Literary March Madness Champion Announced

Mockingjay vs. Mockingbird: Shmoop tallies up the votes and awards the 2014 Literary March Madness Tournament Trophy.

After four intense rounds and thousands of votes, Shmoop is proud to announce their 2014 Literary March Madness winner. With 55% of the vote, To Kill a Mockingbird has risen above its page-turning competitors to become the ultimate champion.


A Cutthroat Competition

Shmoop’s Literary March Madness began with sixteen competitors divided into four genres: British Literature, Dystopian Literature, American Literature, and World Literature. Over 14,000 votes were cast to determine the favorite book.

In the final round, To Kill a Mockingbird went toe-to-toe with experienced competitor The Hunger Games. While the popular dystopian novel has topped Shmoop’s most-visited page list for three years running, Harper E. Lee’s classic pulled ahead at the last moment and defeated Suzanne Collins’s YA favorite. What did Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of The Hunger Games, have to say about coping with her loss? “Peeta says it will be okay,” Everdeen shared. “We still have each other. And the book.”

A Champion Crowned

To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960. Loosely inspired by author Harper E. Lee’s childhood growing up in the American South, the book tells the tale of young Scout Finch as she observes the deep-seated racism of her hometown and learns how to stand up for what—and who—she believes in. Shmoop’s Literary March Madness trophy isn’t the first major award for Mockingbird. In 1961, the novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

About Shmoop

Shmoop is a digital curriculum and test prep company that makes fun, rigorous learning and teaching materials. Shmoop content is written by master teachers and Ph.D. students from Stanford, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and other top universities. Shmoop Learning Guides, Test Prep, and Teacher’s Editions balance a teen-friendly, approachable style with academically rigorous materials to help teachers help students understand how subjects relate to their daily lives. Shmoop sees over 8 million unique visitors a month on its site, and offers more than 7,000 titles across the Web, iPhone, Android devices, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. The company has been honored twice by the Webby Awards, named “Best in Tech” twice by Scholastic Administrator, and awarded with two Annual Education Software Review Awards (EDDIES). Launched in 2008, Shmoop is headquartered in a labradoodle-patrolled office in Mountain View, California.

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Literary March Madness: Championship Round

Sixteen entered, and only one will come out on top. Will Katniss Everdeen repeat her Hunger Games success and be the last book standing? Or will Scout’s luck (and ham outfit) keep her safe from Katniss’s bow and arrow?

Make your vote known by tomorrow, Thursday, April 3rd at 11 p.m. PT. And may the odds be ever in the best book’s favor!


Literary March Madness: Final Four

And then there were four.

Who will make it to our championship round next Wednesday? Will it be Katniss with her bow and arrow skillz? Hamlet with his daddy issues? Scout with her Southern sass? Liesel and her sticky fingers?  Vote now or forever hold your peace.


Top Ten Heroines in Literature

There are so many literary heroines who inspire us with their razor-sharp wits (and sometimes razor-sharp aim). Regardless of who they are or where they’re from, these ladies kick butt and deserve our literary adulation. We’ve compiled a list of ten amazing literary heroines. There are way more than ten out there (ladies be fierce!), but these chicks are some of our favorites.

10. Artemis

File:Diane de Versailles Leochares.jpgRemember reading about mythology or, if you need more special effects, the Percy Jackson series? Artemis (or Diana, her Roman name) carries a hunting bow like The Hunger Game‘s Katniss Everdeen, but it’s not just because she’s starving and needs a meal: Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and wild animals. Pretty awesome, right? While her brother spends most of his time romancing the ladies, Artemis takes her virginity seriously and makes it a priority to protect young girls. While she has shown kindness to mortals, when things she cares about are threatened, Artemis has no problem showing her wrath. The way Artemis sticks to her convictions is admirable, but if you’re going to emulate our Virgin Goddess, you might want to try avoiding killing people.

9. Elizabeth Bennet

Photo from the BBC.

Ah, Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, the subject of many movie adaptations, including our personal favorite, Bridget Jones’s Diary. Elizabeth’s main task (as given to her by her mother) is to find a husband, but what makes her a fantastic heroine is that she sticks up for her sisters and what she wants. When she realizes at the end of the novel that she’s been clouded by her quick judgment and prejudice all along, she is willing to change her mind and, finally, agrees to marry the slightly awkward and curmudgeonly Darcy. Lessons learned from the lovely Miss Bennet? Follow your heart, but be open to changing course when the time is right.

8. Ántonia Shimerda we’re out West–Nebraska, to be more specific. Sure, it may be a super-long state to drive through, but a lot of things happen there. Ántonia’s character (or at least how Jim views her) is embodied by the Western landscape, full of warm colors. This fits perfectly with her strong personality and her refusal to fit into traditional gender roles. Through Jim’s nostalgic narration, the nature of his relationship with Ántonia is revealed (it is exactly what Avril Lavigne sings–”Complicated“), yet, at the same time, keeping it together in the face of her father’s suicide and harsh winters. We like ourselves some strong ladies and Ántonia is that in spades.

7. Matilda

Photo by Jersey Studios and TriStar Pictures.

Matilda is a young heroine–she’s only five–but she has the independence (who doesn’t love the part of the 1996 movie adaption where Matilda makes pancakes by herself?), smarts, and moral convictions of someone four times her age. Yet, she doesn’t brag (or humblebrag) about it. Oh, and our book-loving five-year-old also has telekinetic powers that she uses for good and to punish those who deserve, instead of going on a crazed rampage like Stephen King’s Carrie. Girl’s gonna go places.

6. Stargirl Zooey Deschanel and quirky chic became popular, there was Stargirl. She does her own thing, and doesn’t care what other people think. Among other things, Stargirl cheers when the other team scores because she genuinely is happy for their success, even though her classmates don’t like it. Stargirl is connected to the universe and ignores the people who bully her, instead choosing to be kind to everyone. Sounds pretty amazing, right? She changes for a brief while for love interest Leo, but finally finds solace (and popularity) by being herself at the Ocotillo Ball. The next time you think about changing yourself to fit in, channel your own inner Stargirl.

5. Scout Finch

Photo from Universal Pictures.

Harper Lee’s novel starts when Scout is only six. She’s a tomboy who gets into fights and figures the person who wins is in the right. Throughout the next four years, though, she matures and realizes that fighting is not so black and white anymore (even though the racism in her town would beg to disagree). While Scout is initially scared of shut-in Boo Radley, she comes to see him as a caring neighbor, though she is saddened she is not that to him. From putting herself in Boo’s shoes, she learned about both him and her own self. The pint-sized heroine shows the importance of self-knowledge and empathy.

4. Lisabeth Salander

Photo from Columbia Pictures.

She can hack into things easily while sporting spiked hair, tattoos, and provocative T-shirts. Her obvious smarts are tempered by a likely diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome, trust issues, and a history of promiscuity with men and women. Due to previous experiences, Lisabeth hates when men hurt women–and punishes those men accordingly. Despite her struggles, though, she keeps it together in order to carry out her moral code.

3. Jo March

Photo by Columbia Pictures.

Jo (short for Josephine) is a tomboy with a wicked temper. As a teen, she would pick reading, writing, and the company of her sisters over anything–especially getting married. Even though it is unusual for a lady of her class, Jo had a job as a writer. With time (and a good measure of trial and error), her perspective shifts, and she ends up finding a man she truly loves who respects her and fits her idea of what an equal marriage could be. And then they proceed to be ridiculously adorable and open a school for ragamuffin boys. Jo March, you are the best.

2. Celie was handed a tough life: she was raped by her father several times and becomes part of an abusive marriage. She’s passive–except when people she loves are threatened, like her sister Nettie. Despite a considerable amount of hardship, Celie successfully stands up for herself and the people she cares about and ends up finding someone to care for who saves her. When you send love out into the universe, the universe responds with love–as Taylor Swift knows, love makes the world go round.

1. Esperanza Cordero narrates The House on Mango Street in a series of stories in which she isn’t always the central character. Throughout the book, the reader gets a sense of Esperanza’s character: she struggles with loneliness and wants to fit in (who hasn’t felt this way?), in addition to experiencing shame about being poor. Instead of letting it bubble up (we’re talking to you, Hamlet), she uses writing as a productive method to sort out her feelings and experiences. Esperanza illustrates that anyone can have access to their own personal catharsis whether it involves blasting music, decorating cupcakes like a pro, or something completely different.

Is your favorite lady not on the list? Let us know who your favorite lit lady is in the comments!

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?