Seven Years On

Seven years ago, we asked the incoming Y7s on their June Induction Day to send us a postcard during their summer break telling us what they were reading and what they thought of it. This kept us, the Librarians, very happy and envious during the summer months and in September we made the first Library display of 2010, bought their recommendations (if we didn’t already have them) and entered all who sent one into a prize draw for the new Guinness Book of Records.  (We are doing it again this year).  This spring we found a few of those cards from 2010.  You may recognize yours.

Alex F.  loved The Percy Jackson Series (“incredible-better than Harry Potter”), Silver Fin and Crocodile Tears;  Ivan W.  read The Spook’s Nightmare by Joseph Delaney; James W. was busy with Ripley’s Believe It or Not;  Alex D. recommended Anthony Horowitz’  The Devil and his Boy.  Connor took Escape from Shadow Island by Paul Adam to Wales with him while James A. achieved two Harry Potters and a Cherub.

We would like to wish these and all our 2017 Leavers all the very best (books) in the coming years.  We will miss your overdues.   Never stop reading. Or else!




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Anxious Times

Prince Harry came forward this week to talk about his experience of depression and anxiety, while promoting the Heads Together Campaign collaboration with this year’s London Marathon. His admission has created a big stir, as if the action man with good looks, high status and lots of money should be any different to any other human being walking this earth when it comes to the fundamentals. Family problems, relationship breakdown and bereavement are just three of the universal challenges that are likely to floor us when we least expect it. The costly pay-off can be depression and anxiety. Hard enough for adults to find their way through. For young adults and children, impossible to do alone. But you are not alone. There’s help out there.

Official data says that 1 in 10 young people suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Approx. 1 in 15 young people deliberately self-harm and that nearly 80,000 young people suffer from severe depression*. No one can fail to be astonished and dismayed with these facts. Or want to find some solutions.

For Harry, health came through counselling and exercise and support gained from sharing. His message is that you are not alone. Whether you, or someone you know, is not coping, guidance is available. Finding the courage to talk about it, brings change.

But learning about how to maintain mental health in advance has huge benefits too. Reading good self- help books even before we have to experience these problems, helps us gain insight into strategies for coping while our heads are clear.  It also gives us an idea of how to empathize with and keep a listening ear to others. Emotional intelligence is a learned and highly valuable commodity.  Why wait until you are out of your depth to learn to swim?

Books in the Library today.

* Mental Health of Children and Young People in GB,2004.  Truth Hurts: Report of the National Enquiry into Self-Harm among Young People.  Mental Health Foundation, 2006


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Another busy term for the library

Last week we welcomed our new 2017 Carnegie Shadowing group.   Pupils from Y8 and Y9 will be reading through the six books and taking their own vote before the Medal is awarded on June 19th. Railhead by Philip Reeve, Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk have been first off the line for choice. The transition from Longlist to Shortlist has disappointed several people because great books such as Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatley and Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming sadly lost out. However, all six on the shortlist are well-written good stories as you would expect of this illustrious award. New shadowers welcome.

Two weeks ago, Y9 met Kerry Drewery, Author of Cell 7, and had lively debates about Capital Punishment before they attempted their own Letter from Death Row. The letter often worked as a corrective to some rather harsh judgements vis the extenuating circumstances.

On 8th March I attended a school archives and records day at the National Archives in Kew. Many Independent schools have preserved their historical documents and photographs as Nottingham High School has.  These resources create a unique matrix of British social history that encompasses both how education and the political philosophy behind education defines our progress as a nation and also how our experience of education shapes us as individuals. There is always a lot to learn from an Archive collection.  This term we have worked with the DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum and the Dame Agnes Mellors’ Lads Club Charity.

The first week of March brought World Book Day and a visit from Author Stewart Ross for Y8. Ross has more books in our Library than anyone (61 to date from the 300 books he has written) because he is an educational writer alongside producing very successful Childrens’ fiction. He is also an inspiring and dynamic speaker. He talked about what it is to be a professional writer and the importance of reading and writing to our culture.

“The Healthy Option” During the week of WBD we held a book fair each lunchtime and raised enough in commission to choose £150 of books to be donated to the NSPCC alongside our Chocolate Easter Egg collection. Many thanks to everyone who bought something.


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“I swear to tell the post-truth, the alternative truth and nothing like the truth”.

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We live in strange times. The new US President has made very clear that Truth is a flexible commodity and that News will be faked. To underline this, we find that post-truth is the Oxford Dictionaries 2016 Word of the Year.  … Continue reading

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2017 Arts Society: Book a ticket now!

Full details from the Library.  Please book an Opera ASAP. All Tickets £5!

Halle Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Thursday 26 January
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Friday 3 February
The Woman in Black Theatre Royal Tuesday 21 February
Vienna Tonkunstler Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Wednesday I March
Paradise Lost (is open before me) Playhouse Friday 10 March
The Grapes of Wrath Playhouse Wednesday 29 March
Opera North:

Hansel and Gretel


La Cenerentola


The Snow Maiden


Theatre Royal


Theatre Royal


Theatre Royal


Wednesday 22 March


Thursday 23 March


Friday 24 March

Halle Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Saturday 29 April
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My Favourite Book of 2016.

Right at the end of the dying year I started hearing about a book that was getting huge respect in the Young Adult realm, particularly the UK YA blogs.  Although the first book in the South Crongton Trilogy Liccle Bit had been published in 2015, it was Alex Wheatle’s second YA book Crongton Knights that has really started gaining ground for him.  In November 2016 it won the 2016 Guardian Children’s Fiction Award, this month it has become the choice for the @MidlandsCLS (Creative Learning Services) 9 for 9 Challenge and was named on the @readingagency #MoodBoostingBooks List.  I haven’t checked but having read it, I know it won’t stop there.

Crongton Knights is the story of a group of friends who go to retrieve a phone from an older ex-boyfriend of one of their group.  She had used it for sexting him and now more mortified for her own under-age mistake than aware of his sexual abuse, was desperate to get it back.  Knights without armour, terrified but determined, the group had to take the bus to a neighbouring estate where different gangs ran the area and weren’t going to appreciate the visit.

The writing is both very funny and deadly serious; brutal and tender.  Very unpredictable but with a pace and coherence that pulls you along even through places you’d rather avoid.    Dialogue driven with an adapted street slang which  emphasizes the complete otherness of how many young people live today, it is nevertheless deeply recognizable.

What is so brilliantly remarkable about this book, along with the very best of the contemporary YA stable, is the absence of armour.  Wheatle shows us the real courage it  takes to navigate through an environment of broken rules for which you are ill-equipped, and the consolations of open friendship and self-control.

I’m looking forward to April and the third in the trilogy, Straight Outta Crompton.  I’ve a few readers here tapping their fingers.

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“Twelve Words of Christmas” A selection…

The third can, the second needle, the last penny, his final Christmas. Ben W. Y9 One year his present was life.  This year he gave it back.  Thomas B. Y9 Gaze upon the fireplace. Sit with the family. Celebrate altogether. … Continue reading

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The 2016 Library Christmas Quiz

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The Twelve Words of Christmas

The 12 Words of Christmas Competition 2016 Write a 12 word story/poem on a Christmas/winter theme. Prize for the best pupil entry and one for Staff. (independent adjudicator) Entries to the Library by 13th December at 1.00.    

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The Rest Of Us Just Live Here vs All of the Above.

dawson-ness-001In the past few weeks I’ve read two acclaimed YA books both published in 2015 and both by high profile YA Authors. The similarities between the two stories are striking with themes of identity, change, loyalty and Coming of Age. I thought I’d compare the two and see why I thought one was very good and the other was not.

All of The Above by James Dawson is set in an English seaside town in the final year of school for a group of friends, seen through the eyes of a new girl. The characters are well written and recognisable; dealing with various issues as they study for their final exams; sexuality, eating disorder, self-harm, mixed heritage and parental alcoholism alongside a disconnect from what seems like a rigid hegemony. All treated with a light touch and no easy answers. This makes it reassuringly unpredictable without seeming contrived. I think any but the most self-assured teenager with find a friend in this book. The ending is generous without being trite. It’s a lovely book.

Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here, set in a fantasy American lakeside town, has exactly the same ingredients but with Alzheimer’s and media intrusion thrown in. Where it differs is in a parallel fantasy story, told in the form of a synopsis at the beginning of each chapter about a different group of students (the indie kids) who are trying to save the world, and are being killed. There is an overlap between the worlds which involves an exploding school and sinister police but the parallel story is difficult to follow and breaks up the rhythm of the primary story. Added to that, Jared the gay character, is a Cat God.   Now, it has been pointed out that Ness might have been satirising the YA genre. Certainly his Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls were too good to not see this book as a bit of a hotch-potch of tropes. But I couldn’t identify the tone of the parallel story or the humour so it didn’t work for me. Ness, however, is up for all the prizes. Read them yourself and let me know what you think.

I also enjoyed the Goodreads reviews such as:


— “This may be one of the most pointless books I have ever read”.

+   “It’s a hilarious combination of contemporary profoundness and overly cliché paranormal romance”.


— “This book was most possibly the worst book I’ve read this year or ever. I don’t know what you, James thought by writing this book”.

+ “A very enchanting, honest and engaging novel of what it’s mainly like to be a teenager growing up in England”.

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