white. Instead, it shows them in between shades of gray. Overall, it is a story of survival. I found my eyes opened and my heart grabbed as I turned to the next page and then to the few hundred pages after that. As a teenage girl with both parents and a younger brother, it was very easy for me to relate to Lina in the beginning. When everything turned for the worst, I found myself silently cheering for her, willing her to hang on a little longer. I ended up admiring her ability to cope in the end. If readers are looking for a story they can never forget, they don’t have to look anymore. Between Shades of Gray will have you hooked from the first sentence to the last.


October 10-19, 2012

Life on a Boat: Tips on Conserving Water

“When you do the dishes don’t forget to use the saltwater pump!” Ever heard your mother say that? Unless you live on a sailboat you probably haven’t. Because of the limited amount of water on my family’s boat, using saltwater to do the dishes is one of the many things I have to remember. Luckily, I’m getting the hang of conserving water. The thing is, do you? Even if you don’t live on a boat conserving water is a good thing. For boaters it means having water longer and for other people it means saving money. It is also better for the environment to conserve water. Why don’t you try to conserve water too?

The number one rule in water conservation is “Do not leave the water running!” An example of doing this when washing your hands is to rinse them and then turn the water off to soap them. Complete the process by turning the water back on to rinse the soap off and you’re done. Simple right? You would be surprised on how much water you could save just by turning the water off when you soap your hands.

When you brush your teeth, you could take water conservation a step further. First, fill a cup up with water. Next, dip your toothbrush in the cup. If you do that it is impossible to lose any water. Then, once you’ve brushed your teeth, use the sink to rinse off the toothbrush and use the water in the cup to rinse out your mouth. If you were to use that process (if you didn’t leave the sink on) you would only have to turn the water on to fill up the cup and rinse off the toothbrush. Again, this is a simple way to save money, water, and the environment.

Doing the dishes is a little more complicated. All of the following steps can only be used if you live on a sailboat, because in order to save water while doing the dishes on a boat requires the use of a saltwater pump. Using a foot pedal, you use the saltwater pump to…well… pump saltwater into the sink. The first step in doing the dishes is to let the dishes soak in saltwater in the sink. Next, you take a sponge or rag and soap them. Then you rinse them in saltwater. Finally, before you let the dishes dry, you rinse them in freshwater. It takes a lot more water to rinse the soap off the dishes than it does to rinse saltwater off them, so that’s why you use saltwater to get the soap off and freshwater to get the saltwater off. In the end little freshwater should have been used.

Did you know that if every time you were to take a shower you turned the water off when it was time to use shampoo, conditioner, and soap you could save $150 (if you have to pay water bills) and 3,200 gallons of water a year? Boaters need those extra gallons and some regular home owners could use that excess cash. The first step in doing this is, when you get in the shower, to turn the water on and get your body wet. Then, turn the water back off and shampoo your hair. After that, turn the water on again and rinse the shampoo out. Do the same thing with conditioner, though it’s best not to use it at all. If you live on a boat, rinsing the conditioner out takes too much extra water to use all the time. The next step is to turn the water off once again and soap your body. Lastly, you finish by rinsing the soap off, but you probably already know that. Keep following these steps and you could save 3,200 gallons of water a year.

Water is essential for people to survive. We need it to bath, drink, cook, and do so many other things. The problem is boat owners have a limited supply of it and it can be costly to use for some home owners who have to pay their water bills. By following these simple steps you could save so much water, money, and the environment. Think green!

Note from Mom: With these water conservation methods, 200 gallons of water lasts our family for 24 days. That’s just over 2 gallons/person per day. Quite impressive!

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