Thursday, April 9, 2015

Inside, Outside, Upside Down

OK, so maybe the fact that we stole this month's title from a Dr. Seuss book is proof that we are still getting over our school's production of Seussical, but we are thrilled to share a poem today with a special design. 

This poem is actually two poems in one.  It can be read top-to-bottom, in the traditional manner, or bottom-to-top.  Each way, the poem creates a different meaning, but it still works.  Congrats to the ninth-grade PEN students who worked in small groups to craft one of these "palindrome poems." 

It’s time to grow up

And I cannot accept that

It’s okay to imagine

Hidden treasure and undersea castles

You need to keep your

Distance from fairy tales


Let your imagination fly

You need to

Accept the truth because

Dreams don’t.

Life Changes

Accept the reality

Of leaving behind your childhood

Get rid of thoughts

Of faraway lands and distant dynasties

Hold onto your reality


Throw away your fantasies of flight


Keep your dreams.
by Deepti T., Emily H., Rachel W.

infographic designed by Jake N.
Grade 9

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Forest Fire

artwork by Anastasia E.
Grade 8

Forest Fire

As the grey columns of smoke consume the barren sky,
After the smoldering ruin clears,
While the frigid breath of night dissipates,
Before the last of the light dims,
I watch the resplendent flame dance gracefully along the thicket.


As the sweet embrace of the flame intensifies,
While the conflagration extends its reach toward the stars,
Before the essence of all life is consumed in the crimson inferno,
The fear passes and all that remains is gratitude.
I gaze into the torrid blaze, felling even the most formidable tree.

by Jeffrey S.

Grade 8

artwork by Julia D.
Grade 8

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Another 9/11

In this piece, a seventh-grade student imagines a nightmarish repeat of the events of September 11, 2001.  This is our first piece published in 2015 that is set in the future.

Another 9/11

SEPTEMBER 10, 2020

Its 3:30 P.M. and the bell rings.

"Congratulations to the special winner of my red, white, and blue Luncheon," says Mrs. Claremont. "Tomorrow, you and three friends get to have lunch with me in the teachers lounge."

             I turn to my best friend Jess, who sits across the room, and roll my eyes. What student would want to have a special luncheon with Mrs. Claremont?

"Haven Daniels! Do not roll your eyes! This lucky winner won this luncheon because they looked the most patriotic."

I guess she saw me. Oops.

Mrs. Claremont continues, "They looked the most patriotic by wearing red, white, and blue in honor of September 11th! " Mrs. Claremont exclaims. "Class dismissed."


Jess and I meet in the run down parking lot of our high school, Los Angeles Smith Mount High. We get into her old, junky Volvo. Gross. It smells like In 'n Out Burger.

"What do you want to do now?" Jess asks me, "We finished all of our homework in study hall. There's nothing left for us to do."

I think about what we should do.  I loved the last time we went downtown. Maybe we should go again? I answer her as soon I as I finish my thought.

"Lets go downtown!" I shout excitedly, "We can grab something to eat and update our closets in the process, so it all works out."

              Jess answers me. "Sure," she says, "buckle up!"


"Wake up," Jess says, "We have arrived at our destination."

She giggles at her own joke. I guess I was so tired I didn't even realize I had fallen asleep. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and untangle myself from the torn up seatbelt. Jess is parked in front of the Smith Mount Shopping Center. I suggest that we should limit our locations to these: Aeropostale, American Eagle, Converse Factory Outlet, and Starbucks.

"I don’t think we should go to all of the stores," Jess remarks.

Why does she always have to be such a bore? She opens and closes her mouth a couple times like she wants to say something. She finally does.

"You know what, let's do it!" Jess shouts.


Just as we are about to step out of Starbucks, we feel a deep, violent rumble. Then I hear a big explosion and screams.

            "What was that?" I ask Jess inquisitively.

"Probably just some technical difficulty at the construction site across the street," she replies, "Probably scared some people."

That didn't really sound like technical difficulties. Right then, a man comes bolting past Jess as fast as a gazelle, bumping into her and making her spill her Starbucks drink. I realize he had a frightened look on his face. Maybe something really is going on.

"Hey! Watch where you're going!" Jess shouts after the man.

I try to get Jess to keep walking but she refuses.

"Aww man, look what he did," Jess whines, "He made me spill my drink my new sweater!"

I don’t really see the big deal. She can just wash it when she gets home. All of a sudden I hear a low whine that gets louder and louder by the second. Then, something strikes the side of the building with a boom. There is another great explosion and a big blast of scalding heat. It is so hot; it singes all the hair off my arms. I search through screaming crowd for Jess.It sends me and my bags of clothing flying backwards. I hit my head on the hard marble with a smack. I struggle to stand myself up so I can run to Jess. All I can hear are screams drowning out more and more screams.
I see Jess get hit in the stomach with a sharp piece of debris. "Jess!" I scream. I sprint in her direction. As I am running I hear a crack coming from above my head. I stop running and look up just in time to see a small piece of debris falling from the roof. I am hit in the back of my head from the debris and I fall to the ground. Then everything goes black.


I wake up, and I am in the back of an ambulance. What's going on? I can't see at the moment; everything is so blurry. All I can hear are the sounds of sirens. I suddenly remember everything so quickly; it makes my head hurt. Wait! Where's Jess?!

"Jess!" I exclaim out loud.

"Who's Jess?" the EMT  questions.

"My best friend! She was in there with me!"

            He replies in a worried tone, "What does she look like?"

            Where is Jess? I could never live my life without her.

"She is 5'6", has straight dark brown hair, and has brown eyes."

             The EMT nods and starts talking into his radio asking if anyone had seen her.

I quickly add, "She was wearing a white sweater from American Eagle."

             He nods again and repeats what I said into his radio. I can't hear what the response is, but I know by the EMT's expression it must not be good. My stomach drops. He tells me what he heard.

"We found her before you, and she was in critical condition."

           I start to feel tears. Please, oh, please make the rest of this good news.

"She had a shard of glass stuck deep in her stomach. She was already bleeding a lot and we knew that if we took it out she would die of blood loss."

            Please let her be all right. The EMT continues.

"We took at chance at removing it, but we lost her. I'm so sorry."

I just lie there. I don’t move. I don't accept his apology. I don’t even blink. I feel like my lungs have run out of air, but I'm still breathing. I just start to cry. So many tears pour out of my eyes; it is like a flood. I cry and cry; I cry so hard that everything goes black again.


I wake up the next day with the bright sun shining in my face. I try to move my arms to fix my bed head, but excruciating pain shoots through my whole body.  I have an ice pack on the table next to me. Hurray! The ice pack has saved the day! I reach to grab it. The pain to get the ice is worth the relief. My heart is heavy from the loss of my best friend, but I will survive. She would want me to live my life with or without her.

I turn my head to the television to notice that the news is covering last nights events. I reach over to grab the remote.  I grimace as the pain shoots up my shoulder and to my fingertips. The news reporter gets louder as I turn up the volume.

"Many highly populated areas were fired upon last night," the reporter states, "Smith Mount Shopping Center was struck the hardest and had the most injuries and fatalities."

            Who is doing this? As the news reporter continues she answers my question.

"The terrorist group ISIS were the ones committing these acts of terror. Many people thought that they would attack years ago, but they have selected the anniversary of the last September 11th to do so."

I guess I was always prepared for the idea of hearing of another terrorist attack. I just never thought that I would be the one experiencing it. There should be no terrorist attacks though. This is America in 2020! We should feel safe and secure. Surely they can stop this group before another 9/11.

 by Trinity E.
Grade 7

artwork by Christian R.
Grade 7