Friday, June 22, 2012

123 Books for Summer Reading

Above, our first holiday reading suggestions list for pupils - 123 excellent books in fiction (both junior and senior), general non-fiction, sports, science, history and more. Click once for a closer view, once again for closest, and use the arrows to scroll through the seven pages. You can also click here to see the file, and download/print it.

Parents' Holiday Reading

Above, our third annual reading suggestions list for our parents (you can also read/download it here): 25 good books to enjoy over the coming months.

Among the goodies: Kevin Barry, Teju Cole, Susan Hill, Anne Enright, Patrick Gale, Gerbrand Bakker, Belinda McKeon, Graham Swift, and lots more...

Actiontrack 2012

Below, a slideshow of photographs from last Saturday's Actiontrack show for 2012, Weaver Story To Tell, inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Reading Lists

We've now published our suggestions lists of summer holiday reading for pupils (125 books) and for parents (click for the latter's 2010 and 2011 lists). 

Leading up to this, on June 7th we joined the New York Times Learning Network's #summerreading day on Twitter, sharing some books recommended by our Transition Year pupils. Meanwhile, here is a round-up of summer reading resources on the web, divided between Schools & Youth, and General Adult Readers; like our annual Books of the Year lists (2011, 2010), it will be frequently updated.

Any other lists? Please Comment below, or tweet us @sccenglish.

Schools & Youth
  1. A great reading flowchart of 101 books, from
  2. The Guardian: Children's summer reading, including suggestions from distinguished authors such as Michael Morpurgo, who recommends The Secret Hen House Theatre by new author Helen Peters.
  3. School Library Journal - summer reading suggestions from authors and illustrators (including Mitali Perkins - Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye).
  4. The School Library Journal: the value of summer reading programmes.
  5. 'Creating a Summer Reading Network' from Andrew Marcinek on Edutopia, and also 'How to Inspire Your Students to Read this Summer' by Rebecca Alber.
  6. The New York Times Learning Network invites suggestions from young people aged 13+.
  7. Another one from the New York Times Learning Network - their 3rd annual Summer Reading Contest runs from June 15 to August 17, and concentrates on non-fiction and informational texts.
  8. International Reading Association: the 2012 Young Adults' Choices list (PDF).
  9. ReadWriteThink: 'Bright Ideas' to combat the 'summer slide'.
  10. Summer Reading from NYC Libraries- lists for all ages.
  11. NPR: Teen Reads for this summer - five books on friendship.
  12. National Endowment for the Humanities: a particularly helpful list for parents, starting with kindergarten books. For older children, David Almond's Skellig, for example.
  13. English Companion Ning for English teachers: 'What Are You Reading This Summer?' forum discussion (requires login).
  14. Huffington Post: Devon Corneal's Summer Reading: Books for Kids of All Ages (divided into boys/girls, and picture books for each).
  15. LA Times: Summer Reading Guide for Young Adult & Children (hover over book covers for descriptions).
  16. 4th Graders from the Dalton School make their summer recommendations.
  17. The Boston Globe: Young readers' (non-required) summer books list (including Morgan Matson's Second Chance Summer - "warning - tissues recommended").
  18. Chadwick School Library Middle and Upper School Summer Reading 2012: well-presented recommendations.
  19. Lots of choice from William Fremd High School.
  20. The Seattle Times: Reading fun in the sun for children, teens and young adults.
  21. James Patterson's list for 'Tweens and Teens, 11-up'.
  22. The Horn Book: Summer Reading Recommendations for ages through to high school (including Marie Lu's "Hunger Games read-alike" Legend).

General Adult Readers
  1. London Independent: 50 Best Summer Reads (including Bed by David Whitehouse).
  2. The Irish Times: 30 Great Summer Reads (including Elizabeth Taylor's Complete Short Stories).
  3. Financial Times: Books of the Year so far, include Shalom Auslander's comic novel about Anne Frank, Hope: a Tragedy, and Jubilee Lines: 60 Poets for 60 Years, edited by Carol Ann Duffy.
  4. The Guardian's Biggest Novels of 2012 include Anne Tyler's 19th novel, The Beginner's Goodbye. As a follow-up, readers suggested great short story reading for summer.
  5. The Observer asked writers which books they would download in e-form, and which take away on holiday in their print form: answers include Skios by Michael Frayn (the poet Wendy Cope and the film critic Philip French), and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (Rachel Cooke, critic).
  6. NPR: 15 books chosen by independent booksellers (including Jeanette Winterston's new memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?).
  7. NPR: new releases this summer, from three critics. Includes Richard Ford's new novel Canada.
  8. New York Times: Books for Basking, including Don Winslow's The Kings of Cool.
  9. LA Times: Summer Reading Guide, with Beach Books (including John Lanchester's Capital), History and Biography, Lifestyle, Quirky and Audio (hover over book covers for descriptions).
  10. The Toronto Globe and Mail: Sandra Martin's 'sizzling summer reads': one reader 'peeks over' her son's summer reading list and chooses from that - this year, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini among others.
  11. London Evening Standard: Best books for summer 2012 - the top holiday reads, including Madeleine Miller's Orange Prize-winner The Song of Achilles. With other sections: The winners for older children, The best books to awaken the imagination of younger readers, The classiest crime and Pick of the Paperbacks - lots of good suggestions.
  12.'s 'ultimate summer book list' includes Hilary Mantel's Bring up the Bodies, sequel to her Booker-winning Wolf Hall.
  13. CNN : 10 Titles to Watch For include Bring up the Bodies again, and Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, a debut novel set in Iraq.
  14. JS Online has a very good list of 99 summer book recommendations, including Laurent Binet's HHhH, certainly one of the best titles of the year.
  15. The ever-excellent Brain Pickings from Maria Popova features 10 Essential Books for Cognitive Sunshine including a beautiful children's picture book, Germano Zullo and Albertine's Little Bird.
  16. The Seattle Times: 10 non-fiction books to last the season includes Ben McIntyre's new Double Cross: the true story of the D-Day spies.
  17. 'Doorstep Novels' for the summer from BookPage, including Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding.
  18. OnPoint's Great Summer Reads, including Ann Patchett's well-received State of Wonder.
  19. Huffington Post: 5 thrillers for the summer.
  20. Wired: 11 Sci-Fi and fantasy books
  21. Sports books from The Scotsman. 
  22. Deep South magazine: best summer reads from the area.
  23. Daily Telegraph : Summer Reading Special - well-known figures make their choices, including England football manager Roy Hodgson, who goes for two books by Stefan Zweig, including his haunting Beware of Pity. Also, authors including Diana Athill and Geoff Dyer make their choices, including Jan Morris going for Montaigne's Essays, "torn into handy segments to use while soaking in the bath".

Under the Hair

As part of her Transition Year Work Portfolio, Helene Peters wrote this piece, which at the Transition Year English evening guest speaker Tom Doorley praised as being worthy of Radio 4 (Helene herself read it powerfully). Click 'Read More' for the full piece if necessary.

I hate them all. The way they move, so self-satisfied. The way they scream and laugh about everything. The way they throw their hair back.

I was always described as 'unusual'. My Primary teacher said so, and after a couple of years, so did my Mum. She was influenced by those cheap hair-throwers.

But what they really mean is that I'm crazy.
It's because I like to wear shorts and sandals to church every Sunday, and because I sing the loudest. It's because I eat dinner at breakfast and give names to my furniture. Ted is my table, Stella my lamp.

I don't do everything in order.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Actiontrack 2012, Day 4

Alex Owens reports on the penultimate day of this year's Actiontrack project for Transition Year:

Day 4. This morning we started off with another full music rehearsal of all the songs for Saturday night along with bringing in the soloists that were chosen for the songs that were worked on yesterday. Following this we took off from where we finished yesterday evening, quickly trying to make our way to the last scenes of the play before break. Unfortunately there are a few hiccups and slips along the way, causing a delay. Nevertheless steadily throughout the day we all kept on working on any costumes props and set-pieces needing work (in between our scenes in our play). Along with this the rest of the choreography for  all the songs was created and put into practice by us all. However as the day came to an end our brains grew tired and we slowly began to lean against the wall. (Notice my new rhyming skills...) Tomorrow night all will be REVEALED!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Actiontrack 2012, Day 3

 Alex Owens reports, now over half-way through the Actiontrack Showbuild:

Day 3. First thing this morning we had a full music rehearsal with the song-writer and musician in the Actiontrack crew, Rich, and finally our script was given out (created by Nick, Molly and Rich incorporating all our ideas). After break we were given our final parts for Saturdays performance! Quickly enough we began to go through every scene getting a feel for the whole thing. Along with this we all began making decisions on costumes, props and solo parts for the songs. After lunch more of the stage set design was slowly but gradually worked on, along with choreographing the first of our big hit songs.

The Submarine, June 2012

Open publication - Free publishing - More fiction
The latest edition of our Library magazine, The Submarine, is hot off the presses, and here it is in e-form via Issuu (click once for a closer view, once more for full screen, and use the arrows to scroll).

Librarian and Editor Tom McConville's introductions are always thoughtful and interesting. This time he challenges the notion that "the library must necessarily cease to be a place of silence, thought and reflection and instead become a kind of feisty information stock exchange" and passionately defends the value of silence: "It encourages a calmness and thoughtfulness that is vital to the absorption of knowledge. It is a calming energy which does not exist in a computer room or Chapel or in any other part of a school - they have their own, equally valid, energies - and it is also good for the soul." Much of this echoes the Sub-Warden's ideas in his recent Chapel talk on the value of reading, the text of which opens the edition (see below for the full talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which prompted that piece).

Elsewhere in the magazine are Sadhbh Sheeran's 'Solstice' from her senior poetry prize-winning portfolio, junior poems by Mark Russell, Thomas Lyster and Hollie Canning, a lively report by Oyinda Onabanjo on the Inter-Schools' Library team quiz, the ever-entertaining 'What's Reading Me' feature, a review by former English teacher Morgan Dockrell of the book Southern Ireland and the Liberation of France by Gerald Morgan and Gavin Hughes (particularly pertinent given this very recent news), Jack Dunne's review of Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design and Mr Morris's of Jo Nesbo's thriller The Leopard, junior pupils' quick reviews of Quick Reads, a report on World Book Day 2012, and news of one of this year's innovations, the Library Committee.

Finally, on the back page in the 'Shoot the Messenger' slot, V former Niamh Faulkner gives her scathing angle on sharing on social networks (an essay prompted in English class by this original article in the Guardian, 'Sharing Can Make You Happy'. Niamh doesn't agree).

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Actiontrack, Day 2

Alex Owens reports:-

13th June. The hard work continues again today towards our performance on Saturday evening. We took off from what we did at the end of yesterday using our quick pitch’s we made from Ovid's Metamorphoses. We were split into six groups and given a pitch each and were given the task to give a quick and short performance of the pitch bringing it to life again using the current day situation that was created for it. We got two stories each to do. In these we were allowed to incorporate different genres as well. We worked on these short performances for the majority of the morning then on song writing skills after lunch for the rest of the day. Finally today the stage design is complete!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Actiontrack Day 1

Over the next week, Alex Owens will be reporting on the daily progress of the Transition Year Actiontrack Showbuild. It started today, and so here is her first report:-

Tuesday 12th June. Today is the first day of our Actiontrack Showbuild. Nick, the main instructor along with his peers Molly and Rich, have come over to Ireland from England to help us, Transition Year put on a performance made from scratch at the end of the week. Yes: no set script, no set songs, no set dance, but all from scratch and all our ideas.

Today we started off today by playing Actiontrack's most famous game, ‘Zip Zap Boing’, to help us all warm up. This was followed by creating letters moving around the room while not being able to move anyone nor talk to anyone else. After break we then moved on to creating the life’s story behind a made-up character called Fran Alex Benedict. After being split into groups we had to act out different stages in his life incorporating any ideas we wanted. We then were given genres for each scene we got and had to incorporate our genres which could have been Rom Com (Romantic Comedy), Gothic fantasy, SciFi etc. We also looked at basic fairy tales and making sketches for each one followed by looking at the message behind all of them and then bringing them to life showing off the  message behind each fairy tale incorporating our genres again.

After lunch we were given short stories written by the famous writer Ovid from the Metamorphosis in which we had to make a quick pitch on whatever story we got for about a minute long, setting it in current times or relating it to a more current day situation but using the main story behind it.

'I am a Feminist'

Congratulations to Sadhbh Sheeran, winner of this year's Transition Year English award at the TY Prize Presentation last night. As winner of this year's Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry as well, she read two poems at the occasion. Here is the text of her essay on feminism, which she read at the Transition Year English Evening, and was part of the Portfolio which helped win her the award.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Two more poems from the recent Senior Poetry Prize entries, this time from Helene Peters of Transition Year:

Journey – 1

Here we are in this desert of dullness;
Around us, nothing but grey.
No shape, no figures, just endless wideness.
Even the horizon fades every moment.

How did we come here?
Nobody knows.
We just took our hands and ran.
We were enough for each other.

Now opening our eyes we don’t know where we are,
Who we are.
Still holding on to each other
Because of this endless fear.

What comes next?
Where will we end up?
Who is there around?
Will we end up alone?

So you go right and I go left.
Maybe we can find a way
To get out of here.
The second you let go my hand I'll run

And run and run
Into the grey largeness
To find again my horizon
And maybe

One day
I will take your hand again
To run

Journey/Beginning -2

Willing to leave behind the pain
I go
Far away
From familiar faces

To find a new home,
Somewhere you don’t know.
Not thinking about my heart ,

Its broken, lonely shape
The black hole
It has become.

Until one day
With an incredible pain
The black hole sucks in
The walls I have built up

And I realize
There is no new beginning.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Two Poems

Two more poems from entries to the recent Junior Poetry Prize, both from Sofia McConnell (III form):-

Wild Hours of the World

Wild is the world when it scorches rivers
Wild is the wind when debris it litters
Wild are the creatures that live on the plains
Wild are the skies when down come the rains
Wild are the angry bees
And dangerous are the stormy seas
Wild is the world we live in
But my home is my heaven.

Time to Go

She’s small
She’s neat
Tiny shoes on her feet
She gently breathes and silently heaves
A sigh of anticipation
For her new occupation,
Scary but fun,
A fairy’s job:
Control of the sun.
This is a fairy,
Laughter and love all in one.
I watch her fly
Up so high.
Now she’s gone
Lost to the Sun.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Summer Reading Flowchart

Here's's flowchart for school pupils to help them decide what to read this summer, from a selection of 101 books:-
Summer Reading Flowchart

Thursday, June 07, 2012

English Leaving Cert Paper 2

Poetry, that most subtle of arts, is annually turned into the Grand National of literature, with odds on who will 'come up' at Higher Level Leaving Cert. Get ready for lots more anguish now on the airwaves, Twitter and elsewhere, as the bookies' two favourites, Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney, finished out of the frame this afternoon. Absurdly, the prescribed poetry, worth 50 out of 400 marks (only just over twice the Unseen Poem), dominates discussion nation-wide.

The more important single text, this time Hamlet for our candidates (almost all of whom tackle the exam at Higher Level), gave as its two options a discussion of the central character's 'madness' or the more general corrupted world (easy enough for anyone familiar with the rottenness of the state of Claudius's Denmark). The comparative modes were Vision and Viewpoint (the reader's attitude to a central character or the range of emotional responses in a reader) and Literary Genre (techniques in shaping memorable characters or the effects of setting in texts - which our candidates practised recently). All straightforward there. Sheenagh Pugh's 'The Beautiful Lie' was the Unseen poem ... [amended text on 08.06.2012 - see the author's point about the view in the first Comment below].  This was a very challenging one to tackle unseen, but concentrating on particular moments could take a candidate through.

And so finally to the infamous poetry section: Thomas Kinsella (decay and darkness), Adrienne Rich in the year of her death (powerful feelings, thought-provoking images), Philip Larkin (moments of sensitivity leavening disappointment and cynicism, and Patrick Kavanagh (unique poetic language). As has been the trend recently, these questions were more directed and specific than in the early years of the course.

No doubt there will be a fair amount of commentary on an 'unfair' paper, but this looks like a balanced, sensible test which properly tests the candidates, and no properly-prepared candidate will be upset by it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Leaving Cert English Paper 1, 2012

This morning saw the language paper in this year's Leaving Certificate, and now all are hard at work preparing for tomorrow afternoon's literature paper.

Comments on this year's Paper I (Higher Level only, since that's what almost all our pupils sit):

No complaints, and all seemed happy with both the comprehension and composition options. There was no fiction text this year; instead, the three texts based on 'Memory' were: Margaret Laurence's essay of memories of growing up in a small prairie town in Canada, 'Where the World Began'; Mary Robinson's speech on hunger and the Irish Famine; and an extract from Paul Theroux's travel book Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, about the way travel 'can induce such a distinct and nameless feeling of strangeness and disconnection in me that I feel insubstantial' (possibly a recognisable feeling to candidates this morning starting on their exam marathon).

The short essays were also straightforward - a direct response to the Laurence piece, a persuasive essay proposing an individual's commemoration, and another one for a school website on the value of educational outings (this should have been easy for our candidates, given their great experience of school trips).

The composition is the most important question in both papers, worth 25% of the overall grade. There were two short story options (the first of which was prompted by the idea of fame, the second to do with a young character leaving home, both of which were accessible), a persuasive piece on the importance of literature (this was also in the recent Senior English Prize paper), two essays for publications (on memory, and on Ireland's 'distinctive national identity', and just one personal essay on 'the marvels of today's world'.

All of which adds up to a comfortable start for candidates. As should be the case, the language paper allowed candidates to show their strengths without trying to trip them up. Now on to literature...

Friday, June 01, 2012

Leaving Cert preparation

Tense? Nervous headache? Take Anadin, or failing that, here are some revision suggestions for Leaving Cert candidates over this weekend, as they face their English exams on Wednesday and Thursday next.

Our Hamlet resources are on one handy link here.

You might find particularly helpful:-
For the comparative section, here are fifteen video/audio annotations of key moments in The Great Gatsby.

Poetry: here is a podcast on Seamus Heaney's 'Mossbawn - Sunlight'. And another, on Eavan Boland's 'This Moment'. Summary of Boland resources here.

Unseen Poem: Fifteen 5-minute talks on 'The Patterns of Poetry'.

Elsewhere, there's lots of specific good advice on Evelyn O'Connor's site Leaving Cert English, including sections on Paper 1.

Finally, take a rest: a good book will help...