Holiday reading (4)

Today, as part 4 of our Holiday reading series, we are looking at books read and recommended by Ms Rossington, one of our inspiring English teachers.  She enjoyed Sarah Perry‘s second novel, The Essex serpent,  and Zana Fraillon‘s book which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal for children’s literature 2017The bone sparrow.

Of both novels Ms Rossington says:

“I thought the first was an extraordinary piece of writing and the second made me cry. Quite a lot.”

Ms Rossington has since recommended the latter to girls in their library reading lesson. I have been meaning to read both of these titles for ages, and now feel spurred on to do so.  Here’s a little more information on each:

The Essex serpent

“London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge.

On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species.” Serpent’s Tail, publisher, accessed 29 January 2018.

The bone sparrow

“Born in a refugee camp, all Subhi knows of the world is that he’s at least 19 fence diamonds high, and that the nice Jackets never stay long. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence. She carries a notebook that she’s unable to read and wearing a sparrow made of bone around her neck – both talismans of her family’s past and the mother she’s lost – Jimmie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Subhi beyond the fence. As he reads aloud the tale of how Jimmie’s family came to be, both children discover the importance of their own stories in writing their futures.” Zana Fraillon, accessed 29 January 2018.

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!