Coming soon…

We have a very packed program of upcoming library-related events taking place this term and early in the next. Save these dates for your diary!

Friday 22nd January – Gemma Malley Author Visit (Year 8)

Monday 25th January – Human Rights Young Researchers Project Trip (Year 9)

Thursday 4th February – Harry Potter Book Night


Thursday 11th February – Kingston Borough Literary Quiz

Tuesday 23rd February – Tanzania Expedition Theme Evening

Tuesday 1st March – Lauren St John Author Visit (Year 7)

Year 7 and 8 team

Friday 4th March – World Book Day Celebrations

Thursday 10th March – Kingston Borough Literary Quiz Inter-Borough Final (TBC)

Monday 18th April – Human Rights Young Researchers Presentation Evening (Year 9)

Friday 22nd April – Shakespeare 400 (TBC)


…to say nothing of the Reading Challenge, Carnegie Medal Shadowing, weekly Lit Soc sessions (see the Lit Soc blog for more) and the constantly ongoing preparations for the Tanzania Expedition, which will culminate with us heading out to Tanzania in July.

A busy, packed 2016 lies ahead of us…and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Reading Challenge 2016

It’s nearly December, and that means it’s time for the annual SHS Reading Challenge!

As you can see from the video above, there are many new features of the reading challenge this year. On the library learning space, we will be publishing your reviews of the books regularly, so keep watching this space!

James Dawson Author Visit

It is a sign of an author’s quality when they’re invited back to Surbiton High School for a third time. James Dawson first visited in 2012, when he had recently published his debut novel. With several more titles under his belt, he returned as a guest judge at the literary-themed fashion show that took place in January. Most recently, he came to talk to Year 9 on Friday 13 November.


James had recently made headlines for revealing he was about to undergo gender transition, and it was his formative experiences that informed both this decision and the books he has written. His latest novel, All of the Above, referenced many real-life examples of LGBT issues. James read some extracts from the book, including a poem about teenage anorexia, to illustrate the point that poetry can be relevant to our everyday lives, rather than something that is merely taught in the classroom.

The main focus of James’ talk was feminism, and how we should all consider ourselves feminists if we believe that there should be true equality between men and women. Drawing on examples of how many influential female role models are still objectified, he made the girls realise they will play a key role in redressing the balance in the future. This was a hugely inspirational talk, as reflected by the sheer number of books sold at the end. We will certainly be inviting James back in the future!


A Trip to the Brecon Beacons

In all honesty, I don’t think that we even knew what we were expecting.

We had seen each other at meetings and said our names, but we didn’t really know each other- that would be obvious to anyone who looked through the windows of the ground floor of Bennet House at the group of fourteen girls sat in a circle. We were all quite segregated into our year groups, and we didn’t stray outside of them.

First order of business was checking our kit, which was easy. It was then that two girls were given the jobs of compiling every meal that we were going to make over the weekend, and work out the quantities. There were calls for broccoli and chicken, reminders of vegetarians and dairy intolerant girls we had to take into account, and one exclamation of  “cinnamon is good for digestion!” until we finally had our list, and everyone split into groups. We determinedly marched down the road to Surbiton, drawing amused glances at the lot of us in our walking trousers and trekking boots, and raided Sainsbury’s.

We boarded the coach at 11:30 with our newly-purchased supplies, and settled down for a four hour drive (which most of us slept a fair portion of) with a half hour lunch break.


Upon arrival at our campsite in South Wales, we were thrown straight into constructing tents and setting out our mats and sleeping bags, and we were then split into two groups- one was to retrieve the food we bought that morning and prepare dinner for both our teammates and the four staff members accompanying us. This would be the same for every other meal that weekend, with the two groups rotating. While one group prepared the first dinner of the weekend, the other sat in a circle with Lucy, our expedition leader for the weekend. This group planned out our route for the trek that we would embark on the next day.

Ten o’clock next morning found us with a rucksack per tent (which we would share the responsibility of carrying between us) and setting off down the road. We marched along narrow paths, pressing ourselves into the hedges whenever a vehicle passed; we trudged down bridle paths and across fields, scaring sheep into miniature stampedes with our chatter. There were also a few stiles that had to be overcome- some were more slippery than others. Soon we reached the base of the mountain, and after taking a moment to shed thermals and jumpers amid the bracken, we were off again. We tried to keep together, taking consideration for those who had injuries giving them trouble, and exchanged a few riddles.


We reached roundabout our halfway point just in time for lunch, and we sat looking down at the way we’d come as we had pitta bread sandwiches of ham, cheese and tuna mayo.

Unfortunately one of our girls had particular trouble with her knee, and chose to head back down despite the rest of the group’s wishes to keep together, even if it meant slowing down the pace. Nevertheless, we carried on, and after walking along the ridge and conquering an almost vertical climb, we reached the top of Pen-Y-Fan.

After we quickly put our jumpers back on and took a fair amount of victorious photos with a glorious view in the background, we all looked to our right, where the second-highest peak in Brecon Beacons sat.

Why not? We thought.

The second climb was just as rewarding as the first, though it was clear that people were now lagging, and the throbbing in our feet was really kicking in. Deciding that this day’s achievements were more than enough, we headed back down and towards the campsite, making sure to mingle with different girls outside our usual friendship groups.


That night we had dinner and came back after washing up to a cosy campfire. There, we retold what we’d learned about our teammates on the back from the mountains; after that came a long conversation comparing our most famous celebrity encounters. We decided that the girl who had been friends with Colin Firth’s son and had been allowed to hold his Oscar won that round. Finally, after teaching the teachers how to play ‘Down In The Jungle’, everyone returned to their tents for a well-deserved sleep.

The next morning we made breakfast before packing up both our rucksacks and our tents. As we waited for the coach to come, we reflected on our weekend, and how we could apply the skills we learnt in the past three days could help us on our expedition in July. Additionally, Lucy left us with another puzzle that she has given Mr. Humphreys the answer to. We have yet to work it out yet. However, on our way home, we were more than happy to indulge the team with a box of doughnuts picked up at the service station, and we all worked our way through our repertoire of radio hits and Disney songs as the coach drove us back to Kingston. We’re fairly sure it’s safe to say that despite the blisters on our feet and the ache in our backs from sleeping on thin mats, we have all come closer together as a team, and we look to next July with excitement.


Ciara Hay, 12V

eBooks now available!

You are now able to read eBooks from the library’s eBook collection on your iPad! To access them, simply open up the iMLS app from your home screen:

Once you’ve logged in, you’re able to browse our eBook catalogue and, if it’s available, loan out any eBook you wish from the collection. The eBook is available for a period of two weeks, and is automatically returned when this time period expires. So no need to worry about your book being overdue!

If you want a more detailed explanation of how the system works, please click the link below:

Eclipse eBook guide

Harry Potter Book Night

We were lucky enough to be a part of the first Harry Potter Book Night that was celebrated throughout the world on Thursday 5 February. To whet our appetite, the week’s Lit Soc gathering discussed the Harry Potter books and movies, with everyone sharing their opinions on favourite characters, spells and potions!

IMG_0735         IMG_0774

Upon their arrival to the evening event, the girls were greeted with some delicious Butterbeer before they were sorted into their Hogwarts Houses and then split into four groups to compete in some wizarding games. All of the games were led by some of our wonderful Upper School girls. Once all groups had completed the games, it was time for the trivia quiz. Unsurprisingly, the winners were Ravenclaw, known for their sharp minds, and each won a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans. We also had a cake stall and all proceeds from which went to KYGN Library fund.


Reading Challenge – December

The 2015 Surbiton High School Reading Challenge is now officially underway. After a suitably unsettling assembly from Mrs Stead, Mr Bird, Mr Humphreys and a few girls in the sixth form, you’re all hopefully aware that the theme for December is Dystopia and Disturbia, with three excellent tales of worlds gone very wrong our featured books:


The core of the reading challenge remains the same, but there are two key new features this year. Firstly, there is a greater emphasis on how much points you can earn for your house. As the totals are added up just before the end of the year, you could have a major say in where your house ends up finishing, as each person who does the challenge can earn up to 50 points for their house.

Secondly, the Advanced Challenge requires more creativity this year, but with greater rewards granted as a result. This month, for example, you’re required to sum up a book in six words, a task taken on by the girls in our Year 7-9 reading club at lunchtime today. Here’s a selection of some of their efforts, with the book the summary is about in brackets alongside:

One wand, one scar, everlasting magic (Harry Potter)

Strange boy, strange house, strong friendship (Indigo’s Star)

Fighting in war, love left behind (Birdsong)

Small bear, big woods, huge heart (Winnie the Pooh)

A love never falters…until now (The Fault In Our Stars)

Why not have a go yourself? It’s not as easy as it looks, so be warned! Whatever you decide to read over the festive period, we all wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Book Teasers – Half Term Reads! With love from Year 7-9 Book Club

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart           


With no mercy, our emotions were toyed with in this book. WARNING: This is not your average romance novel. Confusing as it may seem, throughout the book, pieces of the puzzle are missing. However, as the book unravels, all secrets are revealed and your emotions come abruptly crashing down. The main character, a girl called Cadence, keeps relating to a “mystery accident”, but you don’t know exactly what this “accident” is. The short chapters keep you engaged – it’s  a real page turner. The book is bound together with family breakdowns, forbidden love and friendship as it skips between incomplete memories and reality. You soon discover the liars have a strong unbreakable friendship, and you eventually understand the meaning behind Summer 15….


By Morayo Ogungbesan, Saya Harper, Jeena Patel and Diya Gupta.



ROOFTOPPERS by Katherine Rundell       


This book is a book that you can’t put down once you’ve started. My favourite characters in this book are Sophie, because she stands up for herself and conquers her fears, and Matteo because he is kind and encourages Sophie on her trip of a lifetime. This story is sensational from beginning to end and will grab your attention on the first page because of the first mysterious sentence: ‘The morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case’. Her adventures on the roofs will astound everyone as her fears and sorrows are gradually overcome.


By Chiara Lambert and Bella Clery



NUM8ERS by Rachel Ward    


Jem, a troubled teenager, finds out a hidden power that can change everything – she can see when people are going to die. After meeting Spider, a boy from her neighbourhood, her life doesn’t seem so hard any more. The two travel to London – but who knew that the trip would change their lives forever. After being suspected for a terrorist bombing, they aren’t safe anywhere.


By Laveinia and Kristi



WONDER by R.J. Palacio       


I have chosen the book ‘Wonder’ because I think the way the book is told works really well from different characters’ points of view. My favourite point of the book was not near the end or at the beginning but right in the middle. You feel really sorry for August (one of the main characters), when he describes how he is feeling. I liked August because he goes through so much and he is interesting because he is so different. I also liked his sister Via because of how much she cares for and loves August. I could not stop reading this book – it’s one of my favourites and I really recommend it.


By Elodie Dunne


DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson     


We read a part of this book in our English lessons and I found it really interesting and exciting so I borrowed it from the Library. Although I haven’t yet finished the book, I read a summary beforehand and it has a very surprising ending! I really like the style of the book. At first, I thought that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were two separate people. Mr Hyde was evil, strange and a murderer but strangely I soon realised this mad character was actually related to Dr Jekyll!


By Alina Chen


ELIZA ROSE by Mary Hooper    


I like this book because the author, Mary Hooper, engages the reader right at the start through rhetorical questions. These questions stay in your mind and you want to know the answers. As the book carries on, there are also cliff hangers at the end of each chapter which make it hard for you to put the book down. The girl asks ‘Why am I in this cell and how did I get here?’ The reader feels shocked that a sensible and honest girl has found herself in a cell and you are intrigued as to what will happen next. The descriptions used by Mary are so good because you can picture all the action in your head – you can really imagine how Eliza is feeling, for example how vulnerable and cold it must be for her in when she is trapped in a freezing cell.


Dalanda Bah

Tanzania Expedition & Library Build 2016

Almost a year ago, I blogged about my experiences in Uganda in the summer of 2013 and how we should not take things like access to a library for granted when so many people around the world don’t have them.

One year on, and it’s official that Surbiton High School is building a library for the Kilimanjaro Young Girls in Need charity near Moshi in Tanzania. I spent four weeks this past summer in the country, interacting with the fantastic children at the school, who are no less heroic in the face of adversity as the young people I worked with in Uganda.


I’m not going to go in to the details of why this is such an important project and a real difference maker to the children at KYGN here. If you want to find out more about my personal experiences, you can read about them on this newsletter piece I wrote for the KYGN UK website. Suffice to say that libraries, and the love of reading for pleasure and awakening of curiosity they inspire, can make the difference that is perfectly illustrated by this picture:

book tower

This is what books do

Preparations for this very exciting project are underway: Surbiton High School is now an official partner of the KYGN charity! With a pupil information session, followed by a parents information evening, coming up more information on the details of the expedition will soon be made available.  I’m sure many of you in Year 9-12 are very interested in this opportunity, but, the chance for a once-in-a-lifetime, life-changing experience working at the KYGN school aside, I can confirm that Tanzania is a truly beautiful country, with friendly people, beautiful scenery and, of course, plenty of opportunities to see lots of Africa’s incredible wildlife on safari.

Keep checking back here for updates on our progress!

Reflections on the Carnegie winner

Warning – Spoilers on both ‘The Bunker Diary’ and the movie ‘Unforgiven’

There’s a scene in Clint Eastwood’s classic Western movie Unforgiven in which Eastwood has got the bad guy of the movie, played by Gene Hackman, at the end of the barrel of his gun. Not thrilled at his imminent fate, Hackman says, disbelievingly, ‘I don’t deserve this’. To which Eastwood replies in his customary squinty-eyed scowl: ‘Deserve’s got nothing to do with it,’ before unloading both barrels.


As we approach the end of term, and with it a chance to get our teeth in to some books over the summer (and thanks for sharing your summer reads on the magnetic board – we’ve got everything from John Green to Manga Graphic novels through to Dickens), you might be asking what this has got to do with reading, and the Carnegie medal in particular.

You may be aware that this year’s winner, Kevin Brooks’ Bunker Diary, has been something of a controversial choice. Definitely not suitable for younger readers (more on that in a bit), it is undeniably a bleak, abrasive and uncompromising read. I alluded to it previously in this post, and would like to reiterate that it really is a harrowing, shattering read. Those who are looking for a book to put a smile on their face are advised to look elsewhere.

The storm surrounding it has been quite unlike anything I’ve seen in my five or so years of shadowing the Carnegie. Pieces such as this one by Lorna Bradbury have gone so far as to suggest it is, quite frankly, unacceptable that a nasty little book such as this has won a prize that is supposed to award the finest book of the year written for children and young people.


It won’t surprise you to hear that its adults who have been saying such things. My group – those who wanted to read it after I’d warned them about its dark content, that is – all loved it, as did this reading group. So you see, teenagers can be trusted to read and deal with dark books. As Brooks himself said, they know that bad things happen to good people sometimes, whether they deserve it or not (so now you get the Clint Eastwood reference), and that life isn’t all about happy endings. I can tell you for a fact that The Bunker Diary does not end happily at all…

It’s a brave choice by the judges, and a brave book for Brooks to have written. As I said, it’s not suitable for younger readers, but why should every Carnegie winner have to be? If they only award those books that are considered ‘safe’ then we risk switching off older teen readers who find darker and edgier content appealing. As for the argument that it doesn’t have any real literary merit? Well, frankly, it has a lot more literary merit – cracking plot, fully rounded and flawed characters, stripped-down and punchy prose – than some of the other stuff shortlisted for the Carnegie this year.

‘Deserve’s got nothing to do with it’? Lorna Bradbury argues that teenagers don’t deserve such gratuitous rubbish to be shoved down their throats. I would contend that teenagers – and yes, that could well mean you – deserve not to have their intelligence insulted, and to make their own minds up about a thought provoking book that offers no easy answers. Because life isn’t about easy answers, after all.

Have a great summer, whatever you do decide to read!