“Reading is fantastic fun”

Anthony Horowitz OBE [for services to literature] is most well known as the author of the Alex Rider books and The Power of Five series. But you may not know that he has also written many episodes for television including Foyle’s War; Midsomer Murders; and Agatha Christie’s Poirot, to name but a few.

He travelled to Russia to carry out research for his latest book Russian Roulette, which is described as a prequel to the bestselling Alex Rider series. “An international contract killer has just been given his orders. His next target is a fourteen-year-old spy … Alex Rider. The man’s name is Yassen Gregorovich. He knows Alex well. The two of them share a secret from the past. As he considers his next mission, Yassen remembers the forces that turned him from an ordinary schoolboy into a hired assassin. What is it that makes someonechoose to do evil?What would it take to make them kill?”

Earlier this month Anthony Horowitz took part in an interactive webcast in association with Walker Books and The National Literacy Trust.  The interview in London was simultaneously broadcast to a number of schools around the UK. It was an inspirational talk about reading and writing, and the excitement of books. Anthony Horowitz spoke passionately about reading when he said that you get a lot of people saying …..” oh, you should read this, or you must read that, and all the rest of it, but they forget   … yes, reading is good for you, yes, reading helps you become more articulate, yes, reading takes you on wonderful adventures, but the main point is that reading is fantastic fun. You can go to places, and meet people, and do things, and see things that you would never ever do in real life.”

He also said that the most important room in any school is the library!

Mrs H.

Love, Fantasy and Magic

Winning YA novels

Love, fantasy and magic are the common themes between two of the winning categories of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults announced last night – Best Young Adult Fiction and Best First Book. For a full list of all the winners see here.

The Best Young Adult Fiction prize went to Elizabeth Knox for Mortal Fire, described by Paula Green as “a story of love, desire, friendship and teenage turning points, yet it is much more. It is also a story of politics – the lengths a community will go to stop a hydro dam flooding their precious Zarene Valley. It is a story of outsiderness, whether through the colour of one’s skin, abilities or bloodline. Above all, it is a story of trust.” She goes on to say that “Knox writes with such a graceful hand that the story (despite its mist, steam and smoke) reverberates with exquisite clarity.”
The Best First Book award went to R.L. Stedman for A Necklace of Souls, a book that won the Storylines Tessa Duder Award for Young Adult Fiction in 2012, and already has an average rating of 3.83 stars (out of five) on Goodreads.

Rachel enjoyed researching for A Necklace of Souls and surprisingly “read a lot of books about things like knife fighting and breadmaking” in the process, which she recorded in the form of a research board on Pinterest. Last year when she was asked what was the best thing about being a writer, she replied, “You get to write :). Most writers seem to really like finding out new things. I think most writers are little like ‘fact magpies’ we get to learn new stuff every day and we can call it ‘research.’ For example, through writing A Necklace of Souls, I learned a lot about knife fighting. I read a whole lot (and watched a lot of you-tube videos) about Kali knife fighting, which is from the Philippines. And I know how long an English longbow is – over seven foot. That is taller than most men. Do you know, if you use a long bow a lot, the bones in one arm grow heavier than the other? Skeletons of archers have bigger left arm-bones than the right. That is why writing is so cool, you get to learn random stuff every day. (Makes you good in quizzes, too!)”
Mrs H.

Hunger Games and moral courage

Books that demonstrate  moral courage

Books that demonstrate moral courage

This term we are examining moral courage. It is one of the eight institutional values of King’s College and it is also at the core of our founding motto Virtus Pollet – or, Excellence of Character Prevails.
Moral courage can be defined as the power and determination to follow what one believes to be right, regardless of the cost to one’s self, and irrespective of the disapproval of others.
We have put out a display of books in the library where characters have demonstrated their integrity by being brave and doing the right thing, even if it was not to their advantage. The books include Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones, Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally, Jane Eyre by Charlottle Bronte, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Lieutenant Hornblower by C.S. Forester, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; but of course there are many more.

Today in the news we see an example of moral courage in Thailand where fact appears to be mirroring fiction. Some people in Thailand have adopted the three-finger salute used in the Hunger Games stories as “an expression of silent protest” against a military coup.

Mrs H.

Sense and sensibility by ……

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

A lot of authors have dabbled with the ideas of Jane Austen and her books. We have had Bridget Jone’s Diary by Helen Fielding, The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler and Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rogler  (not to mention Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith) but now publisher HarperCollins has commissioned six authors to rewrite Jane Austen’s novels putting them into a contemporary setting.

The Austen Project began last year with Sense and Sensibility written by Joanna Trollope. If you are studying the original novel by Jane Austen this year, I would recommend reading the modern version for fun and comparison after your exam,  as  I found the new version a light and easy read which left no lingering thoughts. The second book just published by the Austen Project is Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid , who is best known as a Scottish crime writer. The third book to appear will be a rewrite of Emma by Alexander McCall Smith. Is this a good thing do you think? Should we rewrite Jane Austen? Are we so bereft of anything new to say and think, or is this just part of a long tradition of retelling classic tales?

Mrs H.








Dewey numbers

The Dewey Decimal System was formulated by the American Librarian Melvil Dewey in 1873 for use in the Amherst College Library.  It is a method of ordering and finding books, where each book is given a number according to its subject. One hundred and forty one years later it is still being used in libraries around the world, including King’s College.

These are the familiar divisions:

Screen shot 2014-03-25 at 3.11.26 PM

Have a look at this game. It shows a shelf of books (representing the ten main Dewey Decimal categories) press the start button at the top and discover how many seconds it takes you to match each subject with its Dewey number (on the book) and score 100% correct.

If you were a book where you might be shelved? With Mathematics, perhaps or Geography? If you are intrigued to discover the answer, then try this quiz.

Whilst I am writing about all things Dewey I discovered that we have a book in the library entitled Dewey: the small-town library-cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter.

the cat

It is the story of an abandoned kitten who was posted through the library returns box at Spencer Public Library, Iowa on a bitterly cold day in January 1988. He was named Dewey Readmore Books because of his library connections and became very famous before he died at the age of nineteen. He was not the first cat to live in a library but he was very lucky not to be evicted like poor old Muffin in Putnam Valley Library, New York state; times were tough in 1989.

Mrs H.




Short stories in Spanish, French, and Chinese

short storiesWe have a few books in the short stories collection that are part of the  New Penguin Parallel Text series.  They are written in a number of foreign languages – Spanish, French and Chinese which appear on the left hand page of each book, with the English translation on the right. If you are interested in reading authors from these countries writing in their native tongue, and you would like to practice your languages, they are a very good collection.

Mrs H.


Although Marie Lu began working at Disney on their video games, and then went on to making Facebook games she really always wanted to be a writer, and as a writer she is an inspiration for all beginners. She began writing seriously when she was 14, but it was only when she had submitted her manuscript for Legend five times that it was accepted by G.P. Putnam’s Sons publishers. 

One of her pieces of advice for aspiring writers is: “Read. Always. You don’t have to be capable of reading 250 novels every year like some amazing folks are. (I’ll admit that I’m a very slow reader and am probably only capable of really digesting about 25 books a year.) But you have to love to read. You have to constantly keep updated on what other authors are producing in your genre as well as outside of it. Know your industry. And most importantly, you have to read because you have a duty as a writer to support your fellow writers.”

Legend is the start of an exciting trilogy – the three books in the trilogy are:

·       Legend

·       Prodigy

·      Champion

There is no slow build up setting the scene, no explanation of how everything works, you start on page one and you are immediately  dropped into the thick of the action. A war is raging in America and events of life and death are taking place. Each chapter tells the story from the perspective of either June, or Day, two young people who are very similar but on opposite sides of the system.  Legend is a book about false loyalties and misunderstandings. It also about a rich political elite ruling a poor population who are struggling to survive in harsh conditions.  Sarah Rees Brennan, author of The Demon’s Lexicon Trilogy writes that Legend is “A compelling dystopic world, with diverse characters, high tension and political intrigue. It’s a cliche, but really: if you liked the Hunger Games, you’ll love this.” If you are the kind of person that likes to have a soundtrack playing for atmosphere as you read your books, then Marie Lu suggests this music.

Legend may also soon appear as a film. In July 2012 Marie Lu talked to MTV News about a screenplay being completed and passed on to CBS Films who hold the film rights so watch this space.

Mrs H.