Friday, October 22, 2010


We're now on our half-term break until Monday 1st November. Time to read lots...

Meanwhile, here is another book recommendation by a Transition Year pupil preparing for the Extended Essay project, due in on November 19th. 

Eleanor Dolphin has been reading Khaled Hosseini's novel The Kite Runner, and writes:-

The first thing that I noticed when reading my book was its opening line and the effect that it had on me. "I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek". 

For me The Kite Runner was a truly remarkable book because it is quite rare for me to fully enjoy the characters and their surrounding plot through every step of the book. Sometimes I become temporarily bored of them. The characters in this book are so clearly described, to the extent that when I close my eyes, they scurry across my vision leading me into their own world. This book really pulled at my heartstrings and burrowed its way inside my head. I strongly felt the emotions welling up inside me with each page I flicked through, especially the wretched guilt felt by the protagonist, Amir, and my disgust and contempt for him. The provoking thoughts haunted me long after I'd put the book down. A compelling book that I would thoroughly recommend to anyone fifteen and older.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Patterns of Poetry 12: punctuation

The 12th talk in the Patterns of Poetry talks (all under 5 minutes) is about punctuation. The two poems quoted are Emily Dickinson's 'I felt a Funeral in my Brain' and the late Edwin Morgan's 'Strawberries'. Click here for Victor Borge's 'Phonetic Punctuation' turn.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. The first 8 talks are available as a single podcast here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.

The Gloss blog

It's always good to see former pupils, and indeed former contributors to this blog, prospering elsewhere. Sophie Haslett, currently studying English at Bristol University, is also blogging for the Irish Times 'The Gloss' magazine on fashion matters here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TY Book Recommendations 8

Well, this in fact couldn't be called a 'recommendation'. Not all books that Transition Year pupils choose for their Extended Essays turn out well, such as Lucy Christopher's Stolen, which Catie McGonagle is now going to warn you off:

This book was found to be quite disappointing due to its poor writing style, predictability, and the lack of importance this book has on nearly anyone's life.  I read it and was bored.  I honestly could not care less what happened to the characters in this book.  It was about this young girl named Gemma who was kidnapped by her stalker in an airport and somehow managed to find herself in the middle of the desert in Australia.  The majority of the book consisted of her trying to escape and failing.  The worst part was that I knew, at the beginning of every escape attempt, that there was no way she was going to make it.  It was so obvious yet it kept happening over and over again.  

Although the middle was a boring mish-mash of failed escapes, the beginning and the end were both very enjoyable parts of the book.  The whole thing is a letter to her captor and it is interesting in the beginning to hear what she remembers about getting drugged and kidnapped, and also what she has to say to her stalker about it.  Besides that and the mildly exciting ending, the book was a total bore and I definitely would not suggest anyone to try to pick it up anytime soon!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Patterns of Poetry 11: sonnet

The 11th Patterns of Poetry talk briefly considers the sonnet form, concentrating on Patrick Kavanagh's sonnet 'Epic'. Click here on the Poetry Archive site to read the poem, and listen to Kavanagh himself reading it out.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. The first 8 talks are available as a single podcast here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.

TY Book Recommendations 7

For his Transition Year Extended Essay, Ilya Zyzlaev has read Pushkin's Evgeniy Onegin, and comments:

This is a book is set in 18th century in Russia about a rich young man called Evgeniy Onegin, who lived in St. Petersburg, and decided to move to a small village in the middle of nowhere, because he was tired of his friends and a busy life in St. Petersburg. In this village he meets a young girl, who falls madly in love with him... The story line is very interesting and easy to read. The description of the characters and nature is very good: it makes you feel like you are right inside the book.

And Kate Walsh has read My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult:

This is a book about a unique bond between two sisters but also between mother and child, and the lengths a mother will go to for her child. This story deals with the controversial issue of genetic testing and how one family deals with their daughter having cancer, by having a daughter created who is a perfect genetic match with the daughter who is sick. The story ends differently to the movie but is more gripping and interesting. The story ends in a tragedy but also there is also a happy element. It's very unexpected. I highly recommend this book to all ages: it's very good and will keep you reading for hours.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Junior Form Plays

Earlier this evening we had the annual Primary, I and II form plays. These are always the first productions of our busy drama year, and often feature pupils new to the Columban stage.

Primary and I form put on Sherlock Holmes and the Emerald of Alcazar ('Holmes is back on the stage but this time it's personal). Directed by Tibradden VI formers Michael McBurney and Jasper Pickersgill, and produced by Mr Patterson, it featured Gregory Munday as the great detective and Ryan Jan as sidekick Dr Watson. The usual dastardly and cunning plot was driven along by actors including Mark Crampton (publican), Darcy Maule (Harriet), Hollie Canning (Molly), Helena Gromotka (Tilly), a well-uniformed police force led by Janet Boyd (Inspector Lestrade) and Sergeant Gotcha (Penny Nash). Throw in assorted urchins and locals and we had an entertaining brew. Eventually Holmes did, of course, triumph over the Countess (Eleanor Moffitt).

This was followed by Mr Swift's II form production of Lucille Fletcher's Sorry, Wrong Number. The undoubted star here was Samuel Clarke with an amazing central performance as the rich New Yorker Mrs Stephenson. He was supported by a battery of telephone operators including Bethany Shiell and Lydia Johnson, a convincing 'thug' in Mark McAuley and languid cop Sergeant Duffy (Mark Russell). Great stuff all round.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

TY Book Recommendations 6

More quick comments from Transition Year pupils about their reading for the Extended Essay projects:

Selina Birke has read Candy by Kevin Brooks: - First of all, I liked the book because it was a male protagonist. Besides this the story was very interesting, exciting and enthralling. I knew the book before, but the second time reading it wasn´t boring, but rather more interesting, because I noticed many details which I didn´t noticed before. 

And Julian Coquet-Benka has read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -

This is a investigative novel written by Stieg Larsson. I have rated it as only "quite enjoyable" as the start is slow-paced and outlines the series of events leading up to the present time of the story. However, the book is in a class of its own when the book picks up momentum. The plot involves a reporter in a unique position of being a crime investigator while being detained in a prison for a part of the novel. This journalist is part owner of a magazine and is called Mikael Blomkvist. As the character's name suggests, the book is set in Sweden, during a time of economic downturn. The book covers a timeline of about 13 months but delves in and out of detail at certain times of importance to the storyline. This is a brilliant choice for those with developed reading stamina but not so good for people who need their novels to be fast and punchy from the off.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Patterns of Poetry 10: repetition

The 10th Patterns of Poetry short podcast deals with repetition in poetry, and how it can be a useful way into a poem, examining Elizabeth Bishop's 'The Fish' and Richard Murphy's 'Moonshine'.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. The first 8 talks are available as a single podcast here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TY Book Recommendations 5

Transition Year pupils are well into their reading for their Extended Essays. Niamh Faulkner has been reading In the Service of the Sultan: A First-Hand Account of the Dhofar Insurgency, by Ian Gardiner, and writes:-
The book is set in Dhofar, the southern region of Oman, during the 1970s (at the height of the Cold War). The author was a solider fighting there during the Dhofar Rebellion (when the Communists tried to take over the Gulf, to control the oil), so it’s all from his own experiences - from playing football in a wadi, with rules that change as fast as the weather does here, to travelling around the country, where there are no proper roads! I find it a very gripping book, because I find that the Oman that the author is writing about is completely different to the Oman I live in; 30 years ago Oman was an extremely undeveloped nation, with very little infrastructure, the total opposite of what it’s like today. The Dhofar Insurgency isn’t well known, but played a major role in the Cold War, and  I highly recommend this book for people interested in the Cold War or the Middle East, or even if you want something different than the usual romance novel.

'For a Five-Year-Old'

The 67th Poem of the Week, read in English classes and displayed around the school, is Fleur Adcock's 'For a Five-Year-Old', which you can read here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TY Book Recommendations 4

For her Transition Year Extended Essay Rachel Rogers has read Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and writes:-

This book is a tragedy. I found that it that grabbed my attention and was hard to put down once I started to read it. At the beginning I found it hard to get into and enjoy, but after the first chapter I adapted to the English and understood the story line. The main character, Tess, I found was such a good character and you always find yourself on her side. The story line I found was unpredictable. So when the twists and turns happen in the book it is so exciting and sad. I would recommend this book to someone who wants a challenge with their English and wants a new experience in reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would read it again.

And Dina al Hamdan has read Christy Brown's autobiography My Left Foot. She comments:-

It it interesting because it gives you hope. You'll feel that you can do anything you want in life and achieve your goals in different ways. It is a great book, and worth reading. The author is realistic and he describes the places and scenes really well: that's why I liked it. I'm not into reading books at all, because I didn't get use to it in my old school. I find it difficult, but that book made me turn one page after another without feeling or noticing which page I had reached. Then I got impressed: did I actually read all these pages?

Patterns of Poetry 9: rhyme

The 9th short talk on elements of poetry is on rhyme, and looks at how Thomas Kinsella uses it in his poem 'Mirror in February'.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. The first 8 talks are available as a single podcast here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First 8 Patterns of Poetry talks

Our 24th podcast puts together in one handy track the first eight Patterns of Poetry talks, originally published via Audioboo. The eight talks are all under 5 minutes each and are, in order: (1) Introduction, (2) Titles, (3) Alliteration, (4) Personification, (5) Symbols, (6) Onomatopoeia, (7) Cliché, (8) Simile. Note that there is a brief gap between each talk.

There is a full list of the series here. Listen to the podcast via the player below:

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TY Book Recommendations 3

Jasmine Blenkins O'Callaghan is reading Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner for her Transition Year Extended Essay, and writes:

The Kite Runner captivates the reader within the first few pages. I found this book to be captivating because of the vividness of the characters and the realistic way of life. The feelings are very strong in this book, especially guilt: it worms its way into the reader's stomach as if it were you who committed that act of shame. It is well written and brings you into a world of its own. I would recommend it to anyone fifteen and above. It is truly a fascinating read.

And Constantin Voelter has started on J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye:

First, when the librarian gave me this book, I wasn’t sure whether I should read it: the cover was really boring. But after a while this book caught my attention, because it tells about a boy who’s my age and is living in a boarding school as well, so I could really identify with Holden. He describes in the first chapters how he says goodbye to a teacher and his school and which he has to leave now because he failed four of his five subjects. The book is written in quite an interesting way and I think I will have much fun reading it.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Patterns of Poetry 8: simile

Talk 8 in the Patterns of Poetry series is on simile, and looks at how Sylvia Plath uses it in her poem 'Morning Song'.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.

TY Book Recommendations 2

For his Transition Year Extended Essay, Hamish Law has been reading Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and writes:-

This is a thrilling yet haunting novel which exposes Biafra's passionate struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria. What makes this novel so compelling is that it is so easy to connect with as it is told through the eyes of an African "houseboy" called Ugwu. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone as it is a real eye-opener to the prejudice and apartheid that existed and still exists in parts of Africa. It also captures the chilling violence that occurred at this time - yet I had never heard about this horrifying war. Therefore the book represents a memoir to the valiant but unsuccessful Biafrans who fought this war and the lives lost.

And Sam Harley has started Anne Holm's I am David:-

I started reading my book yesterday and I am already 50 pages through it. I just sat down for an hour and started to read the book. I really couldn't stop. From the start it gets the reader engaged, as a boy called David escapes from a prison camp. From what I have read the exitement has not stopped as he is on his adventure. There is always the thought of him getting caught so you want to keep reading because it makes you want to know what is going to happen next. I thoroughly recommend this book to all people around my age (15-16).

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Patterns of Poetry 7: Cliché

The 7th talk in the Patterns of Poetry series looks at cliché, examining how Shakespeare in sonnet 130 and Carol Ann Duffy in 'Valentine' subvert such language.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.

TY Book Recommendations 1

Over the next couple of weeks, Transition Year pupils will be recommending the books they are reading for the Extended Essay project.  First, Annika Franz writes about Dream Chaser by Joan O'Neill.

I read this book, which is mainly about a 15-year-old girl, Eleanor, who emigrates to America together with her 13-year-old sister Alice after the tragic death of her father, who has always denied the reality of this event. Eleanor sees a big chance; it is her dream to go to America. But as she arrives there she notices that nothing is as she had hoped and expected it to be in the house of her uncle and aunt where she and her sister live. One night she decides to make a run out of it to realize her own dream.

In my opinion this book is easy to read without too many complicated words or phrases. On top of that I think it is a very interesting and thrilling topic, to see how a girl my age manages this big and exciting adventure. It isn´t easy for her, not at all, but in the end she finds her place and has learned a lot about other people and herself.  I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic emigration, leaving home ...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Patterns of Poetry listing

This page will be updated each time there is a new Patterns of Poetry talk. It gives the date, links to the original post, and indicates which poems were discussed.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here.

1: Introduction. 28 September 2010.
2: Titles. 28 September 2010. 'The Fish' by Elizabeth Bishop, and 'Out, Out' by Robert Frost.
3: Alliteration. 30 September 2010. 'The Windhover' by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
4: Personification. 1 October 2010. 'Shancoduff' by Patrick Kavanagh.
5: Symbols. 4 October 2010. 'The Stare's Nest by my Window' by W.B. Yeats.
6. Onomatopoeia. 6 October 2010. 'A Constable Calls' and 'Sunlight' by Seamus Heaney.
Cliché. 8 October 2010. Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare, and 'Valentine' by Carol Ann Duffy.
8. Simile. 9 October 2010. 'Morning Song' by Sylvia Plath.
9. Rhyme. 12 October 2010. 'Mirror in February' by Thomas Kinsella.
10. Repetition. 15 October 2010. 'The Fish' by Elizabeth Bishop and 'Moonshine' by Richard Murphy.
11. The Sonnet. 18 October 2010. 'Epic' by Patrick Kavanagh.
12. Punctuation. 20 October 2010. 'I felt a Funeral in my Brain' by Emily Dickinson and 'Strawberries' by Edwin Morgan.
13. Foreshadowing. 3 November 2010. 'To Autumn' by John Keats.
14. Metaphor. 22 November 2010. 'The Forge' by Seamus Heaney.
15. Hyperbole. 16 December 2010. 'A Christmas Childhood' by Patrick Kavanagh.

National Poetry Day

To mark this day in Ireland and the UK, here is our 66th Poem of the Week. 'Animals' by Miller Williams comes from the excellent American Poetry 180 site (a poem a day for the school year), and might prompt your own thoughts about pets, about loss, about how things change... A good prompt for writing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Patterns of Poetry 6: onomatopoeia

This is podcast 6 in the Patterns of Poetry series of short discussions of poetic techniques, and looks at onomatopoeia, examining Seamus Heaney's poem 'A Constable Calls', as well as 'Sunlight'.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Transition House Speech review

Just over a week ago we had another very successful House Speech competition. Now here is a detailed review by Transition Year pupil Eleanor Dolphin. As she says, the speakers did very well in an unnerving and challenging task.


Number 21 in the series: Campaign for the Removal of English Errors in Public.

It's been a while since we had anything from the press, but here is one via an anonymous source, as they say in the business, from last Friday's Evening Herald. The article is : 'How the drug zombies have swamped even Grafton Street' (brilliant - drugs! zombies! swamping!).

Half-way down there's a curious image (click on the picture above for a closer look):- As I walked up Grafton Street, a strung-out young man lunged at me with his cup and asked for change. For me, they were junkies, no big deal. I play a daily game of dodge the drug addict on Talbot Street. But I'm sure for the more gentile elements of society, and especially our much needed tourists, this is a shock.

Odd to get a Jewish angle on swamping drug zombies.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Patterns of Poetry 5: symbols

The fifth in the Patterns of Poetry series deals with the use of symbols, and uses 'The Stare's Nest by my Window', the sixth in the sequence 'Meditations in Time of Civil War' by W.B.Yeats. A longer podcast on his poem 'The Wild Swans at Coole' can be heard here.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.


Friday, October 01, 2010

Patterns of Poetry 4: personification

The fourth in the Patterns of Poetry series is on personification. This one examines Patrick Kavanagh's 1934 poem 'Shancoduff'.

Get our Audioboos as podcasts on iTunes here. Our Audioboo page is here. Listen to today's talk via the player below.