Christmas reading at Berkhamsted (2)

In part two of our Christmas reading project we have three books offered by our School Archivist, Mrs Koulouris.

The first is a book by the Irish author, Cecelia AhernThe Marble Collector.  Mrs Koulouris says this about the book:

“A family story about a collection of marbles and the story that the daughter unravels about her Father and his past.  Not bad.”

Her second novel is Dawn French’s latest offering, According to yes, which she enjoyed very much:

“[I] loved this, primary teacher Rosie Kitto goes to Manhattan to work for a family.”

Mrs Koulouris’s final choice is the reflective and intriguing book, Chance developments, by Alexander McCall Smith; it is a different style of writing from his previous work, and has certainly piqued my interest.  Mrs Koulouris had this to say:

“[I] really loved this … He [McCall Smith] produces stories around a random set of photographs, not knowing anything about the people or places in the snaps.”

Mrs Koulouris has subsequently written to me saying that one book she’d like to read soon is Tom Michell’s The penguin lessons:

“A true story by Tom Michell, who was a teacher in Argentina who adopted a penguin as a pet.”

It seems that the penguin is reluctant to return to the sea , having been rescued from an oil slick by the author and cleaned up.  Michell takes him back to the boarding school, where he works as a teacher, and the penguin naturally becomes an invaluable member of the school!

I would very much like to read all of these, and they shall all be on my TBR list!  if you have read these books, please let me know what you think, it’s always good to hear from other readers.

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 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!

Good Young Adult fiction available from our library…

Recently we’ve been reading more from our collection and for a while Mrs Maxted had been intending to read books by Joyce Carol Oates, knowing her to be a renowned American writer of adult fiction.  A quick search on our shelves threw up one title: big mouth & ugly girl published in 2003.  Oates’s first novel written for young adults tells the story of two high school students thrown together due to an incident taken to be a threat to the school and its students.  Matt Donaghy, a good student who is popular with classmates through his ability to make people laugh, finds himself accused of threatening to blow up the school and shoot students and staff if the play he is writing is not selected for the school’s drama festival…  Outsider and ‘ugly girl’ (she has given herself this name), Ursula Riggs, knows what really happened and informs the school’s principal after Matt has spent several hours trying to exonerate himself at the police station.  The book is told from the perspective of each character and follows subsequent events and the experiences of both students as they come to show the truth of what really occurred, as well as getting to know each other.  This is a very well-told story and Mrs Maxted’s view was endorsed by a current Year 12 student as they waited in the queue at the recently-held blood donation session at school!

It’s an interesting standpoint showing what can happen when an off-the-cuff remark is taken out of context, especially in light of other works on a similar theme, for example Lionel Shriver’s We need to talk about Kevin and actual events known to have happened such as in Columbine High School in 1999.  Let us know what you think…

Mrs Maxted’s second book choice in the last couple of weeks was Julia Green’s Baby Blue.

Baby Blue picks up Mia’s story (begun in Blue Moon) just after the birth of her baby. Mia is sixteen now, and still living with Dad, although this relationship comes increasingly under strain. Not only is Mia having to work out the complicated emotional and practical implications of being a mother when she herself is still a child, with huge emotional needs of her own, she is also having to negotiate new relationships with the adults and young people around her.” Synopsis courtesy of

This book gives good insight as to what life can be like for a young mother such as Mia. It does not go into great depth but expresses the thoughts and difficulties experienced by Mia and her family in the first weeks of the baby’s life.  By the end of this part of her story, Mia recognises that she is more fortunate than some girls in her situation, and, although it is difficult for her to accept, she understands that the people around her need to focus on their own lives, as they have also been affected by her decision to keep her baby.

Look out for more reviews of our Sixth Form Collection here soon!

may contain nuts (John O’Farrell)

Mrs Koulouris recommended this title to Mrs Maxted for her third book to read over the holidays and found it in the school library.   It is a funny book and, gasping incredulously, she was gripped until the end!  O’Farrell writes convincingly as a woman, which is never an easy proposition for a writer, but one successfully accomplished here.

“Alice never imagined that she would end up like this. Is she the only mother who feels so permanently panic-stricken at the terrors of the modern world – or is it normal to sit up in bed all night popping bubble wrap? She worries that too much gluten and dairy may be hindering her children’s mental arithmetic. She frets that there are too many cars on the road to let them out of the 4×4. Finally she resolves to take control and tackle her biggest worry of all: her daughter is definitely not going to fail that crucial secondary school entrance exam. Because Alice has decided to take the test in her place…  With his trademark comic eye for detail, John O’Farrell has produced a funny and provocative book that will make you laugh, cry and vow never to become that sort of parent.”  NielsenBookDataOnline

If you have read this novel, do you agree that the author has written convincingly as a woman?  Interesting subject…

Testimony (Anita Shreve)

‘Testimony’, one of Anita Shreve’s latest books is a story told by individuals – pupils, their parents and staff of a New England boarding school about a shocking event that happens there.  A sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora’s box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voice that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment. A gripping emotional drama with the pace of a thriller, Anita Shreve’s Testimony explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.  Nielsen Book Data Online.

Mrs Inchenko has also read and enjoyed this novel.  She says:

“I found this gripping, initially you are shocked by what the Head has found, but as the story evolves you see it from each of the participants’ point of view, and that of the adults.  Shreve handles the different voices in the book extremely well and is able to understand the feelings and the ethical dilemmas of the characters. It is heart-wrenching!  As a parent it really makes you think about how easy a reckless moment of teenage behaviour can have dire consequences.  It also makes you think what your actions and reactions may be in similar circumstances!  It reads like a thriller, but is much more, playing on the concerns of teenage morality, adultery and the consequences.

 I would think suitable for 6th form and adult readers only!”

Mmm, interesting…  Perhaps you have been inspired to try this novel, do let us know when you have!