World Book Day : celebrations in school, part 3

In  part 3, we are looking at responses from three more members of staff at Berkhamsted School and their current favourite books, together with those of their classes.

Mr Maxted’s recommendation for this year is A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen.  He says:

‘I read some excerpts from A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen to my Year 9 boys and my Year 13 group this morning. I talked to them about how Bob has helped James to turn his life around after his heroin addiction and mentioned that the sequel, The World according to Bob, has just been published. One of my students mentioned that she has seen Bob a couple of times, draped around James’ neck in Covent Garden!’  My daughters and I have also seen Bob and James in Covent Garden and I have found this story heart-warming.

If you like this story, why don’t you try Dewey the Library cat: A True Story by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter?  Vicki found Dewey as a kitten who had been put through the dropbox at the town library in Iowa where she worked, on the coldest night of the year and she tells the tale of how he became the resident library cat who made the library an even more welcoming place!

Mr Bridle went for something more in keeping with his interest in military history, being a committed member of the CCF.  He says:

‘I talked to my year 8s and 9s about a book I have got for a couple of the boys to read called Commando by Brigadier John Durnford-Slater. It is an account of his time commanding No. 3 Commando during the Second World War. I read them a couple of the stories in it, they seemed interested and 3 of them are going to read it over Easter.’   Sounds engaging for boys of any age!

Mr Baker inspired his boys’ classes to engage with each other talking about books they enjoy:

‘The point I stressed was that they should be asking each other for advice about which books to read – they were so enthusiastic about telling each other about the great books they were reading that I wanted that enthusiasm to spread within the class (particularly to those students who struggled to pick books for themselves).’

All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)

Mrs Maxted recently read this book and, having read Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong a few years ago and visited the trenches in the battlefields of Northern France at Easter, was struck once again by the heartbreaking reality that so many innocents died during World War I…  Here’s a review that tells the story from A Customer at

“This book is so moving and yet, despite the horrors endured on the frontline during WW1, a sense of humour (however grim) is retained throughout, almost to the last few paragraphs. The story is written in the first person narrative, by a young German soldier, Paul Bauer. He is only eighteen when he is pressured by his family, friends and society in general, to enlist and fight at the front. He enters the army, along with 6 other lads he was at school with, each one filled with fresh, lively, optimistic and patriotic thoughts, but within a few months they are all as old men, in mind if not completely in body. Paul and his friends witness such horrors and endure such severe hardship and suffering, that they are unable to even speak about it to anyone but each other. This is a very moving and poignant novel, and the reader is made even more aware of its poignancy in knowing that its author is writing from experience, having suffered greatly as a young man on the frontline, whilst fighting for the Fatherland.”

This is an excellent summary of the book, but you must read it to feel its force.

Cheerful Sacrifice (Jon Nicholls)

We have invited members of staff to contribute thoughts about their half-term holiday reading and had some really good responses.  Mr Coupe recommends ‘Cheerful Sacrifice’ by Jonathan Nicholls.   He says:

“This is written by a local researcher with an easy yet detailed style and aims to explore the heroism and folly of the Battle of Arras in 1917 on the Western Front. You should experience a detailed read in order to enjoy this book, but there are no troubling footnotes and the learning is worn lightly in the clear style of the author, who is also bass guitarist for one of the UK’s top show bands!”

This sounds fascinating and one for the ‘to read’ list.  I’ll leave it to the musicians among you to discover which band Mr Coupe is referring to…

Mr Cowie’s selection for World Book Day 2010

On Thursday 4th March, 2010, World Book Day, we asked teachers to talk to their classes about their favourite books or books they are currently enjoying.   Mr Cowies’ first choice was John Keegan’s book ‘The American Civil War’:

‘The American Civil War was one of the longest and bloodiest of modern wars. It is also one of the most mysterious. It has captured the imagination of writers, artists and film-makers for decades but the reality of it confuses and divides historians even today. In this magisterial history of the first modern war, the distinguished military historian John Keegan unpicks the geography, leadership and strategic logic of the war and takes us to the heart of the conflict. His captivating work promises to be the definitive history of the American Civil War.’  Nielsen Bookdata Online

And his second was ‘Inverting The Pyramid’ by Jonathan Wilson:

‘Whether it’s Terry Venables keeping his wife up late at night with diagrams on scraps of paper spread over the eiderdown, or the classic TV sitcom of moving the salt & pepper around the table top in the transport cafe, football tactics are now part of the fabric of everyday life. Steve McLaren’s switch to an untried 3-5-2 against Croatia will probably go down as the moment he lost his slim credibility gained from dropping David Beckham; Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, was often brought to task for trying to smuggle the long ball game back into English football. Here Jonathan Wilson pulls apart the modern game, traces the world history of tactics from modern pioneers right back to beginning where chaos reigned. Along the way he looks at the lives of great players and thinkers who shaped the game, and probes why the English, in particular, have ‘proved themselves unwilling to grapple with the abstract’. ‘   Nielsen Bookdata Online

Mr Cowie says: “Both first rate – if you like military history and football. More for the boys?”  Possibly, Mr Cowie, but you’d be surprised how many girls are actually interested in wars and  ‘the beautiful game’!!!

The Junior Officers Reading Club ( Patrick Hennessey)

Author Event with Old Boy Patrick Hennessey

Friday  15th January

Speaking in Centenary Hall from 1.30pm on: Soldiering in the Modern British Army


Patrick Hennessey, an old boy of the school  (we have the photos to prove it) will be introducing  his book to the sixth form  on Friday 15th January in Centenary Hall,Kings Campus  at 1.30pm. All staff are very welcome to come along.

Copies of the book will be available to  purchase at £16.99 thanks to Chorleywood bookshop   who have kindly agreed to run a book stall during the event.

The book stall will be set up in the foyer of Centenary Hall and will be open from 12.30 –  3pm

His novel  focuses on the life of a modern day soldier ( work and play)  and how the establishment of a Reading Group whilst being  stationed in the Southern Iraqui desert ( of all places) arose.

The book is certainly not for the faint hearted but you would certainly be mistaken in thinking that the readership is specifically for forces or force enthusiasts, in fact the reverse , Patrick has written the book for all readers. As a novice to the forces there is a very useful  glossary of  military terms interspersed with photos and maps of where his team were deployed. Content although naturally focussed on the operations is still  levels above  stilted military and testerone fuelled trigger happy warfare and presents a true ( gritty and lucid) picture of the 21st Century army. Throughout his writing the readers are drawn into the heart of the writing   feeling  the   bond, dependency and the   spirit that develops within the unit  along with the punch of raw emotion when a colleague/friend is wounded with   the  aside of   guilty relief because it wasn’t you  this time round.