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Congratulations to Our Scholastic Art and Writing Award Recipients!

Congratulations to Our Scholastic Art and Writing Award Recipients!

picture of 6 scholastic award winners

Some of the Scholastic Award honorees. Left to right: Riya B., Sara B., Tiffany M., Gwen C., Noel P., Margaret Z.

This year, thirteen Castilleja students were among the West Region at Large winners of the Scholastic Art & Writing Competition.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are presented by the Alliance for Young Writers, an organization dedicated to celebrating extraordinarily talented student writers and artists. This year, students aged 7-12 across America submitted nearly 32,000 works in 29 different categories of art and writing. Students are awarded based on the affiliate region they live in (all Castilleja students are in the Western Region at Large), and those whose works receive Gold Key advanced to a higher round for national adjudication.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are divided into two sections, Art and Writing. Categories for the Art section include: Architecture, Comic art, Jewelry, Mixed media, Photography, and more. Categories for the Writing section include: Drama, Humor, Journalism, and Personal essay/Memoir, and more. The contest also offers sponsored awards, such as Neiman Marcus Award for Fashion, sponsored by Neiman Marcus, and the Gedenk Award for Tolerance, sponsored by the Gedenk movement.


In the art division, the following students were recognized:

Gold Key: Emma Glickman ‘16 (Photography); Gabrielle Occhipinti ‘16 (Photography); Grace Stevenson ‘17 (Photography); and Isabella Wang ‘17 (Painting)

 Silver Key: Emma Glickman ‘16 (Photography); Grace Stephenson ‘17 (Photography);  Mimi Tran-Zambetti ‘16 (Painting); and Isabella Wang ‘17 (Painting)

Honorable Mention: Tiffany Madruga ‘16 (Painting); Gabrielle Occhipinti ‘16 (Photography); Mimi Tran-Zambetti ‘16 (Painting); and Isabella Wang ‘17 (Drawing and Illustration).


In the writing division, the following students were recognized:

Gold Key: Sara Bell ‘17 (Poetry, Journalism); Riya Berry ‘18 (Critical Essay); and Noel Peng ‘17 (Poetry)

Silver Key: Riya Berry ‘18 (Humor); Gwen Cusing ‘17 (Poetry); Sho Sho Leigh Ho ‘19 (Personal Essay/Memoir, Short Story, Poetry); Katie Mishra ‘18 (Critical Essay); and Margaret Zhang ‘17 (Poetry, Journalism, Flash Fiction)

Honorable Mention: Sara Bell ‘17 (Personal Essay/Memoir, Poetry); Gwen Cusing ‘17 (Journalism); Sho Sho Leigh Ho ‘19 (Short Story, Poetry); Noel Peng ‘17 (Poetry); and Margaret Zhang ‘17 (Poetry, Personal Essay/Memoir).


Congratulations to all our winners, and a special thank you to all the Castilleja teachers who helped those students get where they are today! For more information about the Scholastic Art and Writing awards, please check out their website here.


-Riya B., ’18

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Paraphrasing with Taylor Swift!

Paraphrasing with Taylor Swift!

A notebook, pages blowing in the wind, sitting on an electric keyboard.

Image source: “Music with Lyrics” by Tarun Kumar from Flickr

Original: “But I’ve got a blank space, baby/And I’ll write your name.”   (“Blank Space,” by Taylor Swift, Max Martin, and Shellback)

Paraphrase: I’m single, so we should date. (Lindsey E., ’21)

It can be challenging to learn to use your own words to express ideas and facts that you get from reading you do while carrying out research. Conveying an idea from your reading in your own words is called paraphrasing. Recently, the seventh graders got some great paraphrasing practice, translating Taylor Swift lyrics into “everyday” spoken English. Here are some lyrics, if you want to give it a try:

  • “’Cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”(“Blank Space,” by Taylor Swift, Max Martin, and Shellback)
  • “But she wears short skirts/I wear T-shirts/She’s cheer captain/And I’m on the bleachers” (“You Belong with Me,” Taylor Swift and Liz Rose)
  • Nice to meet you, where you been?”(“Blank Space,” by Taylor Swift, Max Martin, and Shellback)
  • “Someday I’ll be living in a big ole city/And all you’re ever gonna be is mean” (“Mean,” by Taylor Swift)

Students listed tips on paraphrasing effectively, which included:

  • Read until you understand what the sentence is saying,
  • Identify terminology that is specific to your topic (you can use it in your paraphrase),
  • Articulate the big idea, and
  • Cover it up the original source and say it in your own words.

Of course, when you paraphrase, what you write is often about the same length as the original.

When you want to quickly convey the big ideas of a longer passage, that is called summarizing.  A fun way to practice summarizing is picking a song you love, and telling the story or the moral that song conveys in one, short sentence:

Song title: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman)

Summary:A fun word to say and make you feel good with also confusing people.” (E. Lewis, ’21)

Song title: “Sorry” (Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, and Justin Beiber)

Summary:I let you go and now I want you back.” (E. Smith, ’21)

Can you take your favorite song and summarize its meaning? How about paraphrasing some of your favorite lines? It is a great way to get a feel for the difference between the two skills.

Of course, whether you are paraphrasing or summarizing, you have not done it right if you don’t give credit to the source that gave you the information or ideas that you use. So, a huge “Thank you!” to Amber Lovett, a library school students at the University of Michigan, for the idea of using Taylor Swift lyrics.

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Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

TA Margaret Z. ’17 reviews Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

“Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.”

This inside cover summary does not begin to display the metaphysical and surreal nature of the book. Kafka on the Shore is a winding, complex, confusing, philosophical adventure that will keep you turning the pages. However, despite its intriguing and original premise, a few flaws that made it hard for me to put the book on an all-time favorites list.

The only two prominent women in the novel are viewed almost entirely through a sexual lens, not serving much purpose in the plot other than their sexual encounters with the men. In the second half of the novel, another woman — a prostitute — makes an appearance. Her only significance in the story is that she has sex with one of the men. This detail doesn’t change the course of the plot at all, and her character never appears again. The scene is arbitrary and does not add much to the novel except — well, a sex scene.

Also, every time Kafka runs into his love interest, Murakami feels the need to describe each article of clothing that the love interest is wearing. Yes, I get it — she’s wearing the same blue blouse and pearl necklace and skirt from last time. No need to repeat it every single time.

Additionally, there’s a transgender character in the novel, and while I was originally ecstatic to see this, the way Murakami portrays the character confuses me. Oshima, the transgender man in the novel, is described to never have gotten his period and to never to have developed breasts. To me, this setup felt like Murakami was trying to almost make him “less transgender” and make readers think of him as “more masculine” in order to justify his identity. However, I also understand that Kafka on the Shore was originally intended for a Japanese audience, an aspect that likely affected the portrayal of Oshima. Furthermore, Oshima may have been intersex, but if so, the novel did not make that clear.

Lastly, the resolution of Kafka on the Shore felt anticlimactic. Much of Haruki Murakami’s work is open-ended and leaves room for interpretation and conjecture, such as Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage. However, Murakami doesn’t reach a point in this story that gives the reader enough material to actually interpret; instead, he leaves readers grasping at tendrils of smoke. Kafka on the Shore contains too many arbitrary details whose purposes are unclear. While I normally love bizarreness if it plays even a small role in the plot, many central mysteries of the novel that kept me reading — the fish falling from the sky, the ability to talk to cats, the mysterious flute — are never resolved or explained.

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A Review of Lapham’s Quarterly by Kiana B. ’16

A Review of Lapham’s Quarterly by Kiana B. ’16

Museum-goers come in many varieties: there are those who invest in headphones to delve into self-guided tours, there are the ones who hop from exhibit to exhibit with no particular pattern; some like to sit with a painting for thirty minutes, some are content with a brief glance. Lapham’s Quarterly is a lot like a museum. You may be the type to read Lapham’s Quarterly from beginning to end, taking in the wide range of content as curated by the editors. Or, if you’re like me, you get overwhelmed and excited by all the ideas and perspectives packed into this magazine, and tend to flip to a page at random, savoring what it has to offer before venturing into other content.

Lapham’s organizes itself around a particular topic, gathering various pieces of writing and art to amalgamate into a big museum for readers, full of exhibits and secret corridors, gardens with endangered plants, and gift shops with theoretical and coloring books alike. What I’m trying to say is this: Lapham’s Quarterly has a lot to offer. Topics thus far have included Fashion, Spies, Philanthropy, Intoxication, Death, Youth, Ways of Learning, and more. Contributors range from Marx to Amanda Palmer, Machiavelli to Walt Whitman. Looking at the table of contents is an adventure of its own. When I surveyedwhat was in store for the Fashion volume of Lapham’s, I was delighted when I saw John “I pride myself on the fact that my work has no socially redeeming value” Waters and Homer on the same page. Magical and hilarious juxtaposition of contributors are abundant in Lapham’s Quarterly (Quentin Tarantino and Aeschylus! I could go on.).

Lapham’s Quarterly may also be the best shot we have at time travel. All the entries in the magazine are organized by location and date, so Lapham’s is as much of a reading and learning experience as it is a time- traveling experience. Venice in 1596? Sure thing. 1972 Kyoto? Don’t mind if I do! Examining the pieces in Lapham’s Quarterly through the lens of the time and place they were created adds a whole new layer of ideas to consider. As a historical magazine, Lapham’s intentionally leads readers through time and history, helping us understand the changes and continuity our world faces through the lens of specific topics. It makes history interactive by allowing you to make connections, question authors, agree with arguments, and look at some really gorgeous photos and illustrations along the way.

If history class is your happy place, if you ask yourself questions as often as you crave baked goods, or you’re really into cool graphics, go pick up a volume of Lapham’s Quarterly!

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Background Information: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Background Information: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

TA Noel P. pairs a book taking place in 1911 New York with an informative research about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire…

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

The Museum of Extraordinary Things is set in turn-of-the-century America, and focused on two very different teenagers: Coralie, a “mermaid” in her father’s abusive freak show on Coney Island, whose diminishing audience forces her into darker acts; and Eddie, a Ukrainian immigrant who struggles with relationships with his father, and learning to live in a new and unfamiliar world during one of the most exciting times in history. While this novel is mainly about these two characters and what they come to discover about themselves in their troubled lives, one of the most fascinating aspects about this novel is the setting. Set in the time period right on the brink of WWI, social status and class are being reimagined, immigrant identities are becoming more prevalent, forms of entertainment are evolving, and so many other things come to life. In this time period, France was going through their “Belle Epoque,” and US itself was experiencing its “Gilded Age.” The world was, mostly, at peace.

But that’s in the span of the entire world, and what Hoffman does is show not the warfare of country against country, but the tragedy of life, and the internal warfare that occurs underneath the gold and the glitz and the propaganda. Undoubtedly the biggest tragedy portrayed in this book is the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire–one of the darkest consequences of industrialization in the US and the abuse on its workforce. The fire not only serves to juxtapose the backdrop setting of the novel, but also to act as a sobering catalyst for the characters’ lives.

A photograph of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

For more information on this time period, especially on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, visit Remembering the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire. Put together by Cornell University, this website has background information on the Triangle Factory Fire, as well as primary source interviews, documents, images, and the names and basic information on all victims of the fire. Check it out!


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Why I Love The Database Issues and Controversies

Why I Love The Database Issues and Controversies



TA Christine C. wants you to know that this database is the best.




Issues and Controversies saved my life last year. I was preparing for my APS debate on the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” and couldn’t seem to find a sufficient amount of reliable sources for both sides of the argument. How was I going to write my whole debate when I didn’t have enough reliable evidence to bolster my arguments? I would completely embarrass myself during the debate by having to cite my sources with “the website Republicans Hate Obama says” or “according to The Onion.”

I turned to the magical library databases and stumbled upon Issues and Controversies. After I typed in “The Affordable Care Act” on the search bar, the database led me to a vast amount of trustworthy websites and scholarly articles. Even better, Issues and Controversies had articles written from both perspectives and blurbs on every article titled “Supporters Argue” and “Opponents Argue” that gave me a concise and informative summary on the issue as well as ideas for arguments and counterarguments. Thanks to Issues and Controversies, the condition of my debate was saved.

Knowing what issues, domestic and international, are present and having a deep understanding of those issues allow us to become well informed and make stances of our own. The majority of our political stances are affected by our environment and it can often be difficult to clearly understand the other side of the argument when people around us paint the opponents as the “bad guys.” I personally recognize that going to a liberal school and living in one of the most liberal places in the country have shaped my political views. When biases become increasingly evident and ubiquitous, understanding both sides of an issues becomes more important. Issues and Controversies allowed me to look at a multitude of issues from a different perspective and critically think about my own biases.

Whether you need evidence for a school paper or want to learn more about the world around you, Issues and Controversies is a reliable and informative database to use. Think about issues in a new light and learn more about what was just on the news. Who knows? You might just learn something about the world and yourself.

By Christine C. ’17.

Check out Issues and Controversies here on our databases page.

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