Bean bags and creative revision this Summer Term

It’s lovely to see so many students (and the occasional member of staff) enjoying the bean bags on the grass in the Water Library in Princes’ Quad. They are proving popular with students revising – testing each other on exam topics, working on laptops and others just relaxing, taking a break and socialising. One of the benefits has been more space for students doing intensive revision in the Library. Students have developed creative revision habits this year – unprompted they have been using the glass walls of the pods to write revision notes – very effective re-usable white boards! Good luck to everyone with revision and exams.library revision

This week saw the announcement of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 winner. The prize, formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, was founded in 1996 and celebrates

‘excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world’. It was won by Lisa McInerney with her debut novel Glorious Heresies. The chair of the judges described it as “a superbly original, compassionate novel that delivers insights into the very darkest of lives through humour and skilful storytelling. A fresh new voice and a wonderful winner.” The six shortlisted books are available in the Library – I have much reading to catch up on!

 

New e-books May 2016

new e-books may 2016bDon’t miss the new e-books on the VLebooks platform. Visit the e-Library on SharePoint and use the VLebooks link to read any of the books through your browser or download books to your smartphone or iPad.  Ask the Library staff if you need help setting this up. Be prepared for half-term and stock up with e-books. There’s something for everyone ranging from a number of the Carnegie Shortlisted books to Science non-fiction and books for teachers. You can browse the stock using ‘Library Lists’ to search by category.

Could you read 92 books in 3 months? The life of a Carnegie judge!

Carnegie event

On Tuesday 10th May we welcomed back Elizabeth McDonald to talk to our current Y9 shadowing group about the life of a Carnegie Book Award judge. The students always marvel at the huge number of books the judges read – 92 books represents just the nominated titles of the Carnegie prize, not to mention the 70+ picture books and the re-reading of those longlisted and then the 8 shortlisted books. A social life is put on hold as the librarian judges read all evening, on trains, buses, treadmills, over breakfast and more! Despite this mammoth undertaking Ms McDonald’s enthusiasm for the books and the shadowing scheme never flags.

Our students asked some very perceptive questions and what emerged from the discussion was that the shortlisted books are not being judged against each other but are being measured strictly against the prize criteria:

  • Plot
  • Characterisation
  • Style

One of the students asked if this reading changes the way they are read and Ms Donald agreed. She often reads specifically with one criterion in mind eg. first reading for plot, second time through focussing on characters and finally on style. It is not simply a case of liking a book and reading it for pleasure.

Popular with our group so far are ‘The Lie Tree’ by Frances Hardinge, ‘One’ by Sarah Crossan, ‘The lies we tell ourselves’ and ‘Fire Colour One’ by Jenny Valentine. ‘Fire Colour One’ is a quirky, original story. Here is Tara’s review of  it.

A courageous, remarkable novel about family relationships.

Iris doesn’t know her father, Ernest; he left Iris’ mother, Hannah, before Iris can even remember. But that’s alright; life for her certainly isn’t perfect but Iris has her best friend Thurston to see her through things, and anyway, she hasn’t heard from Ernest in over 10 years.

Iris’ mother, Hannah and her boyfriend, Lowell, are drowning in debt and are struggling to keep up the facade of being an extravagant and thriving family. Yet, despite their financial status, they continue to uphold this illusion. They have to; Hannah’s obsession with luxurious fashion must be maintained, and visiting casting directors won’t hire Lowell if they look like they are sinking into the depths of poverty.

So when Hannah hears that Ernest, Iris’ father, is dying, she jumps at the opportunity to see him. Why? Ernest is a millionaire and she is keen on snatching a large proportion of his wealth through her daughter, as soon as he is dead, so that Hannah can continue to live in the upper echelons of L.A society.

Iris reluctantly comes, after all Hannah can’t visit without her, and is surprised. The walls of Ernest’s humble house are covered in priceless masterpieces. They are all there; Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Renoir. But once Iris peers past these incredible paintings into her father’s eyes, she discovers an unbelievable truth.

I liked the characters in this novel because of their rich personalities; Iris is a pyromaniac, and devotes her free time either to setting fires, or spending it with her older creative yet homeless best friend Thurston.

Thurston appears to have a mysterious, innovative character and an intriguing past. However, he had no clear role in the novel except as the one person who Iris is emotionally attached to, as well as a shadow to Iris’ father (both are characters she nearly loses as they temporarily disappear). But unfortunately he plays no outstanding role bar him cameoing in several of her flashbacks; it is a shame because there is no obvious significance in his role generally.

Hannah is Iris’ self-indulgent mother, and is determined to accumulate as much of Ernest’s wealth as possible, in order to launch her out of debt and ricochet her and her like-minded boyfriend Lowell, back into the life oozing with luxury. Hannah is similar to greedy stepmothers in fairytales; portrayed hyperbolically and one dimensionally. She has a truly despicable character but has been depicted too brashly, and seems to have an unrealistic character.

The novel read easily and amiably, but too often did I find blatant cliches, which were, frankly, a disappointment. On the other hand, there were incredible lines of literature scattered around, and it felt wonderful reading them. So, in the sense of the actual writing, there was much divergence. The main theme is novel is relationships, so there is exploration of that in most of the chapters, as well as the theme of family. In Iris’ case, her real family offer no comfort, so the reader observes her try to piece her own version of a family, albeit unrelated through blood, together.

The plot unfurls through the eyes of Iris and there is a clear direction, although it is frequently punctuated with fragments of the past, which adds complexity (but I think that without these occasionally irrelevant dips into history, the novel would also be extremely short, because without the buffering of these accounts, relatively little happens). I thought the ending was cunning and satisfying, but various important pieces of information were brutally shoved upon the reader in the closing pages.

This novel has been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and therefore is predominantly aimed at the younger spectrum of teenage readers. I agree with this, because the language and use of stylistic devices is recurrently simplistic. Having said that, it was an enjoyable, light, minimal attention required holiday read!

 

The Carnegie Book Award 2016 shadowing takes off!

Carnegie group 2016The Carnegie Book Award Shortlist 2016 has been announced and our Y9 shadowing group members have collected their first books to read over the Easter holidays. It’s a fantastic shortlist this year including ‘The Lie Tree’ by Frances Hardinge; Costa Book of the Year 2015 and much praised and recommended by both librarians here. I thought ‘One’ was amazing and Sarah Crossan’s trademark style of writing in blank verse works well with the subject matter. Tipi and Grace are conjoined teenage twins and each chapter conveys a poetic snapshot of their life.

Read more about the shortlists here  You can watch author and illustrator videos here

Guardian reviews of all the books can be found here

Having multiple copies of the shortlisted books enables a large group of students to read the books simultaneously and provokes heated discussions about the merits and drawbacks of all of them. After the award process is over they become useful sets of contemporary fiction which can be read by tutor groups.

CdrlUHYXIAArWUn[1]

The 8 shortlisted books are:

One by Sarah Crossan

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

Y9 Mini Literature Festival Friday 4th March

VMMSedgwick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Y9 enjoyed a continuation of the celebrations of books and reading the day after World Book Day with a morning of author talks. We were excited to welcome one of own authors – Virginia Macgregor, twice published author and English teacher here at Wellington. Virginia talked about the inspiration for her novels and read an excerpt from “The astonishing return of Norah Wells”. The students were full of questions and a number of them felt inspired to continue with their own creative writing projects including writing their own novels.

After break we welcomed award-winning young adult author Marcus Sedgwick to the theatre. Y9 were all given a copy of ‘Revolver’ by Marcus to read over the summer before their arrival at Wellington. His books have proved popular with a large number of our students, in particular ‘My Swordhand is singing’ and many of the students have read his Carnegie-shortlisted novel ‘Midwinterblood’. He opened his talk with a debate about the pros and cons of being a writer. He talked about his interest in coincidence and how it became a major theme in ‘She is not invisible’. How many hidden references to the number 354 can you find in the book?

The strong message that came across from both authors was that writing is something they love and can’t do without. They urged the young people to do something they really enjoy with their lives and then it doesn’t feel like work!

World Book Day – 3rd March 2016 – Drop Everything and Read!

World Book Day 3rd March

Next week is a celebratory time for books and reading. Thursday 3rd March is World Book Day and to demonstrate our commitment to reading across the whole school we are running a D.E.A.R. – Drop Everything and Read event. Where possible we are hoping that all staff, including non-teaching staff, and students will stop what they are doing and read a book for sheer enjoyment at the start of lesson 3 on Thursday. So this will be 20 minutes of engrossed silence from 11.15am! All staff and students are welcome to come to the Library at break to stock up on refreshments and choose books or magazines to read. It is wonderful to see people of all ages enjoying reading and provides an opportunity to share favourites and make reading recommendations. For exam sets, teachers may provide subject specific articles or chapters of books for the whole group to read and discuss afterwards – an opportunity for students to be inspired and challenged in a more curriculum-related way. We have The New Scientist Archive Online as well as The Economist, New York Times, History Today, Philosophy Now and Cambridge Companions Online to name but a selection of our electronic resources which enable whole classes to read the same material simultaneously.

Parents, why not talk to your children about what they are reading at the moment and share your favourites with them? If you are looking for suggestions for Y9 –Y11 the Carnegie Book Award longlist has just been announced and includes some impressive contemporary fiction (many of which we have in the Library)

On Friday 4th March the Y9 are in for a literary treat. They are hearing two author talks in the theatre. Wellington English teacher, Virginia Macgregor has recently had her second novel published – The astonishing return of Norah Wells and will be talking to the students about her inspiration for her books and her writing process. Award-winning young adult novelist, Marcus Sedgwick will also be joining us and discussing his books and writing. Y9 read his novel ‘Revolver’ in the summer prior to arriving at Wellington. There will be plenty of opportunity for the students to ask questions.

Happy reading!

‘The Lie Tree’ by Frances Hardinge wins the Costa Book Award 2015

Ms Dahlke writes: 

Congratulations to Frances Hardinge for winning the Costa Book of the Year award for her young adult novel, The Lie Tree. Despite the award being established in 1971, this is only the second time a book for young people has won it. I’m not surprised that it won the overall award, I read it over the summer holidays and have been recommending it to people (of all ages) ever since.

The book is set in Victorian times and begins with Faith, a teenage girl, and her family arriving on an island in order to escape the scandal that engulfed them in London. What was the scandal? And why is her natural scientist father so reluctant to talk about it? Faith is determined to find out.

This book has an original and tightly structured plot, which keeps the suspense going until the very end. Faith – stubborn and spiky, but with a sense of honour that wins out in the end – is a great character. It’s an entertaining read that will also raise questions about the nature of truth and lies. 

I would agree that this is a unique and fascinating novel, appealing to all ages. More information is available in an interesting article from Telegraph books

 

Service Team – Book List

The Service Team at Wellington College suggested a book list on the theme of social issues. This is a starting point – most of the following books are available from the Library; we will be adding books to this list. I personally would highly recommend Tuesdays with Morrie as a remarkable and uplifting book dealing with terminal illness and dying but also with many positive messages for all of us. Matt Haig’s autobiographical book ‘Reasons to stay alive’ deals with depression in a very honest way but has some helpful suggestions for dealing with the illness which still challenges him.

A selection of mainly autobiographical books giving some insight into a range of social issues.

  • Depression, Mental health issues
    • Black rainbow – Rachel Kelly
    • Reasons to stay alive – Matt Haig
    • The shock of the fall – Nathan Filer (fiction)
    • It’s kind of a funny story – Ned Vizzini
  • Dementia, Aging
    • Elizabeth is missing – Emma Healey (fiction)
  • Homelessness, Addiction
    • A street cat named Bob – James Bowen
  • Poverty, Child neglect
    • Ugly – Constance Briscoe
    • The Kid – Kevin Lewis
    • Hidden – Cathy Glass
  • Life lessons
    • Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom

Christmas reading and puzzles 2015

Helen Smith, the librarian at Eckington School has kindly shared her library Christmas Reading Times with us again this year. This is a marvellous publication listing all the Christmas TV based on books. She also reminds us not to miss the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures at 8pm on BBC 4 on Monday 28th, Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th December. This year the theme is survival in space and the lectures are presented by Kevin Fong.

Don’t miss the Royal Institution’s space themed online Advent Calendar – A Place called Space  – it includes animations, infographics and archive footage of early space exploration missions. It’s already proving popular with Physics teachers and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of December brings us.

On the subject of advent calendars have a look at the Book Trust advent calendar 2015 for 24 favourite children’s books. For Maths challenges try the NRICH advent calendar There’s a primary one here for younger children.

For a truly testing brainteaser this Christmas holiday try the GCHQ Christmas puzzle This has been entertaining and infuriating many of our teachers and students over the past few days.

For news junkies you can test your knowledge of the year’s key stories with The Day’s News Mega Quiz

The Y9s have been encouraged to read the same book as the rest of their tutor group and come back and discuss it in January. Here is the list of suggested reads they chose from – 3rd form Christmas books 2015

 

 

 

 

Skip to toolbar