Author visit by Manjeet Mann and responses to ‘The Crossing’

‘The Crossing’ by Manjeet Mann

Our Y9 and Y10s had a reading challenge for the Easter holidays which they enthusiastically accepted. Every student was given a copy of Manjeet Mann’s second YA verse novel ‘The Crossing’. This powerful, engrossing novel is quick to read but deeply moving and relevant to our times.

Both year groups had discussions of the book with their tutors during tutorial periods and I discussed the book with the 3rd and 4th Form boys from the Raglan House. They found it a very emotional read and a number of them particularly liked the style finding the way the two narrative voices of Nat and Sammy overlap made them feel the connection between the two more strongly. For less keen readers, who may not pick up a book as a leisure activity, this style of book was appreciated – they enjoyed the speed with which they turned the pages and the lack of detailed description helped them focus on the plot and experience of the characters.

Here are a couple of short reviews by our students:

The Crossing’ by Manjeet Mann has enlightened me on the subject of death, something which is scarcely talked about. It has a heart-breaking narrative and the poems assist in creating this effect. The way in which Manjeet makes every word powerful is amazing, and every action impacts the characters and their future.


Miles wrote a reading response poster unprompted by his English teachers as the book had a big impact on him.

My blurb:

A troubled life with dreams of swimming the channel and a refugee wishing for a bright future, by chance they meet and form a strong bond.

Will a bright future be possible?

Will the channel be swum successfully?

The book came with a sense of inspiration and happiness at hopeful times, for example when Sammy reached Calais. However, sadness was also a key theme in the book, when Sammy lost his life and Natalie was mourning the death of her mother. The story does not remind me of any previous books, as the ending of death is not common. Because the book was so unique I found it thrilling.

One of our students enjoyed ‘Run, Rebel’ and ‘The Crossing’ so much that currently she is only reading verse novels and has worked her way through our whole collection. She is particularly keen on the verse novels of Sarah Crossan (a previous visiting author who enthused our students about reading). For more recommendations of verse novels have a look at the library padlet on verse novels.

Verse Novels – why I like them by Grace (Y9)

  • They are written in poem-like verses making them different from other fiction novels.
  • It always surprises me that the author is able to express/write such a deep and meaningful story in so few phrases.
  • (Despite being in short verses.) The reader is still able to understand/picture every scenario fully.
  • The word choices are very specific, which gets the point the author is trying to prove very efficiently.
  • They’re just a quick read.
  • They are very easy to understand.
  • You can expand your thinking because it’s different.
  • It’s always good to try new things.


‘Run, Rebel’ by Manjeet Mann – Virtual Author Talk

We’re really excited to see ‘Run, Rebel’ has been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Book Award Longlists announced on 18th February 2021.

Big congratulations to Manjeet Mann!



I am restless, my feet need to fly.

Amber is trapped – by her father’s rules, by his expectations, by her own fears.

Now she’s ready to fight – for her mother,  for her sister, for herself.

Freedom always comes at a price.

Over the Christmas holiday the whole of our 3rd form and a group of 4th Form Scholars were given a book to read. ‘Run, Rebel’ by Manjeet Mann was chosen and we followed up the reading with a virtual author talk by Manjeet on 14th January 2021. Manjeet spoke about her life, her writing inspiration and her future writing plans and this was followed by a Q&A from me (Head Librarian Lucy Atherton) and 4th former Amelie. After this we opened up the questions to all students and staff attending. There were many interesting questions and insightful comments about the book.

We hadn’t realised how autobiographical Manjeet’s first YA novel was and this gave the story even more impact. Manjeet’s best bit of advice to aspiring writers was just get something down on paper. Her technique is to start with a ‘vomit draft’ all the writing comes pouring out and much editing happens later. She didn’t read or write much as a child and teenager but had a passion for acting and plays and became an actress and playwright before turning to writing novels too. We are eagerly anticipating Manjeet’s second YA verse novel The Crossing out in June 2021.

As an additional follow-up Ms Sagers from the English Department ran a ‘How to write a book review’ session for the 4th form group. Here are some of their responses to the book:

‘Let’s start a revolution’

Run, rebel is a captivating verse novel that explores fear, family and freedom.

This young adult novel follows a teenage girl consumed by her father’s trauma as well as her own insecurities. Her only escape is running and her two best friends. Will she ever be able to break free from this maze of abuse and find freedom? But at what cost would freedom come?

Manjeet Mann’s thrilling, inciting and engaging novel promises to draw you in with its unique writing technique encouraging a fast paced read which links to the constant fear which Amber is forced to endure.

Although this is targeted at a young adult audience this novel can be enjoyed by a wide audience as it addresses contemporary issues which will emotionally touch every reader because of its harsh reality.

Not only does the verse structure provide a thrilling read but also the constant variation of fonts and layout allows us to delve into her unpredictable and disturbing life.

This emotionally charged novel ensures a riveting read.

Run, Rebel review

By Roni, Elia, Saskia and Emily

‘I realise I’ve only ever been half breathing’.  Manjeet Mann’s portrayal of an underprivileged, underappreciated young woman investigates the themes of empowerment over oppression, and resilience, is perfectly summed up by this quote. Amber Rai’s story explores the very notion of freedom, as she struggles to battle the traditions and ill-treatment, confining her to a ‘normal’ life. Mann’s utilisation of verse contributes to the raw human emotions shown throughout her various battles, and emotionally ties the reader to the character throughout the whole novel.

Amber Rai: teenage girl, track runner, abuse survivor, fighting for her mother, her sister and herself. This eye-opening masterpiece is an essential read for everyone aged 12 and higher, particularly if you have previously enjoyed reading books such as ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas or ‘I Am Thunder’ by Muhammad Khan. Each word is equally as breath-taking as the next, drawing the reader in immediately from page one with Manjeet Mann’s inimitable style of writing. Mann portrays characters in such a vivid and compelling manner that while one is reading, they are able to become the character, intertwined in their thoughts and emotions. Throughout the story you will only get more and more immersed and absorbed in the enchanting words of Mann and even by the end of the first chapter, I assure you, you will be on the edge of your seat.

Throughout the novel I felt conflicted between characters and found myself empathising with many questionable actions that I didn’t think I would but I believe that is the unique quality of Manjeet’s writing. Her ability to portray so many emotions through structural verse allowed the reader to interpret their own individual synopsis from the story and more importantly decide the personal impact of each character. Having the readership of young adults, amongst other age groups, is so crucial. This book is massively insightful and relevant as we progress into our future and implements the importance of cultural awareness, even through one personal story. The storyline resonated so powerfully with me due to the escapism of exercise which I think is so decisive in Amber’s character and easily connectable globally.

“Run, Rebel”book review

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann includes many intriguing & common themes including domestic abuse, freedom, women’s rights, friendship, family, and sport.

This book is mainly directed towards young adults/ teenagers: people who can relate to the protagonist in terms of age or experience.

Amber, an Indian girl in the UK, feels trapped by her community’s rules. She and her mother escape domestic violence, while Amber also must navigate the troubles of love, friendship and teenage school life.

Mann’s writing is unique in its brilliant utilization of verse. Similarly, its varied structure and punctuation adds a layer of interest to the various motifs- in particular Mann’s description of running uses bold vocabulary and purposeful spacing to drive the protagonist Amber’s sense of salvation within sport.

The book uses the anatomy of revolution to introduce stages/chapters in the book, it also comes from an interesting perspective. Mann brings together traditional Indian culture with running and liberation. The characters situations are put in direct contrast with one another in this book – Amber’s life compared to the lives of her friends.

“How we fought, how we survived, how we rebelled.” (pg. 477) This short quotation shows a progression throughout the book in many ways from Amber’s view, it sums up the tone of the book – an active, strong approach towards difficult circumstances she faced.

I believe that this book is an interesting insight into the life of young people in Indian culture, as well as the everyday misogyny many women experience. I would recommend it to people who like poetry, verse novels and teen drama.

 Candida,  Amelie, Sunay and Liza 


Key themes – female empowerment

Target audience – our age, people who can’t relate so they can find out about other cultures

Style – In verse, different perspectives

Unique – varies in structure, speech in different fonts, illiterate parents

Summary – Amber likes to run, however her parents have her life arranged for her and she cannot follow her dreams. Gets fed up and decides to rebel. Because she stood up for herself she managed to change her future and her Mum’s to one that she chose.

I am rebel

I question it

Aspects of the book still happens and older generations are still traditional

Some people can’t speak for themselves (abusive relationships etc.)

Interesting, emotional to find out some people live in fear and pain.

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.





Y9 Mini Literature Festival Friday 4th March








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!

Visit by Author Bali Rai, 25th February 2013

Bali Rai sharing his views on writing, censorship, the value of reading, ideas for books with a group of our 3rd form and pupils from Wellington Academy in Wiltshire.

One reaction from Kelsey who had enjoyed reading Bali’s latest book “Fire City”:

“I thought the talk was an amazing experience. It is such an honour to speak to the person that came up with the story you have just read. I thought it was great as it wasn’t too formal, and I felt comfortable chatting with Bali Rai about lots of interesting topics. He was calm and relaxed and it was a great atmosphere. You could clearly see how passionate he was, which is a great example for us to follow. A great experience- thank you so much for the opportunity!

“I enjoyed it because he didn’t bore us with the detail of the book and how he wrote it and his planning etc… It was mainly about his opinion on society and how we view it.”

“I found him very inspirational and that he had very interesting views of life.” Georgina.


“I loved his views on multiculturalism. He sees things people wouldn’t normal see and has interesting view points on racism. I’ve learnt both factual things (e.g. how we might all be from the same ancestor) and life lessons (e.g. we should not judge people based on their skin colour or family background). Bali’s life is really inspirational since he had a hard childhood but still managed to become such a well-known author. I’m impressed how Bali tackles serious issues or norms (e.g. rape, abuse, arranged marriage) most authors would rather avoid. In conclusion, I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from this talk.”


“I thoroughly enjoyed the talk from Bali Rai, this is because it put a different perspective on communities and religions than I had before and helped me realise what it is like for people living in deprived areas and how religion can control people.”


“I thought that it was great to meet the author of a book I have read, as I was able to ask him questions about why he wrote it an where he got his inspiration from and made the book seem more personal and I was able to understand it even further.”


“He had a spontaneous style of presenting which allowed for interesting and free flowing discussions.”

Tom B.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the talk with Bali Rai and listening to him answer our questions. What I thought was most interesting was seeing the books from his point of view, as the author, and the motivation behind the work he put into his books.

I enjoyed hearing about how he planned his books and how he got inspiration, which I hope will help me with my own writing in English.”


Bali’s Books for Christmas Reading

Calling all 3rd and 4th form

We are excited to announce that Bali Rai, writer of young adult books will be visiting us on Monday 25th February 2013. This seems a long way off now but it is the first day back after the half-term break so we need to be ready.

Bali writes thought-provoking, engrossing books and doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects. Many of his books are set in multicultural Britain. “Killing Honour” tackles the subject of honour killings and “Rani and Sukh” is an Asian version of Romeo and Juliet. His latest book “Fire City” is a very different style –  one for fantasy fans – a dystopian fantasy with teenage protaganists fighting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

We have a good selection of his books in the library so why not take a book out for the Christmas holidays? Who wants to get out of bed on a cold winter’s day when you could just reach out a hand, grab a book and stay warm and comfortable?

Have a browse of the pinterest board to see the range of his books and come and collect one from the library. We welcome feedback and if you enjoy the book why not request to attend one of his sessions in February and hear more about his work?

If anyone wants to help organise the event – show Bali around college, plan what you want out of the sessions, introduce our author please get in touch with Mrs Atherton in the library.

Of course I don’t approve of bribery but chocolate flows freely in the library at Christmastime! Celebrations! Celebrations! Celebrations!


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