Book Week – How to be a Heroine: Women in Literature
By Miss Silvester, Head of English
A key annual event in the NHEHS calendar, Book Week descended on the school from 2nd-6th March. This year’s chosen theme, ‘How to be a Heroine: Women in Literature’, was chosen in order to shine a light on the power and necessity of female writers as well as the importance of reading. In the same week as International Women’s Day, this was particularly relevant.
In readiness for Book Week, all students in Years 7, 8 and 9 were challenged with producing an item for a Book Week Gallery, which was installed in the Atrium for the week. This is always an exciting and often surprising endeavour, and this year was no exception. To give a snapshot, offerings from students included sculptures, paintings, games (Literary Top Trumps, anyone?), furniture, dresses, cakes and songs. The English Representatives had a tough job with choosing an overall winner, but eventually chose Shivali (Y7) who produced a Beatrix-Potter inspired sculpture.
These exhibits were available for viewing in the Atrium throughout the week, as was the Staff Shelfie competition display. Collated by Mrs Broekmann, images from staff bookshelves were on display and students had the chance to try and identify the owners!
To launch our celebrations on Monday, we welcomed award-winning author and journalist Patrice Lawrence. Patrice spoke with such passion, humour and energy in assembly – using references to her own childhood experiences – that the students and staff were talking excitedly about it all day! Our Year 10 students were also treated to a creative writing workshop with Patrice, where they delved further into the power of storytelling, whilst the rest of the school were invited to a thought-provoking Q&A session at lunchtime. In collaboration with the History Department, and in celebration of Women’s History Month, there was also a lunchtime Historical Heroines session where students spoke confidently about important women from throughout history.
Moving through the week was no less busy. On Tuesday, there was a Literary Heroines quiz where speed and accuracy were the ideal combination for success.
It also saw corridors being transformed into book covers with the form ‘Decorate a Door’ competition; each tutor group was challenged to design a door that creatively reflected the theme in some way. There were a range of original interpretations, which made the job of judging very tough for the English reps, Miss Silvester and Mrs Irwin. In the end, 7S and 7G won the Best Teamwork category for their World of Leaders and Hogwarts designs respectively, and 7S were deemed to be the Most Interactive with their clever take on Robin Stevens “Arsenic for Tea”. The overall winners were 8S for their “Little Women” themed door which included some beautiful illustrations.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday we welcomed one of the judges from Ealing Teen Read, a scheme where students in Years 8 and 9 meet regularly to choose their favourite text from some of the latest young adult fiction. A lively discussion followed and votes were submitted. The overall outcome will be announced at the awards ceremony and Dormers Wells School next week, which our Teen Readers will be attending. We were also treated to a delightful atrium concert organised by the Music Representatives, which was a celebration of female composers and performers. It was also the premiere of our Acapella group, who gave a mesmerising performance.
All week was building up to Thursday – World Book Day itself. The English Representatives led the assembly in front of a room full of students and staff in fancy dress; all funds raised from the fancy dress donations will be going to Book Aid International. The Reps’ assembly drew attention to the importance of women in literature across millennia, speaking about Sappho, Sylvia Plath and Toni Morrison, before launching their new Creative Writing journal called Doodles.
Later in the day, the atrium was filled with costumed students for the fancy dress competition, ranging from a St Trinian’s class to the Snail and the Whale! Here, the Reps and Mr Shoults quizzed the girls on their costume choices and had further difficult decisions to make in terms which costume was the best. Congratulations to Emilie (Y7) and Li An (Y11) for winning the Junior and Senior categories respectively.
World Book Day would not be complete without the staff Quidditch match.
Ten brave teachers donned their sports gear and picked up their broomsticks in the sports hall whilst students cheered them on from the sidelines. Sephera Forrester used her sprinting skills expertly to become the fearless Golden Snitch. A close-fought game, carefully umpired by our Games Captain Jojo, saw Hufflepuff narrowly beat Gryffindor and Ms Arthur was voted Muggle of the Match.
Our Book Week celebrations were rounded off by a special session of our Breakfast Book Club, more commonly known as the BBC. Led by Ms Hanbury and one of our English reps, students from Years 7-9 gathered in the dining hall to tuck into some brioche and to discuss “Little Women”. The discussion then moved onto far larger questions such as “What are the qualities of a heroine?” and “Who is the best literary heroine?”
Overall, Book Week 2020 was a fun and thought-provoking week which celebrated the power of stories and the importance of reading. The hundreds of donations received for this year’s Book Amnesty – where we have been collecting children’s books for the London Children’s Book Project – is a reflection of how students at NHEHS appreciate the need to spread the word and pass stories on.