World Book Day 2012: Celebrations in School, part 5

I am still receiving feedback from our lovely members of staff here at Berkhamsted who have shared books, either with each other or with their classes.  My first entry today comes from Mrs Warburton, who says:

“I always have several books on the go but I decided to share Inheritance by Christopher Paolini with my Year 7 and Year 8 as I knew many of them would have read the Eragon series and thought that they would be interested to know that I can enjoy the same things as them – and vice versa.   Having read a small section we chatted a bit about books that were films and vice versa. I left them with the idea that they must not pigeon hole books or themselves as boys/girls old/young etc.”

It is refreshing to remind ourselves that our minds should be open when it comes to reading books which are new to us, and trying different genres that we wouldn’t normally pick up can be very rewarding.

Two other members of staff have sent me reviews of books they’ve shared with others for World Book Day.  Mrs Koulouris has updated me with a review of the book she was reading when I posted my first entry on World Book Day (Celebrations in School, part 1): Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. She tells me:

“I’m not a fan of stories that bounce from past to present throughout, but this I read in two sessions! From the saddest start, through her blue room sanctuary, I was willing Victoria an happy ending.  The acknowledgements are intriguing though, I will have to read up on the author, to find out about ‘Megan’ ?”  Perhaps this should be a challenge for all readers of the book…

Mr van Noordwyck also shared a recommendation of books he’s read recently:

” Ever since I picked up the first paperback written by the author, Andy McNab, (the title was Bravo Two Zero), the style and entertainment value of his books was something I enjoyed during my leisure time. Apparently there was a film made, but I have not seen it yet.  As it goes with film making, they never really manage to capture the thought and the emotion as successfully as an author that would write in the first person does. It is like the Bourne series – a seriously good film, but not even closely comparable with the nature and the style, the narrative version of the life of a spy.  His latest book, or should I say his last published book that I read, Zero Hour, had an interesting twist and, in reading, somehow you would then think it is all over, but this man seemingly has more lives than a cat.  Andy McNab is no ordinary author, he has seen it, lived it and has much to tell.  The books form a series, but you can just about start reading anywhere.  It is all about a secret operative, Nick Stone, who does covert operations and gets sent on missions where the average soldier would not have the grit to go and come back alive. As with most books in this series, there is always an element of surprise, a twist in the story. From conspiracies to crooked politicians to double agents, betrayal the lot – it is all in there. Certainly a good read.  [We have several of Andy McNab’s books in the library: SJM]

His very latest book, entitled War Torn, is not a pleasant read to those who think that joining the forces is a good thrill. This book is set in Afghanistan where the frontline soldiers have to fight another enemy in the form of stress and strain and the anxieties they face in modern warfare. There is much trauma and the way in it affects the families and relatives casts another perspective on life as a soldier.

Another author that I rate very high is Jeffrey Archer.  The last book I read authored by him was The Eleventh Commandment.  It is another spy type conspiracy book written about a CIA operative, Connor Fitzgerald. He is a professional, best of the best.  This man is the holder of the Medal of Honor. In the book he is portrayed as this devoted family man. He has served his country well and is about to retire when the request came.  Fitzgerald comes face to face with an enemy who, for the first time, even he cannot handle–his own boss, Helen Dexter, Director of the CIA. ‘Thou Shalt Not Be Caught.’ (Hence the Eleventh Commandment.)  But the CIA boss, Dexter’ s stranglehold on the agency, is threatened by a power greater than her own, and her only hope is to destroy Fitzgerald.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a new threat to national security is emerging in the form of a ruthless hard-line Russian president who is determined to force a military confrontation between the two superpowers.  It then is up to the intrepid Fitzgerald to pull off his most daring mission yet–save the world, and hopefully his own life.  I could not put the book down and felt frustrated not being able to have enough time to finish, it is worse than playing Call of Duty.”

I should like to extend many thanks to the contributors to this entry.  By extending their interest in reading to others, it they have shared their enjoyment of the written word.  Pupils have been encouraged by members of staff from all subject backgrounds to seek out a book choice which will interest them, whether it be fiction or non-fiction.  How fantastic is that?!


World Book Day 2012: Celebrations in School, part 4

This is our last post today covering our World Book Day celebrations.  Our final contributors have informed us of more fascinating books which they have read.  I have learned a lot, in reading our submissions, about books that have now joined many others on my to-read list…

We start with Mr Pett’s choice:

” I discussed my book The Etymologicon, [by Mark Forsyth] which bemused my groups, I think. A worthwhile activity, I think.”  This sounds extremely interesting. As I delved a little deeper, I discovered that the book originates from Mark Forsyth’s Inky Fool blog on the strange connections between words.  Must check this out further…

Continuing with the Classical Civilisation Department, Miss Bradley told me:

“I have taught Years 11, 9, 10 and 8 today and we spent at least 20 minutes talking about books. The girls shared their favourite title or a book that was special to them and why. I explained why I love [Tolkien’s] The Lord of the Rings. I read aloud to them an extract from The Return of the King and then showed them the equivalent scene from the film – we discussed which we preferred and whether the film was a good representation of the book. We also touched on how heavily influenced J K Rowling’s work is by Lord of the Rings and how the trilogy also has resonances of the historical time period in which it was written, between 1939 – 1947.

I then read aloud an extract from Book 9 of the Odyssey by Homer to some classes to show how words that were written nearly 3000 years ago can still resonate today.”  Wonderful stuff!  I wonder whether the girls preferred the book or the film and if they did think the film was a good representation?  I love the idea that Homer’s ancient words are still relevant, more recommended reading…

Mrs Instone concludes this series with her reflections:

Read my classes a bit from Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome about children having sailing adventures on the Norfolk Broads in the days of innocence when four children aged between 7 and 12 were allowed to camp on an island in the middle of the Broads without direct parental supervision for three days at a time.  They did have to report in to a local farmer to collect provisions and to leave a message for their mother that they were all right!  Oh for those days of innocence and freedom!

To the boys I also read a short extract from the latest Lee Child. All of his books have Jack Reacher , a Major in the American Military police,  as the central character. He gets into all manner of scrapes to right various wrongs in a singularly direct manner.  A good holiday read.”

I would like to thank all members of staff who have been in touch, sending in their experiences, it is a lovely thing to be able to do and to receive such positive comments.  They have shared their passion and it is very much appreciated.  I should also like to thank the children, whose responses have made the exercise worthwhile.

World Book Day 2012

World Book Day 2012.

Here’s a short film that we’ve put together with photographs of pupils and members of staff reading to celebrate World Book Day 2012 using Animoto.  We hope that you enjoy it and recommend that you turn off the music when playing!

Christmas movies: a few of our favourites

We have two days left of term before we finish for the Christmas holidays and we thought we’d take a look at a few of our favourites…  I have placed these in no particular order as we each have our own ideas  about where they should be amongst our best !

Elf – always good to get you in the mood, enjoyed by parents, children and teens alike!

A Christmas Carol – of the numerous versions out there, we have selected three for mentioning here:

And with a variation on this theme, we have

Raymond Briggs‘ illustrated animations are still a firm family favourite with us:

Home Alone 2: according to one fifteen-year-old I know, this one is the best!

Olive the Other Reindeer is a bit different – we love the idea of a small dog and her flea deciding to help Santa out with his deliveries and enjoy the actors’ and singers’ voices portraying the main characters

Polar Express – the lovely animations are almost too realistic, but they are captivating…

Both the 1947 and 1994 versions of Miracle on 34th Street are lovely:

This is a  lovely film to watch, having been inspired by the wonderful picture book, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by Patrick Lynch:

Finally for the adults we have selected Love, Actually 

 and The Holiday

Berkhamsted School Library blog


We started the blog to try and test out whether we could have a presence on the web, to see whether we could join the information revolution that was really taking off a couple of years ago…  Initially we wanted to communicate with the school community and get a feel for using IT in the current online world.  It started as a book review site where we asked all members of staff, not just teachers, about the books they like reading, when they like to read (mainly during the school holidays as we’re all so manically busy during term-time!) and how they like to read (all the books ever written by one author in one shot or dipping in and out of an author’s body of work and mixing genres as they go).  We found it interesting to see whether people read mainly fiction or non-fiction and whether it was scholarly or for pure enjoyment.  We went global, as in online, with a blog, because we sought a wider readership than just members of the school as we thought it would be great if we could get people from around the world to talk with us about the books we reviewed. We need to find ways to do this better as we only have a few followers still!  Sharing books and our love of them with others is always a joy and it’s fabulous to start the discussion!

 What we have done:

We have reviewed our favourite books – in a fairly random manner – but, we feel, quite successfully, perhaps you could write to us to suggest ways of improving this!  We have started to cover book awards as well…  There is the odd review of a film which we’ve enjoyed but this is another area we’d like to cover in more detail, especially the ideas of turning books into film and whether or not this is successful.

What we would like to do…

We’d like to blog more regularly and insert news on forthcoming publications, maybe do features on authors who come to visit us as well as our favourites, insert reviews from you students (please!) and build up our links with fabulous existing book blogs we already like and find some more…

Links to our favourite book blogs so far:

We’re very aware that this is just a small list at the moment, we’ll add to it as time goes by.  Please get in touch if you write a book blog and would like us to link with you or if you know of any more fantastic ones, kindly drop us a line!

The Way

Miss Burt and Mrs Maxted went to see Emilio Estevez’s film  The Way yesterday evening at The Rex cinema in Berkhamsted.  They enjoyed the film immensely, finding that it inspired them to consider making the pilgrimage (walking along a route through the Pyrenees from a starting point in France to Santiago in Spain where the remains of St James the Apostle are said to rest) at some time in the future…  The Way tells the story of a widowed father, who is contacted by French police.  They inform him that his son has been killed during a storm, just after he began his walk along the Camino de Santiago and he arranges to fly over from California to bring his son’s body home to America.  Once there, as he starts to sift through his son’s belongings, he makes the decision to make the pilgrimage himself, taking his son’s cremated remains with him.  Setting off alone, he encounters three individuals, each with their own reasons for following the Camino, who irritate him intensely at first, only to become friends as their journey continues.  This film is beautifully shot and crafted and the acting, for the most part, superb.  Worth taking time out to view…

The King’s Speech

Mrs Maxted went to see the film The King’s Speech on Saturday evening and was completely blown away!  The film depicts the efforts of King George VI as he struggles to overcome the debilitating effects of his stammer, both prior to and after becoming King, with the help of Lionel Logue, an unqualified Speech Therapist, and his unusual methods of training people to overcome their speech difficulties.  The story, though an interesting comment on the activity surrounding Edward VIII and the beginnings of World War II, is moving in its portrayal of a man deeply affected by events from his own childhood and his responsibility as he becomes Head of  State. There were excellent performances from all actors, notably Helena Bonham-Carter, Geoffrey Rush and, of course, Golden Globe winner, Colin Firth!  It was interesting to see Jennifer Ehle, remembering her as Elizabeth Bennet in that BBC production of Pride and Prejudice from 1995…

Photo courtesy of, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons, licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License, taken at Queen Street Mill Textile Museum, Burnley.