Plaid Line winter break hiatus

Since we are a school newspaper, we will be on winter break from December 19-January 2. We will not be releasing any new content during that time, but we hope that you may have the opportunity to check out some of our work from previous years.

We would like to thank all of our readers at the end of this calendar year, as you have helped to provide us with an ever growing audience!

5 fun things to do during winter

By: Maya Breininger

As the snow lands on the treetops and the smell of holly fills the air, companies are preparing to satisfy their customers with ‘round the clock winter activities. This presents us with a problem; such few months of winter, yet so much to do!

This list of holiday favorites ought to help enlighten your decisions, and get your winter planning on track!

1 – Go Holiday Shopping

Many holidays, for many different folk, happen around this frosty season, and even if you practice no religious holidays, it can be enjoyable to purchase gifts for your family members!

Test your knowledge on how well you know your cousins, aunts, grandparents, or significant other by giving them a present they’ll love!

2 – Go Ice Skating

As the temperature freezes, so does the water! Call your friends and schedule a day full of holiday shopping, followed by a visit to the nearest ice rink! Practice your V 8’s, your backward skating, or impressing that special someone! Ice skating is a must-try common winter activity that you can’t miss!

3 – Spend a Snowy day in your Favorite Coffee Shop!

What could be better than sipping your favorite warmed beverage while watching the snow fall? Invite your friends out on the same day you ice skate, or plan a different day in order to spread the love! (Double points if the area is decorated!)

4 – Bake Gingerbread Treats!

Whip out your family’s traditional gingerbread recipe, or simply click the link below the image to lead you to one! Invite over little ones, or old ones who simply enjoy the decorative and tasty part of winter! Decorate them, or create your own little town of ginger people! And speaking of decorating houses…

5- Decorate your House in Lights!

Try not to peeve off your father as you hang the lights – maybe you should stick with hanging the wreaths! Try a new design, or stick with your traditional decorations, either way, letting your neighbors know of your winter spirit is a fun way to celebrate the season!

Now that you have your list of winter fun, feel free to call over your buddies to celebrate with you!

We sincerely hope that you and the company you choose to have, have a wonderful holidays, and a happy new year!

JOYSTiCK Holiday Special – Can you beat ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ without experiencing permanent PTSD?

By: Daniel Kendle

Happy holidays!

While writing for JOYSTiCK, I’ve always enjoyed playing and reviewing games (good thing too; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here). However, I thought it would be nice to take a break and do something a little… dumb. But fun!

Now, lately I’ve been writing a lot of ‘Minecraft’ related articles. My last one was on ‘Minecraft Dungeons,’ a charming spin-off title, and the one before that I’m unable to pronounce without dry-heaving. And lucky for me, THAT’S the one we’re going back to today!

Gaming challenges are always fun to check out. Whether it be minimalist challenges, pacifist runs, “not using ____” play through, you name it. All very fun and interesting ideas to spice up a game you’ve already played.

So what if we did that? How about we begin an annual holiday special dedicated towards doing a gaming challenge? How about we ask the following question:


This might be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. And while it may seem daunting, I am prepared for the journey ahead. Will I survive? Will I defeat this arch-enemy of a game, never having to play it ever again? Will I sustain lethal brain damage by the end of this? (If you’ve read my review of this game, you’ll probably know the answer to that last one). Whatever may be the result of this alien idea I’ve come up with, I am ready. More accurately, I am ready…

…for war.


Friday, December 2nd. 3:14 PM. I get out of my parent’s car, walking up the side steps to our large brick house. Unlatching the white gate, I make my way towards the locked door, waiting for my mother to open up. The weekend seems calm, peaceful, like I can relax.

It’s wrong.

After throwing my backpack into my cubby and unpacking my lunch, I look back at my bag and see the bulge of my iPhone and AirPods in the outermost pocket. A grim waft of hydrated air rolls my neck as I skulk over to the pack, unzipping the pouch. Picking up my phone, I do a face scan and unlock it to see my homepage, the black-and-red icon for Netflix just above my browser. I click on it, and tap my account with the rhinoceros on it. Looking at the picture, I remember it from a BBC documentary, which gives a bit of solace whilst dread creeps through my heart.

I head on up, sandwich in one hand, phone in the other. Lazily slouching down onto my parent’s bed, I flick through movies and shows, looking for the object I so desperately want to leave.

‘Stranger Things’? No.


‘Don’t Look Up’? Not today.

Then, I see it. Its icon has an animal with a vague green shape, eyes square, face contorted into a silent scream. Cuboidal head, prism body, logo for Netflix Interactive viewable in the corner. A backdrop of a navy tint surrounds the abnormal creature, once part of a respectable piece of media, now a husk of decrepit life. I click, wanting to run, wanting to hide, but I know better.

“Daniel, you’re 14, practically an adult by now.’“The voice in my empty head says. “You’re at the age when smoking a cig wouldn’t kill you (probably), and yet here you are, frightened by ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ of all things. Press play, let’s get this over with.

The voice in my head compels me; I watch the small preview shown on the game’s UI. It shows key moments from throughout the series, like a man watching a tape of his life before execution. Shuddering, the writhing animation is of a quality compared only to a horror movie, a work of fright. My hand is shaking, I can’t eat anymore. Hunger is drained while head is full – full of terror at the thought of going back to this. But I need to do this, for Ms. Lingofelt, for all the kids in Newspaper/Journalism, and for all the readers of JOYSTiCK. For those who are tired of hearing about this game, for those who love seeing my suffering.

I press play.


My muscles contract. I recoil from a pose of curling fear, unraveling my arms and legs from my chest. The gentle tune plays during the opening, a misleading rope that could send me down a rabbit hole of misery.

“Well, this isn’t so bad. The music’s nice, the animations haven’t started yet, the actual ‘story’ hasn’t begun, maybe this won’t be so bad?

And then the narrator starts talking.
Never mind.
Moving along, I hear the game’s introductory question, an old joke spiraling around Reddit a while back.

“Would you rather fight 100 chicken-sized zombies, or 10 zombie-sized chickens?”

My flight-or-flight response kicks in. How foolish of me to go back to this game, I remind myself. Why couldn’t I have reviewed something normally, like… ‘Tetris?’ Such a sad sight; a man ensnared within his own creation, a moth fluttering towards a flame.

After forcefully answering the question at hand, the dialogue continues for a while longer, and I pause the video to recollect myself. Rubbing my temple I look out the icy-white window, snow pelting down against the frosted glass. I sigh, knowing that I don’t have anything better to take care of. No homework, no chores, no nothing. Normally this’d be a sign of joy, but I couldn’t help but wish I had work to keep me busy. Unfortunately, this IS homework, technically. I press the triangle again, and settle back down into the sheets.


For the next good chunk of the game, this is how it plays. After maybe an hour of watching, I pause to take a break, a relief from the twisted storm I’ve caught myself in. I eat, I sleep, I go on walks, all to take my mind off the pain I’ve endured from this nightmarish experience. My sanity is numb; I can’t feel my fingers, with a creeping chill forming worse each time I subject myself to this creature of a product.

Once I reach the end of episode 2, I feel… better. I feel refreshed, like I can overcome this iron grip latched onto my soul. What the other 2 episodes will be like, I can’t tell.


Chapter 3 starts like the other 2 had before: me crying for about an hour. After retracting my tears and going through a couple hundred tissues, I sat down for the long stretch. I can smell victory, and it smells good (probably).

Lo and behold, the penultimate video starts without a hitch. 2 hours ago I would’ve been terrified of this image, this ancient, primal threat. But thou must see that I have dramatically matured since then! Yes dad, I AM self-sufficient! I can experience trauma, too!

While sitting through the opening narration crawl once again, I get the ping! of a text.

“It’s time for your daily French lesson. Take 5 minutes now to complete it. -Duolingo.”

This is a pretty standard Duolingo alert; since it’s an app for learning languages, these aren’t uncommon. However, in my glory-dizzy saga, it instead looked like this:

“Human child, you shall never be able to vanquish the ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ demon. Come now, let us continue the blood-letting ritual. Your soul is not fit for the realm of humanity; passing your spirit into our hands shall let the Elder Ones rejuvenate their aching bones. -???”

I know deep down that my mind is playing vengeful tricks on me, and I can’t blame it. In reality, my brain’s the one subjected to this torment, not me. I am merely a vessel, a carapace, my pink thoughts an alloy. It’s trying to make me go back to my old ways of thinking, but I won’t let it.

I won’t let it.
I-I won’t let it. No.
No, no, no. No, I won’t.
I-I won’t-t! No!



No more ‘Minecraft’ reviews. No more slandering ‘Minecraft Story Mode.’ No more thinking that I’ve gotten past the treachery that has infected this serial.

When I started JOYSTiCK, I was excited to be able to review video games for school purposes. But now, 6 issues later, half have somehow featured the same game. And I need a break. I need to return to my roots, I need to review other games.

I made this jokey episode not to delve into the actual question at hand, but to just make a funny spin-off article for the holidays. But the menace of ‘Minecraft Story Mode’ still lingers. It’s not really even fun to criticize this game anymore; I’ve done it so many times. It’s time I move on in life, to new horizons, to new experiences.

Episode 6 (this one doesn’t count) will come in 2023. I hope to see you then!

Croatia makes a good run but falls short in the semifinals

By: Aeden Evenson-McDermott

After narrowly escaping the Groups stages with the 0-0 tie with Belgium, Croatia would feature in the Round of 16 against Japan on December 5th. In the first half, Japan would be adventurous and have a more free flow approach. Just before halftime, Daizen Maeda scored a goal that was deflected and bounced through the Croatian defense for the 1-0 lead.

Just after halftime, and in the 55th minute, Croatia’s Dejan Lovren crossed an on point ball which found its way to forward Ivan Perišić who excitingly got the breakthrough with a thrasher header, which was beautifully perfected and put into the bottom right corner of the goal. Both teams would go back and forth between possessions. Croatia would reclaim and take the midfield and be more physically dominant.

After the Croatia goal, Japan would rise to the occasion and wouldn’t go down too easily. Wataru Endo would test goalkeeper Dominik Livaković with a shot fired from way outside the box which for sure stung the hands of Livaković.

As the game drew to a close of the 90 minutes regulation, it would be sent to an additional 30 minutes of extra time. With no score in the additional 30 minutes it would be the first penalty shootout of the 2022 Qatar World Cup to decide the winner.

Following 2018’s World Cup, Croatia was pretty dominant when it came to a penalty shootout. The first two penalties for Japan were saved and Croatia came through and converted theirs. A clutch performance by Croatia’s keeper Livaković would send them on to the next round of the quarterfinals.

On December 9, Croatia would turn their attention to the epic finale of facing Brazil. With the odds stacked against them, and many counting the Croats out, it would have to be a spectacular performance to hold Brazil at bay.

Croatia came out ready to play with a refined passing game and the upper hand in the possession. Croatia wasn’t intimidated by the pace of Brazil and stood firm. The first half was pretty back and fourth but the second half would contain more drama.

When the ball came in and there were claims of a handball on right back Josip Juranović, VAR (video assistant referee) got involved but quickly shut the down the possibility of a penalty.

In the rest of the second half, Livaković would be busy as he would have to eliminate the ball getting to the back of the net. Croatia held their breath as the moments ticking down to the 90 minutes of regulation occurred.

It would be an additional 30 minutes of extra time. Both sides would exchange opportunities and go on the attack. Just before the end of the first period of extra time, Brazil’s Neymar dribbled his way and eloquently slotted the ball into Livaković’s net. 1-0 to Brazil.

Croatia would need to channel their inner belief to get the equalizer and take it to penalties. Croatia came out strong for the second period of extra time and would make Brazil play into Croatia’s hands and style of play.

With the inability of giving up hope and surrendering, Bruno Petković would have a powerful shot which took a deflection off a Brazilian defender, and went past goalkeeper Alisson in the 117 minute. 1-1!

It would send it to penalties once again and Croatia would need to stand tall.

Rodrygo would be denied on the first penalty kick by Livaković. Nikola Vlašić, Casemiro, Lovro Majer, Pedro, and Croatia captain Luka Modrić would all convert theirs with Croatia having the 3-2 lead.

Marquinhos of Brazil would need to step up in order to keep the Brazil dream alive. A poor run up would lead to Marquinhos hitting the front side of the post and the ball going out. Such a big missed opportunity which would cost them the game as Croatia’s Mislav Oršić got the deciseful winner!

Brazil would be kicking themselves and left asking themselves questions. Why didn’t Neymar step up to take the penalty? Following the game, Brazil’s manager Tite would resign and leave the team.

On December 13, Croatia played Argentina for the semi final clash. Modrić vs Messi. Two incredible players with much history. Croatia would again be the underdogs. After a successful run of the World Cup so far, Croatia would come out flat footed and discombobulated in many ways against Argentina. Croatia had much of the possession in the first half but Modrić was limited in his abilities by the play of Argentina.

An early penalty in the 34th minute would start the unraveling for them. The referee was quite poor with many calls but this, in my opinion, was not a penalty. Julián Alvarez of Argentina was going for the ball and actually initiated the contact by running into Livaković. The ref gave Livaković a yellow which was totally a joke, in many ways, because if you give a penalty you can’t do a card as well. Anyways, Messi of course would smash the ball into the upper part of the goal and give Argentina the lead.

A few minutes later, in the 39th minute Alvarez would dribble himself down the field and weave his way through the Croatian defense and score to make it 2-0 going into halftime.

The second half was a bit more composed for Croatia but Argentina was still quite dominant. In the 69th minute Messi would dribble Croatian sensation center back Joško Gvardiol down the field and dump the ball off to Alvarez with another great feed to ultimately make it 3-0. It was a costly defeat and unfortunate for such a great Croatian team through the World Cup.

Another great player, the captain, the heart and soul, the savior, of the team, Luka Modrić would have his last go at the World Cup but would fall short.

Congrats to Argentina and more importantly Messi! Argentina faces France for the World Cup final on Sunday the 18th, at 9 am on FOX, while Croatia will make a run for the bronze medal as they take on Morocco on Saturday the 17th, at 9 am on FOX as well. Should be an exciting weekend and hopefully a good roundup of the 2022 Qatar World Cup!

Be on the lookout for the recap of the final, and 3rd place game, of the World Cup as well!

Review of ‘Wednesday’

By: Stephanie Caballero Benitez

*Warning this review may contain spoilers.

The new Netflix series ‘Wednesday’ came out November 23, and since then has done really well. Lots of people have watched the show and many have enjoyed it. 

What is ‘Wednesday’ about?

In ‘Wednesday’, we follow the story of the teenager Wednesday. As it’s known from ‘The Addams Family’ Wednesday isn’t an ordinary girl, her entire family isn’t.

The first scene we see on episode one is Wednesday throwing piranhas into a pool to get revenge on some bullies for her brother Pugsley. This incident causes the expulsion of Wednesday, which leads to her getting transferred to Nevermore. Nevermore is an academy that welcomes outcasts, freaks, and monsters. Wednesday is to temporarily live in Nevermore.

While at Nevermore, Wednesday experiences things that make her interested in staying at the school. Someone attempts to murder her and she runs into a monster that is killing people near the forests of Nevermore. Wednesday stays in this school trying to solve who the monster is, by staying, Wednesday finds out secrets about her family and ancestors.

I personally enjoyed this show very much as I am a fan of ‘The Addams Family’. Wednesday was portrayed by Jenna Ortega very well and I definitely think that the role was made for her. I also really enjoyed how Tim Burton added the song “La llorona” onto a scene with Wednesday, since it seems that some don’t know ‘The Addams Family’ is a LatinX family.

Another thing that I liked about the film was the people that surrounded Wednesday, some were very different from her, especially her roommate Enid and the sheriff’s son Tyler. 

Other people had different opinions on the show. Some didn’t like how Wednesday and her family were portrayed. They believe that instead of a no affection family, and a Wednesday that talks bad about her mother, it should’ve been a very loving and accepting family just like the original show ‘The Addams family’. Some people feel as if the monster was really fake looking, cartoony looking, overall just out of place. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the storyline and development of this show and hope for a season 2. I would give ‘Wednesday’ a 9/10. You can watch the show on Netflix.

Everything I’ve learned about high school (from a Senior)

By: Grace Blumer-Lamotte

High school can be very intimidating. Stepping foot into the school on your first day as a freshman can be overwhelming and stressful. Here are some tips, coming from a Senior in high school. 

The first tip I would give is to STAY ON TOP OF YOUR SCHOOL WORK! This may seem silly to many but this is what I think is the most important tip of them all. Falling behind will get you nowhere. If you stay ahead you allow yourself time to yourself to do things you enjoy. It also allows you to get ahead in most of your classes, especially if the assignments are posted days or weeks in advance. 

Another important tip I have is staying organized. I know many high school students that struggle with falling behind and the main reason is that they are not organized. I have had a planner ever since middle school. I know planners do not work for everyone, but they work for some students. Writing all of the assignments due that week in my planner, and color coordinating the formatives and summative assignments, actually gave me a breath of fresh air in a busy week. It also helped me stay organized and on top of when my assignments were due.

There are many different ways to organize your planner. The way that I found that best suited me was writing out all of my classes that I had that week on each day, e.g. English, History, etc. Next, I would pick a specific color for formative assignments and a different color for summative assignments. I would write out all of the assignments, in the correct color code, due that week.

Finally, after every single one of my classes, I would write down next to the subject what I needed to complete before the next class, e.g. finish the worksheet, and complete the notes. I never knew that doing this during my freshman year would lead me to great success in my organization. I still use a planner and my color coordination method to this day. This healthy habit will follow me through college as well.

Adding on to the tips, another one that impacted me was joining clubs and sports after school. This is where I ended up finding most of my friends that still are with me my senior year. Yes, friends will come and go but the friends I made from sports never went, they stayed.

My freshman year I was super scared, I was starting high school with almost no friends/not knowing anyone. I thought I would try out for the volleyball team and I ended up making a team. I made amazing connections with every single one of the girls on the team, both freshman and older students. I stuck with volleyball all four years of high school and I have never been happier with my decision. I had the opportunity to grow up with these girls and spend most of my time with them.

If you are not a sports person, I would highly recommend joining a club or the theater program at Highland Park Senior High, or really any high school. Joining a club or program of some sort will help guide you through the ups and downs that high school gives you.

Another tip I would give is to go to those sports games. I understand that you might have a lot of homework, but try to finish it before you go. The high school sports games are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to really connect with your classmates and cheer on your school teams. I remember going to every single “musket” game all four years of high school. The energy, joy, and excitement can’t compare to deciding not to go. You only get to have four years of high school, enjoy it while you can.

I do regret one thing from high school. I regret not putting my full effort into every single class that I took during my freshman, sophomore, and junior year. This can have a great impact on applying to colleges and your GPA. 

Overall, one of my most important tips is to stay on top of your school work, stay organized, join clubs/sports/programs, and go to those sports games.

Enchilada recipe review

By: Gabe Kleiber

Image taken from: sD8DskV3zl-Zyqb16PqZ8B8iVsMBvOR42iVpi3pegH-b5cujE&mibextid=Zxz2cZ

Today we will be reviewing an enchilada recipe from Skinnytaste:

This has nothing to do with the food itself, I enjoyed eating with the skillet on the table. My family doesn’t usually eat like that, but it was nice because everyone could have the exact portions they wanted. It was also right in front of you and the leftovers were extremely easy to store. Because everyone plates right on the table from the same dish, in a weird way, it makes you feel closer as a family. Anyway, onto the food.

As with a lot of homestyle meals similar to this one, not much is super vibrant flavor wise. That isn’t to say this wasn’t good though. The tortillas, chicken, beans and cheese make up a very big portion of the dish but only really shine when combined with enchilada sauce. This is the most memorable and unique part of the dish, and everything else takes a supporting role. If you want to add more depth to it, cilantro and/or jalapeños are a great way to add freshness and spice. I really recommend doing this because the little things are what make a dish complete.

This dish was not the most extravagant flavor wise. Everything was at the very least decent, but nothing really made an impact that made me dying to make it again anytime soon. However, it was pretty easy, quick, filling, and pretty tasty. It is probably best for a busy day, or a day you just don’t feel like cooking a lot, but still want to make a good meal for your family to enjoy together. 6.5/10

‘The Children’s Hour’: The process that brought this script to our stage

By: Erin Moore

*Warning: This article contains spoilers*

This past weekend, Highland Park’s theater department put on its second fall play, ‘The Children’s Hour’. 

From December 8th to December 10th at seven pm—and an additional Saturday matinee—the cast and crew performed for audiences of around fifty people each night. 

‘The Children’s Hour’ by Lillian Hellman is a play set in the 1930s. It follows two school teachers, Martha Dobie and Karen Wright as their once bright and energetic school becomes empty and quiet following the accusation by one of their students that the two had been lovers. Upon the spread of the accusation, parents pulls their students out of the school and Martha and Karen become shunned by the general public.

When they trace the accusation to the home of the ever-privileged Tilfords, Mrs. Tilford and her granddaughter Mary refuse to take back what they said, so Karen and Martha respond by taking legal action. When they lose the case, it feels as if there’s nothing left they can do. Then, when Martha admits that she does love Karen and her feelings aren’t reciprocated, she ends her life. 

This play is a beautiful representation of how rumors can destroy—and in some cases, end—lives. It also is an important display of how harmful homophobia can be. As Karen says, “What happens between people, happens, and after a while it doesn’t much matter how it started. But there it is. I’m here. You’re there. We’re in a room we’ve been in so many times before. Nothing seems changed. My hands look just the same, my face is just the same, even my dress is old. I’m nothing too much: I’m just like everybody else, the way I always was. I can have the things that other people have. I can have you, and children, and I can take care of them, and I can go to the market, and read a book, and people will talk to me—Only I can’t. I can’t. And I don’t know why.” 

It’s terribly sad that this play still holds truth and importance ninety years after it was written. This play was nominated for a Pulitzer prize, but lost because some of the judges refused to watch it. 

On a significantly less down-putting note, the performances went amazingly and were so fun to be a part of. As a member of the cast, I can confidently say that this was one of the best groups of people I’ve been able to be in a production with. 

Persephone Pond, a fellow student in the play, said, “This was my first show at Highland and it’s always going to be my favorite. The cast was so talented and kind and this show always felt so welcoming.” 

A member of the tech crew stated, “The cast and crew were really fun to hang out with and I met cool people.”

On the topic of cast, if you’re wondering how to audition for future productions, you can find information all over the school and on the hptheatrearts Instagram page.

When auditioning for ‘The Children’s Hour,’ I found a QR code in the school and it brought me to a Google form asking about experience, skills, and preferences. Then, at the end of the form, there was a link to sign up for an audition slot. 

In my audition, the director (Nancy Michael) had my group read for different characters in selected scenes from both ‘The Children’s Hour’ and ‘Clue’ (which was performed two weeks prior). Then, a little under a week later, the cast list was posted in the “Thespian Society” Schoology group and near the auditorium. 

The rehearsal schedule was soon also posted in the Schoology group, detailing when we would practice and who was called each day. In rehearsals, we worked on lines, blocking, and general character development.

Then, a week before the performances, we began what is known as “tech week.” This week is when lighting, sound, costumes, sets, props, and every other aspect not added earlier in rehearsal, joins with what has already been worked on. For ‘The Children’s Hour,’ tech week typically ran two hours later than usual. 

Now that the fall plays are over, rehearsals have already begun for the winter one acts (“Speed Date,” “Clowns With Guns,” “The Bifrost Incident,” “Call Me S(a)tan,” and “Put a Ring on It”). The audition process was fairly similar to that of ‘The Children’s Hour,’ and took place the week before tech week. One acts will perform the weekend of January 19th if you’re interested in attending their performances. 

In the end, ‘The Children’s Hour’ had very smooth and successful performances, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. To keep theatre alive at HPSH, be sure to donate and attend performances when you can. 

A review of ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’

By: McKenzie Welch

Image taken from: https://www.simonandschuster.
com/books/The-Perks-of-Being-a-Wallflower/Stephen-Chbosky/97819821 10994

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is a young adult fiction novel written by Stephen Chbosky that is set up in the form of multiple letters being sent to an anonymous recipient. It covers the course of Charlie’s life through his freshman year of high school, with Charlie being the author of the many handwritten notes.

Charlie has lived as a loner for most of his life. He has never really had friends, but he’s always been okay with that because he’s never had the experience of having a loving community of people around him, besides his family.

The novel explored issues between family members as well. It was clear that other members of the family were struggling, and the novel displayed how relationships can form tension when there is a lack
of communication. This can be relatable to real life, as there are often times when people feel as though others are not understanding them, which can place stress on the connection they have.

My favorite part about the novel was that it explored how friends, and the ability to be yourself around these people, impact an individual’s quality of life. Charlie met a group of people who, although they were two to three years older, accepted him exactly for who he was. This was something that Charlie had never experienced before, but learning how to be a friend to others was an adventure that helped him learn and grow as a person, and he also got to discover more about himself and his personality.

Although many of these topics seem heartwarming, in reality the topics that this novel deals with are heavy at times. There are situations that make it difficult for other characters to smile, but everyone helps each other through it all.

All in all, I give this book 5/5 stars. I felt as though writing the novel in the form of letters was something new and unexpected, and it kept the book captivating for me. I also really enjoyed that it explored both the positives and negatives of growing up, as life isn’t always perfect.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for something to read that is more applicable to real life. However, I strongly suggest that anyone planning to read this novel reads the trigger warnings first, as many of the events that happen are heavy and at times difficult to get through.

Duluth’s “Bentleyville” — A tour of lights

By: Ann McMullen

Image taken from: Image taken from:

In 2001, Nathan Bentley began decorating his house in Esko, MN, for Christmas, making it more extravagant each year. This became quite an attraction in the small town, and drew enough people that it was able to move to Duluth’s Festival Park in 2009.

Since then, this display of Christmas lights has only grown. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are invested in new decorations each year.

Bentleyville’s total attendance reached 330,000 people in 2018, and has likely only increased since then. Still, it is exclusively a walking tour, so you’ll feel the cold Minnesota weather the whole time and get a true “winter wonderland” experience. If you’re lucky, it might even snow during your visit!

A tall cone lit to look like a Christmas tree, which must be at least a hundred feet tall, is Bentleyville’s most long-standing, iconic, and unchanged display. An “#OnlyinMN” sign stands at the base of it, making the tree a popular place to take fun, touristy photos.

Bentleyville remains free to visit, and even provides free cookies and hot chocolate as of last time I was there, but a $10 fee is required to use their parking lots. They also accept donations of non-perishable food and toys to give to people in need.

The attraction is open from 5-9pm on weeknights, and 5-10pm on weekends, and will close for the season on December 26th. If you can’t make it this year, Bentleyville generally opens about a week prior to Thanksgiving annually.

I do enjoy Bentleyville, and think it’s definitely worth a stop if you end up in Duluth over the holidays. That being said, I wouldn’t schedule a trip there for the sole reason of seeing the light show – but I’m sure some holiday enthusiasts might.

The official Bentleyville website can be found at: