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8th Graders Chat With Jason Reynolds for Banned Books Week

8th Graders Chat With Jason Reynolds for Banned Books Week

Last Wednesday, September 24th, the 8th grade class of 2019 got to participate in one of the most interesting Flex Blocks we’ve ever seen: A long discussion about Banned Books Week (or, really, Challenged Books Week) and a Skype call with the author of When I Was the Greatest: Jason Reynolds. That should have caught your attention significantly, I hope. They got to Skype Jason Reynolds? Yes, we did. And I could go on for days telling you all about it, but I’m supposed to give you a little synopsis in a short, sweet article. The challenge begins:

We were all quite nervous about meeting him in the first place. We didn’t know what to expect: a tall man in a tie and a fedora, giving us a lecture about his amazing book? A young adult who was overjoyed at the fact that his book had gotten released? But the Skype call started, and we saw a big smiling face (and crazy cool dreadlocks) eager to tell us about his story.

Jason Reynolds wrote many novels before his debut novel When I Was The Greatest, and none of them had made it to the public. He was getting frustrated, as anyone who spends many years writing their stories and only see them get turned down would be. He was talking to Walter Dean Myers’ son, Christopher Myers, and telling him that he was going to quit writing, and move on to something else. His reply was, “If you stop writing, what about when my dad dies?* Who’s gonna carry on? Who’s gonna write those stories for the people out there to hear?” And Jason just said, “I don’t know, but it’s not gonna be me.” But then, after some more convincing remarks from Christopher, he went back home and started writing straight from his heart, a story that was his own. He wrote the raw truth about the poverty-stricken teenagers in Brooklyn, taking little pieces from people’s lives to create a woven story. The book made it out…and when he had started, he was just an hour away from quitting writing altogether.

Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds

To connect back to the topic of Banned Books Week, Ms. Seroff asked Jason about the criticism his book got, or if it was challenged at all. He mentioned that the cover was controversial. I mean, a book with a blank black cover except for a gun in a colorfully knitted cozy? It was bound to get some remarks regarding the implications and meanings of that gun. There were many requests, asking that he change the cover. He didn’t. He wasn’t erasing any part of his story. To this, he received a huge round of applause and appreciation from us.

With our time coming to an end, Ms. Gómez asked a much appreciated question: While we were keenly waiting for his book to reach us in the library, what books would you recommend to the 8th graders to read? Lucky for us, he gave us a long list of books, most of them sitting at his “bookshelf”, which were stacks of books in the fireplace (we all found this hilarious). Clarification: the fireplace doesn’t work, so there is no opportunity to burn the books, Fahrenheit 451-style. Okay, I know you all are bouncing up and down for the book list, and lucky for you, here are the authors Jason recommended to us that we can find right in the Castilleja Library:

Jacqueline Woodson (6 of her print books are in the library; three of her ebooks are in Overdrive)
Cynthia Kadohata (4 print books)
John Corey Whaley (Print book in the library)
Walter Dean Myers (11 print books; 3 ebooks)
Jandy Nelson (2 print books)
Neil Gaiman (3 print books in the library plus some short story collections; 11 ebooks)
NoViolet Bulawayo (Print book in the library)
Laurie Halse Anderson (11 print books; 4 ebooks)
Sharon Draper (2 print books)
Matt de la Peña (1 print book; 1 ebook)
Kiese Laymon (1 print book)
Zadie Smith (1 print book)



SO MANY BOOKS! After you drop by the library to put your name on the hold list for When I Was the Greatest, make sure to check out the authors above! I sincerely hope the hold list for Jason’s book will soon be the size of a full-blown Defense Against the Dark Arts essay by Hermione Granger.

There’s only one more thing! Jason was kind enough to give us some sneak peeks on his work soon to come out: The Boy in the Black Suit, a book about Matt recovering from the loss of his mother dying from breast cancer, is coming out next January. Jason has five more books in the works after that, sharing the stories of people all around the world, so there’ll be no shortage of work for him!

To wrap up the high-energy-level Flex period, Jason asked for us to take a selfie, or a groupie, really, with all of us in the picture. We, being experts at this phenomenon, all cheered and agreed. The picture’s on the portal for all of you to see! :)

I can’t wait to read his book as much as you. Happy reading!

-Athena N. ’19

*Unfortunately, Walter Dean Myers died this past July. Thankfully, Jason Reynolds decided to keep spreading his own stories.

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Glass Kite Anthology

Glass Kite Anthology

Glass Kite Anthology - Submissions Flyer
Nowadays, so many amateur writers are trying to get their work out to the public…ourselves included. Websites like Figment and TeenInk offer an online platform for writers to publish stories, poems, and other written media; however, considering the amount of writing published on the platforms, being noticed is still quite a difficult feat for any piece of writing, despite how unforgettable or hard-hitting it may be.

When we joined these online communities, we stumbled upon some beautiful, touching, and truly spectacular pieces of writing that weren’t as renowned as we thought they should be. We decided then that we wanted to assist passionate, talented, and hard-working writers in being recognized. On July 9, 2014, we founded the Glass Kite Anthology in order to fulfill our goal of publishing the hidden gems and pieces that may have otherwise gone unnoticed by the public eye. We want to publish the most moving, powerful, authentic, poignant, and raw pieces by writers and are looking for original work that avoids cliché, catches the reader by surprise, and invokes a sense of wonder.

We are so incredibly excited to begin this journey, but because we are just starting out, we need all the help we can get. This help can come in the form of spreading the word around about us, promoting our anthology, liking our Facebook page, and of course: SUBMITTING. We want as many submissions as possible, regardless of content or the age of the writer. Whether you’re 5 or 95, it doesn’t matter. We don’t focus on age–just the amazing stories in your words. So send us whatever you have. Encourage others to submit: your friends, random people on the street, anyone.

And if you enjoy editing, why not apply to be a staff reader on the team? You will earn invaluable editing experience with a literary magazine and have a say in what goes in the magazine. Not to worry: you may still submit to the anthology as a staff reader.

Visual artists, you have an opportunity to publish your artwork! We accept any medium of visual art, as long as it can be viewed in a 2D format.

We are the Glass Kite Anthology. Dedicated to the awe-inspiring, thought-provoking, and completely original literary works by people of all ages. Go ahead. Look around, learn more about us. And when you feel ready, don’t forget to submit.

For more information on all of the above, visit:

Please email us at with any questions or comments! We look forward to hearing from you.

- Margaret Z. ’17 and Noel P. ’17
Glass Kite Anthology

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The Running Dream: A Review by Sara L ’20

9780375966675_zoomThe Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen is an inspirational book that everyone can relate to. Even though it is sad starting out, there is one happy ending, which makes it more inspirational. Running means everything to 11th grader Jessica Carlisle. She and her dog, Sherlock, run a five-mile loop every morning. Jessica and her best friend, Fiona, join their school’s track team. She becomes one of the team’s best runners and is hoping for a scholarship for college. One bad accident makes Jessica think that nothing is possible, especially not running. On the way back from one of the track meets, a man without insurance hit the track team’s bus. One girl on the team dies and Jessica’s leg is crushed to the point she has to get it amputated. At the beginning of recovery, she struggles doing basic activities including showering and climbing stairs. Jessica struggles the most with is thinking she won’t ever run again. With the help of her team, family, track coach and a new best friend, Jessica regains hope.

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Flame 2014 is here!

Flame 2014 is here!

Flame, the middle school’s annual literary magazine, is here! You’ll definitely want to check out the amazing artwork, photography, poetry and prose in the 2014 edition. Click in the box below to read it online!

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Book Spine Poetry!

Not a poet? Think again! Anyone can write a book spine poem. All you do is take books and lay them flat so that their spines read like a poem. These poems can be funny, serious, long, or short. See?


by Ms. Seroff


by Claire S. ’19


by Ms. Bergson-Michelson


by Mr. Ahmed


by Paulina A. ’20

by Ms. Tkach

by Ms. Tkach

Some classes and advisories have come into the library to make their own poems, but you can make them at home, too! If you’ve made any great poems, please send us a photo so we can feature them here or on the bulletin board leading up to the second floor.

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Why Creativity Got Cut – An Essay by Maddie D ’15

Why Creativity Got Cut – An Essay by Maddie D ’15

With all the hype over Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and the release of the new movie based on her book, I was considering what virtues she left out. Roth chose to create Abnegation to represent selflessness and simplicity, Amity to represent peace-keeping and kindness, Candor to represent honesty and justice, Dauntless to represent bravery and protectiveness, and Erudite to represent intelligence and curiosity.

All of these factions were created with the needs of a government in mind. But five virtues seems pretty minimal, whatever you might say about each faction representing a little bit more than just one virtue by extension. Some virtues just aren’t included; most glaringly, creativity.

What would a creativity faction look like? And, perhaps the more interesting question, why would a government not wish to add an “Ingenuity” faction?

In today’s society, Abnegation is the faction of charity workers (and, we would hope, government officials). Amity is the nurses and good-neighbors and maybe even our religious leaders, Dauntless the fireman, police, and military, Candor our justices, lawyers and activists, and Erudite our scholars.

Where are the artists?

Dauntless has tattoo artists, Amity has a few banjo-playing musicians – but what about our inventors? Our politically-charged muralists? Our concert cellists and Alternative song writers? Our great poets and fantasy authors?

The fact is, creativity isn’t in the city-state Roth creates. It’s not too difficult to see why. In a community that values conformity, whose motto is “faction before blood”, and frankly, who wears uniforms – where are the artists, who value individuality and creative expression, to fit in? Artists aren’t, in general, the sort of people who liked to be placed in boxes (the irony of this sentence is not lost on me). In fact, creative people tend to be very disruptive to normative behavior and rigidly organized society.

In today’s society creativity is essential. Our rapidly developing digital age would be entirely impossible without the imaginative foresight that drives this era. But the society Roth describes is largely stagnant. It is too traditional for an Ingenuity faction, too rigid for the out-of-the-box thinkers our age values so highly. In her books, Roth points out that honesty will break the peace, that self-denial will prevent the indulgence of curiosity, that bravery can be both cruel and stupid. Creativity will always clash with tradition. Nobody can value all virtues equally, not even the Divergent. And just as the Divergent are such a threat to the system, so the Ingenuity would be a threat to the conformity and traditionalism of Roth’s society. It’s very difficult to manipulate somebody who values creativity and individuality above all else.

by Maddie D. ’15

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