World Book Day 2018 #inthesnow

Along with many schools around the country, we celebrated World Book Day last week on Thursday 1st March, and managed to squeeze in our celebrations just before the snow hit Berkhamsted!  Both libraries were full much of the day with classes coming in to share with us their favourite books and play a few games associated with reading and learning.

Firstly, we asked everyone (including new members of staff) to tell us about their favourite books on a postcard. There was a prize in each class for the best cards – we judged on the basis of the work put into each card in terms of best review, best reason for liking the book, and best decorated card… Each student undertook this task diligently and put a lot of themselves into their cards, as can be seen by the photographs below:

We then played a word game in which old words not used in common parlance any more were matched to their modern meanings – it was felt that we could bring a few of these back!  It was heartening to see some of the students think hard about what the meanings could be.

We had also lined up a game to test students’ knowledge of ‘Textspeak’ (those abbreviations which we all use, but on the surface look meaningless!), which went down really well. This exercise gave some students the chance to enjoy themselves when they wouldn’t usually,  with books around! Sometimes it’s hard to remember that reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, unthinkable though that may be, to most… I think some of the students learnt a thing or two from us librarians during that session!

Finally, when we had time, we asked students to interview each other about what they were reading which was absolutely lovely!  It’s always great to see young people enthuse about what they’re reading and sharing it with others.

We had a great day, and are already looking forward to next year, but will clearly be carrying on the good work with the other things we plan and do, with reader development in the meantime.

One (Sarah Crossan)

I have just finished reading the Carnegie Medal shortlisted novel One by Sarah Crossan and loved it.  It’s the author’s second novel written as a prose poem, or free verse, the first being The weight of water which I also enjoyed but is very different from her latest novel.  Both were beautifully written and equally heart-wrenching, but covering very different stories.  One was clearly very well-researched on all points from the nature of the particular disability borne by the conjoined twins, and their feelings for one another, their difficulties where they, as teenage girls display typical teenage types of behaviour, and how they blow apart the idea that they should be pitied, or considered to be suffering.  The writing quickly draws the reader in and s/he becomes emotionally involved.

The prose poem is easy to read and get into.  The effect of the layout of words on the page, appearing as a poem, make it a fast read, which, sometimes, is a shame, because the reader wants to savour the poetic feel and read it slowly.  Here, however, there is a sense of urgency carried along by the story: time is of the essence.  The twins suffer health complications which must be addressed.  They are attractive characters and the reader soon has a sense of the lovely connection between them, which is often reported to be the case between twins generally, let alone those so closely attached.  Despite sometimes wanting to enjoy the same things as every teenage girl, they have a deep understanding and acceptance of the fact that they can’t participate in life in that way.  They watch their younger sister Dragon do the things that she does, whose own story is explored to some extent by the narrator, right-hand sided Grace.  She is also the teller of her parents’ story.

In keeping with the style of the prose poem, the detail is spares but so expertly described that all that is important is revealed – the story is told more effectively in this way, and is executed skilfully.

This is a sad story, a difficult story but also, at times, a joyful story.  Heartbreaking, yet hopeful.  I wish Ms Crossan all the very best with the Carnegie Medal, she has rightly been rewarded with the YA Prize 2016 and the CBI Book of the Year Award!


National Poetry Day 2014 at Berkhamsted School



Yesterday saw us enjoying National Poetry Day 2014!   We encouraged students and staff to write a poem on the theme of ‘Remember’ (this year’s theme decided by the Poetry Society) and send it to us so that we could display their work on our Poetry Memory Boards and we are offering a prize for both the best adult and student entries…  Watch this space for the announcement next week of the winners and publication of their poems!

We entertained some enthusiastic students, as ever, in the poetry cafés set up in the libraries on both campuses. Some classes were encouraged to write twitter poems of a maximum of 140 characters in length, which proved very challenging, some were encouraged to think about nature and to be inspired by the clouds wafting by overhead.  In our Year 9 Boys Reading Group, we thought of a memory we had which sparked off a moment of inspiration for some great poems.  One about what happened on 9/11 in particular struck us as being good, especially since the boy who wrote it would not have been born then Continue reading “National Poetry Day 2014 at Berkhamsted School”

Bookbuzz 2014

Bookbuzz logo jpeg

It’s the Bookbuzz time of year here in the libraries at Berkhamsted School!  We have spread the word amongst our Year 7 English classes and talked with the students about how fantastic the selection of books is this year.  They have had to make some difficult decisions about which book to choose to take home to keep, which books to read in the library and which to swap with their friends.  One of the things that I love most about Bookbuzz is the excitement and enthusiasm shown by all students and their teachers as they talk about the book they would like to receive as a Christmas present from us, the librarians!   It’s also heartwarming to see how the students are pleased to be able to choose something for themselves, without the influence of anyone else.  They have all chosen their books, the order has been submitted, but shhhhhh!  Don’t tell them, the books have already arrived!  We will keep them for Christmas…

I can understand how hard a decision to choose a book can be, especially since all of these books look like a fantastic read for our young people. Which would you choose?


World Book Day : celebrations in school, part 4

Welcome to the latest instalment of our World Book Day series.  Today we are featuring two of our teachers of Modern Foreign Languages.  Miss Ashby wrote to tell me that she had shared a poem by Jorge Luis Borges with her students, named Instantes:


Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida.

En la próxima, trataría de cometer mas errores.

No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría mas.

Sería mas tonto de lo que he sido,

de hecho tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.

Sería menos higiénico, correría mas riesgos.

Haría mas viajes, contemplaría mas atardeceres,

subiría mas montañas, nadaría mas ríos.

Iría a mas lugares donde nunca he ido,

comería mas helados y menos habas.

Tendría mas problemas reales y menos imaginarios.

Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió sensata y prolíficamente

cada minuto de su vida.

Claro que tuve momentos de alegría, pero si pudiese volver atrás,

trataría de tener solamente buenos momentos.

Por si no lo saben, de eso está hecha la vida, solo de momentos.

No te pierdas el ahora.

Yo era uno de esos que nunca iba a ninguna parte, sin un termómetro,

una bolsa de agua caliente, un paraguas y un paracaídas.

Si pudiese volver a vivir, viajaría mas liviano.

Si pudiera volver a vivir, comenzaría a andar descalzo a principios de la primavera y seguirá así hasta concluir el otoño.

Daría mas vueltas en calesita, contemplaría mas amaneceres y jugaría con niños.

Si tuviera otra vez la vida por delante.

Pero ya ven, tengo 85 años y sé que me estoy muriendo.

Jorge Luís Borges.  For a translation, please click here.

Miss Ashby says: “With Year 9 Spanish we looked at a poem by Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentinian Poet. The poem is called ‘Instantes’ and is about an old man who is close to death and he talks about if he were to live his life again what he would do differently. Great for the conditional tense!

Opened up a lovely discussion about the meaning of life.”

Jorge Luís Borges 1951
Jorge Luís Borges 1951 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mrs Moss shared a book about the art of Maurits Cornelis Escher, upon which she reflects:  “I spoke to a couple of my groups about a book on Escher the artist and I showed the pupils some of his amazing paintings on google images, which we then discussed.”  The Life and Works of Escher, commentary by Miranda Fellows.

escher_relativity (Photo credit: williamcromar)

World Book Day : celebrations in school, part 1

Rudyard Kipling in his study, about this year
Rudyard Kipling in his study, about this year (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, for World Book Day, we celebrated in school by following Drop Everything And Read amongst ourselves, as staff, and our students.  We decided to share our favourite books and poems with you in a series of blog posts beginning with Rudyard Kipling‘s poem, If


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Mrs Clancy, the Head of our Girls’ School, says:

“I intend to read it to my two classes today, but I do think it is a really relevant poem to the girls…although you will see I have suggested an alternative last line.”

(Last line…you’ll be a Woman, my daughter.)


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