11th November ~ Lest we forget

800px-Kollebloemen_-_Red_poppies

I do apologise for the lack of posts lately, we started this academic year in September without a key member of staff who has moved on to another school library, further north.  We have missed her here, personally and professionally, but as a result we have been further stretched than we usually are.  I am happy to say that we have now appointed a new member of our team which will allow me to come back to the blog more frequently.

I am writing on Armistice Day, 11th November, when we remember all those who have fought and died during the World Wars and conflicts since.  Our Library on our Castle Campus is a permanent memorial to those who attended Berkhamsted School prior to World War I, both in the the capacity of student and members of staff, but yesterday we also remembered those from Berkhamsted School who gave their lives in the Second World War, and subsequent conflicts, in a Remembrance service in our School Chapel.

WWI board    WWII board

Within the library, we are are commemorating by thinking about war poetry and books, both fiction and non-fiction as can be seen in our pictures below:

display 1 wwI Books on war display 2 wwI

Amongst our new books, we have three which are notable for their storytelling of the tales of war.  The first two, Eleven eleven by Paul Dowswell and Soldier dog by Sam Angus relate to the first World War.  Dowswell’s novel tells of the closing moments of the war, where a young man who, a few months previously, had still been at school, is going to face the most terrifying ordeal of his life, fighting for survival in a forest whilst searching for German combatants.  Angus’s tale is that of a young lad who is a dog handler.  It is his job to use the dog to carry messages between the trenches, crossing no-man’s land which will save countless lives.  Stanley soon learns, as the fighting escalates and he experiences the true horror of war, that the loyalty of his dog is the only thing he can rely on.  Soldier dog has been included on this year’s Booktrust‘s Bookbuzz list for Year 7 pupils and a good number of our pupils chose it as their book to keep.

One day in Oradour by Helen Watts is our third new arrival and it is a fictionalised account of the horrific events which took place in Oradour-sur-Glane on Saturday 10th June 1944.  The novel tells the story of Alfred Fournier, whose family had already fled their home town in northern France with the advancement of Nazi soldiers, and how he abides by a plan agreed with his parents and sisters to meet outside the town of Oradour should the soldiers arrive there.  Showing great determination, intelligence and strength of will, Alfred survives the atrocities visited on his town against all odds.

Why not tell us about your favourite exciting war stories?  Perhaps we can get a good discussion started…

eleveneleven soldier dog onedayinoradour

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Berkhamsted School plays host to two really good authors for children, part 2: Paul Dowswell

Paul Dowswell, a children’s author, spoke to Year 7 and Year 8 boys on the  research he carried out to assist him in his writing of his historical novel Auslander.  Set against the backdrop of Hitler and the Second World War, Paul examined what it was like for the Germans who were against Hitler’s regime and against Nazism.  He captures  the essence of their fear whilst highlighting the true bravery and courage shown by  German individuals . It’s a superb novel suitable for both children and adults alike.

Within the presentation Paul spoke to the boys on what German life was like under Hitler. The control he exercised across all areas of life including babies’ first books, the family unit, a doll’s house, children’s games and political postcards: all examples of primary sources which he came across whilst carrying out his research in Berlin . The slides in the photos hone in on specific examples of the control, manipulation and propaganda which was cloaked across Germany.  Although the boys are not specifically focussing on this period of History they did impress Paul with their knowledge  and their engagement during the event was a joy to the eyes.

From Fact to Fiction

We invited Paul in specifically to fit in with a forthcoming Library research project embedded in their scheme of work.  Year 8 will be involved in carrying out a History research project on Elizabethan life. Although this author does not write about the Elizabethans he does very successfully include historical facts into a wonderful and thrilling story and it is this which is the key, as we want our boys to do something similar. When the project lessons  begin next term, we will be able to look back and discuss his process of research, sources he used and finally how he uses those facts in his story. We hope that this will help the boys when they come to write their own historical diaries.