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Non-Perishable Food Drive by WWS Club-Part of the Edible Book Festival

Non-Perishable Food Drive by WWS Club-Part of the Edible Book Festival

wws photo

Do you remember the Edible Books Festival that the library hosted last year? Well now it’s back, in all of its glory, but with an awesome, community action themed addition! The We Won’t Stop Club, working in collaboration with the library, is hosting a book themed food drive, with proceeds going to the Ecumenical Hunger Program.

You, the students, will be able to give back to the community by voting for your favorite books, through your food donations. To vote, simply drop your canned or boxed nonperishables into the container representing the book that you like best. We will have competitions between Out of My Mind and Wonder, Divergent and The Hunger Games, and the ultimate competition between The Fault in Our Stars and Harry Potter. The food collection containers will be outside of the library, middle school lobby, and the green doors.

The foods most needed by the Eccumenical Hunger Program are canned soup, boxed milk, nuts, vacuum tuna or tuna salad kits, ready-made meals, pop top cans (especially chili and soup), oatmeal, and crackers.

The food drive will start on March 16th, and finish the day of the Edible Books Festival, March 30th. Get excited to show some literary spirit and contribute to a fantastic organization!

by Sophie N.L. ’19 and Claire S. ’19

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Why I Love JSTOR

Why I Love JSTOR

ASIOne of my best sleepover memories involves JSTOR, the amazing database you might have used for a C&C project or, if you’re like me, you frequent with search terms and curiosity. Some of you may be surprised or a lil grossed out by this. Who would want to read articles filled with unfortunate amounts of academic jargon for fun? Why get scholarly at a sleepover? If this is the case, I totally understand any bits of judgement. I personally have trouble with the fact that scholarly databases and articles are largely inaccessible; there are big words and complex theories and dense language that take some time to chew on, and often this removes them from a relevant and helpful context — not to mention how these databases have a paywall. Luckily our own library here at school and public libraries provide us with this resource so that the world of higher academia is not as limited and exclusive. Scholarly articles are valuable for learning in a lot of ways; they are writings that represent original research and exploration of a wide range subjects; they delve deep into specific topics with impressive amounts of analysis and references. JSTOR has tons of articles that explore worlds and books and concepts we are exposed to daily, some with enlightening specificity, some with pretentiousness and silliness we can laugh at, a lot with both — but all of them create a web of information and words that excite and inspire and are meant to be harnessed for any purpose you see fit.

“Dancing on Bela Lugosi’s Grave: The Politics and Aesthetics of Gothic Club Dancing” is an article I dug up at a sleepover one night. While scrolling through Tumblr my friend and I found ourselves laughing at a post about how “Goth privilege is not having to separate your laundry loads by color.” The next logical step was obviously to enter “goth identity politics” into JSTOR. The subject matter is a little silly, I must admit; parsing out a subculture and analyzing the role of Christian imagery for kids who are really into vampires is pretty funny; and so I did a dramatic reading of it much to the amusement of my friend. Another part of me though really admires these grad students and professors who will do extensive research and write long papers about anything and everything. It reminds me that there is so much to learn and be said about all that we interact with. Each article is a microcosm of our infinitely complex and strange world. And of course, JSTOR is full of articles of perhaps more relevance (sorry to place this sort of judgement value); about literature, feminism, science, art — you know, all that great stuff that creep their way into our brains and lives.

Reading scholarly articles instructs us about writing as well. What does the author do to illustrate complex ideas that I find digestible and relevant? What pieces of information are essential and play a key role in their analytical argument? What are the different ways they explore and address their thesis? Papers can go in various directions; they can follow rules, break them, they can be organized or all over the place, and each option has its pros and cons. Watch out, English teachers, you may be getting an essay that disregards the five-paragraph format sometime soon.

It’s also amazing just how much information is on this five-letter database. So many intellectual pathways to take when discussing just one line of Shakespeare! People have so many ideas about the importance of monsters and ghosts! There is so much historical context to Kanye West’s lyrical choices! JSTOR reminds me that so much out there is fascinating, that there are worlds behind even a small two-word phrase I’ve underlined in a book.

So whether you are doing research for a class or fulfilling your brain’s desire to learn and read, JSTOR is a great database to use. It isn’t brilliant because it is full of genius authors (although it has some of those too), but it is brilliant because of you. You are magical because you care about the contents of the articles you are reading and you want to learn, and because you can articulate the takeaways (whatever you happened to take away; there is no right and wrong way of reading) in an accessible and important way. Let’s transform scholarship to be whatever we want it to be; to help us with research papers, to make us laugh, to inspire us, or anything else.

By Kiana B. ’16

Posted in Featured, Featured Databases, Student Work0 Comments

Bibliophiles’ Mutual Aid Society: Finding time to read

Bibliophiles’ Mutual Aid Society: Finding time to read

"Minute to Midnight" by Gunter on

“Minute to Midnight” by Gunter on

Last week members of the Casti community gathered to brainstorm strategies for having a rich life as a pleasure reader. Here are the ideas shared by students and adults in our community. We would love to hear your strategies for finding time to read in the comments below!

Finding time to read:

In addition to the recent post, Five Steps For Making An Intentional Practice of Reading, community members suggested:

  1. Listen to audio books while commuting, exercising, etc. (check them out from your public library)
  2. Sit on the heating vent–very cozy!
  3. I schedule time on my calendar.
  4. I have a Goodreads account, so I can look for books that I want to read and mark books I have already read.
  5. I use Novelist (through the library databases page) to find new books, and the library Pinterest page, too.
  6. I am attempting to read 50 books in 2015–setting goals helps.
  7. Do the library reading challenges.

How to stop reading when the time is right:

    1. Don’t plan to stop at the end of the chapter. It will be a cliffhanger. Instead, plan to stop mid-chapter.
    2. Set a timer to ring when you need to stop. Leave it across the room, so you need to get up and turn it off. Put the book down when you get up to turn it off.
    3. If you are the kind of person who reads random pages in a book before you even start, read the end of the book when you know you are going to need to stop in the middle. That breaks you of the “need to know” and will allow you to enjoy the rest of the book at a reasonable pace.
    4. Read different types of books at different times-ones that are interesting but can be read in small chunks during the week/school weeks, a whole pile that I cannot put down for weekends/vacations.
    5. If you are eReading, use an app like Time Out to grey your screen and make you stop.
    6. Play some non-booky music. (Maybe set a device to start playing it when your reading time is up?)
    7. I always read over breakfast — it’s a short time span, with a hard stop, as I must get up and come to Casti! I’ve ceased worrying about making it to the end of a chapter, who cares.
    8. Listen to audio books while commuting, exercising, etc. (check them out from your public library).
    9. Read in a public space like The Circle or a community area in your home like the living room or kitchen-where distractions will come up and you’ll be reminded to look up and smile at someone getting a snack, say hi to a family member, or admire the beautiful blue sky.
    10. When you want to stop reading, take a break to do a mindfulness activity (such as a short meditation, apps like Stop, Breathe, & Think can help; Headspace is another) to get yourself out of the book, calm your mind, and ready yourself to shift gears.

Sometimes, if I really need to read for relaxation, I:

  • Re-read books I have read before;
  • Read something that I want to read, but know will not hold my attention for long; or
  • Read humorous essays that are just a few pages long, short stories, poems.
  1. Opening the shades and get lots of light in the room.
  2. Set page limits.
  3. Put an action item on your bookmark–get up and get a snack, do ten jumping jacks; you can list all the things you want to get done.
  4. Put a timer on your reading lamp.
  5. Choose books with dense action–even when you read a bit, you feel like something happened!
  6. Read when I have time to sit down and do it!
  7. Read realistic fiction–there is no action, so no suspense!
  8. Come to the library, and leave the book there when you leave–what you read in the library, stays in the library.
  9. Read with a buddy, parent, sibling – you can discuss the book, and you won’t want to get ahead of the other person.
  10. Read aloud (as a family) over dinner.
  11. Stop reading when you feel tired.
  12. Read a mixture of different genres–poems, short stories, essays, and magazines (that you can now check out from the library) are all things that are short.
  13. Take the train to school! That gives you time to read in both directions!


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Five Steps For Making An Intentional Practice of Reading

Five Steps For Making An Intentional Practice of Reading

Reading!What does it mean to make an intentional practice of reading? For me, it’s a way of life. When I was younger, I absolutely loved to read all the time. In elementary school, after I finished an assignment I would tuck my latest read inside a workbook and proceed to read about the BFG while the rest of my class worked on multiplying. This didn’t always go well. “Alex, what is there to read in your math book?” my teacher would ask. “There are only blank times tables in there!” As I got older and my homework load increased, I found less and less time to read. I could no longer bank on free time during school or afternoons without sports practices. Instead, I had to make time, and my intentional practice of reading was born.

Adopting an intentional practice of reading is easier and more fun than it sounds! It’s about being thoughtful in your reading choices and planning ahead to enjoy your picks. Here are my five tips for trying it out:

1. Make a list

I often find someone will give me a book suggestion, and by the time I go to the library I’ve forgotten the title. Making a list of authors and titles is a great way to avoid confusion and can help you remember to check out cool reads you wouldn’t otherwise come across.

2. Try something new

One of my favorite literary discoveries in high school was the essay. No, it’s not what your thinking! I’m talking about reading essays – fun, interesting, strange, mystifying, awesome essays – which are, unsurprisingly, much shorter than books. You can also check out books that are essay collections, and read one piece at a time. For a fun introduction, I suggest Bossypants by Tina Fey.

3. Schedule

Once you’ve found a book, article, or essay, make time to read it! You don’t need to finish the whole thing in one sitting – 15 minutes before you go to sleep is plenty of time to dive in.

4. Sit Back, Relax, Enjoy

Explore different reading environments, like your local park, a new café, or even your own backyard to see what works for you.

5. Invite A Friend

Create your own informal book club! Discovering a great book is that much more fun when you can discuss it with a friend over snacks.

by Alex Z. ’15

Image sources: School Librarian’s Workshop; Pietro Magni – The Reading Girl (La Leggitrice), model 1856, carved 1861 (photo by takomabibelot on; Fragonard, Jean-Honoré French Young Girl Reading c. 1770 (photo by The National Gallery of Art)

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Casti Senior Anna Caltabiano’s New Book Is Here!

Casti Senior Anna Caltabiano’s New Book Is Here!

misshatfieldNow that the new year is upon us, it seems appropriate to feature on of Casti’s very own students, who has a not-so-secret life as an author!

After swallowing the remains of my crumbled granola bar, I cautiously stepped into “Mr. Smoot’s room – the one with the dog bed” and spotted my victim immediately.

Anna Caltabiano speaks deliberately, hands constantly gesturing as her voice rises when she emphasizes a point. She moves comfortably, at ease with the cold in her red and blue striped sweater. I had the opportunity to interview her regarding her newest book, The Seventh Miss Hatfield, the first book in an overarching trilogy. I started off by asking her about her inspiration for the plot and the characters. She thought for a moment; her eyes shifted to a corner of the room. The conclusion: the book gradually stemmed from Henley, the male protagonist and the romantic interest of Miss Hatfield. We talked a bit about All That Is Red, her first novel, and she thought that writing the aforementioned book was harder and more personal than writing about a time-traveling immortal. When asked about the following books in the trilogy, she smiled secretively, and casually mentioned that the book comes out one year later than it does in England. Off the record, I was let in on a top-secret, but you will have to read the book and wait for the sequels!


Anna Caltabiano

After chatting about the work she has produced thus far, I asked her about how she came about getting a start as a “real” writer. I sheepishly admitted that I had perused several of her articles before interviewing her. She apparently wrote All That Is Red surrounded by sketches, beautiful phrases, and her iPad after promising to write a novel to avoid being sent to a slew of summer camps. Anna added, as an afterthought, that she supposed her position at the Huffington Post stemmed from her two previous novels. As she uttered these words, I visualized a boulder being rolled down a hill – painfully slow at first, but then gradually picking up speed. I shifted in my seat; the chairs in the Writing Lab have always been uncomfortably curved. She laughed, gesturing to the rectangular space packed with chairs and desks, “I practically spent 10th grade in here.”

When asked about how she juggles her life as a renowned teen author and a student, she shrugs. “To me, writing is like a sport. You practice for a few hours; for me, I write during those few hours.”

Her parting words? Write. Just write. Even if it sounds bad in your head, write it down. She maintains that it is her solution for writer’s block as well.

I wave goodbye; she heads back into Mr. Smoot’s room, presumably to write more.

Anna’s book is available for checkout in the library!

By Sho Sho H. ’19

Posted in Reviews & Recommendations, Student Work0 Comments

Award-Winning Author NoViolet Bulawayo Visits the Junior Class

Award-Winning Author NoViolet Bulawayo Visits the Junior Class

weneedAll the junior backpacks piled around the outside library during long period 1 on Tuesday morning, November 11. Inside the library, NoViolet Bulawayo was ready to speak.

Bulawayo is the author of We Need New Names, a novel read by the eleventh grade class for summer reading. We Need New Names tells the story of a young girl named Darling and the tension that arises when she moves from Zimbabwe to Michigan and is forced to reevaluate home and what it means to her. The book deals with both the personal and the political with rawness and sincerity, all with the voice of an adolescent narrator.

NoViolet reading from her book.

NoViolet reading from her book.

Bulawayo began by reading excerpts from her book. The novel read like poetry as she read it aloud; her words sunk into the ground and grew as the period went by, filling the library with a forest of sound and words. Later during the Q&A session Bulawayo explained that she has a huge love and appreciation of language, and how certain portions of the novel were a way for her to explore her love of language through poetry. Not only is she passionate about poetry, NoViolet Bulawayo also expressed the power of fiction in telling stories and telling the truth. Nayanika K. ’16 asked her why she chose to write a fictional novel as opposed to a memoir, to which Bulawayo began responding to simply by saying, “Fiction is fun! You’re able to invent.” She went on that “stories are stories; they can do the work of non-fiction. You can tell the truth better through fiction sometimes.”

Kiana with NoViolet

Kiana with NoViolet

A main theme that emerges in her novel We Need New Names is home; what we are able to call home, if home is something out of our hands or something we can name for ourselves. Protagonist Darling leaves Zimbabwe and is confronted with the fact that although she may still feel homesickness and a connection to her mother country, the people she left behind when she came to the United States do not feel the same way. Questions about what home truly means are left unanswered in the book — it is complicated issue that is very real and impacts many: something so multifaceted cannot be easily summarized in one novel. When Maddy M. ’16 asked, “Do you agree that [Zimbabwe] is not [Darling’s] country?”, Bulawayo was sure to note the nuanced nature of this issue. But she summarized strongly: “Your country is your country as long you claim it.”

Sophie P. ’16 voiced a question on many students’ minds during class discussions: Why did the last scene go the way it did? Why did Bulawayo choose to end the novel on this bizarre, upsetting flashback? Bulawayo responded that she wanted the novel to come full circle in a way. She also meditated on the idea that for some, going back to their home or country is only possible through memory.

In addition to her reading and Q&A session, NoViolet Bulawayo led a workshop on writing dialogue. Throughout her reading, Q&A session, and workshop, NoViolet displayed a love of language and writing that was inspiring. Fiction and writing and language, she reminded the junior class, are fun and something to be celebrated. We left the library with our eyes brighter and pencils ready to work.

by Kiana B. ’16

Posted in Author Visit, Student Work0 Comments