Spartans Speak

Life and Times at Mountain Brook Jr. High and Beyond

Welcome to our special February edition!

Welcome to Spartans Speak! We as a newspaper crew have been working on this for a while, and we're proud to finally announce that we have completed this special February issue! There are many interesting features we would love for you to check out, so please sit down, grab a box of chocolates, and read on!

"Dear Miss Know-It-All" an advice column spoof, from Sarah L.

"Building Service" an interview with the Builder's Club president, by Angela Fu

"Verb: Action Furniture" a closer look at a classroom furniture experiment, by Coke M.

"A Chat with Mr. Johnson" an interview with our Teacher of the Year, by Caroline L.

"Star Wars: The False Wars?" thoughts on Episode VII, by Sarah L.

Movie Reviews of Pitch Perfect, Les Miserables, and The Hobbit, by Hannah S. and Frances Hancock

Book Reviews of The Giver, The Book Thief, and The Maze Runner Trilogy, by Sarah L.

Dear Miss Know-it-all

Take-it-or-leave-it "advice" from our resident expert

Dear Miss Know-it-All,

I got my boyfriend a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, as I’ve always done. After all, we both agreed that we would only buy each other cheap presents. But I found out from my friend’s sister’s goldfish’s brother’s mother’s uncle that he was getting me an iPad! I don’t have enough money to buy him something that spectacular! What do I do?


Cheap Chocolatier

Dear Cheap Chocolatier,

Well, considering your problem, I’d recommend you start saving extra cash. Maybe a job at McDonalds, Wendy’s, or Wal-Mart will help you earn some of that. Yes, you don’t have much time, but if you drop out of school and make work your life, I’d think you’d be in pretty good shape. Those places are up all night. You could always just rob a bank, too. Also, buy one of the half-broken iPads on eBay, because they’re never actually broken. The people who sell them only say that so no one will buy them. They just want to show off their cool stuff. And if he breaks up with you because he thinks the gift that you got him was stupid, hey, at least you get a free iPad. But he probably won’t break up with you, because the statistics show that middle school relationships last forever. And if he does break up with you, you got a free iPad you could always donate to the Miss Know-it-All Foundation for a Better Life for Miss Know-it-All.

-Best of Luck,

Miss Know-it-All

Written by Sarah L.

Drawing By Macy M.

Comic by Macy M.

Building Service

Q&A with Builder's Club president, Katherine Grace M.

By Angela F.

On February 7, 2012, Mountain Brook Junior High regained a service organization, Builder’s Club. Years ago, the Junior High had offered it as a club, but it was eventually dissolved. However, recently, a handful of people gathered to revive the old club, and within a few months, what had started out as a fleeting idea had finally come to life. To find out more about the organization’s beginnings, I interviewed the president, Katharine Grace M.

Angela: What is Builder’s Club?

Katherine Grace: Builder’s Club is like a junior version of the Key Club at the High School, which is a service club.

AF: What makes Builder’s Club different from SOS?

KGM: It is different because it is a club that you can transition into the high school Key Club with. It also involves service opportunities that are more group-orientated, while SOS focuses more on individual service work. There is also no minimum hour requirement.

AF: How did you come up with the idea?

KGM: I wanted to be a part of the school, so I talked to Ms. Hood. She told me about a new club she was starting, and I said that I would love to help because I knew it was an opportunity for me to help people and get others involved.

AF: How did you come up with the name “Builder’s Club”?

KGM: The name "Builder's Club" was already set up. Builder’s Club is a national club that is part of Kiwanis. There are several other clubs out there, but we are now developing one of these great clubs at our very own MBJH.

AF: Who is involved in Builder’s Club?

KGM: Students from all grade levels are welcome to join. As for current officers, Perry M. is the vice president, and I’m the president. Ms. Bakken and Ms. Zana are the sponsors.

AF: How did Perry M. become involved?

KGM: Ms. Bakken knew Perry and thought he’d be great for it because he’s very sweet and works well with others.

AF: After the first meeting, what is your next step?

KGM: Our next step is to get more service opportunities and to set up a spring project. We’re thinking of doing a park clean-up in April. We also want to make sure that everyone feels involved.

AF: What is the overall mission or goal of Builder’s Club?

KMG: The overall mission of Builder’s Club is to get more students to become involved with service.

Verb: Action Furniture

A Classroom on Wheels

By Coke M.

MBJH is testing some innovative new classroom furniture in Mrs. Nelson’s room. If you have not had a chance to see the Verb furniture yet, here is a preview.

Verb’s unique design of classroom furniture facilitates changes between different classroom environments. It is “living” classroom furniture that allows for a variety of set-ups including lecture, discussion, test taking, and project work.

Verb tables are ideal for group work that requires interaction between group members, while still maintaining sufficient personal workspace for each student. Side hooks mounted on the ends of the Verb tables hold whiteboards that are used to promote easy group collaboration and also serve as privacy panels during test taking. The hooks also can be used to hold backpacks or jackets. There is a central dock in the middle of the table that can hold classroom supplies. Verb furniture is lightweight and mobile which makes it easy to change between lecture, discussion groups and project work.

Verb is made by Steelcase Education Solutions . Steelcase General Manager Sean Corcorran says, “Verb gives students permission to share, build ideas and quickly transition among leaning modes. At the same time, teachers can instruct from different positions in the room and seamlessly transition from lecture, group discussion and test mode. With a more flexible classroom, students are more engaged with the content and with each other, and more likely to be successful.”

After our administrators saw the Verb furniture at a conference and expressed an interest, Steelcase offered MBJH the opportunity to try the new furniture in an actual classroom setting.

Here is what Mrs. Nelson has to say: "My students can tell you that verbs are the life of the party. They inspire us to take action. To bridge gaps. To shake the dust off. They excite, push, ponder, discover, prove, stump, transform. So it is no wonder why A Verb Classroom chose such a name. And it is no wonder why they wanted to join our classroom--why they wanted to take out stay and bring in go. We think it is more than furniture. It is a reminder that learning isn’t static or formulaic. Sometimes we need to put our heads together or take a moment to process for ourselves. Sometimes we need to hear a different voice–see the room and the question from over here or over there."

A Chat with Mr. Johnson

by Caroline L.

Mr. Adam Johnson, an 8th grade math teacher, is this year’s teacher of the year for Mountain Brook Junior High. I interviewed Mr. Johnson about being the teacher of the year.

CL.: What was your reaction when you found out you were teacher of the year?

MJ: I was completely speechless when I found out about my award; it is an incredible honor. To make it even more special, my father, brother, step- mother, and sister- in- law were able to be here when I received it.

CL: How does a teacher get nominated for teacher of the year?

MJ: I was nominated by a parent.

CL: How do you balance being a teacher and a soccer coach?

MJ: A lot of coffee, a lot of meals on the road, and a sense of humor.

CL: What do you like about teaching math?

MJ: I enjoy seeing the students who dislike or are intimidated by math, gain confidence in themselves and become less intimidated by the subject.

CL: Why do you think you were nominated?

MJ: I think I was nominated because of my work ethic and drive. Either that, or because I had a coffee mug that said “#1 Teacher” on it, and some thought that meant I was the best teacher in the building. Either way, I am flattered and humbled to have received such an honor.

Star Wars: The False Wars?

by Sarah L.

Any hardcore Star Wars fan knows that Han Solo shot first in the scene in Star Wars IV, when Greedo (an alien bounty hunter) confronts him in the casino on Luke Skywalker’s homeplanet, no matter what anyone says. Han Solo always shoots first. I am not obsessed with the series like I’m obsessed with other things, but I still do like it. And so, when I was on the internet, and I read that Disney bought the franchise and plans to make three more movies, I was furious.

And so were many, many people.

Star Wars is so awesome that it has officially been declared “epic” and I’m sorry, but I don’t want Disney messing that up. And I’m not alone. If you go on Youtube, you’ll find maybe hundreds of reaction videos—and most of them will be negative (I haven’t linked any only because some of them get downright nasty). For those of you who don’t know, Star Wars (currently) is made up of six movies, divided into two trilogies. (There is also the Expanded Universe “EU”, but I’m not going to get into that.) The original trilogy grossed about 1.8 billion dollars, and the prequel trilogy 2.5 (both of these amounts being worldwide). The six movies are Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).

If it goes as planned, Episode VII (the first one to be made by Disney) will come out in 2015. It was revealed that J.J. Abrams, the man who produced TV series such as Revolution and Person of Interest, and movies such as Morning Glory and Mission Impossible—Ghost Protocol, is going to direct the sequels. He also directed Star Trek. He’s actually working on the next Star Trek movie, Star Trek into Darkness (which, in hindsight, might not be such a good idea, since Star Trek fans and Star Wars fans don’t really get along and it might cause some more friction between the two groups.)

The rumors about Episode VII are crazy. For all we know, Mickey Mouse could become the new Sith Lord and plot to take over the galaxy with an army of Jar-Jar Binks and it’s up to Han Solo (who is now ninety years old) and Cinderella to save the day. (I mean, they probably won’t do something that ridiculous, but you never know with Disney.) Unless Disney manages to pull off another Avengers (which was a fantastic movie), there’s no way that this will work. And the likelihood of that, at least to me, is slim.

The facts about the grossing are from

Movie Reviews

Pitch Perfect

by Hannah S.

A flying Mexican burrito hurtles out of the tour bus and hits...

“I’ve been shot!”

-Fat Amy-

Pitch Perfect is a movie about a young girl named Beca who is tuned into music, and tuned out to the rest of the world. She wants to fit in, but doesn’t know how until she stumbles upon an a capella group mixed with the odds and ends of college girls. Together they adventure through to the a capella semi-finals and…well, you’ll have to see for yourself what happens next.

What I thought was interesting about this movie is that it pulls together a lot of different people to come and do one thing. These people are all so different from each other, but they eventually learn how to work together.

This movie is geared towards teenagers because of the inappropriate content that might not be okay for younger kids. On Rotten Tomatoes, this movie was rated positively 83% by the audience. Approximately 11 out of 13 people liked this movie, and rated it as ‘fresh’.

The cast of Pitch Perfect is Anna Kendrick (Beca), Skylar Astin (Jesse), Rebel Wilson (Fat Amy), Anna Camp (Aubrey), Brittany Snow (Chloe), and Ben Platt (Benji). It was directed by Jason Moore and was written by Kay Cannon in 2012.

Overall, this movie is geared towards teenagers, and is a really interesting movie that you might want to watch.

Les Miserables
by Frances H.

Les Misérables, directed by Tom Hooper, follows the intertwining lives of a handful of people during the French Revolution, including an escaped convict, an orphaned girl, and a vengeful officer. The story of Les Misérables began as French novel by Victor Hugo but was later converted into what would become the longest-running musical in the U.S. It has also been filmed as a concert, but this is the first time that this timeless classic has been produced as a movie.

The actors cast in the movie are some of the best singers in the country and fit the roles perfectly. The power and emotion that they bring to the songs is astounding, making the hidden meanings within the songs to be painfully visible. Along with being the first full-on production of this story, this is also the first time that a musical movie has been recorded live. Usually, the actors record the songs in a recording studio, then lip-sync on camera, but here, the actors sang live on set. The live singing gives the movie a wonderful sense of realism, and allows the songs to be filled with more emotion than could ever be achieved in a studio. The songs have imperfections that reflect the imperfection of the characters, and make the whole film more believable.

I was completely blown away by Anne Hathaway’s incredibly beautiful performance as Fantine. During her short time on screen, she captures dozens of emotions and pours them into one song, “I Dreamed a Dream.” She perfectly captures the painful existence of Fantine and is by far the best performer in the movie. The entire film is incredible and thought provoking, and I strongly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys heartfelt tales of history.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
by Frances H.

The Hobbit, the brilliant prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, tells the fantastical tale of a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins as he gets dragged into accompanying twelve dwarves and a mysterious wizard named Gandalf as they embark on a perilous adventure to defeat the dragon, Smaug, and reclaim the dwarves’ homeland of Erebor.

Although the plot seems a little slow at some points, the humorous and magical characters more than make up for it. There are so many details which have been put into the creation of this film to make it resemble the other movies as well as the book. Peter Jackson, who directed the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy, has returned to bring another work of J.R.R. Tolkien to life, and has succeeded in every possible manner. The vibrant world of Middle Earth comes to life in a way that only Jackson can accomplish. Elijah Wood even makes a brief appearance as Frodo in the beginning of the film.

The twelve dwarves, with their witty jokes and warrior lifestyle, contrast Bilbo’s civilized manner in a way that makes their friendship all the more unlikely, yet all the more incredible. The humor woven into the dialogue is brilliantly carried out by the actors and is balanced by the exciting action scenes, which give the film a mystical quality that engulfs you into Tolkien’s world. Although the movie is almost three hours long, it never fails to keep your attention, so I would recommend this movie to anyone who loves fantastical tales of humor and adventure.

Book Reviews

The Giver by Lois Lowry

5/5 stars

Sarah L.

Jonas’s world is perfect—literately. He doesn’t know what hunger or pain is, he doesn’t know what swears are, and he doesn’t even know what colors are. How can a book around a society like that be any good? Well, Jonas soon begins to truly live, thanks to a man called the Giver. When Jonas turns twelve, he receives the job of the Receiver of Memory. (That’s another thing. In his society, you can’t pick your job or your wife/husband, even. That’s chosen for you.) The Giver begins to give him memories of the past. In the beginning, all the memories are happy-go-lucky memories. However, the Giver begins to give him more powerful memories that begin to turn Jonas’s world on end. And suddenly, Jonas doesn’t even know if his parents really love him. Can you imagine how that would feel? If you could, try imagining it as a person who’s never truly felt anything before in his entire life. Lois Lowry wrote this book in such a manner that really makes it feel as if you’re Jonas. If you only ever read one book in your entire lifetime, this book has to be it.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

4/5 stars

Sarah L.

This book is not for the weak of heart, and reader discretion is advised.

When many people think about World War II, they think about the concentration camps or the nuclear bombing in Japan. In The Book Thief, however, we get a different perspective. Lisel is a girl living in Nazi Germany who has to go into foster care. She doesn’t know how to read, and is actually quite naïve at the beginning of the book; however, due to a book that she steals at her deceased brother’s grave, she learns how to read and begins to adapt to the lifestyle of a normal German at that time. She makes a friend and proves that she isn’t an idiot. This book doesn’t make anything pretty or happy; it tells it as it would be—and that was not a happy time. However, just because it isn’t a happy book doesn’t mean it isn’t a good book. I would recommend this book for a more mature audience—really ninth graders would be the best readers, but seventh and eighth who can be serious and know when not to goof off would most likely enjoy it as well. You will also want to read all 550 pages at once, so I wouldn’t recommend reading it until a weekend when you can go from cover to cover undisturbed.

The Maze Runner Trilogy

by Sarah L.

The Maze Runner: 4.5/5 stars

The Scorch Trials: 4/5 stars

The Death Cure: 3.5/5 stars

Imagine that the earth is a total wasteland filled with violence-crazy zombies, and there doesn’t appear to be any hope in sight. Maybe you’ve just escaped a maze that has these part animal, part machine globs of death that could kill you in an instant. You think you’re safe, but now you’ve found that you aren’t. Imagine that and you’ll be in the world of The Maze Runner. The series definitely stands out in this era of post-apocalyptic writing, but it does have its similarities to books such as The Hunger Games or the Matched trilogy as well. Not wanting to spoil too much in this review, I’ll tell you this: in the first book, it does begin a bit slowly, but I must say it does get better. The main character, Thomas, wakes up with no recollection of his past, and hardly even remembers his own name. He meets a bunch of boys around his age (teenagers) and he begins to adapt to the lifestyle of the Gladers (what the boys call themselves.) But, because this is not a boring book about normal lives of people, something that messes everything up happens—and that thing is a girl appearing a day after Thomas in a society made up completely of boys. While I did enjoy the plotline of the books, I feel as if plotholes were left and that the characters could have had more emotion. I’m not going to go all fangirl on it, but I don’t hate the series’ guts. I guess that most seventh-ninth graders would enjoy this book, though. I’d say that more boys would enjoy it than girls as well (even though I am a girl.)