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Welcome to the Victorian Era…

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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

Posted in Student Work, Reviews & Recommendations, Cool Stuff0 Comments

Get the Inside Scoop on Online Learning

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Have you noticed a rise in online learning in recent years? You may even know someone who goes to school online.  If you have come across me in the library, then you do.  I go to school at SJSU for a degree of a Masters in Library Sciences.  The whole program is online.  This is very common for Library Sciences programs due to the technical nature of the degree.  But what about other programs?  Just about every major university is now launching at least some online classes.  This is true for homeschooled kids as well and even kids who go to a traditional school, but want to augment their education.  For example, there are some Castilleja students who have done the EPGY Program (school for gifted kids through Stanford) or OHS (the Stanford online high school which you can take full time or part time).

Or maybe you have been on iTunes lately and seen iTunes U.  This is an app in which you can download lectures from a plethora of universities. You can attend Yale or Columbia for free!

There are many reasons why online programs have become a popular form of education today. The online environment offers unprecedented opportunities for people who would otherwise have limited access to education, as well as a new archetype for educators in which vibrant courses of the highest quality can be developed.  Some of the benefits of online learning are:

  • Anywhere learning
  • Anytime learning
  • Any pace learning (especially helpful for those with learning differences)
  • Rich dialogue between students on discussion boards
  • Cost effective
  • Student centered (carve out your own learning plan)
  • Creative teaching is supported

Although there are many positive aspects to online learning, there are some drawbacks as well:

  • Lack of live social connections
  • Technology glitches
  • Syncing up with other students for group projects
  • Lack of a community feeling (sometimes, but this is being addressed in many programs)
  • Computer literacy & cost (one must have these to succeed)

So although it is still a new concept and opinions vary from person to person, online learning looks like it’s here to stay.  Below is a link to an article that was just published in the Stanford news regarding this topic.  Check it out!

By Heather B., Parent Volunteer Extraordinaire

Posted in Cool Stuff, Technology1 Comment

Blogs Get the Word Out

Have you ever wanted to start your own blog? Tweens and teens all over the world are blogging everyday.  Blogger, WordPress, Livejournal, and Tumblr are all free websites in which you can set up a blog within minutes.  Blogging is a great way to stay in touch with people, express your self, vent, stand up for a cause, or just have fun.

Check out some of these teen blogs from around the world and start one your self!  You may even recognize one of these controversial bloggers (her mom is Madonna.)

By Awesome Parent Volunteer Heather B.

Posted in Cool Stuff, Technology0 Comments

2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults Announced!

Every year the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a branch of the American Library Association, publishes a list of the best teen books of the year. They also publish a top ten. Two top tens, actually. One voted on by librarians and teachers, and another voted on by teens. Curious?

This year’s top ten chosen by YALSA members (the grown-ups):

1). Carson, Rae. The Girl of Fire and Thorns.
2). Cohen, Joshua C. Leverage.
3). King, A.S. Everybody Sees the Ants.
4). McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. Under the Mesquite.
5). Myracle, Lauren. Shine.
6). Ness, Patrick. A Monster Calls. Illus by Jim Kay.
7). Sepetys, Ruta. Between Shades of Gray.
8). Stiefvater, Maggie. The Scorpio Races.
9). Taylor, Laini. Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
10). Zarr, Sara. How to Save a Life.

(I have read 4 of the 10. How many have you read? Also–how could they have not chosen The Fault in Our Stars? I’m disappointed. -JS)

This year’s top ten chosen by teens, with descriptions:

1).   Roth, Veronica. Divergent. Abnegation (selfless), Erudite (intelligence), Candor (honesty), Amity (peace), or Dauntless (brave): where would you fit? Beatrice lives in a society where she must choose either to remain with her family’s faction or set off towards independence and her beliefs. And what happens when the unity between these factions begins to fall apart?
2).  Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars.  Hazel and Augustus meet and forge a relationship at a support group for kids battling cancer. As Hazel and Augustus struggle with the “side-effects of dying,” they come to learn the strength of wishes, the complexities of long human lives, and the wondrous ways of the universe.
3).  Lu, Marie.  Legend. June, a fifteen-year-old military prodigy, is hunting Day, the outlaw she believes is responsible for her brother’s death. What will happen when the two meet and discover the government is corrupt?
4).  Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  When Jacob was little, his grandfather would tell him stories of the fantastical children’s home where he grew up and the seemingly magical kids who lived there with him. When his grandfather is killed, Jacob sets out to find the home where these children lived, unearthing a magical secret and uncovering his true heritage.
5).  Dessen, Sarah. What Happened to Goodbye. Ever since Mclean’s parents divorced, she has lived in four towns in two years – each time taking on a new persona. Mclean expects to leave Lakeview in six months, but soon finds that she doesn’t want to – she just wants to be herself.
6).  Revis, Beth. Across the Universe. Cryogenically frozen centuries ago, Amy and her parents are on their way to a new planet aboard the spaceship, Godspeed. Unplugged from her cryo chamber, Amy discovers she has been awoken 50 years early, in a failed murder attempt. With Elder, the future leader of the ship, by her side they are on an adventure filled with murder, lies, dreams, and stars.
7).  Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. A futuristic retelling of the classic Cinderella, Cinder, a cyborg and talented mechanic, lives with her cruel stepmother and two stepsisters in the plague-ridden New Beijing. Soon after meeting Prince Kai, Cinder must find the truths of her past, which may help to save the future.
8).  Stiefvater, Maggie. The Scorpio Races. Every November, the beaches of Thisby come alive with the Scorpio Races. The water horses are vicious, the terrain is treacherous, and death is likely, but the reward can be beyond anything you could imagine. Puck Connolly is racing for her family, Sean Kendrick for his passion—but only one can win The Scorpio Races.
9).  Forman, Gayle. Where She Went. This sequel to Gayle Forman’s If I Stay is narrated by Adam, Mia’s ex-boyfriend. Shortly after the devastating accident that killed Mia’s family, the talented cellist moves to New York, where an accidental meeting brings them back together.
10).  Cabot, Meg. Abandon.  Pierce has experienced death before and barely escaped. When she moves from her old town to a town called Isla Huesos – Island of Bones – for a new start, she realizes that death wants her back. Can she escape death once again?

(I’ve read 5 of these. Thank goodness the teens voted for John Green! -JS)

Can you think of other books that should have been included in the top ten lists? Leave a comment here with your suggestions. Meanwhile, we have almost all of these books in our library, so come by and check them out!

Posted in Reviews & Recommendations, Cool Stuff0 Comments

Have you ever sailed a pumpkin boat?

The library is ready for Halloween! Come check out our display of ghost and horror stories, Halloween-related non-fiction, (including books on witches, ESP, the paranormal, and Day of the Dead), spooky poetry, and short stories. There are also some quirky handouts about costume ideas, Halloween treat recipes, spooky templates for decorating, and retro color pages for the child within.
While you’re in the Halloween spirit, check out this link.
It’s a news article from the Portland Press Herald,
the newspaper for Portland, Maine. It explains the
Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta. This is a festival
run by McKenna B.’s (’16) grandmother. The festival
has “boat” races made from huge carved out pumpkins that
are decorated in all sorts of funky ways, pumpkin launching and smashing, the official Giant Pumpkin Parade, the underwater pumpkin carving contest, the pumpkin pie eating contest and the pumpkin dessert contest, among
many other activities. The current record for the largest pumpkin at the festival is 1,471 pounds! The Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta will be featured on NBC’s The Chew later on this month. Tune in!

by Heather B., Parent Volunteer Extraordinaire

Posted in Cool Stuff0 Comments

Banned Books Week

What is Banned Books Week? Is it a week when books are banned from schools and libraries? No. Is it a week that we don’t have to come to school? Sadly, nope. According to, Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Throughout the nation, books of various genres are being banned or challenged at schools and libraries usually because material in the books are deemed sexually explicit, contains offensive language, or are unsuited for a specific age group. Parents challenge material in books more than any other group. This is allowed, as stated in Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, which says that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.”

Of course it’s quite normal for parents to care about the welfare of their children and what they are consuming from books, yet when does their concern cross the line? When it prevents us from reading some of the greatest classics in history? When it limits the range of books that we are to allowed access to only non-fiction books? What would it be like if you couldn’t read Catcher in the Rye or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Would you have had the same enriched knowledge or opinions as you have today?

Censorship has always been a heated debate issue in the United States. Down below is a current map showing places where certain books have been challenged or banned (click on it to go the interactive map!):

View Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2011 in a larger map

And stop by the library to check out the display of many commonly challenged and banned books!

By Sophia N. ‘14

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