Thursday, November 29, 2012

'Reamde' and 'The Wind-up Girl'

What was your book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

@1healigan chose two books -  

Reamde by Neal Stephenson:
This was geek, action & mythic journey all in one book. Characters I loved included a 6' 2" Chinese gamer and hacker named Marlon, a tiny Chinese big foot woman, a British-Chinese MI6 agent by default, a beautiful African adoptee magma flow scientist, a hairy Hungarian mob techie, drug smuggler turned game entrepreneur, American assassin, a chivalrous Russian hitman, an autistic Seattle programmer and gun enthusiast, Russian mobster gone crazy (?), and a charming jihadist truly worthy of a Bond movie (Abdallah Jones? really?)....a rollicking ride through a world I know nothing about. Very satisfying.

The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi:

I loved this book. Was it cynical, dystopian, fatalistic? Of course. But Bacigalupi's new Garden of Eden was gorgeous, and troubling and absolutely absorbing. An extra bonus? A new Eve.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

'Fiddler on the Roof' review

Alex Owens of V form here reviews the recent College musical Fiddler on the Roof:

On the 17th November the SCC Drama Department presented their final performance of this year’s college musical: Fiddler on the Roof. After months of hard work, starting back at the end of June when final casting was drawn up, and scripts  given out for learning over the summer, the production was completed and  staged in the BSR over three nights. 

The play itself is based on a novel by Joseph Stein, set in a small village known as Anatevka in 1905 before the Russian Revolution.  The story revolves around the main character Tevye played by the very talented Zachary Stephenson. Tevye is a father of five daughters and the story shows his attempts to maintain Jewish religious traditions and support his family.

We see how Tevye copes with his three eldest daughters taking their own choice of husband, slipping further away from him and his faith. He also has to listen and take advice from his sharp-tongued wife Golde, played by the accomplished Siobhan Brady.  

The evening opened with the Fiddler’s signature song ‘Tradition’, which is the main idea which the story is centred around, sung by the entire cast. Also accompanying the cast was pianist Margaret O’Sullivan Farrell and violinist Mary Fitzgerald, brought in especially for the performances by musical director Geraldine Malone Brady. However much more was to come throughout the night with many more numbers such as ‘Matchmaker’ sung beautifully by the three eldest daughters Sally Beeby, Molly Buckingham and Pia Gromotka. Following that, we heard a fine performance of ‘If I were a Rich Man’, sung powerfully by none other than the star of the show, Zach Stephenson and other solo parts with excellent singing by Arthur Moffitt, Sinead Alari, Siobhan Brady, Mark Russell and Mark McAuley. For the musical finale we had the mournful patriotic number ‘Anatevka’ sung by the entire cast.  

The use of light to depict the mood proved to be very effective against the minimalistic background. But the costumes without a doubt took centre stage in being a key role and completing the look of the whole performance, all of which were hand-picked carefully and created by Costume Director Karen Hennessey. In terms of the acting quality of the play, none of this would have been possible without the direction and encouragement of the head of Drama Mr Swift, and special thanks must go to Mrs Malone Brady for her superb musical contribution and coaching of such a large cast.

Overall it is quite clear that this was another enormously successful production from the Drama Department, displaying top-quality performances containing pupils from different year groups throughout the school and they should be commended for their hard work and devotion to a magnificent end result.

Click here  for a photo slideshow of the production.

'Oogy' and 'Wonder'

What was your book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

@march4teachers chose Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love  -

It was the best because it didn't end with a cliffhanger-buy-the-sequel type situation. It was about unconditional love and tolerance. 

And @wilkins105 went for Wonder by R.J. Palacio, which we reviewed here in the summer -

It is a great book for all ages that teaches compassion for others with disabilities.

Monday, November 26, 2012


What was your book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

Wilderness by Lance Weller is the choice of @kenc18:

Beautifully written, richly descriptive book. Two plot lines with the same protagonist: one, set in 1899, a harrowing account of a dying, ex-Confederate soldier confronting brigands in the Pacific northwest; the other, set in 1864, a gut-wrenching narrative of his service in the Civil War's Wilderness Campaign. If you like war literature and writers' writers, you'll embrace Weller's debut work.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Charles Dickens: a life

What was your book of 2012? Fill in our survey here - we'll be blogging responses leading up to Christmas.

Claire Tomalin's Charles Dickens: a life is the choice of @bellitum:

Fascinating in its detail. Wonderfully researched. Third Tomalin biog I have read (Pepys, Hardy). All great. Intrigued as to how Dickens was so humane towards the downtrodden and yet so cruel to some of his own family. A puzzle. Great springboard for reading more Dickens - read Barnaby Rudge in the past year as a result.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Best Book of 2012

What was the best (new or old) book you read in 2012?

Just click here or fill in the form below (remember to click 'Submit' at the end).

We'll be blogging your responses in the lead-up to Christmas, as well as (soon) compiling our Best of the Year lists from the media, as we did in 2011 and 2010.

Macbeth 13: Act 3 scene 4 - 'cabined, cribbed, confined'

This is the thirteenth in a series of analyses of key moments in Macbeth using the iPad app ShowMe.

Here, Macbeth finds out that Fleance escaped the murderers, and he expressses his sense of being 'bound in to saucy doubts and fears.'

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Macbeth 12: Act 3 scene 2- 'restless ecstasy'

This is the twelfth in a series of analyses of key moments in Macbeth using the iPad app ShowMe.

Here, while Macbeth plans to have Banquo murdered, we see his sense of the nightmarish 'torture of the mind' from which he is suffering.

Monday, November 19, 2012

'Fiddler on the Roof' photographs

Above, a slideshow of photographs of last week's hugely successful production of Fiddler on the Roof, taken by Mr Peter Watts.

Edublog Awards 2012

Our nominations for the 2012 Edublog Awards are:

  • Best Teacher Blog: The Frog Blog, run by Humphrey Jones - the best science blog around.
  • Best Twitter hashtag: #science140 - a brilliant idea which 'crowd-sourced' scientific facts, and quickly produced this Christmas's must-have stocking-filler book, A Neutron Walks Into a Bar.
  • Best Mobile App: ShowMe for the iPad, which we've used extensively for text annotation and analysis.
  • Best Educational Use of a Social Network: the English Companion Ning - support, connections and advice from over 30,000 English teachers around the world.
  • Best Administrator Blog: John Tomsett, for wise advice about schools and the nature of leadership.
  • Best New Blog: RAMS English: curriculum, practical ideas for the classroom and more, with consistently thoughtful and well-written posts.
  • Best Individual Blog: LeavingCertEnglish from Evelyn O'Connor of Mount Saint Michael's school in Claremorris, with lots of good advice for students, and lots of passionate commentary about education.

TY Book Recommendations 11

Sofia McConnell has read Gregory Maguire's Wicked for her Transition Year Extended Essay, and thinks it is 'brilliant':

"This tells the story tells of the life of the Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West from her point of view. The book is full of bitterness, grief and wildly imaginative sections that take you completely out of this world and in to that one. I like this book because it is so imaginative: you live the witch’s life and get a completely different perspective on the whole story. I suggest that if you are to read this book (which you definitely should) then you should also read The Wizard of Oz. I highly recommend this book to people of ages 13 to 90 who wouldn't be worried by such an imagination. It was a really enjoyable book and I loved it!"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Macbeth 11: Act 3 scene 1 - 'the worst rank of manhood'?

This is the eleventh in a series of analyses of key moments in Macbeth using the iPad app ShowMe.

Macbeth meets two killers who will murder Banquo. Perhaps there are some similarities between these low-life characters and the new King...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Macbeth 10: Act 3 scene 1 - 'To be thus is nothing'

This is the tenth in a series of analyses of key moments in Macbeth using the iPad app ShowMe.

This is the beginning of Macbeth's soliloquy in III i, in which he expresses his fear of Banquo and of 'nothingness', and continues his precipitous moral decline.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

'The Submarine' latest edition

The Librarian, Mr McConville, is looking for contributions to this term's Library magazine, The Submarine. Articles, essays, poems, reviews, photographs, drawings ... by Monday 19th. Click here to see many of the excellent previous editions.

Monday, November 12, 2012

TY Book Recommendations 10

Rebeca Blasco and Isabel Richter-Goebel have both read books by Nicholas Sparks as part of their preparation for the Transition Year Extended Essay.

I recommend a book called El cuaderno de Noah or in English The Notebook, which is written by Nicholas Sparks, because it is a really good book about love. It's about a girl called Allie who spends a summer (1940) in Searbrook, South Carolina. There she meets Noah and they start to spend their time together and also they fall in love. She's a girl from a wealthy family and he is not a guy with lots of money, so when her parents learn of their love, they decide to leave Searbrook for her to forget Noah.

After a few years, they meet again and after some events they fall in love again and in the end they get married. The film of the book starts with an old man and an old woman, as he reads her a notebook about a love story, and the film finishes with these two old people and you can know that both of them are the couple of the story and he is reading the diary of their story because she has Alzheimer's and he doesn't want her to forget him.

I think this story is one of the most beautiful love stories  in the world, so I recommend it for all the people who like romance books because they will like the true love of this couple.

I read The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks for my extended essay about relationships, and it was very good. It is about a girl called Ronnie whose life turns upside down when her parents divorce and her father moves away from their family. She gets rebellious and stops playing the piano, which she is very good at, because she used to play it with her father.

After three years her mother decides that it is the best for everyone if Ronnie and her little brother spend the summer at their father's house. Ronnie meets a boy and they fall in love with each other. When she finds out that her father has stomach cancer, she tries to forgive him and starts to play the piano again. She starts to realize what she has done wrong and when her father dies she regrets not spending enough time with her father. It is a book full of happy but also sad moments, which is  very emotional as well. I really enjoyed reading it.

Friday, November 09, 2012

TY Book Recommendations 9

Eliza Hancock has read Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time for her Extended Essay (on books associated with autism and Asperger's Syndrome), and recommends it:-

I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it for a number of reasons. The first is that it is primarily a mystery, and although you are given clues throughout the book, there's another twist, which is that Christopher, the narrator, has Asperger's Syndrome, which makes the clues very difficult to notice and understand at first, but once you do figure them out, they seem obvious. The way that Mark Haddon has written the book is great, because it really allows you to go into the mind of Christopher, and see things in the way that he sees them. He notices things that a person without his condition may not notice, but misses things that seem obvious to us. This combined makes for an interesting and constantly surprising read.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Macbeth 9: Act 2 scene 4 - ''Tis unnatural'

This is the ninth in a series of analyses of key moments in Macbeth using the iPad app ShowMe.

Here, Ross and an Old Man talk about the disturbing things happening in the natural world following Duncan's murder.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obama victory speech

Another in a series of Public Wordles, analysing rhetoric. Above, a Wordle of the 170 most common words in President Obama's victory speech last night in Chicago. Plenty of good discussion material here for class today. Click on the image above for a closer view.

Now for a Wordle of Mitt Romney's concession speech for comparison (again, click here for a closer look, and here for the video)

Below, the President delivers his speech.

'Does it Matter?'

On Sunday we have our annual Remembrance Day ceremony and service, and our 77th Poem of the Week is a reference to this. It was read out in Chapel this morning by Mrs Haslett in her talk to the school about the Poppy Fund and its origins.

'Does it Matter?' by Siefried Sassoon
Does it matter?—losing your legs?...
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter?—losing your sight?...
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?...
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they’ll know you’ve fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

TY Book Recommendations 8

Cameron Wood recommends The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, which he has read for his Transition Year Extended Essay:

This was truly brilliant it showed us the side of India that we never see or hear about. It was the story of a man's struggle to make it up the ladder from servant to entrepreneur, but the story isn't that simple. What is fascinating is what he must do to get there, such as turn into a murderer, and and change his personality completely. Overall I thought it was a great boko and would highly recommend it.

Celine Klee has read A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

This book is about how two people, who barely know each other but come to love each other, but then something happens that brings difficulty into their lives. The two main characters are Jamie Sullivan, a very Christian girl, whose mother died when she was a little girl and who loves her father, and a boy called Landon Carter, who is normally on the "cool" side.

This book is set in the 1960s and it is really well-written. I recommend this novel, because of its reality, the way it brings up emotions and because it is easy to read for people like me, whose native language is not English.

Monday, November 05, 2012

TY Book Recommendations 7

The latest recommendation from the Transition Year Extended Essay reading is Jessye Faulkner's:

I have been reading for my extended essay The Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, the story of a young woman's struggle over the death of her mother and the strange events that follow as she starts her new life at a finishing school that her departed mother had a connection to.

Gemma had always wanted to go to London - the season, the fashion, all the amazing stories that she had heard from her friends - but the life that Gemma knew is the one of Bombay and being told what to do by her mother. Gemma didn't know that when her mother gave her, her stone necklace and ushered her home. When she refused, which resulted in an argument, Gemma didn't know that this would be the last time she would ever talk to her mother. After her mother's death she was sent to Spence, a finishing school for young ladies, which was where she got entangled with the most powerful daughters in the country. Visions of her mother's death haunted her in her dreams and a 'shadow boy'  warned her about those visions.

I adored this book and it was hard to put down: sometimes teachers caught me reading it under my desk during lessons. The people who read it will agree with me that it's incredibly well-written and you really feel like you can relate to this character. Gemma really influenced me during the day and I thank Libba Bray for creating such a masterpiece.