Yellow books everywhere!

Y9 reading week – Summer Term 2019

‘Moonrise’ by Sarah Crossan

‘A very quick read that will emotionally stick with you forever.’

 

Looking for a meaningful focus for the final week of the school year the Head of 3rd form proposed a ‘Reading Week’. This fitted perfectly with the whole school aim to encourage and promote more reading across all year groups and the Head of English and Library staff were keen to get involved and support this.

We agreed that we liked the idea of all students reading the same book during the week with a part of each lesson (and possibly the whole lesson in some cases) dedicated to quiet individual reading – or reading aloud in groups of around the class. We invited teachers to bring classes to the library for a change of venue in a comfortable, informal environment.

The tricky bit was deciding on a book. We agreed we wanted it to be fiction and preferably a shortish, accessible, recently published YA title with emphasis on the enjoyment of the reading experience and far removed from the feel of an English lesson ‘set text’. It was important that the book would draw in self-confessed ‘reluctant readers’ while at the same time being an enjoyable experience for keen readers. I read many YA books I’d been planning to read and English teachers recommended some of their favourites before eventually agreeing on ‘Moonrise’ by Sarah Crossan. Our Head of English raced to finish reading it and was very moved by it. We both agreed that the themes were thought-provoking and encouraged discussion of the issues of capital punishment and death row.

The reading week was launched in a year group assembly and I introduced the book and gave a brief overview of the scenario and characters. We were delighted that Sarah Crossan sent us a witty video message which we played in the assembly and the students spontaneously applauded.

As they left the assembly each student was given a copy of ‘Moonrise’ to read and keep. Any returned will be kept in the library as a loanable tutor group set.

Feedback from teachers and students was very positive. The Head of Y10 is keen to run something similar for her year group at the end of the Summer Term next year and we will refine and develop this idea for Y9 next year.  I certainly enjoyed my time reading in the library surrounded by a class,  teacher and library staff all reading in companionable silence. It was lovely to see two girls come into the library to borrow more of Sarah’s books as they’d finished ‘Moonrise’ and wanted to read other similar books. By the end of the week all the library copies of Sarah Crossan’s books had been issued (to students and staff) and she rapidly became the 2nd most borrowed author of the year.

 

 

We also had two visits from staff dogs to the library to keep the students company and ran book cover quizzes and book dingbats.

 

 

 

 

 

So far my very brief questionnaire, sent out in the holidays has had 44 responses (out of a year group of 185).

  • All of the respondents either finished reading the novel in school during the week or finished it in their free time afterwards.
  • Only 1 student said they didn’t enjoy having time to read in lessons during the week.

There were some very interesting and positive comments about the book:

It was very sad, and made me reconsider my thoughts on the death penalty.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Moonrise and thought it was an excellent read!!

It was really good I liked that it was written in verse as it was a nice change from other novels I have read.

A very quick read that will emotionally stick with you forever.

It was extremely good but had a very traumatic ending.

I thought that the ending made the book more relatable.

It’s awesome.

I found it extremely eye-opening and heart wrenching. I always enjoy these books and the format is very effective at emphasising certain aspects of the story.

Really clever the format in which the pages were written.

I liked how the pages weren’t very long, meaning it was easy to read and you felt like you had made more progress in the book than you actually had.

The writing style made the book quick and easy to read. The story builds up to a climax, ending very sadly. It made me think about what it would be like to be in a disjointed family.

I found it hard to concentrate on the story line when all the pages were printed as poems on different lines.

I asked the students to suggest a possible book for next year and these were there suggestions:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Blood Ties by Sophie Mackenzie
  • Numbers by Rachel Ward
  • After the Fire by Will Hill
  • Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  • Release by Patrick Ness
  • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
  • Bodyguard by Chris Bradford
  • Any Jodi Picoult
  • I think a modern classic would be good so that classics can be gently introduced to get rid of any reticence to read them!

 

Author visit by Julian Sedgwick, 3rd June 2019

Julian Sedgwick’s visit

We were delighted to welcome Young Adult author, Julian Sedgwick, to speak to our 3rd Form students on Monday 3rd June. He held the theatre spellbound with tales of school, ghosts, 1920s Shanghai and a moving account of people trying to re-settle in the Fukushima area of Japan after the tsunami and earthquake of 2011.

Julian told us he had unhappy memories of school – he didn’t feel he fitted in and didn’t have good friends but it did prompt him to read for escapism and fuelled a desire to become a writer. He wanted to be a writer from the age of 7 but only got his first book published at 47 years old. Other early ambitions were to be a high wire walker, footballer, Zen Buddhist monk or a fire breather in the circus  – however his wife banned him from fire breathing as there is no safe way to do this!

Introducing his ‘Ghosts of Shanghai’ trilogy, Julian set the scene of exotic 1920s Shanghai – lit with neon and teeming with gangsters, spies and refugees. He recounted the Chinese ghost story of the ‘painted skin’ and now I have to get onto book two ‘Shadow of the Yangtze’ to read this full tale. You can get a flavour of the book in this video trailer

Voyages in the underworld of Orpheus Black 

Julian also talked about his new book co-written with his brother Marcus Sedgwick and beautifully illustrated by Alexis Deacon.

Voyages in the underworld of Orpheus Black  – is a lyrical and dreamlike story of two brothers in conflict amidst the devastation of WWII London. Julian wrote one of the voices whilst Marcus wrote the other. It took them around 6 years to write this novel and includes themes of conscientious objectors during World War ll (their father as a Quaker was a conscientious objector), myths and reality and Harry’s character becomes obsessed with the myth of Orpheus.

Julian went on to tell us about his recent research visit to Japan talking to people in the recovery towns around Fukushima. This was very moving and informative for our students.

The grand finale was full of tension, hilarity and jeopardy. Julian has had a lifelong interest in the arts and culture of China and Japan and a fascination with performance, street art and circus and we were treated to a display of knife juggling.

 

 

 

 

Reading round-up

Books and reading news from the Library

 A person who won’t read has no advantage over the person who can’t read

Mark Twain

After the joys of holiday reading, one of the delights of returning to school is hearing staff and students talk about what they’ve read and recommending books to each other.

I encouraged all our staff to try a Young Adult book over the summer as a way of connecting with what their tutees and our students of all ages are reading for pleasure. I created a Padlet with some book suggestions and was delighted to hear that one of our Geography teachers, a 6th form tutor, re-read Holes by Louis Sachar, read ‘After the Fire’ by Will Hill and ‘Rivers of London’ (not strictly of the YA genre but popular with teens and adults alike)

On Monday 3rd September, we saw all the new 3rd form and new students in the 4th form and L6th for Library induction. In tutor groups we had an interesting discussion of their attitudes to reading.

Our survey gives a snapshot of some of our students’ attitudes to reading.

  • The 3rd form boys enjoy fiction more than non-fiction (although they also expressed a liking for autobiographies). Two of the boys in The Hill animatedly told us about their love of Manga comics. However, the L6th boys strongly prefer non-fiction.
  • The majority of 3rd form girls prefer fiction – especially dystopian novels such as the ‘Divergent’ series.
  • E-books: Although many have a Kindle e-reader almost all prefer the real thing, with some listening to audio-books. If you have a long drive with the family I thoroughly recommend the audio-book of Trevor Noah’s biography ‘Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood’ It is narrated by the comedian himself and is hilarious, informative and entertaining. We also have the book in the library.
  • The majority of the 3rd form enjoyed reading ‘The Territory’ our summer read and a number of them went on to read book 2 & 3 of the trilogy during the holidays or asked for the other books at the start of term.

A key aim this year is to encourage reading and it has been heartening to see many students in the library borrowing books to support subjects new to them in the 6th form such as Psychology and Politics.

Here are a few teacher recommendations for the start of the new school year. Mr Tapley recommends ‘A day in the Life of the brain: The Neuroscience of Consciousness from Dawn Till Dusk’, by Susan Greenfield. Economics teachers are suggesting their students read ‘Talking to my daughter about the economy: a brief history of capitalism’ by Yanis Varoufakis. Mr Atherton proposes ‘Thinking fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman and Mr Hendrick ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari. I urge people of all ages to read ‘Factfulness: ten reasons we’re wrong about the world and why things are better than you think’ by Hans Rosling. It challenges all our assumptions about the world, will make you question everything you ever believed and includes fascinating and honest anecdotes about his life as a doctor in rural Africa.

 

Summer reading feedback from new Y9s – ‘The boy at the top of the mountain’ by John Boyne

 

john-boyne-pcsIt was lovely to receive your postcards with comments on your responses to ‘The boy at the top of the mountain’ by John Boyne. We appreciated the positive feedback and are looking forward to having our book discussion tutorials with all of you as term progresses. This is an opportunity for all our new Y9s to share their views on a book they are read over the summer and to recommend favourite books to their peers.

Here are two insightful reviews:

‘This book is filled to the brim with emotional scenes, touching moments and inspirational messages. Although depressing and dark at times, John Boyne manages to convey a meaningful message of how the people you grow up around can influence your life forever. A similar book to this is ‘The boy in the striped pyjamas’ That book is also based on WWll and the life of a German boy during the war.’

Torsten writes:

‘To Wellington Library,

Powerful, devastating and tragic are the three wors that most strongly come to mind after reading this book. The theme of manipulation scared me and that Pierrot could be controlled and transformed into a different character…..Tragic! A must read!

(I removed a small section to avoid a plot spoiler!)

Fun and fierce competition characterised the Y9 library induction sessions. After a whistle-stop tour around the library our house groups (mixed boys and girls’ houses where possible) had a go at a Kahoot online quiz based on information about the library. We were impressed at how much they’d taken in on a very busy, information rich day!

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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.

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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 recommended reads and reading for pleasure at Wellington

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We’ve had a wonderful start to this academic year in terms of seeing a great deal of the new Y9s in the Library. Not only have they been joining us for research sessions during their geography lessons (getting to grips with the wealth of online resources on the e-Library) but they are also coming to us for ‘book chat’ tutorials – sharing their likes and dislikes and recommending books to their peers. This year each tutor group will have a discussion with one of the librarians – starting off with a Kahoot to quiz what they remember about ‘Revolver’ by Marcus Sedgwick (the book they were all given to read over the summer) and another to hear about their responses to it.

Each Y9 class is having a one hour session in the Library every fortnight providing the opportunity to choose books freely, bring books or e-readers from home, recommend books for new stock and where multiple copies exist read the same book as friends so that they can discuss it afterwards. We are particularly encouraging the pupils to try different types of books and are currently developing our collection of graphic novels – both in size and range. We now have our first Manga and comic books and graphic novels on topics in history such as Palestine by Joe Sacco and Barefoot Gen: a cartoon story of Hiroshima. Author Sarah Crossan did an excellent presentation on verse novels at a librarians’ conference and we have a small collection of free verse novels – an unusual form but surprisingly compelling as well as generally quick to read.

It has been incredibly encouraging to see how enthusiastically the new students have shared their favourite books and at the same time how honest others have been about not being ‘readers’. We have a hugely supportive staff who share their reading recommendations through posters on their classroom doors, the loan of books and chatting to students. Here is a blog post by an American school librarian that I wholeheartedly agree with:  Learning to read alone is not enough. Your students need a reading champion. 

Let’s hope we can keep this reading momentum as they progress up the school!

Here are some of the Y9 student suggestions (many more to come!)

Y9 Orange Book Recommendations

The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz (this was the first official new Sherlock Holmes mystery)

Before I Die – Jenny Downham

Cuckoo Song – Frances Hardinge

My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult

The secrets we keep – Jonathan Harvey

An island of our own – Sally Nicholls

The London Eye mystery – Siobhan Dowd

Cherub series by Robert Muchamore

We need to talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver

The Leopard – Jo Nesbo (and any of his crime novels!)

It’s kind of a funny story – Ned Vizzini

We all looked up – Tommy Wallach (the story of an asteroid on a potential collision course with Earth as told from the alternating viewpoints of four high school students.)

Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom (on the Wellbeing Top Ten Reads list)

Mum, can you lend me twenty quid? – Elizabeth Burton-Phillips (subtitled: What drugs did to my family)

Archangel – Robert Harris

An officer and a spy – Robert Harris

Y9 Picton – recommended reads:

Noughts and Crosses series – Malorie Blackman

My swordhand is singing – Marcus Sedgwick

Midwinter Blood – Marcus Sedgwick

Paper Towns – John Green

Alex Rider series

Holes – Louis Sachar

Journey’s End – R.C. Sherriff

Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time – Mark Haddon

Pig-heart Boy – Malorie Blackman

Tell me no lies – Malorie Blackman

Any and all of John Green’s books

‘If you haven’t read the whole of the Harry Potter series you haven’t lived’ Lucas

See more pupil book reviews here

reading lesson

 

More reading suggestions and book lists

Avid readers and pupils keen to read a wide range of styles and genres this summer have a look at Mr Wayman’s Middle School Reading List. There is something for everyone here, from incoming 3rd form to U6th in fact. How many of the books have your parents read? Fahrenheit 451 is on my “to be read” pile!

Mr Wayman also includes some excellent advice on how to choose the ideal book for you.

Don’t forget to re-visit the Wellington Top Ten reads, chosen by the academic departments and designed to help you extend your subject specific reading. The lists are structured so that the first book is the most accessible to younger pupils and the final book the most challenging.

A reminder of a stylish website which is a fantastic source of reading suggestions – Five Books.

Five Books asks authors and experts to recommend the best books in their subject. In an interview they then discuss why the books are important and what they are about. You can browse by topic or interview or search for a particular book or author/expert. It covers a huge range of subjects range from Espionage to The Mind and Comedy to How to Be Good.

Try Tom Holland on Ancient Rome, Jo Nesbo on Norwegian Crime Writing or Marcus du Sautoy on The Beauty of Maths. There’s a whole section on Being a Parent and plenty of Fiction suggestions too. Definitely something for everyone on this very attractive website.

Happy Reading!

Here’s a fun infographic proposing routes to finding the perfect book.

summer reading

Y9 Carnegie Book Award Shadowing Update

Carnegie Book Prize – 3rd form reading and reviewing

Mrs Lunnon challenged her 3rd form English class to read all 8 shortlisted Carnegie Book Award titles over the Easter break and very impressively Mira, Anna and Ella succeeded. All of the pupils read a variety of the books and it was lovely to see the class writing reviews and discussing their opinions of these books in the Library this morning.

carnegie discussionsHere are some of their comments on ‘All the Truth that’s in me’ by Julie Berry which has proved a popular story.

Anna: This was a quite disturbing read and I wouldn’t recommend it if you are afraid of gore. The story is set in a peaceful village when a young girl returns home at the age of 18 after an awful trauma, two years ago she was kidnapped, her best friend was killed and her tongue was severed. Because the loss of her tongue she can’t explain what happened to her. It’s dark and depressing however, its language is lyrical, it has a good mystery and a compelling heroine. I really enjoyed this book.

Francesca: I really enjoyed ‘All the truth that’s in me’.  Julie Berry uses such an unusual and unique style of writing to describe a young girl’s return to her hometown following her kidnapping which really engages and intrigues the reader. I found there to be continuous twists and unpredicted points throughout the novel, and would definitely recommend it.

Edie: It has a thrilling plot, and is highly original. Although it can be extremely dark and sinister (maybe too much for some people), I would definitely recommend it.

Lucy Atherton: The Carnegie Award judges books on 3 criteria – style, characterisation and plot and I would say this book excelled at them all. A thrilling read which unravels details tantalisingly slowly.

Read more of the 3rd form reviews on the Carnegie Shadowing website

Watch a video of the author Julie Berry talking about writing the book and giving advice to young writers.

 

3rd Form reading kicks off in the library with the Picton boys

This morning we welcomed the Picton 3rd form tutor group to the library for an informal discussion about the book “In the Sea there are Crocodiles”. Each year the librarians agonise over the choice of book to send to all new 3rd form pupils. We search for a book to suit both boys and girls, something readable and interesting as well as thought-provoking and memorable. We have  a lot of reading  to get through to find something we are happy with. Last year’s book ‘Trash’ proved very popular with its incredible plot and fast pace. This year’s book may have been a slow starter but it rapidly became an involving and inspiring story.3rd form reading Pn

‘In the Sea there are Crocodiles’ is the account of Enaiatollah’s life from the age of 10 to 15. It is based on his recollections of the perilous journey he made from his home in Afghanistan all the way to Italy as a child and teenager without any family support. He is amazingly resilient and recounts his life story to Fabio Geda, the Italian author who wrote the book.in-the-sea-there-are-crocodiles

Here are some of the 3rd form comments on the book:

“Exhilarating, tense, funny and moving”

“I loved the calmness of the book and the good moments I enjoyed”

“…extremely inspirational and it really made me think about the world”

“….very interesting and enjoyable. My Mum read it too!”

“I loved the book. It has opened my mind. It has made me more aware of how tough and how unfair people’s lives can be and makes me feel very privileged.”

….very moving and a good demonstration of what the world is like in some places”

We are looking forward to more book chat sessions with other tutor groups in the coming weeks.