Best Desert Island Companions

What if we told you that you could take an all-expenses paid trip to a desert island with a group of friends?  What would you pack? What would you wear? And most importantly, who would you bring?  We already covered who we wouldn’t want to bring, but we’re not anti-social, Tom Hanks-esque castaways. No, we’ve got the perfect list of companions for our desert island retreat.

1. The White Witch, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The first word in desert island is desert, and that means those suckers can get toasty.  What would be better (and more convenient) than having a witch who can create eternal winters serve as your air conditioning unit? Just don’t get on her bad side. Things might get a little too chilly.

2. Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Holly would definitely be able to put together some awesome parties from stuff found on the island.  Who needs the Professor making fake coconut radios when your girl Holly can make you a piña colada? Girls just want to have fun, are we right?

3. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series

Besides the fact that Hermione is one of the best characters ever, she has a lot of skills and talents that would be useful on an island. Between her encyclopedia knowledge of spells, her bag that can hold a never-ending amount of items, and her extensive knowledge of plants from taking Herbology classes, she would make sure everyone had a magical time, and even would be able to apparate us off once we got tired of Holly’s existential crisis. 10 points to Gryffindor!

4. Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

It’s common knowledge that when a group of people is in isolation for too long, some conflict can emerge.  (See: Lord of the Flies.) In addition to providing excellent eye candy by looking like the smoking Gregory Peck, Atticus is a great lawyer and mediator who would be able to settle any arguments and prevent things from escalating.

5. Tris Prior, Divergent

 Photo from Entertainment Weekly.

Tris is an all-around kick-butt lady.  She has an extensive knowledge of weapons and self-defense techniques from her Dauntless initiation training.  Plus she is super loyal and selfless (despite her claims otherwise) so she will always be willing to take one for the team.  We mean, a girl basically without fear? Totally someone we want on our island shortlist.

6. Feste, Twelfth Night

This character is a fool.  No, the kind that Mr. T likes to pity, but that archetypal figure who serves as comic relief by cracking jokes about everyone around them.  That sounds like even better entertainment than cable TV. You know, unless he makes fun of The White Witch. Then we might be in for a cold, er, treat.

How about you, Shmoopers? Who would you take with you to a desert island?

Worst Desert Island Companions

During summer break, we love to fantasize about a getaway to a nice tropical island far away from summer homework, our Shmoop SAT flashcards, and our younger siblings for whom we have to wake up at an ungodly hour to drive to summer camp.  A tropical vacay sounds like a sweet deal, Shmoopers, but depending on the company it could turn sour really fast.  Here’s a list of the people we definitely would not want to be stuck on a desert island with.

1. Jack, Lord of the Flies

We don’t know about you, but we like our guts and want to keep them inside of our bodies.  That means not having spears thrown at us by an English boy wearing face paint.

2. Macbeth, Macbeth

What’s even scarier than getting spears thrown at you by a schoolboy wearing face paint? A storied war hero who believes in some witchy mumbo jumbo and proceeds to hire murderers to assassinate you so he can control the hypothetical island.  Gulp.

3. East Side Greasers, The Outsiders

Too much testosterone, too little square footage.

4. Queen of Hearts, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Because (1) we don’t know how long we would be willing to play croquet with flamingos for and (2) we don’t want to have to deal with the consequences once we find out.

5. Elwin Lepellier, A Separate Peace

The thought of PTSD-having Leper jumping out at us from the jungle on island with mud all over his face is enough to give us nightmares for weeks…or maybe our own PTSD.

6. Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby

Things we don’t want to deal with:

  • Daisy’s crying

  • Daisy’s inability to make a decision

  • Daisy’s issues with getting her white dresses dirty (and not just in the metaphorical way)

  • Her husband’s rage if we looked at her the wrong way (It was an eyeroll, we swear!)

How about you, Shmoopers? Who’s on your I’d-rather-share-a-tiny-boat-with-a-tiger-and-take-my-chances-than-stay-here-on-this-island list?

Stay tuned for our list of the BEST island companions.

Things to Do When You’re Bored: Summer Edition

It’s finally summer.  Three glorious months of sunshine, no school, and freedom.  You’ve suffered through an entire school year, taken all those finals, and here’s your reward…but now what?

You’ve probably already forgotten what it’s like to have so much time on your hands and what it’s like to be bored.  We’re not talking about bored because you’ve been listening to a two hour long lecture on the history of Brittany France (although, secretly: super interesting!), but bored because there’s actually nothing to do.  Your friends are all out of town, and you’ve already watched all the reruns on TV and it’s gotten to the point where you already know the culprit of every Law and Order: SVU episode ever. But never fear: Shmoop is here!

We’ve made a list of all of the fun things you can do over the summer, so let’s get on with it!

1. Embrace Your Inner Child

We know you guys are all big bad middle and high schoolers (and the select super-cool college students), but come on, be honest: everyone loves a good animated movie.  The summer of ’13 promises the long-awaited to sequel to Monsters, Inc., Monsters University. We’ve already seen it, and trust us, it’s everything you wish your college experience would be like, but never will be, since, you know, you can’t enroll in the kick-butt School of Scaring.

2. Indulge in Harry Potter Marathons

Now that all seven books and, ahem, eight movies are out, immerse yourself into the world of Harry Potter for a weekend.  Because, really, who doesn’t love Harry Potter?  (That was rhetorical, by the way. If you’re raising your hand right now, we’re officially no longer BFFs.)  Seriously. If you manage to re-read all the books AND watch the movies in one weekend? You might put Hermione Granger to shame.

3. Pick Up Archery

Yeah, archery.  You know, with bows and arrows and stuff.  Not only will you be able to shoot a bull’s eye from 50 feet away and compete in the Olympics, but you could become the next winner of the Hunger Games.

4. Learn How to Drive

Okay, so this doesn’t apply if you’re under the age of 15—and if you’re already driving under 15, don’t let us or the government know—but if you are at that time when you can get your learner’s permit, go get it!  Study for the written test here, and enjoy the perks and responsibilities of being On the Road.  Just stay safe please! The last thing you want is to recreate this classic (and horrifying!) scene from Clueless.

5. Learn a New Language

As students, there really is no better time than now to learn a new language.  Right now, your brain actually has the capacity to remember an entirely new language.  When you get older, which will happen, your brain won’t be able to remember as much. Trust us, we’re speaking from experience. Anyway, decrepit brains aside, Shmoop’s got a ton of languages, from Latin to Japanese.  And, if you know Spanish, you can use the mirror universe of our site, Shmoop en Español.

6. Go to the Zoo

It’s been awhile since you’ve thought about relaxing and spending the day with animals.  But you still haven’t forgotten how cute those zebras, elephants, lions and tigers are.  Go on, we know it’s tempting. Here’s a picture to tempt you some more:  

Aww, isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? Plus, animals are totally weird. Like, why do lions lick each other? Don’t worry. Shmoop’s got all your insights into animal behavior here.

7.  Read Dr. Seuss

Time for an elementary school flashback! Bet you’ve forgotten about all of those Cat in the Hat books you read back in the day. But don’t you miss ole’ Sam and his green eggs and ham?

P.S. Want a recipe for Sam’s delightful delicacy? You can find one here.

And here’s some for those of you who want to be more productive with your summer (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone):

8. Take a Career Test

There’s no better time than the summer to figure out what you actually want to do with your career.  It’s a big decision, and an important one, so we’re here to help you along.  We know it seems daunting, but you’ll find one that’s right for you. Most importantly, make sure you end up doing what YOU want to do, not anybody else.  It’s your life, and even if you don’t feel like it, you’re the one who ultimately controls the reins.  So steer your life down the path that calls to you. You won’t regret it.

9. Write College Essays

If you really want to jump ahead, feel free to take a look at how to write college essays.  For the rising juniors and seniors out there, trust us, you’ll feel a lot less stressed out if you start planning out your essays over the summer.  Think about what you want to write about and develop a game plan for college application season.  There’s a lot of brilliant schools out there—most of them almost as brilliant as you—so take the time to find the one that’s right for you.

10.  Study for the SAT or ACT

Yay, studying! Okay, we can see your eyes rolling already. But we’ve got a great idea to get your study on: have study dates with your summer fling. Study those 1000 vocab words with your special someone and quiz each other on math facts.  It’ll make it pass by a lot faster (and might result in an awesome song and dance number).  Whether you need the SAT and ACT, Shmoop’s got you covered.  Go on, pick your lucky buddy. We think you two are adorable.

Shmoopers, do you have any suggestions for summer fun? Let us know in the comments!

High-Tech Cheaters and High-Tech Solutions

This week, the Wall Street Journal detailed the ways in which cheaters are proving to be even more and more high-tech. We’re talking spy cameras and tactics that would make James Bond blush. From getting others to feed them answers to downloading answers for future test-takers, these cheaters are relentless.

With the advent of more advanced computer-based testing, it makes sense that the solutions become more and more advanced as well.

Is there a way to best these high-tech highwaymen? Let us know what you think in our poll below:

Shmoop Helps Indio High Schoolers Boost ACT Scores

Improving student test scores on the ACT* exam may not be as difficult as it can seem. As it turns out, the recipe for success could be as simple as one short step: “Just add Shmoop.”

At Indio High School in Indio, California, Assistant Principal Charles Mazet has noticed some striking improvements in ACT exam performance since Shmoop, a publisher of digital curriculum and test prep, was first introduced to classrooms. Students also look taller, seem to have developed better posture, and appear to have shinier hair.

(Disclaimer: Not directly related to the use of Shmoop, although it probably doesn’t hurt.)

“At Indio High School, Shmoop has been crucial in helping students prepare for the ACT exam,” says Mazet. “They walk into the exam with the confidence that they can be successful. Part of this is because students can work at their own pace, both at school and at home. The Shmoop program also gives them a better sense of the exam through the drills and practice exams—the explanations of why one answer choice was right and the others were wrong helped them gain a stronger understanding of what exactly the ACT exam is looking for.”

For juniors in the class of 2014, average scores in English increased almost a full point from those of juniors in the class of 2012 (17.3 to 18.1). The average score in Reading increased from 18.3 two years ago to 19.0 this past April.

Meanwhile, the percentage of students scoring above the national average rocketed from 61% for the class of 2012 to 80% for the class of 2014, and the percentages of students scoring at or above the College ReadinessBenchmark also increased across the board: from 46% to 56% for the English test, from 26% to 36% for the Reading test, and from 7% to 11% for the Science test. These students couldn’t be more ready for college if they went shopping for extra-long twin sheets and shower caddies over spring break.

The good news doesn’t stop there: most of the students in the class of 2012 took the ACT exam two or more times, so their scores represent their overall best efforts, while the juniors in the class of 2014 has only had the opportunity to take the test once thus far. Frankly, Shmoop can’t wait to see what’s next for the students at Indio High School.

Shmoop Explains Literary Critics in New Educational Guides

It’s no secret: literary critics are tough nuts to crack. Most of them are long gone, and all they’ve left behind is a bunch of mumbo jumbo that even the most intellectual tweed-wearer has a tough time deciphering. But these smartypants brought about new ways of reading old books, and they’re definitely worth a closer look.

Grad students and professors will be squealing with delight: Shmoop, a publisher of digital curriculum and online test prep, has announced the launch of an entire section devoted just to these brilliant—and terrifying—ladies and gents. It turns out that when critics get to work on their online profiles, they really let their hair down.

Here’s just some of the excitement found in Shmoop’s free Guides to Literary Critics:

  •     Foucault’s notes for his next book: “The Mall of America and the Destruction of the Human Soul”
  •     Confidential logs from Freud’s therapy sessions with his most famous clients
  •     Harold Bloom’s all-too-revealing diary
  •     Judith Butler’s picks for the “Top 5 Gender-Bending Films”
  •     Roland Barthes’s live blog of “The Bachelorette”
  •     A sneak peek of Derrida’s latest hit: “DeconWHATtion?!: Derrida Reveals All”
  •     Stanley Fish’s notes on why he really hates Volvos
  •     Simone de Beauvoir’s journal, where she reveals everything that she hides from her main squeeze, Jean-Paul Sartre
  •     Jacques Lacan’s seminar on “The Psychoanalyst as Rock Star”

All these folks are ripe for name-dropping, sure. But now, thanks to Shmoop, it’s possible to know what on earth they’re saying. Join the conversation by checking out Shmoop’s Guides to Literary Critics,