Autumn Read 2020

Autumn Read 2020

English · 9 October 2020

Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.” – J.K. Rowling

As summer draws to a close and winter slowly approaches, here are some of our suggestions for the golden time of the year – or the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness‘ as Keats called it in his romantic poem “To Autumn” (1819/20).

  • Sarah’s picks: Gusts of wind, thunderstorms and crisp autumn air… the perfect time of year to cuddle up inside with a cup of tea, fuzzy socks and a good book! And although we can’t always hide away from the outside world under a cosy blanket, we can try to bring that atmosphere to the classroom with some autumnal stories! For young readers, Room on the Broom offers a fun story full of rhymes about a witch, a dragon and a flying broomstick to get everyone in the Halloween spirit. For a short story about a relationship that has run its course, take a look at Early Autumn by Langston Hughes. Although the conversation seems to stay in the realm of small talk, the awkward dynamic between the two hints at a complicated past and unresolved feelings. The autumnal setting reflects their relationship. We hope these suggestions help you (pumpkin) spice up your autumn reading list!
  • Sarah-Sophia’s picks: As the veil of darkness falls a little earlier every day, it is time for me to unbox some old scary Gothic stories. Mary Shelley provides us with a quite extraordinary one, a favourite of mine in the time leading up to Halloween: Frankenstein (1818). Combine some ingenuity with an omnium gatherum of body parts. Add some stitches and a little electricity and you won’t need a ghost to haunt you as you have a corporeal monster: Frankenstein’s monster. This multi-layered character will wake sympathy and terror likewise and pull you into its tragic life story of becoming a monster in the process. My suggestion: Read it to someone in the dark with a flashlight under your face. Fancy something more romantic and slightly easier on the mind? Here are some powerful lines of hope and transition by Emily Brontë: Fall, leaves, fall (1846) Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away; Lengthen night and shorten day; Every leaf speaks bliss to me; Fluttering from the autumn tree. I shall smile when wreaths of snow; Blossom where the rose should grow; I shall sing when night’s decay; Ushers in a drearier day.
  • Rico’s picks: All kinds of animals may be preparing for a good winter’s sleep … but you certainly don’t, avid reader, no. You are used to sharpening your senses through the looking glass which is literature. May I suggest Vox, Christina Dalcher’s dystopic novel, for that very purpose? Set in a future version of the USA, which has taken yet another turn for the worse, this story forcefully demonstrates how quickly freedom can be lost if we don’t uphold it in our every day lives. If that isn’t enough to keep you up at night, how about a more classic scare treatment in the form of The Cats of Ulthar? Chills up your spine are guaranteed in this 2-page short story by the great H. P. Lovecraft. Once Halloween has passed, however, we would be wrong in not offering some consolation which, of course, also is literature. Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is a nicely illustrated story for the young – and young at heart – about a small, hard-working creature stumbled upon by a curious little girl. So do feel encouraged to not freak out about the way things are at the moment. Where is lit, there certainly is hope!
  • Simon’s picks: Cold foggy mornings and warm burning sunsets: In autumn, summer shows the last flair of rebellion against the approaching winter, and thereby creates a colourful, mysterious and melancholic season. Here comes my first suggestion – a classic gothic tale that some of you might know from its film adaptation with Johnny Depp from the year 1999: Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820). The classic short story of the ‘pumpkin-topped headless horseman‘ does not only play around Halloween, but it also features the somewhat awkward schoolmaster Ichabod Crane as a main character, who strongly believes in the supernatural. After a harvest party, Ichabod rides home on his old horse ‘Gunpowder‘ and becomes the victim of a rather mean prank in the middle of the night. My second suggestion is rather suitable for the elementary classroom and the earlier grades, whose colours reminded me of autumn: Ruth Brown’s Greyfriars Bobby (2013). This beautifully illustrated picture book tells a heartwarming story about a faithful, little dog, who became a local hero for the people of Edinburgh.

Also, if you come across a brilliant new story which you think the world should know about, make sure to suggest it, so we can feature it in our next holiday reading list. Enjoy your autumn holidays, especially long walks in the park, but remember: Winter is coming…

The editors

Burn by Sheila Atim

English · 8 October 2020

As you can imagine, theatres around the globe are struggling with the social distancing our safety requires. One particular theatre in London, The Old Vic, is taking brave steps towards a digital service to the world: Time and again this year, they provided recordings and even live sessions of theatre plays which you can enjoy from the safety of your home. In time for World Mental Health Day, a powerful performance of a play by Sheila Atim has been put online, called Burn. The viewer gets a glimpse of a young woman’s monologue with her therapist. While the recording only lasts about 14 minutes, layer upon layer of defence mechanisms is delicately explored. Do approach the play with the caution necessary when dealing with a complex topic as is mental health.

If you get the chance to discuss this incredibly important part of life, which is still surrounded by stigma, with a group of language learners who are experienced (possibly Leistungskurs) and are not afraid of a challenge, we recommend considering Burn for an empathetic approach to mental health.


Summer Read 2020

English · 14 July 2020

Dear users,

As we prepare to lay back on that sunbed again, here are some suggestions for you this summer, for whenever you peel your eyes off your local ice cream store.

  • Rico’s picks: The Paper Menagerie is a short story about the struggle of a migrant woman between retaining her ‘old’ identity and simultaneously adopting a new one. Her son Jack re-tells several episodes of their lives, showcasing his mother’s special talent: When she folds animals out of paper, the little creatures come to life – a great tale for readers 14 years old and older. If, however, you are more in the mood for a scary tale, may I recommend Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz? A comprehensive collection of classic horror stories, this might just add the chills you need on a warm night outside but it is not for the faint of heart – campfire-roasted marshmallows anyone?!
  • Sarah’s picks: The novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher follows the story of Hannah Baker and the path that leads her to take her own life. On each tape that she leaves behind for her classmates, she offers a new perspective on the world of bullying and peer pressure in High School. The novel is best suited for young adults around the ages 14-18. For students wanting to delve more into the realm of Fantasy, The Witches by Roald Dahl is a great read for students around the ages 10 to 14. The novel is set in a world where witches hunt down children and make them disappear in mysterious ways. It is up to a young boy and his grandmother to stop them. Although a bit dark, Roald Dahl’s stories are full of imagination and interesting twists to the stories and myths we know and love. Don’t be alarmed if you start looking for children trapped in paintings afterwards
  • Simon’s picks: I do enjoy reading dystopian novels and short stories. VOX leads the reader down a dark path towards the perils of religion and an oppressive patriarchy. A religious shift in the US-American government calling itself the ‘Pure Movement’ results in women being stripped of their voices… Will the protagonist Jean McClellan prevent its rise? Saving Tally is an eco-critical story for elementary and early middle school classes. Tally, the little Turtle, and her friend Ara, a red lobster, are swimming through the Pacific Ocean when they come upon some funnily-shaped, colorful objects floating by. What seems like a dream turns into a nightmare: Tally gets trapped in trash… a heartwarming story on friendship, survival, and environmental pollution, that reminds us to keep trash out of the sea.
  • Sarah-Sophia’s pick: Holes – this award-winning young adult novel follows a teenage boy, who is sent to a juvenile corrections facility after being falsely accused of theft. At Camp Green Lake, the plot explores the background stories of different characters, touching on themes such as racism, homelessness, peer pressure, and illiteracy… a film adaptation is available, too.

Also, if you come across a brilliant new story which you think the world should know about, make sure to suggest it, so we can feature it in our next holiday reading list. Enjoy the time off!

The editors