Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Library Books

There's a regular flow of excellent new books into our Library, and Librarian Tom McConville often puts up lists of selected new books. Here's the latest.

Included: in Junior Fiction there's Mal Peet's Exposure, an updating of Othello. In Senior Fiction, Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole: the prostrate years (appropriately, since we're just a week away from the Junior Play production of Adrian Mole). And in Non-Fiction, the excellently titled Manga Guide to Physics, which sounds like one for our friends over on the Frog Blog.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Holden Caulfield Interactive Map

The New York Times has an interactive map of Manhattan pinpointing locations that Holden Caulfield visits during the course of The Catcher in the Rye. Click on the link to be able to access the points identified in the image, complete with quotations from the novel.

(The NYT recently announced plans to charge for content. Future readers of this post might find they have to pay to visit this...)

Death of J.D. Salinger

Coincidentally, just as we are about to start studying The Catcher in the Rye as part of our Transition Year course, comes news of the death of J.D. Salinger. The media is full of material about him now, but we draw attention to a substantial feature by Eileen Battersby in today's Irish Times here, with additional comments by Colm Tóibín, Niall MacMonagle, Joseph O'Connor and others.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Christmas Past 2009

Above, a Wordle made out of the full texts of our recent series about 'Christmas Past', as a result of last December's 'Everybody Writes' Day. As we did last year, some of these will shortly be posted around the Library (click here for a slide-show).

(image created through

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Journeys: Meek, Adamson, Breslin

The latest Extended Essay by a Transition Year pupil to be published here is Mena Fitzgibbon's project about 'Journeys' in three books: The Outsider by Gil Adamson, The People's Act of Love by James Meek, and The Nostradamus Prophecy by Theresa Breslin.

Mena writes: I thought all these books were extremely well written and I was captivated by the worlds that the authors created. The only book I found a little hard to get into was The People's Act of Love and that was only because of the names at the start. However as the book progressed I found it hard to really put it down at all. I know that when I read a book I never really think about the journey they are going through but more at what they are doing at that time. When I went to read these books to refresh my memory I saw them in a new perspective.

At first when I thought about my theme I couldn't think of anything other than physical, moving across country journeys, but once I looked further into it I saw that not only your body goes through the journey but your mind follows but not always in the same way your mind does. On the outside you could be cool and calm but on the inside you could be terrified and frantic. I thought about the causes of people’s journeys and why you would venture in to the unknown.

Read Mena's full essay here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Conflict: Levi, McEwan, Barry

Today we go on an Exodus break; normal service resumes on Tuesday morning.

The latest in our series of fine Transition Year Extended Essays is by Shannen Keogan, who chose 'conflict' as her theme, and as her books Primo Levi's If This is A Man/The Truce, Ian McEwan's Atonement, and Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way.

Shannen writes:- Primo Levi’s If this is a man-The Truce is definitely the most descriptive novel I have ever read. When I was reading the novel I was really able to imagine what it must have been like to be imprisoned somewhere like Auschwitz. He accounts everything with such clarity and it is clear that it was such a major experience in his life. He has remembered everything - the numbers of the huts he stayed in and their names, the names of every man he ever met or spoke to and he also remembers every single detail of what happened while he was there. Primo Levi explains in depth what being forced to live in those horrible conditions does to you and he gives us an extraordinary insight into the lives of the people who were displaced there in the Second World War.

Ian McEwan’s writing is completely different to this. He mainly dedicates the novel to Robbie’s experiences at War but also merges this with Robbie’s feelings to return to Cecilia. I think this is very clever. His descriptions of scenes and emotions are of a very high standard and quality but in comparison to If this is a man-The Truce, I thought they were weak and the writing lacked a little intensity as I didn’t feel as horrified or appalled by the conflict like I did in Primo Levi’s book. In saying that, I do think that Ian McEwan is an excellent writer. I thought the ending of his novel was very clever and worthwhile; he leaves the fate of the characters to the reader’s imagination, which is what I think, makes it such a wonderful novel.

Sebastian Barry also has an exceptionally wonderful style of writing. He describes scenes and emotions to a very high standard also but, I don’t think his descriptions are of as high a standard to those of Primo Levi's. He didn’t describe certain scenes with the intensity and emotion that Levi describes scenes. In saying that he writes in a style which compels you to read more and more and I found it very hard to put the novel down. Although it is a grim War story, I sometimes did find some of the chapters quite humorous. Sebastian Barry really brings true Irish humour into the novel, as even though they are fighting in a War there are a few rare moments of laughter amongst the soldiers. This really does make the novel much easier to read and lightens the mood a little.

Read Shannen's full essay here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

'The Kite Runner' and 'I'm Not Scared'

At the end of last term, Hamish Law in III form, as part of his Junior Certificate preparation, wrote a book report on two recent novels: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (which V form are about to start in class) and I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti.

Hamish writes: I chose these books because they both depict a confusing yet intriguing situation of two different children who are leading ordinary lives and then it all goes disastrously wrong. They both portray completely different lives to that which we lead, one in 1970s Afghanistan and the other in an isolated hamlet in the hot, dry south of Italy in 1978. Both books illustrate the actions of innocent, young boys who become caught up in a horrible yet realistic situation.

I really enjoyed both of these books, particularly The Kite Runner, and would highly recommend these to anybody. Adults and children would be enthralled by both books even though the main characters are children. The Kite Runner is perfect for those wishing to educate themselves on Afghanistan and the rifts between different ethnic groups. I’m Not Scared shows the life of an innocent young boy getting caught up in the confusing world of adults and the evil of money. They were two harrowing books which I’ll never forget.

Read Hamish's full report here (he also recently won the Junior English Prize).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dictionary of Irish Biography

Many thanks to our former colleague, John Fanagan, who has generously donated to our Library the newly-published Dictionary of Irish Biography.

It covers "9,700 lives; 700 contributors; 8 million words; over 2000 years of history."

You can read here the full text of Seamus Heaney's address in Belfast at the recent launch of the nine-volume project, including these comments:-

It presents us with is a resource of enormous importance, not only for professional students and scholars, but for every literate person on the island. As an Irish work of reference, it is nonpareil. Just by dipping in to any ten or twenty pages of any of the volumes, the average person will strengthen his or her sense of being a link in the human chain that binds us by affection and election to a large, liberating and reimagined Irish community. Any household that can afford it should possess it, even before it comes on line. Already it is a browser’s paradise, a Plutarch for the people, an annals of Ulster and a Hibernian Book of the Dead all rolled into one.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hypertext 'Waste Land'

For those Leaving Cert pupils studying Eliot's 'A Game of Chess' from The Waste Land, click here for a hypertext version with notes and links.

Parents and Daughters: Hosseini, Picoult, Mah

The next in our series of Transition Year Extended Essays from last term is by Claire Conway. She compares three books which deal with the relationships between parents and daughters in three different cultures.

Claire writes:

When we were first asked what topic we were keen to write about in our extended essays, various themes flew through my mind. But one in particular struck me most: how women are treated in the Middle East. I’ve read several books about this conflict, as women’s rights have interested me my whole life. As I thought about it closer, I decided to specify my choice more. As I myself am a girl, I thought it would be very interesting to write about the relationships between parents and their daughters in different societies. When you think about it, you realize that even in our modern society, boys and girls aren’t exactly and fully equal. For example, I have noticed that in most books I have read so far the main characters tended to be male (Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to name but a few). A girl reads books about male characters with great pleasure, but I doubt it is the other way round.

Aware of this, I specifically searched for books in which girls played the main parts. Finally, I decided that I would simply combine my interests and write about daughters, young girls and how their lives and relationships with their parents are affected by the cultures they live in. To create a bigger variety of what I could write about and compare, I decided to choose three books each set in a different country, culture and time. To my astonishment and delight, I discovered three perfect matches:
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. These are set in Afghanistan, China and the US, respectively, three totally different cultures during different time periods. Not only are these books perfect for my choice of theme but the first two are set during periods of major political and social changes in each country. I was glad to know that I would be learning a lot of history by reading these books.

When I got started, I soon realized how much I could interpret and conclude from my choice of books. I find it fascinating how a culture has its own rules and traditions and to be short how people are bound to act and behave towards each other according to that culture. It is easy to understand how a culture can have a huge impact on the upbringing of a child and in my case how this culture can affect the development of girls and their relationships with their parents.

Read Claire's full and impressive essay here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Youth in Literature: Lee, Andrews, Asher, Kinsella

Oyinda Onabanjo's TY Extended Essay examined the theme of Youth in four novels: Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird, Virginia Andrews's Flowers in the Attic, Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl and Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.

In her essay, Oyinda writes: When I read a book, I really get into the book. I sympathise with the character and really connect with them.

You can read here her full essay, showing how she connected with the characters from these books.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

English Prizes, 2010

Congratulations to the winners of the annual English Prizes : Fiona Boyd (senior), and Hamish Law (junior). In addition, distinctions and book-tokens will be given for their entries to Miriam Poulton (senior) and Sadhbh Sheeran (junior).

Our annual Poetry Prizes will be launched shortly; entries are due in by the end of term.

Shakespeare's Censor Ratings

There's a fine iPhone/iPod touch free App in the iTunes Store called 'Shakespeare', with the entire works available on your device. What interested us particularly was the 12+ rating given (above). If you're really bored you might like to match the guidelines to particular plays (anyone know where there's 'Infrequent/Mild tobacco use'?).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Status and Change: Russell, Ahern, Cast

We're now publishing the first of this year's selection from the Transition Year Extended Essays. These are comparative literary essays, over 2,500 words long (and often much more). Several more will follow in the coming weeks.

Opeline Kellett wrote on 'status and change' in three fictional works: Willy Russell's play Educating Rita (made into a well-known film in 1983 with Julie Walters and Michael Caine), Cecelia Ahern's The Gift, and Chosen, by PC and Kristen Cast (book 3 of the House of Night series). Opeline defends so-called 'light' fiction passionately, and writes about the last of these books:-

However even though this book is a light read with a simple plot, what it does contain is wonderful. This novel kept me gripped from page one to page three hundred and twenty two. What it has that many other books these days I find don't is that page turning quality. You simply cannot put it down. Zoey may be one of the most annoying characters in history ... However even though she is annoying she keeps you reading. You want to know what will happen to her. You want to know what the outcome of all her stupidity will be, you want to know if she can change it all around and so you just keep reading. I feel that for P.C. and Kristen Cast to create a character which you love to hate yet still want to read about is a talent in itself.

Read the full essay here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

TY Work Portfolio 2009-2010

Today, IV formers start on the Work Portfolio which is an important part of their English course. This will eventually (in late May) turn into a folder of the ten best pieces they have written during the year, which have been re-written and re-submitted. Many of these pieces will, as in the last three years, find their way onto this site, especially in the summer term.

This year's list is here, and pupils can also always access it via the Department Documents link in the right-hand sidebar under 'Our Sites and Info.'

Hilary Term 2010

After a delayed start due to weather (pictured, the Chapel three days ago before the thaw), we're underway today.

In English and Drama terms, ahead are: the posting of lots of pupil work from last term, especially TY Extended Essays and book reports; the Mock Leaving and Junior Cert exams just after half-term; the announcements shortly of the results of the Senior and Junior English Prizes; the launch of the Senior and Junior Poetry Prizes; several new podcasts, especially on Leaving Certificate poetry work; the Junior Play, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole; the II form Actiontrack workshops; the TY Academic Prize; several theatre and cinema outings; more Poems of the Week; World Book Day, and some technical goodies...

Busy, busy, busy...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Delay to Term

Due to the weather, classes don't start again until Thursday, at which point we'll resume blogging. There's a very busy term coming up for SCC English...