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Happy World Book Day!

Hello everyone and Happy World Book Day!

As you probably know, we celebrated our World Book Day yesterday with the amazing author and illustrator Duncan Beedie. He visited our school and managed to give four different talks and even a drawing masterclass – he must have been exhausted at the end!

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All our children loved the day – and I’ll be posting pictures soon of all our fun, once I’ve managed to work out how to download them from the digital camera…

Year 2 summed up what they enjoyed most about yesterday:

  • “The best bit was when Duncan Beedie came to talk to us.”
  • “It was good when we talked to Duncan Beedie about gardening in Gardening Club.”
  • “I liked dressing up as a fox, it was really good.”
  • “I liked reading books because they were unusual fiction books.”

In honour of Duncan’s visit, one of the fir tree seeds he sent us with his new book The Lumberjack’s Beard had actually sprouted! The Gardening Club were, rightly, very proud of their efforts.

I would like to thank all the children and staff who made huge efforts to dress up for the day, and for parents for putting in so much time and energy. I don’t think I have ever seen so many lumberjacks in one place before, and today we all feel rather bare without our beards. Narelle, our cook, really went to town on her costume but assured us that she did not cook with her magnificent beard on!

We also had trees, birds, forest animals, woodland nymphs and Aragog from The Lord of the Rings (who people kept thinking was Darth Vader, so a two-in-one costume!). There was an amazing porcupine in Reception, with realistic quills sticking out his back.

Today the children exchanged their £1 book tokens for a World Book Day book, unless they wanted to go into a bookshop for a further browse. As predicted, David Walliams’ Blob went down well, as did The Famoud Five, Horrid Henry and Jacqueline Wilson’s Butterfly Beach.

I’ll be back soon with the photos … watch this space.

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Our new librarian?!

In the manner of the Three Bears, when I came into work the other day, I asked:

‘Who’s been sitting in MY chair?’

Of course, I could answer it immediately as he was still there.

A big, grey, cuddly BEAR!

(Not Goldilocks this time.)

He hadn’t been eating porridge, at least. But he looked rather comfortable behind my desk and when the children came in, they greeted him with such enthusiasm that I thought I might be out of a job soon.

Here is the cheeky interloper:

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Everyone keeps asking me his or her name but, at the moment, I’m not having much luck finding that out. So, instead, I thought we could have a little competition to name the bear.

If you’d like to suggest a name for him/her/it, come to the library and tell me. I will draw up a list and then everyone can vote! Hopefully we will have a name when we come back after half-term.

After an interesting discussion with Anonymous Bear, he (let’s just assume this for now)  told me that he would like children to read him stories. But Bear has a bad memory, so every time you read him a story, he’d like you to write the title down in a special book, along with the date, so he can remember all the lovely things he’s heard. You can come in at lunchtime to read to him – quietly, mind. He doesn’t like a lot of noise!

Anonymous Bear is currently residing on a gold throne in the Library…

 

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The Heart and the Bottle

Two weeks ago, I read Oliver Jeffers’s picture book The Heart and the Bottle to children in Years 1 and 2 at school. It is a book that I read a few years ago and enjoyed – admiring its ability to portray human grief sensitively and poetically. I wanted to share it with the children at school but I soon discovered that perhaps this was a picture book best aimed at older children.

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In brief, the story is about a young girl who finds joy and fascination in exploring the marvels of the world, from the deep oceans to the infinite skies. She is encouraged to do so by a man who we believed was her grandfather (he walked with a cane and had grey hair – perhaps we were being too stereotypical)  but others have said is her father. Regardless of the relationship, one day she draws a picture for the man and runs to give it to him, only to be faced with an empty chair. Her partner in exploration has gone and, bereft, she decides to put her heart in a bottle, which she wears around her neck to keep it safe. It remains there for many years until, one day, she realises that she needs it. Her problem, though, is knowing how to get it back.

This story is a very touching metaphor about how we deal with the devastation that death brings. The little girl, like many of us, just cannot bear the grief that threatens to break her heart and decides to keep it in a place where it will remain out of harm’s way. The problem, of course, is that she is also denying herself the opportunity to feel positive emotions, such as happiness and excitement. It is not until she meets a young girl on the beach – a girl who is around the same age as she was when she put her heart inside a bottle – that she realises that she wants access to her emotions again, to wonder at the stars and the sea. It takes the innocence of a child to gain her heart back again:

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I loved this book when I first read it. It spoke volumes to me, as an adult, about how humans shield themselves from distressing emotions but, consequently, risk denying themselves their more joyful counterparts. However, as I read the book to the 5, 6 and 7 year-olds in the library, it became clear that the extended metaphor was perhaps too difficult for them to grasp at such a young age (ironic, really, when it is a child who is the hero in this story).

The problems first started when we reached the page where the girl finds the empty chair. I had a mixture of responses when I asked what they thought was happening:

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One child said the man had gone away. Another, with an impatient sigh, declared (very loudly) “He’s dead.” (No mincing of words there, then.) Another boy yelled, “He’s jumped out of the window!” To be honest, all three were possible interpretations – we’re never told what happens and we have to use emotional detective work to figure it out. For example, the blue light, the shadows, the presence of night are all typical representations and symbols of death. But would a young child know this? Probably not.

The next part that caused consternation was when the girl removes her heart and puts it in a bottle. “But she’d be dead!” cried an indignant girl, while another asked, “How did she get it out of her chest?” The second-year pupils had more suggestions than the first-years, claiming confidently that it wasn’t a real heart – she’d made one out of paper and put it into the bottle. This was the closest we got to an understanding of the metaphorical, and I was impressed by their reasoning. One little boy, who was upset at the idea of the girl losing her (grand)father, insisted that it was the man who had given her his heart to keep it safe.

All the children understood that the girl had become older in the pictures – she was taller, yet stooped by the emotional weight she was carrying. Then, at the end, when she needs to get her heart back, they don’t understand how she can’t break the bottle – either by bashing it with a hammer or saw, or dropping it off a wall from a great height, as portrayed in the pictures. What kind of bottle is that? When we understand that it takes a young girl to help her, they take it literally (as the picture suggests we do):

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The young girl can fit her fingers into the bottle whereas the adult is too big. That makes sense. But of course the metaphor is that a child thinks differently to an adult, and it is because of this that they are the only ones who can solve this particular problem.

As I said above, I do love this book and I know of other adults who treasure it. There’s something magical and poetic about the words and the drawings … but I am not sure whether it is a useful book about death for younger children, who have much more literal minds than we do. The heart itself is drawn more anatomically than the red, rounded shapes on Valentine’s Day cards, and this alone makes the children believe that the girl has actually, literally, taken her heart out of her chest. I may be mistaken, but I think that younger children benefit more from a more factual approach to life than a metaphorical representation – especially if my experience with the pupils in years 1 and 2 are anything to go by. I hope I didn’t cause too many difficult conversations at home on those days!

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April newsletter and Happy Birthday Mr Shakespeare!

Library Newsletter  April 2016

We haven’t been back at school long and already there is a festive atmosphere with all the practising for May Day dancing. I am enjoying hearing the music and laughter and happiness coming from the Hall. Spring is definitely here and summer – hopefully – won’t be far around the corner!

This month’s newsletter is longer than most as I have devoted one side (overleaf) to celebrating the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (and possibly his birth, though this is unclear). He was and still is one of the most important writers in the English language so turn over to read more about this incredible man!

Exciting visitors to the Library

On the first day back from the Easter holidays, I was thrilled to see that we have a family of blue tits nesting in the box in the Library courtyard. The parents have been darting in and out busily, either preparing for their young ones or even feeding them (though I have seen no sign of little beaks). It really is a treat to watch them but this does mean that we won’t be opening the doors leading onto the courtyard until the babies have flown the nest as we don’t want to scare the parents away. The reward of course will be seeing what happens in that little box over the next few weeks.

 

The Guardian children’s book review site

We now have an official presence on the Guardian’s children’s book review site (which can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site). Our group is called The Missing Page, and we should have our first reviews up in the next week or so. I’ll post a link on our blog so you can have a look. All reviews will also be on our blog so please visit!

Jacqueline Wilson Writing Competition

If you are between seven and twelve years old, on 6th May 2016, you are eligible to enter this fabulous competition. Simply send in a story you have written. Stories should be 750 – 1,000 words long. For full details, see: http://www.jacquelinewilson.co.uk/creativewriting/

Below is a reminder of the Library lunchtime sessions for each year group:

Tuesdays: Years 3 and 4

Wednesdays: Book review club

Thursdays: Years 5 and 6

Fridays: Years 1 and 2 alternating.

Happy Birthday, Mr Shakespeare!

April is a significant month for William Shakespeare because it marks the anniversary of his birth and death. In fact, this year is the 400th anniversary of his death and the whole country – and beyond – is celebrating.

William Shakespeare is famous for his plays (including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet) but he was also a poet and, according to the BBC website, quite a businessman (he would have been a millionaire at the time of his death in today’s money!). Here are some more amazing facts about this remarkable man!

  • There is no recorded birthdate for Shakespeare but he was christened on 26 April 1564 so it is possible he was born on 23 April (babies were christened 3 days after birth then). If this is true, then he also died on his birthday in1616!
  • His home town was Stratford-upon-Avon: not far from Oxford!
  • He had seven siblings.
  • He married his wife, Anne Hathaway, when he was 18 and had three children.
  • His creative output was astounding. Apparently, he wrote 37 plays, 154 sonnets and many poems, as well as a number of lost plays by the age of 52
  • Men and boys had to play the female roles in his plays because it was illegal for women to perform on stage in Elizabethan times.
  • An anagram of ‘William Shakespeare’ is: ‘I am a weakish speller’.
  •  Shakespeare is the second- most quoted writer in the English language (only the writers of the Bible beat that!).

Famous words from Shakespeare

Many of the words and expressions we use today come from Shakespeare, such as:

  • fashionable
  • eyeball
  • in a pickle
  • wild goose chase
  • foregone conclusion

Funny words from Shakespeare:

Shakespeare also came up with some funny words and expressions. Which is your favourite?

  • slug-a-bed: lazy-bones
  • nook-shotten: crookedly shaped
  • loggets: a game with sticks
  • haut-boy: an oboe (wind instrument)
  • gib: tom-cat (male cat)
  • exsufflicate: exaggerate

(thanks to https://blog.oxfordchildrens.co.uk/category/dictionaries/ for this!)

And some final words of wisdom from Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true.” (‘Hamlet’). We couldn’t put it better ourselves.