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Alexandra Fuller Visits Campus

Alexandra Fuller Visits Campus

During Flex, the eighth grade class had the privilege of meeting Alexandra Fuller and being able to experience and relive the life of an aspiring writer growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) through her moving stories.

Fuller was not what I expected. She was dressed in a plum cashmere sweater and sturdy grey jeans, but despite her muted outerwear, she exuded such energy and life that our whole class was soon mesmerized with her lively facial expressions and animated hand gestures. Her accent was soft, but angular in places, and her voice had a captivating cadence. As Ms. Terkeltaub read questions, Fuller would suddenly leap up, face alight with a story on the verge of being told, take three long strides to the center of the room, and start providing us with half an answer, before going on about a tangent; sometimes it was about the time when she rode across the desert on horseback without water or food for days, or the time she almost drowned while being stuck in a coffin with a drunk ship captain. My favorite story was when she recounted the time her eight-year-old daughter and she had to face a bear in the wilderness. The audience was still; everyone bit their fingernails with baited breath until we all breathed a sigh of relief when we reached the end.


Alexandra Fuller

Particularly, I think what made Fuller’s memoir so poignant was the fact that it came straight from her heart. Fuller encouraged us to write stories that mattered to us, not to write for other people. When question time started, aspiring writers in the audience (including myself), bombarded her with one question after another: “Did you always know you were going to be a writer?”, followed by a more personal question, “Tell us about your kids,” to which she merrily proceeded to describe her lacrosse-loving son, and her horseback-almost-died-in-the-forest-with-a-bear daughter.

By the time our session with Ms. Fuller was over, there were many groans of sadness, and as we shuffled out the choral room legs numb from sitting and tensing up during the climaxes of her anecdotes, several students separated to go talk to Ms. Fuller, while murmurs of the transfixing session followed them out. Not everyone lives a life as brimming with harrowing life or death stories, nor lived a life in the midst of a revolution, bit I think there is a story within each and everyone one of us that can be brought out. If I had to narrow it down to one thing that I learned from Fuller, it is to “Carpe diem,” the English translation being “seize the day.” While Fuller acknowledges that she has regrets, my personal opinion is that she is a lady who lives with no regrets.

by Sho Sho H. ’19

We have three of Fuller’s books in the library! -Librarian

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Books on the Brain? Brain On Books? Books? Brain!

Ever wanted to know why you are the way you are? Ever wanted to know what is going on inside your brain? Why your personality is the way it is? Why everyone is different from one another? The answer to all of these questions lies in the study of the human mind and its functions, or psychology.

With the recently added psych class taught by Mr. Mitchell added to our course options, the excitement and interest surrounding the subject has been appreciable, evident in the fact that the class filled up so quickly that only seniors got spots in it. While only some people are able to take the course this year, there are still so many more people interested in the subject, and of course, many ways to still learn about it.

In the Castilleja Library we have a sizable psychology and neuroscience section, with most of the books found in the 150s on the dewy decimal system, or by the reserved tables and the white board in the back of the library. In addition, we currently have a featured psychology display near the front door to the library, with many interesting books to pique people’s interest in many facets of the subject. If you are interested in psychology, it is highly recommended that you check out some of those books as a good place to start.

The library is also about to start allowing magazines to be checked out. We have a subscription to “Scientific American: Mind,” a great psychology and cognitive sciences magazine that has great articles and studies published in each issue. Starting very soon, these will be able to be checked out!

If you have already exhausted our collection of psychology books, here are some more that are highly recommended super interesting and fun reads:

subliminalSubliminal: How the Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

This book is by far one of my all-time favorite books. Written by Leonard Mlodinow, it gives a great background on cognitive neuroscience that will interest everyone from a complete beginner to an amateur neuroscientist. Speckled with Mlodinow’s humorous quips and personal stories, it makes reading the book really fun and it doesn’t feel like a super scientific or dense book. Personally, this was one of the books that got me really into psychology, by showing just how amazing the human brain is through the explanation of the results of many studies.

psychPsychology 101

This book by Paul Kleinman gives a great foundation for the absolute beginner in the field of psychology. It touches on many topics typically outlining a beginners’ course in psychology. It gives bios and discusses the influence of many early thinkers and emerging psychologists such as Freud. It also explains subjects such as personality, behavior, and love. This book is a valuable source for basic information in a very wide range of topics that give a great overview of psychology.

femaleThe Female Brain and The Male Brain

The Female Brain and The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine are great books if you want to see how the brains of males and females compare. They delve into the topics of hormones, childhood development, sex, love, and decision-making. These books are highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand their own brain, the brain of the opposite sex, or just to compare the differences. These books are highly readable and perfect for anyone starting from absolute beginners to people well educated in the differences between the male and female brain.

dibsDibs in Search of Self

This book by Virginia Axline follows the story of a young boy named Dibs who attends regular therapy and counseling sessions. Dibs will not play or go outside, nor will he talk, much to the concern of his parents. This book is a narrative based book that follows his progress as he “searches for himself,” in an attempt to escape his mental illness. This is a good book to read if you don’t want to read a purely non-fiction or research based book, but are still interested in psychology, psychiatry, or mental illness.


“Dora” is not a novel but a case study, conducted by Sigmund Freud. It follows and details the case of Ida Bauer, who for her own privacy was given the pseudonym Dora. She was diagnosed with hysteria, which is no longer a recognized illness, but the study is praised for Freud’s method and experimentation. This is an interesting study to read for anyone who is interested specifically in Freud or his methods.

Hopefully one of these books has got you interested, and you can either buy them online, in a bookstore, or check them out from your local library that has them!

by McKenna B. ’16

The Castilleja Library has even more fantastic books on aspects of psychology, by authors such as Jonah Lerer, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jean Piaget. We’re looking forward to the expansion of our very own library’s ever-growing psychology collection, and so should you! -Librarian

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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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