World Book Day 2017 at Berkhamsted

wbd reading teachers board castle

We had a lot of fun last Thursday, 2nd March, when celebrating World Book Day!  In our libraries, we put up a display such as this one showing teachers and librarians reading on one side of each picture and then on the other side, we were holding up the books which are currently grabbing our attention.  The displays attracted many visitors as they passed through, on their way to their study tables and computers!

We also welcomed classes into the libraries where they played two reading games and were asked to complete cards telling us what they like to read, which are their favourite books and what they are reading at the moment (their ‘Writes of Passage’, if you will, which we are still taking cards for).

The first game we played was called ‘Crossed Lines’ and was taken from the National Literacy Trust’s website.  We chose a few first lines from really good novels we found in the libraries and then started off a chain of Chinese whispers, loved by boys and girls alike.  We used Charles Kingsley’s The water babies, Patrick Ness’s A monster calls, David Almond’s A song for Ella Grey and Meg Rosoff’s Picture me gone at the girls’ school which worked really well. The titles we read from at the boys’ school were The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Mark Haddon); Peter Pan (J M Barrie); Stormbreaker (Anthony Horowitz) and To kill a mockingbird (Harper Lee).  This was a sure-fire way to demonstrate how stories evolve with the telling, and how to listen properly!  We enjoyed watching the children’s faces as they were trying to understand how to pass on a simple sentence.

Our second game was ‘Reading Chairs’, the idea for which, again , was borrowed from the National Literacy Trust’s website.  This time we took the children back to the party games from their younger days and played what, in its previous incarnation, was know as musical chairs!  A librarian or teacher read from the beginning of a book and each time he or she stopped reading, a chair was removed from the library.  Whilst everyone was rather competitive, we did manage to maintain a sense of decorum!  The winners received a creme egg…

A good day was had by all, indeed, we carried on the next day since we’d enjoyed it so much!

 

More winter reading from Berkhamsted School…

One of our super English teachers, Miss Brims, has sent me reviews of two books which she has enjoyed recently.  Miss Brims writes:

The Beauty of Humanity Movement is the next book from award winning Canadian writer Camilla Gibb. Set in a modern Vietnam, the story charts lives of a family torn apart, joined by food and love, not blood,  and an ancient tale of old lost love.

Vietnam has seen many changes in one lifetime, and Old Man Hung has seen them all. His pho is as legendary as it is nourishing, as coveted as it is illegal, and as unifying as it was devisive.  When Maggie returns to the country of her birth, she arrives with all the ideals and modern mentalities in accordance with her upbringing in the USA, but she must keep the best of her present and her past in order to unravel the secrets of her families history.

Tu’ has grown up with Old Man Hung and posivitivity and good nature are inextricably entwined with both Hung, Maggie, and their fight for justice, truth, love and survival.

A beautiful, bitter sweet story which will live in your thoughts for days.

Greame Simpson’s loveable duo of Don and Rosie Tillman return in The Rosie Effect, a heart wrenching tale of a couple in their first year of marriage. Everything is going well for the new couple, the Wife Project has come to a successful conclusion, Rosie and Don have moved to New York and Don is learning to compromise, despite the obvious financial and logistical disadvantages. But when Rosie discovers she is pregnant, Don doesn’t respond as she hopes he will, driving a wedge between the couple which threatens their marriage (though Don is rather blissfully unaware of this). As ever, his intentions are good, and the reader is rooting for this loveable, nearly perfect man throughout his hilarious mis-steps.

If you loved The Rosie Project, you will love this too. Just be prepared to have the tissues ready for both laughter and heart break.”

We loved The Rosie Project as a staff reading group, please see the review here.

Us (David Nicholls)

us

Another January read was David Nicholls‘s superb latest offering, Us.  I loved this novel, and enjoyed it so much more than the author’s previous bestseller, One Day.  

It tells the story, through the eyes of Douglas Petersen, of a marriage: from its unlikely beginnings and the birth and upbringing of a son, through to the moment when Douglas’s wife wakes him during the night to tell him that the marriage is over. He comes across as a stereotypical non-romantic research scientist to begin with, but as we journey with him on this last family holiday upon which he embarks with his wife and their now teenage son, we discover a man who is coming to terms with the loss of a way of life, the family unit as he knew it and the possibility of starting again.  During the course of the novel, he understands where he has made mistakes in his relationships with his wife and son, and has learnt that it isn’t too late to change things at the same time as moving on from a life which he thought was his, familiar and believed to be one whose values his wife had shared.  This is a poignant tale but one peppered with excitement and a lot of fun (the description of the scrapes Douglas gets himself into when searching for his son in Europe positively had me laughing out loud!), and very moving scenes, as well as a positive recognition that times have changed and it is possible to begin again after the ending of an important relationship, and connect with the son he thought he knew, but didn’t understand.

I would recommend this novel wholeheartedly, especially for those who have similarly experienced the ending of a significant relationship.  It is well-written and extremely thought-provoking.

Hello from the Gillespies (Monica McInerney)

Greetings to our readers for the New Year!

Our staff book club read the latest novel by Monica McInerney just before Christmas and we had a lovely meeting  to discuss it in a local hostelry just after we finished for the holidays.

Angela, a student from England, finds herself working in a bar in Sydney in her early twenties, whilst travelling.  One hot, sultry evening, as she works  a shift on behalf of a friend, in walks Nick Gillespie, a young, strong, handsome sheep farmer who has come into town. They get talking and quickly realise that they are meant to be together.  Angela moves to his farm, leaving her English life behind and they begin a very happy married life together.  Until, that is, some thirty odd years later, when Angela sends out her annual Christmas letter, or rather Nick does by mistake!  Usually this is the first of the Christmas rituals, a task which records the happiest and most exciting events of the family’s year, and now sent out by email on 1st December…  This year things have changed and the letter is not the same cheery affair as has been the case, indeed, it has been a year wracked with difficulties and worries, and Angela feels encouraged by a friend to be honest and truthful about the state of the family and its affairs…  This is perhaps the real Christmas newsletter which we would all like to write!  She had meant to save it and not send it out, but when she is distracted by her son’s accident in the kitchen, Nick decides to send it instead, thinking he is doing her a favour, without first reading it himself.  The resulting effects are devastating: heart-breaking and shocking for family and friends, who had no idea about the realities of life and its concerns on the farm.  To discover whether the family can reunite and move to resolve their problems, you must read this book!

We enjoyed it enormously, so perhaps you will too.

hello from the gillespies

Berkhamsted School Staff Book Club, latest meeting notes…

At our last meeting, we discussed three novels, all very different in style and content.  First on our list was the challenge of a male member of the club: ‘Women don’t read John le Carré’, so we read le Carré’s novel A Murder of Quality.  Given that the majority of us are women, we took up the challenge!  On the whole, we enjoyed the novel very much, despite the unattractive group of characters and the dismal time of year when the murder took place.  We felt it was cleverly written, its spare, minimalist prose built up the tension and drama.  It left us wondering whose side is le Carré on…  Smiley is acting in a more detective-like role, but is nonetheless as effective as when he is the spy.

Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle was a completely different genre.  Some found it bizarrely compelling, with others not liking it at all.  It was well-written but clearly a reflection of Jackson’s turbulent mind, with the symbiotic relationships between the sisters, and other characters.  The tale portrays small town America in an unfavourable light, however the descriptions of the surroundings of the castle are almost poetic.

Our third novel was The Secret Place by Tana French.  Most readers enjoyed it very much, although the supernatural element to the tale appeared superfluous.  The story revolves around the relationships between girls at an independent girls’ boarding school in Dublin and the murder of a boy from the corresponding boys’ school, on the grounds of the former school.  We are told the story both from the girls’ perspective and that of the young male detective, who is striving to make his mark in the murder squad.  Interesting, strange and holds the attention.

We also discussed other books which we had read over the summer and I include these for your reference as books which you may wish to include on your Christmas lists:

 

  1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand click here for a link to a website dedicated to this book.  Hilary recommended it and Sarah read it during the break.   Discussion of the novel was very interesting with Patrick and Hilary representing opposing views about Rand and her theories, philosophies and ideas on economics and the workings of the world.  Fascinating stuff!
  2. The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurin – (read in translation from the French). Again,  the book has its own website, click on the book title to go there.  This was a great little book about the positive impact that François Mitterand’s hat has on the lives of four different individuals after they have worn it… A light but entertaining read!
  3. We are all completely besides ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – this was another curious summer read for Beth and me, well-written story, although a bit strange. It’s very different from The Jane Austen book club, one of the author’s previous works.
  4. Shadowlands by William Nicholson: Kafka-esque.
  5. Probably nothing : a diary of not-your-average nine months by Matilda Tristram. A graphic novel written by a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer, about her experiences
  6. Novels by the late P D James
  7. Books by Antonia Senior
  8. Books by Philippa Gregory
  9. Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  10. Books by Gerald Seymour
  11. The house we grew up in by Lisa Jewell
  12. Books by Louis Theroux

We won’t be meeting again until after Christmas – so here’s wishing all the greetings of the season and enjoy the holidays!

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?

 

Rooftoppers (Katherine Rundell)

I know it’s been a little while since I last wrote, and I do apologise, the libraries at school have been rather busy of late.  I will endeavour to blog more frequently henceforth.

I have just finished reading Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, which has been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal (awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children) and is the winner of the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2014.  It is a wonderful novel, beautifully written and well-deserves its nomination for the Carnegie Medal, and Waterstone’s prize.

The novel tells Sophie’s story: she is believed to be orphaned after a shipwreck in the English Channel, in which her mother disappeared.  Sophie was found floating in the sea in an empty cello case, wrapped in the score of a Beethoven symphony for warmth, and rescued by quiet academic, Charles Maxim, who then sees it his duty and care to bring Sophie up.  She receives the attention of a father from a man who had not previously known such cares, but who does a brilliant job as an unwitting parent, even if it is, somewhat, unconventional.  They rub along nicely and uneventfully until the authorities decide that Charles should no longer look after Sophie when she reaches her 12th birthday.  Sophie and Charles then decide to embark on an adventure to find Sophie’s mother in Paris, Sophie has a strong feeling that she is still alive and that she will find her one day…  They encounter all kinds of adventures but you must read the book to discover the excitement of Paris, and Sophie’s nocturnal adventures with children who live amongst the rooftops and trees.

Enjoy this novel!  I’d like to wish Katherine Rundell all the very best with the race for the Carnegie title, she would be a very worthy winner!Rooftoppers

World Book Day 2014: celebrations in school (1)

One week has already passed since we celebrated World Book Day in school and we thought we would share with our readers the books which our great teachers have discussed with their students in class on the day.  We followed the Drop Everything And Read initiative, whereby the teacher talked to their classes about a favourite book, or one which means a lot to them, and then this was followed a conversation about reading in general.  Here are some of the responses:

Mr Cowie, head of our Economics Department, recommended Leviathan – The Rise of Britain as a World Power by David Scott.  He says:

“How did an insignificant, rain-swept set of islands in the North Atlantic become the greatest power first in Europe and then in the world? Splendid stuff – proper history!”

leviathan

Mme Shipton wrote to say:

“I read a passage from Le Petit Prince [by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry] in French. Some girls were also keen to read out loud and invited to do so.  It was an enjoyable experience”.

le petit prince

In co-curricular club at lunch-time, historian Mr Bridle talked to his pupils about John Donne’s poem No Man is an Island :

“We were talking about why human rights abuses overseas should matter to us”.

john donne

English teacher, Mrs Tomlin, had an interesting idea:

“I read an extract from The Book Thief  [by Markus Zusak] to my classes and they had to guess whose perspective it was written from. Once they looked at the clues, many pupils guessed that it was Death. This has created intrigue as to how it can be made into a film. Some pupils even debated whether we were supposed to feel sympathy for Death!”

book thiefInspiring reads there, I think…  Our next entry will tell of our other library exploits during the day.

The Rosie Project (part 2!) (Graeme Simsion)

The_Rosie_Project_jktFollowing on from my last blog post, we have now had a book group meeting where we discussed Graeme Simsion’s novel, The Rosie Project.  We all enjoyed it so much, and could easily identify with the characters, recognising traits of Dr Don Tillman in all of us (some more than others!).  One member of the group even professed to be Don!  Some amongst us had been to meet the author at Chorleywood Library on Thursday 13th February and were treated to a very entertaining evening. Graeme Simsion talked about how he had come to write the book (originally conceived as a screenplay for a film), where he drew his inspiration from and how he has indeed, just turned the novel into a screenplay. He has also completed a sequel.  Both the film and second novel will be eagerly awaited by us!  The novel made us laugh out loud, as we did when we heard him speak.

At the back of the book, there are some cocktail recipes which Don memorises for a reunion of the medics who were contemporaries of Rosie’s mother, which look quite fun to try.  You should also take the test to see whether you are compatible with Don and would make a good wife for this Professor who likes to live his life according to schedules and regimes!  If you are male, you could view this as a test to see whether you are Don!  Why not look at the website for the book and see which character you are most like?  Click here to find out.  Four of us tried the Wife Project quiz and one of us was very nearly a good match…

We also discussed Damian Barr’s book, Maggie and me. This memoir is an account of Damian’s difficult and poverty-stricken upbringing in suburban Glasgow close to the Ravenscraig Steelworks during the era of the Thatcher government.  The views of our reading group were quite varied: ‘I didn’t like the content, but found it compelling and couldn’t put it down’; ‘It was very interesting, if uncomfortable, reading’; ‘I enjoyed it.  It is very different from the books which we usually read.  It was not as dark as it could have been, Damian kept it fairly jovial considering what he was going through’.  Definitely one for the ‘to-read’ shelf…

maggie and me

Two of our members also found the time to read Capital Punishment by Robert Wilson:

Beautiful Alyshia D’Cruz has grown up in London and Mumbai wanting for nothing. But one night she takes the wrong cab home. Charles Boxer, expert in high-stakes kidnap resolution, teams up with his ex-partner, investigative cop Mercy Danquah, who’s battling with their rebellious teenage daughter. Alyshia’s father hires Boxer, who knows all about the tycoon’s colourful career, which has made him plenty of enemies. But despite the vast D’Cruz fortune, the kidnappers don’t want cash, instead favouring a cruel and lethal game…To save Alyshia, Boxer must dodge religious fanatics, Indian mobsters and London’s homegrown crimelords. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT is a journey to the dark side of people and places that lie just out of view, waiting for the moment to tear a life apart.   Neilsen Bookdata Online.

Our members really enjoyed it and found it good to read a book from the crime genre.  One said: ‘I have also finished Capital Punishment which I loved also. Enjoyed reading an English crime novel for a change. Loved that it was based in London so I could actually visualise where they were! Liked the characters’.  The other commented that it was a good thriller and kept him turning the pages.  It’s certainly on my pile to read next.

capital punishmentHappy reading!

 

 

Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

On Tuesday 12th February, 2013 we discussed Gillian Flynn‘s third novel, Gone Girl.  Reactions to this book were mixed with one member of the group not wanting to
finish the book because the characters were so unappealing, and others amongst us, whilst they agreed with that point of view to some extent, did get into the story much more.  The story is told from the perspectives of husband and wife Nick and Amy Dunne, and how they perceive their relationship to have broken down after a five-year marriage.  Each has a very different view of how they got together and what went wrong.   It starts with Nick describing what happens when Amy disappears and how this affects him, Amy’s story is told through her diary over the course of their relationship from its beginning.  At first I found myself not caring too much for Amy who seems self-obsessed and completely superficial but liking Nick, who appears charming and attractive in personality as well as looks.  After a while, my views were reversed when I reached the part when Amy is on the run after going missing, and I’m at the point in the book now where I’m really unsure as to how the story is going to end, as any number of events could occur!  I must read on to the end…  This novel is Gillian Flynn’s third novel and is widely acclaimed with some great reviews (eg, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/20/gillian-flynn-gone-girl-review ).  If you haven’t read it, give it a go and let me know what you think. It is rumoured that David Fincher, Director of the film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, will be directing a film version of Gone Girl, I’ll let you know when it happens and perhaps we can go and see it…

gone girl