Free Smart Pop YA Essay: It's the Little Things

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Through the Wardrobe

It's the Little Things

by Susan Vaught

Permit me to remind you that a very small size has been bestowed on us Mice, and if we did not guard our dignity, some (who weigh worth by inches) would allow themselves very unsuitable pleasantries at our expense.

Reepicheep the High Mouse offers these words to Aslan in Prince Caspian.

His meaning?

Stop picking on him and his fellow soldier-mice just because they’re little guys. If you judge their worth by inches alone, you’ll pay a wicked price.

As one of the fiercest and most influential warriors of Old Nar-nia–and okay, okay, one of the tiniest–Reepicheep knows that mice and children must always guard their dignity because older, bigger creatures use age and size as an excuse to dismiss the intelligence, skill, and usefulness of smaller creatures. Villains and heroes alike make that error all through the Chronicles of Narnia, especially in Prince Caspian, and it’s–excuse the pun–a big …

Available Until Thursday, May 5th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Not So Weird Science

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The Girl Who Was on Fire

Not So Weird Science

by Cara Lockwood

I will admit right now that I am entirely too critical of most sci-fi. I’m the one sitting in the movie theater grumbling, “that could never happen.” Or, more concisely, I’ll just say: “Seriously?”

Could there be some crazy disease somewhere in a lab that would turn the entire planet into brain-eating zombies or sunlight-fearing vampires? No way. Beefing up shark brains to make them super-smart predators? I don’t think so. Crazed prehistoric- sized piranhas that will devour anybody with an inflatable floatie and a cooler? Please. They want us to believe this stuff?

Like take the insane DNA-spliced mutant monsters that make terrifying cameos throughout the Hunger Games. I’m supposed to believe that one day we could be ripped apart by mutant wolves with tribute eyes? Stung by poisonous and relentless tracker jackers? Or get devoured by giant lizard men?

Seriously?

As it turns out . . . maybe so.

Not only do muttations–“mutts” for short–already exist in our world, but the stuff real scientists are …

Available Until Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Introduction: Ender's World

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Ender's World

Introduction: Ender's World

by Orson Scott Card

I thought I had a pretty good story when I gave my first draft of the original novelet “Ender’s Game” to my mother to type up for submission.

My mother had been another set of eyes on all my plays and my handful of previous stories. So even though I had long been a very fast and accurate typist myself, I passed her my longhand manuscript because I wanted to see how the story would work for her. This was my first serious attempt to write a sci-fi story to sell. My theatre company was getting good attendance, but losing money even with no rent and no salaries to pay (you can lose money on hit plays). I needed “Ender’s Game” to help me launch a non-theatrical writing career. As a non-fan of sci-fi, my mother would definitely let me know if I had something that would work outside the science …

Available Until Monday, May 2nd, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Divine Cat

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Nyx in the House of Night

The Divine Cat

by Ellen Steiber

I might as well admit my prejudice up front: I’ve been crazy about cats for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been lucky enough to live with them for most of my life. So one of the things that immediately drew me into the House of Night series was the cats. Cats everywhere, roaming freely, and always welcome in the dorms, cafeteria, stables, and even the classrooms–basically my idea of the perfect school. Then I was completely charmed by Nala, the sneezey, often grumpy, little cat who chooses Zoey for her own. P.C. and Kristin Cast clearly know and love their cats, and it’s a delight to see how they use them in these books. Not only do they create very real felines–sweet, moody, comforting, and impossible to predict or control–but they make creative use of some of the mythic and mystical lore that has been …

Available Until Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Why the Prince Bites It

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Mind-Rain

Why the Prince Bites It

by Gail Sidonie Sobat

And gazing down at her, handsome Prince Charming bent to kiss her lips. Then he swooped her into his strong arms and up onto his shining white steed. They galloped toward his stalwart castle, towers gleaming in the orange rays of the sunset. And she lived happily ever after.

Puke.

As if.

Yes, it is a fairy tale. But honestly. Such endings are the wistful wish-fulfillment fantasies of erstwhile dreamy peasant girls–nowadays dreamy new-millennium girls raised on Disney pap and false promises. All that’s missing are the dancing, singing mice and teapot.

Think of the fairy tales you know. The popular gooey ones. And look at the vapid girls who inhabit these tales. Girls without much backbone. Girls who mainly sit pretty, and let the men do the saving and liberating.

Cinderella, who has no more gumption than to be sweet and dress prettily and be home on time. She is rescued by the prince.

Cindy’s …

Available Until Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: The Language of the Heart

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Demigods and Monsters

The Language of the Heart

by Sophie Masson

When I was about nine, I had a horrible recurring dream. It was pretty simple. All I could see was a face, which at first was small and in the distance, but then got bigger and bigger till it seemed to be right on top of me. I couldn’t see a body, just a face. It was a monstrous face: very, very pale, almost gray-skinned, with big staring eyes so pale they seemed almost white and a thin pale mouth that opened on to long yellow teeth tipped with red. Straggly hair that seemed to move and lift in an invisible wind blew out aroundthe face as if there was an electric current running through it, or as if each hair was alive and wriggling horribly. I always woke up just as the mouth opened wide on a terrible scream, and I’d be screaming myself, yelling my head off.

My mother …

Available Until Friday, April 22nd, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Sharper Than a Seraph Blade

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Shadowhunters and Downworlders

Sharper Than a Seraph Blade

by Diana Peterfreund

The Shadowhunters of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series have a variety of weapons at their disposal, and most possess particular favorites. Isabelle Lightwood is fond of her golden electrum whip, Luke Garroway (when not wolfy) is very attached to the kindjal blade Valentine gave him to off himself with, and Clary Fray probably gets the most mileage out of her Angel-given gift of rune making–that is, when she can manage to hang on to her stele. (Honestly, she drops that thing more often than Stephanie Plum forgets her gun.)

But Jace Wayland Morgenstern Herondale Lightwood–who, thanks to his angel blood, is one of the most powerful of all Shadowhunters, and who has more names for seraph blades than can be found in your average baby-naming book–has one weapon that trumps them all.

Humor.

Seraph blades and daggers and steles are all well and good (and for Jace, they’re very good indeed), but the …

Available Until Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Lies and Consequences

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Mind-Rain

Lies and Consequences

by Delia Sherman

This tape consists of selections from Professor Hayde’s lectures for Lies and Consequences: Propaganda in the Prettytime (Room 46, Level 16). Weeks skipped consisted of class discussions, role-playing exercises, and field trips to the Rusty Museum. Professor Hayde had eighteen students: six ordinary pretties, eight with extreme skin and body surgery, and four naturals who opted to keep their original, unmodified appearance.

Week 1: Carrots and Sticks

Welcome to Lies and Consequences: Propaganda in the Prettytime. If you’re signed up for Professor Tich’s Aesthetics and Body Modifications, it’s two levels down in Room 46, Level 14, and you’d better move fast, because Tich takes a very pre-Rusty attitude toward lateness.

You’ve all been learning world history since you were littlies. And you’re probably here because you’re really curious about what there is to say about the Pre-Rusties and the Rusties and the Pretty-time that you haven’t heard a zillion times before. You …

Available Until Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: Tall, Dark, and...Thirsty?

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A New Dawn

Tall, Dark, and...Thirsty?

by Ellen Steiber

As Stephenie Meyer tells us, stories of vampires have been around for centuries and have appeared in almost every culture. Although it’s hard to make definitive statements about vampires, their history, or their lore, I think it’s safe to say that vampires were not originally conceived of as romantic heroes. They were threatening and tremendously creepy, monsters who caused fear and revulsion. They were a far cry from Meyer’s Cullen family, a clan of the undead who are so dazzlingly beautiful and good that when Bella seeks to give up her own mortality to join them, this reader’s first reaction was: You go, girl! Admittedly, that’s an oversimplification. Bella’s decision is complex, and Meyer provides all sorts of interesting conflicts and potential consequences. Still, the fact that Meyer makes the vampires and their lifestyle so alluring intrigued me. I couldn’t help wondering how vampires changed from revolting parasites to …

Available Until Friday, April 8th, 2016

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Free Smart Pop YA Essay: How the Inheritance Cycle Differs from Fantasy Epics in the Past

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Secrets of the Dragon Riders

How the Inheritance Cycle Differs from Fantasy Epics in the Past

by Ian Irvine

Late in the twentieth century the world definitively entered the third age of storytelling, and this is changing the way some new authors tell stories, and how young audiences view them. Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle reflects this transition. The first age, oral storytelling, began with tales told around the campfires of hunters and gatherers. It was only after printing became cheap enough that books were widely available and compulsory education ensured most people were literate that the world transitioned to the second age, written storytelling. Written storytelling must have existed since the invention of writing around 5,000 years ago, but only took over as the predominant form when mass-produced books became affordable in the Industrial Revolution. And not everyone was happy about it. Even in Greek and Roman times people complained that writing tales down was ruining the craft of storytelling.

I had the opposite problem. When I first read Homer’s Iliad …

Available Until Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

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