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Your Wikipedia Questions Answered

Wikipedia. We consider it the source of all knowledge, teachers generally consider it to be an ‘unreliable source,’ and everyone acknowledges that it’s a great starting point for any research project. But how much do we really know about Wikipedia’s structure?

The Seventh Graders recently worked with the librarians and members of the seventh grade faculty during Flex Block to talk about Wikipedia, and at the end of the period they still had many unanswered questions.

Q: How was Wikipedia started? How does it make money?

A: Officially, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger started Wikipedia on January 15, 2001.

The idea came up much earlier, however. Several people attempted to use the web to publish free encyclopedias, but the projects never really took off. Jimmy Wales and several collaborators had the idea that they could publish an online encyclopedia written by highly-qualified volunteers with a complex peer review process. It was called Nupedia. They hired a full-time editor-in-chief, Larry Sanger, to be in charge of the editing process. Unfortunately, the process was so slow that they only completed twelve articles in the first year. Then, they got the idea to use wiki technology to make it really fast and easy for anyone to edit.

Actually, Wikipedia is not a company. It is part of a nonprofit organization called the Wikimedia Foundation. The money to operate the Wikimedia Foundation comes from donations, especially from its users. In a fundraising statement that is showing up at the top of every Wikipedia page right now, they say their average donation is about $15. Wikimedia says that the money they raise goes to buy the technology they need to run the company, and to paying the 175 employees they now have on staff.

To learn more about the history of Wikipedia, check out the “History of Wikipedia” article.

Q: Wikipedia now has 175 full-time employees. What do they do? Are they employees of just Wikipedia or do they work for all the Wikimedia sites? Do they edit the articles? Do the employees get paid? Or are they just volunteers?

A: The Wikimedia Foundation’s employees and contractors work in 7 different departments: The Office of the Executive Director, Engineering and Product Development (subcategories include Platform, Features, Technical Operations, Mobile, Languages, Apps, User Experience, Editor Engagement, Product, and more), Grantmaking and Programs, Fundraising, Legal and Community Advocacy, Finance and Administration, and Human Resources. As full-time employees and contractors, they do get paid. They do not edit the articles. Most of them are employed in the Engineering and Product Design department, which generally ensures that the sites run smoothly.

(Learn more here)

Wikipedia does have an actual office for its employees (see the contact information below).

The education needed to work at Wikipedia varies by the type of job, but there are some jobs that only look for a Bachelor’s degree (four years of college), while others might prefer a Ph.D. or law degree. Some jobs want degrees in computer science, but others may want linguistics or business degrees, while yet other positions are not looking for any particular background. In all cases, Wikipedia wants individuals with a lot of hands-on experience with similar work.

Q: Are Wikipedia editors ever paid?

A: No. Paid editing (writing or editing on Wikipedia in return for money) was proposed to Wikipedia, but ultimately failed, as it presented a moral issue in the form of “conflict of interest”– because paid editing includes inserting or deleting content to the advantage of the editor’s employer or client.

(Learn more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Paid_editing_(policy) )

Q: Why are so few women editing Wikipedia?

A: You might be interested to know that the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation is, actually, a woman named Sue Gardner. On her blog, she posted a list of nine reasons why women don’t edit Wikipedia, in their own words.

Some main reasons cited are that the interface is not very user-friendly, that they are too busy, a lack of self-confidence, the feeling that the Wikipedia-verse is filled with conflict and sometimes is overtly misogynistic, and there’s also quite a bit of online sexual harrassment.

You can find the full article here: (http://suegardner.org/2011/02/19/nine-reasons-why-women-dont-edit-wikipedia-in-their-own-words/)

Q: What is Wikipedia doing to balance the gender imbalance of the editors?

A: Also from Sue Gardner’s blog– some main things Wikipedia is doing to actively encourage women to edit are: deliberately focusing recruiting efforts on women (and encouraging the current female editors to recruit other women), staging and supporting women-only activities, working to create and protect a female-friendly environment (that is, getting rid of some of the sexism that already surrounds Wikipedia), and emphasizing the social impact that editing Wikipedia can have.

Again, you can find the full article here: (http://suegardner.org/2010/11/14/unlocking-the-clubhouse-five-ways-to-encourage-women-to-edit-wikipedia/)

Q: How do wikipedia editors find topics that are not covered and ask for them to be put onto the site?

A: First: search for the topic and any related topics. If there’s absolutely nothing there, then you can create a new article. Note that only registered users (no anonymous editors) can create new articles.

Wikipedia advises against creating articles about yourself/your friends and family/ your teachers/ etc., “non-notable topics,” advertising, anything with an opinion, or any very short articles. (Wikipedia has a List of Bad Article Ideas.)

The entire process is explained here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Starting_an_article.

Q: How is Wikipedia making itself a more reliable source? Does Wikipedia check the edits that we make (for accuracy and appropriateness)? How does something get fixed if a user contributes something inaccurate or irrelevant? Do other users fix it? Is it not fixed at all?

A: Wikipedia places a ton of trust in its editing community, as it doesn’t require a name, login, or even an email address to edit. Surprisingly, as it turns out, we as a community have earned their trust pretty well. According to a study done by MIT, “We’ve examined many pages on Wikipedia that treat controversial topics, and have discovered that most have, in fact, been vandalized at some point in their history. But we’ve also found that vandalism is usually repaired extremely quickly—so quickly that most users will never see its effects…” That is to say, yes, there are some editors wreaking havoc on Wiki pages, but they are overwhelmed by others who correct their damage almost immediately.

(Learn more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia)

Q: How does Wikipedia deal with disagreements among editors?

A: Disagreement among contributors can take several forms, including:

  • People may have different ideas about a topic. When different theories are well-documented and widely accepted, an article often refers to them all. Editors can find factual ways to introduce conflicting ideas. For example, scientists have a dispute over whether octopuses can learn new skills by observing others. Currently, the article explains that the “idea [that octopuses learn by observing] is disputed by some.” (Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cephalopod_intelligence)
  • Each article has a Talk page associated with it. On that page, editors discuss questions and controversies. Editors are encouraged to work out their conflicts on the Talk page, but anyone can click on the Talk link at the top of an article and see what discussions are taking place.If an editor undoes another editor’s work on the same page three times within 24 hours, that editor will be blocked from writing on Wikipedia. This is to keep people from switching information repeatedly to reflect their own point-of-view.
  • If a highly controversial page is being edited constantly, going back and forth among two or more points-of-view, top editors may “lock” the page–meaning most people will be unable to edit it. If you are interested, you can look at Wikipedia’s list of most frequently edited pages: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Most_frequently_edited_pages

Q: How can I learn more about editing Wikipedia?

A: Wikipedia offers a lot of training in how to edit. As the organization works to create high quality information, administrators create more and more guidelines and policies to keep the process working well. If you want to learn more about editing Wikipedia (Simple or “regular”), you can start on the main Help:Editing page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Editing

Q: Where are Wikipedia’s headquarters located?

A: The Wikimedia Foundation is located in San Francisco. They welcome letters, emails, and faxes, and you can find contact information here: http:/wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Contact_us.

Q: What country has the most Wikipedia editors?

Most editors (20%) live in the US, followed by Germany (12%) and Russia (7%).

Researched and Written by Libby B. (’14) with some updates by Ms. Bergson-Michelson.

Posted in Did You Know?, Student Work, Technology0 Comments

Realistic Fiction Book Reviews by Students

Castilleja Middle School students have recommended some of their favorite novels for you! All of these books are available at our library.

On the Edgier Side:


Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles Halter leaves his small town in Florida in order to attend a boarding school, Culver Creek, in search of a “Great Perhaps”. His roommate, Chip “The Colonel”, soon christens him as Pudge (an ironic reference to Miles’ thin figure), and thus their adventure begins. Miles finds his Great Perhaps in the form of a mysterious and exciting girl named Alaska Young. He soon finds himself immersed in the world of Culver Creek, of smoking in the trees behind the school and playing pranks on the rich “Weekend Warriors”.  All the while, he develops a crush on Alaska, but the night when his fantasies become reality is the night when his life will never be the same.

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns is a hilarious, yet contemplative and intense book. It takes place in Orlando, Florida, and begins with 9-year-old Quentin “Q” Jacobsen (the protagonist and narrator) and his neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, who discover a dead man in the park, leaned against a tree. They find out later that he was  Robert Joyner, a divorced man who committed suicide. It then flashes forward to their adolescent years. Margo, who is considered by Q and many others the most beautiful and popular girl in the school,  shows up one night in his room, and he agrees to join her on her flawlessly planned-out exciting night of revenge.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

This exciting and fast-paced story starts when Nick is at his band’s show; he sees his ex-girlfriend and decides he wants to make her jealous. He sees a girl nearby and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes. The rest is history. The two set off on an adventure across New York city, searching for who they are and who they might become – as well as looking for great music. Through the course of a single night, the two experience many insightful moments and a romance unlike any other.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16 year old cancer patient. Hazel was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 13, and since then, she has been considered to be living her final chapter. However, her life — however much she has left of it — is drastically changed when she encounters the brilliant gorgeousness that is Augustus Waters.

On the Sweet and Whimsical Side

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Hoot is a fun and uplifting book by Carl Hiaasen about being the new kid, fitting in, being bullied and saving the world. Roy Eberhardt has just moved to Trace middle school in Coconut Grove, Florida. As always Roy will sit at a table by himself at lunch, no true friends, and mean bullies like Dana Matherson pushing him around. Without Dana Matherson beating him up one day though he might never have seen the tow-headed running boy. Withoutt the running boy, Roy may have never met Beatrice, tall, and tough Beatrice. If Roy never met Beatrice, he may have never discovered the burrowing owls living in the lot on the corner of East Oriole Avenue. And the owls are what lead Roy on his life changing adventure.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass is a fun book about a candy competition.  Four 12 year-olds have been chosen to  participate in  a competition make a new candy at the local candy factory. The four kids have very interesting personalities. One contestant is the only child of the factory’s owner, known here as the Candymaker. Another boy is obsessed with allergies and the afterlife, while the third boy is unfriendly and intent on winning. The lone girl, Daisy, seems to be sweetness itself but displays great physical strength as well as odd behavior. This book is a super fun fast read that is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

The View From Saturday is a clever, plot twisting novel about Mrs. Olinski’s sixth-grade Academic Bowl Team, Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian, and how these 4 unlikely kids found each other and became a wildly successful team.  From Noah being best man in Ethan’s grandmother’s wedding to Nadia helping baby turtles, their stories were twisted together to lead them to an amazing victory.

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

Page by Paige  is a delightful graphic novel about a girl named Paige Turner, who has just moved to New York city with her family.  As she adjusts to her new life, she uses her sketchbook to sort through her thoughts and emotions.  Along the way, she makes wonderful new friends who convince her to share her art with the world.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl is different and unique in every way from the students at her new school, Mica High.  She dances in the rain, sings “Happy Birthday” to people at lunch, and wears flouncy skirts.  The other students do not know what to think of her, until Mica loses the basketball championship and they turn on Stargirl for all that makes her different.

Recommendations by Sarah S. ’18, Katie L. ’18, Robin S. ’18, Elana R. ’18, and Grace L. ’18.

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Fantasy Book Reviews by Students

Castilleja Middle School students have recommended some of their favorite novels for you! All of these books are available at our library.

Fantasy with Princesses, Castles, and Knights

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella is born into a noble family and at birth is visited by Lucinda, a fairy whose blessings are curses.  Ella is given the ‘gift’ of obedience, and must do anything anyone tells her to do. But Ella does not accept this. She sets off on a quest involving, ogres, giants, stepsisters, fairies, and handsome boys; all to break her curse and for once earn her freedom.

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Based on the popular fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rose and her sisters are forced to dance every third night in an underground palace with the twelve sons of the King Understone, and are growing weaker every day from it. Soon they will die if someone does not break their curse. Another curse prevents them from speaking of it, so princes are called to their rescue from all over. May try and fail, returning back home, and dying by the next full moon of some tragic ‘accident.’ Galen is a soldier returning from war, and on his way home he gives an old woman food. In return she gives him  white and black yarn to make an invisibility cloak, along with knitting needles. When Galen meets Rose he contemplates trying to break the curse, but will he do it for the complications they acquire?

Fantasy with Magical Creatures

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Aislinn has always been able to see faeries and knows how evil they can be, but it’s too late. Keenan has been searching for his Summer Queen for centuries. She is the only one who can save summer, but she has to put everything on the line. She must sacrifice even her mortality to please the one thing she has been scared of her entire life. Mortals, fae, love, and forbidden friendships come together in one page-turner that will always keep you on your toes.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Sophie Mercer discovered she was a witch and had a pulled a few pranks with her newfound skill. But when she goes too far at a prom-night disaster her powerful warlock dad deals out her punishment, exilement to hex hall, a reform boarding school for magical creatures of all shapes and sizes. Sophie’s not the most popular at school, what with her three supermodel enemies, a roommate who happens to be not only the only vampire on campus, but also the most hated person in school; a ghost following her every move, and a crush on the most gorgeous boy in school. Soon she learns that students have been disappearing, and that her only friend is the sole suspect. Through the mysterious disappearances Sophie strives to uncover the secret, all while facing the biggest threat she’s ever known. A sly society setting its sight on destroying all prodigium, including her.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

5 sisters live at a grand castle called Piscul Draculi, next to a mysterious wood filled to the brim with secrets. Jenna and her sisters travel every full moon through a portal in the castle to the Other Kingdom, a magical land where they dance all night once a month with a variety of friendly magical creatures. But when their beloved Father falls ill and goes to the south realm to recover, they start to see the dark side. Jenna’s cousin Cezar takes over the manner with dark intentions for the winter, her sister falls deeply in love with a mysterious and possibly evil  creature from the Other Kingdom, Jenna’s enchanted frog has some odd thoughts, everything is at stake. As Cezar’s grip tightens on the girls, Jenna must uncover the mystery of what’s really happening, while saving her family, friends, and everything she’s ever known in the process.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis

Set in another world called Narnia, this is a fictional story about four ordinary children, Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan,  who go into a new world through the end of a wardrobe. They meet a friendly lion named Aslan, who is under the power of the evil White Witch. They all work together to save Narnia from the witch, and become the new kings and queens of Narnia.

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Every other day, the seemingly normal teenager Kali D’Angelo turns into a fierce demon-hunter. When she spots a mark of death on her fellow classmate, she takes a risk to try and save her, figuring out what she really is in the process.

Fantasy with Quests and Adventures

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings)

A hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets of to an adventure to reclaim the land of the dwarves. Along the way, he finds a magical golden ring, and makes 11 new friends, all of them dwarves. He faces many foes, and Gandalf the Grey, a kindly wizard, helps him along the way.

Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

Harry Potter is the boy who lived. He survived a killing curse that was attacked on him when he was a baby from a powerful wizard, Voldemort. 12 years later, Harry was going to attend Hogwarts, a school of witchcraft and wizardry. There he meets his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger and his worst enemy, Draco Malfoy. He finds himself facing voldemort every year at school, and takes steps on his way to destroying him.

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

When Tucker Feye was 13 years old, his father vanished, only to return an hour later with a strange girl with him. The Reverend Feye said that he no longer believed in a God, but gave no explanations as to why, or where the girl came from. Following this, Tucker’s whole life crumbles, as his mother slips into madness, and his father draws away from his family. But then both of his parents disappear. He comes into the care of his wild Uncle Kosh, and suspects that the disks of shimmering air he frequently see, one right on top of the roof, are the answer to bringing his family back together. And when he dares to step into one, he’s launched on a time-twisting journey. His adventures take him on an adventure from a small Midwestern town to a futuristic hospital and from the death of an ancient prophet to a forest at the end of time. Tucker’s actions change the past and the future, and his world forever.

Recommendations by Katie M. ’18, Esveide G. ’18, Flora H. ’18, and Izzi H. ’18.

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Science Fiction and Dystopian Book Reviews By Students

Castilleja Middle School students have recommended some of their favorite novels for you! All of these books are available at our library.

Dystopian Romance

Matched by Allie Condie

Matched is about a strong, intelligent girl named Cassia. She lives in Society, a place where her life is run by statistics and instructions given by government officials. Everything in her life has been determined for her, such as where she lives, what her job is, who she will marry, and when she will die. When matched with her best friend, Xander, to marry and have kids, Cassia’s dreamy reality is shaken when a mistake in the system bring a new, mysterious person into her life, Ky. Cassia begins an unlikely friendship with Ky, which leads to a sudden desire to change and break free from the society. Can Cassia do it all? Read Matched to find out!


Divergent by Veronica Roth

This is an intriguing and thrilling novel. The book is about a young girl Beatrice who in her sixteenth year has to choose which faction she will serve for the rest of her eternity. When her aptitude test, the test that tells you in which faction you are most fit for comes out with rare results, she is forced to decide between what her family wants and what she wants. Her choice is very unexpected and makes you want to read more and more. Throughout her initiation , Beatrice faces challenges regarding her size and capabilities and is forced to place in a competition that would change her life forever.  To add to the pressure of the competition, Beatrice has to deal with her own secrets and the evil doings of the Erudite factor. What will happen to her as the serum is developed? Will she make it through training?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games takes place in a future North America, with a tyrannical Capitol and 12 districts fighting for survival. Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl, lives with her younger sister Primrose, and a mother who is grief stricken over the death of a husband. Every morning, Katniss goes into the forbidden forests outside the gates of District 12 to hunt with her best friend, Gale. Every year, the Capitol forces each District to sacrafice one male and one female between the ages of 12 and 18. They must fight to the death in an arena created by the Capitol. When Prim’s name is called during the reaping ceremony, Katniss volunteers to take her place in the Hunger Games. With the help of fellow competitor Peeta Mellark, Katniss enters the Capitol, facing decisions that will change her life forever.

Dystopian Adventure

Maze Runner by James Dashner

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, he can’t remember where he is or how he got there. Just like all of the other boys in the glade, they can’t remember either. The glade is surrounded by a maze full of monsters, and each night the maze changes, locking them in. Everyday the boys send out runners to find a way out. They are forced to find a way to live and get by without any help from the people above. Thomas and his friends are starting to get a sense of organization, everything changes when a girl arrives in the lift. Can they find a way out of the treacherous maze? Can they find a way to get past the evil Wicked? Find out when you read the Maze runner series.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember is a city underground where mankind went to save themselves from human destruction on the surface. They create an entire society that lasts for generations, but the power generator is beginning to fail, and they are running out of food and supplies. A message in a metal box from the creators of Ember was lost over time, but had contained vital information about how and when to return outside. When two teenagers Lina and Doon meet, they find out more about the mysterious box and begin a journey to find a way back to the surface. What will they find? Why is the energy of the city running out, and how did the message get lost? Read The City of Ember to find out!

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is set in a futuristic world where every sixteen year old receives intense plastic surgery; becoming a “Pretty”, with perfect skin, figure, and face. Tally Youngblood is an eager “ugly”, not yet sixteen, and desperately wants to become pretty. Her best friend, Paris, is a New Pretty, and lives happily in New Pretty Town, not even acknowledging that Tally might be missing him. After her new best friend Shay escapes to the Smoke, Tally is approached by officials, offering her a chance to betray her friends or stay ugly forever. Join Tally on her adventure and she discovers being Pretty comes with consequences, and realizes that not everything is about being beautiful.

Recommendations by Grace E. ’18, Jashee Y. ’18, Rory F. ’18, Julia W. ’18, and Jane Z. ’18.

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Valentine’s Day is Gone, but the Romance Lives On

With Valentine’s day behind us, we’re still in the romantic spirit! And while those paranormal romances abound in bookstores across the globe, around this time of year we might be in the mood to give up those fantastical love interests of vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons, or angels… and just grab a good book about two humans who fall in love.

Here are 14 recommended books for the 14th:

1. Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me (Kristen Chandler)

KJ, an outdoorsy girl, lives almost within the boundaries of Yellowstone Park. Upon joining her school newspaper, she is partnered with Virgil, the new kid and photography genius. They work together to create an article about the wolves of Yellowstone and find romance in the process.

2. Tangled (Carolyn Macker)

“Tangled” is a good word to describe the lives of these four teenagers (the Suburbanite, the Player, the Actress, and the Blogger) who find themselves on a Caribbean island over Spring Break. Their lives, which start out unrelated, end up completely tangled together.

3. I Now Pronounce You Someone Else (Erin McCahan)

Bronwyn has never fit into her own family, to the extent that she has a secret identity that fits into a theory she has – “the only explanation”– that she was switched at birth. So when she meets Jared Sondervan, she falls in love not only with the boy but also with his close and loving family.

4. The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson)

17-year-old Lennie loves and looks up to her older sister Bailey, but when Bailey dies suddenly, Lennie finds herself caught in a love triangle between two boys: Toby, who was Bailey’s boyfriend and therefore knows exactly what Lennie is going through and can comfort her; and Joe, the new kid who just moved from Paris, who is able to transport Lennie out of her grief.

5. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Jennifer E. Smith)

Hadley Sullivan is stuck in JFK airport, having missed her plane to London for her father’s wedding to a woman she’s never met. But in the waiting area, she meets Oliver, who is sitting in her row. They talk throughout the trans-atlantic flight but lose each other in the Heathrow terminal. Can they ever find each other again?

6. Pure (Terra Elan McVoy)

Tabitha and her friends all wear Purity rings, a symbol of a “virginity-until-marriage” pledge they share. But one day, Tab meets a boy who makes this promise seem very hard to keep, and Tabitha is forced to keep some secrets from her best friends, with whom she has always shared everything.

7. Sloppy Firsts (Megan McCafferty)

16-year-old Jessica Darling’s best friend has just moved away, and Jess feels more lost than ever at school without the one person she could always talk to. With her parents’ obsession over her older sister’s wedding, Jess worries about her own nonexistent love life until she meets Marcus, an intellectual guy who finds his way into her heart.

8. Delirium (Lauren Oliver)

Delirium is a dystopian novel in which scientists have found the cure to Love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure on their eighteenth birthday. But when Lena, a seventeen-year-old girl does the unthinkable and falls in love, her predictable, happy, life is in danger.

9. The Boyfriend List (E. Lockhart)

Ruby’s life is turned upside-down in days as she simultaneously loses her best friend, boyfriend, a lacrosse game, and rumors begin to spread about her. Her first step to recovery is making a list of every boy she has ever had “any kind of anything” with.

10. Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (Rachel Cohn & David Levithan)

If you enjoyed reading or watching the movie of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, you’ll probably like this book, written by the same authors. Dash and Lily find themselves on their own in New York City at Christmas. When Dash finds a red notebook full of literary clues that Lily left in the stacks at a bookstore, the adventure begins.

11. The Difference Between You and Me (Madeline George)

Emily is vice president of the student council, wears sweaters with fake-pearl buttons, and ballet flats. Jesse cuts her own hair with a Swiss-army knife, wears big green fisherman’s boots, and has founded a society called NOLAW, the “National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos.” Though they have nothing in common, somehow they fall for each other. But when Jesse begins a crusade against a ‘big-box store’ (basically Walmart), it pits her against Emily, who is trying to get the store to sponsor events at their school. Will their relationship survive this test?

12. Shug (Jenny Han)

A great book for Middle Schoolers, Annemarie Wilcox (or Shug, as her family calls her) hates her junior high school, until she begins to see Mark, a boy she’s known for her whole life, in an entirely different way.

And of course, what would a list of Valentine’s day books be without a few by Sarah Dessen, the Queen of Romance Novels herself?

13. The Truth About Forever (Sarah Dessen)

Macy isn’t looking forward to the summer, while her boyfriend is away at camp and she is sure to be bored. But sometimes, unexpected things come up, like a catering job, or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, or meeting Wes, a boy with artistic talent and a love of ‘Truth-telling.’

14. This Lullaby (Sarah Dessen)

Remy’s mother has had five husbands so far, and as a result Remy is skeptical of love and doesn’t believe in long-term relationships—that is, until she meets Dexter, a rock band musician like her father, and who is determined to charm tough-as-nails Remy until she softens up a little.

–Libby B. (’14)

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Welcome to the Victorian Era…

Image courtesy of victorianpassage.com

Welcome to the Victorian Era…

Beautiful gowns, courtship, high society, and maybe add in some murder, mystery, or magic? Sounds like the Victorian Era! The era from 1837 to 1901 is a very popular setting for many modern books– authors seem to be attracted to the aura of elegance surrounding the era and the balance the era strikes as a “turn of the century” between a past that is distant enough to be considered “historical fiction” but near enough that we can recognize certain parts of it as precursors to the modern age. The camera, mass urbanization, feminism (after all, Queen Victoria’s 63-year reign was the longest of any female monarch in history) and the industrial revolution are aspects of the era for which we see the outcomes in our present society, and such themes are often reflected in modern literature set in the Victorian era. Steampunk, a relatively new sub-genre of literature about the Victorian Era, focuses on the inventions of the era, especially the rise of steam power (from which it takes its name).
So without further ado, I present my favorite neo-Victorian books in the Casti library, and this month’s highlights.

Some you may have heard of:
1. The Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray (A Great and Terrible Beauty; Rebel Angels; The Sweet Far Thing) center around a girls’ boarding school and the fantastical adventures a group of five girls encounter when they discover the path to an alternate world, the “Realms.”

If you’ve read these books and liked them, you may enjoy Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber.

2. The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted involves the mystery of one identical twin murdering the other: which one still lives? This book is absolutely filled with secrets and secrets that have secrets…what’s not to love? Murder, identity theft, romance, secret tunnels… the list goes on!

If you liked this book, you might enjoy reading Wildthorn by Jane Eagland.

3. If you are more of a fantasy fan, you might have liked the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare (Clockwork Angel; Clockwork Prince), which, while still set in the Victorian era, ventures into the world of vampires and other non-human creatures, including Tessa, the main character, who discovers that she has the ability to shift shape.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy Soulless by Gail Carriger.

And of course, no Victorian-Era article would be complete without the mention of perhaps the greatest character who lived in 1800s London: Sherlock Holmes.
Although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original books about the great detective are not considered “neo-Victorian,” Sherlock has spawned many modern spinoffs, including the movies starring Robert Downey Jr., the BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and the new CBS show Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, the latter two of which present the Sherlock Holmes character in the modern day (London and New York City respectively), and I recommend both “Sherlock” and “Elementary” for anyone who loves a fast-paced, intellectual crime show. As well, the library has a few book takeoffs on the Sherlock Holmes character, such as Death Cloud by Andy Lane, which is the story of young Sherlock solving crimes as a teenager, and the Enola Holmes books by Nancy Springer, which center around Sherlock’s younger sister.

Many more neo-Victorian novels (books which were written in the present day but are set in the Victorian era) are on display in the Library. Come check them out!

By Libby B. ’14

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