Exploros Vocabulary Textbook – Now Available On Your PC, Mac, or Phone

Exploros has just released their latest version of our vocabulary textbook, and this one works on any platform, not just on an iPad. If you have an account set up, and your teacher is inviting you to the vocabulary units, then you may now enter your responses at

http://app.exploros.com

Sign in as you would on your iPad, and you can navigate your homework from your computer or your smartphone.

2015 Poetry Out Loud Dates Announced

The road to the 2015 Poetry Out Loud contest begins today!

We’ve recently posted in the English Hall the dates for our ninth annual Poetry Out Loud Contest, and they are as follows:

The semifinals will run all day on Wednesday, January 28 (Snow Date: 1/29)

The 2015 finals will be on Wednesday, February 4 (Snow Date: 2/5)

This will be only the second time in the last six competitions when we will be guaranteed to crown an entirely new BHS Poet Laureate, as the graduating class of 2014 took with it our previous three years’ winners (Pranav Menon in 2012 & 2014, and Allie Hardy in 2013). The door to your success is wide open! Good luck, everybody!

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First Purchase for Well-Read Devils Comes With a Surprise

The first book purchases for members of the Well-Read Devils arrived today, and one of them had a little extra bonus.

The Well-Read Devils is a book-buying program run by the BHS English Department where students put in requests for books that they like, and we try to find cheap or free copies for the students. The English Department picks up the tab for the first $5 for each purchase, which means that most books go out to students for free. If you’d like to sign up to get free or discounted books, CLICK HERE and follow the instructions. (And keep your eye on the display in the English hallway for the arrivals of new books!)

When today’s mail came in, one of the books was a paperback copy of Sherwood Anderson’s famous novel, Winesburg, Ohio. Tucked inside it was a newspaper clipping from the Toledo Blade, from only 2 weeks ago, highlighting the effect that the book has had on the real-life town that inspired it. Check it out!

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Last year, a student was pleasantly surprised to find that her Jodi Picoult novel that she received for free was actually signed by the author!

If you are interested in getting in on the free books, don’t hesitate to sign up to be one of the Well-Read Devils.

2014 ELA MCAS Results

The results of the 2014 MCAS exams have just been posted on the DESE website, and we’re very pleased with the results.

For the second-straight year, BHS students have set record highs in the four categories of scoring, and for the first time, a true majority (51%) of BHS students scored an “advanced” rating on the ELA test.

Our SGP score, which measures improvement rather than raw scores, also went well, as BHS students scored a 54 (scores in this category generally span from 40-60, for the most part – it is not a true percentile score – a score of 50 indicates average, expected progress). This score marks a twelve-point improvement over the last two years.

Congratulations, class of 2016, for your excellent performance on the MCAS!

[CORRECTION] The original post held a paragraph comparing our statistics to other districts in the state. Closer scrutiny showed us that the list from which we gathered those statistics was wildly inaccurate, and largely incomplete. The information on the comprehensive list of scores on the  DESE website is far more reliable, and shows that our combination of SGP score and Advanced + Proficient places us in roughly the 90th to 92nd percentile of all schools in the state.

The Top 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read

Perhaps as a way of distilling their national identity, The Scotsman, a Scottish newspaper, recently compiled their list of 20 Scottish books that everyone should read. Alas, Scotland did not become an independent nation this week, but they still have their freedom, and can still hope to have Americans “see oursels as ithers see us.”

Driftnet by Lin Anderson: This crime book has flown off shelves. When a teenage boy is found murdered in a Glasgow flat, forensic psychologist Rhona MacLeod finds likenesses between herself and the victim. Could he be the son she put up for adoption 17 years before?

• Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon: Recently voted the best Scottish book of all time, Sunset Song remains a classic across the land. What young woman wouldn’t identify with its heroine, Chris Guthrie, torn between the countryside of her birth and the modern world?

• The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark: As much a time and a place as a character, Spark’s Jean Brodie came to embody a generation of Edinburgh women. Her unconventional ways and blatant favouritism made her both terrifying and alluring.

• Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin: This is where it all started for John Rebus – Rankin’s hard-drinking Edinburgh crime-fighter – with the murder of three girls. When messages made of knotted string and matchsticks start arriving, Rebus realises it’s personal.

• Buddha Da by Anne Donovan: This beautiful novel won rave reviews when first published three years ago. Though written entirely in Glaswegian Scots, it is an easy and lyrical read about a decorator who becomes a Buddhist, and is one of Canongate’s selection for the Scottish exhibition.

• Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie: So what if it perpetrates the old, cliched ‘Brigadoon’ myth? Scots, English, American or Martian, no-one can resist this tale of ill-gotten whisky gain on a Scottish island in wartime. It’s simply hilarious.

• 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith: Without wishing to blow our own trumpet (well, maybe, just a bit), this tale of manners and intrigue in Edinburgh’s New Town debuted in The Scotsman in 2003 as a daily novel. McCall Smith is feted in America almost as much as JK Rowling.

• Boswell’s Edinburgh Journals: High times and low lifes in the Edinburgh of the Enlightenment. Boswell’s diaries were instrumental in documenting 18th-century Reekie as he drank and debated philosophical thoughts with Adam Smith and David Hume, and mixed with the city’s seedier side.

• Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh: When the movie was released, American cinemas showed it with subtitles. Despite the language barrier, Welsh enjoys a huge following in the US – his uncompromising attitudes make a refreshing change across the Atlantic.

• Selected Poems of Carol Ann Duffy: Passed over for Poet Laureate a few years back, Duffy is nonetheless Scotland’s foremost poet. Whether writing about love, loss, or childhood, Duffy’s voice is clean, clear and accessible. Many see her as a cheerier, modern-day Sylvia Plath.

• Greenvoe by George Mackay Brown: When a mysterious military project threatens a way of life unchanged for generations on the Orcadian island of Hellya, chaos prevails. Mackay Brown’s evocative writing conjures up the myths and magic as well as the isolation of island life.

• Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson: Henry James was one of RLS’s greatest champions, while Donna Tartt says she owes much of the style of her second novel, The Little Friend, to Kidnapped. Revel in young David Balfour’s adventures and marvel at how it engages young and old.

• Lanark by Alasdair Gray: A Glasgow institution, Lanark was Gray’s first novel, and arguably his finest. Many shiver at the words Great Scottish Novel, but, if ever a book were worthy of this esteemed title, Gray’s marvellous four-part colossus could be it.

• The Missing by Andrew O’Hagan: Mixing autobiography with social commentary, O’Hagan asks what impact a human being going missing has on livelihoods and communities. Examining a side of Britain often unseen and unheard, he brings light to a country many of us would not recognise.

• New Selected Poems by Edwin Morgan: His public appearances sell out in seconds, and he is more universally loved by Scots than the Cairngorms. This includes older poems as well as his more recent work, including a suite of ten poems which tells the history of the earth. Relevant to us all.

• The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks: Dark, detached and brilliant, Iain Banks’ first novel remains his finest. Frank is a teenager on a remote Scottish island whose strange obsessions, and the varying degrees of insanity of his family members, become increasingly horrifying. Makes Stephen King look like Beatrix Potter.

• Young Adam, by Alexander Trocchi: The second book on our list to have been made into a film starring Ewan McGregor, Trocchi’s most famous work, set on barges travelling between Glasgow and Edinburgh, has drawn parallels with Albert Camus’ The Outsider. Quite pornographic in parts.

• Waverley by Sir Walter Scott: For tourists who have arrived at Waverley station and visited the Scott Monument, this is the real thing. The story of the Jacobite uprising of 1745 and the idealistic young Edward Waverley, drawn in to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s web. A classic of classics.

• The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins: Scotland’s Of Mice and Men, Robin Jenkins’ haunting novel is set during the Second World War on a Scottish country estate and tells the story of two brothers working as cone gatherers. Mysterious and tragic, it remains a classic moral tale.

• Divided City by Theresa Breslin: It’s the marching season in Glasgow and young Graham just wants to play football, but he finds himself involved in old rivalries between Catholics and Protestants, and, in newer conflicts, with a young Muslim. This children’s book is a timely insight into sectarianism and racism.

Shortlist for 2014 Booker Prize announced

The shortlist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize has been announced, and this year marks the first time that American authors are eligible to compete for this vaunted prize. The description below is taken from the announcement posted on the Booker Prize’s webpage:

THE SHORTLIST

Joshua Ferris – To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking)

Richard Flanagan – The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus)

Karen Joy Fowler – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent’s Tail)

Howard Jacobson – (Jonathan Cape)

Neel Mukherjee – The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)

Ali Smith – How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)

The Man Booker Prize 2014 shortlist is out. Although it won’t have been chosen with this in mind, the list is a thing of perfect balance. As they sat in their last meeting the judges will have been too busy winnowing the longlisted books and arguing the case for dismissal or inclusion to have noticed what was shaping up in front of them. The realisation will have come only when they breathed out after the wrangling and found they had picked a shortlist that contains not just two women and four men but an ecumenical national representation too – three Brits (one Indian-born), two Americans and one Australian. The books’ themes show the same even-handedness: there is the future (Howard Jacobson’s J) and the past (Richard Flangan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North); the formally traditional (Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others) and the experimental (Ali Smith’s How to be Both); the modern technological (Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour) and the imaginative twist (Karen Joy Fowler’s We are All Completely Beside Ourselves). There are even five different imprints represented on the list. The judges, clearly, are natural democrats and meritocrats.

The list offers other nice comparisons too. It contains the oldest writer on the longlist (ungallant to name him I know) in Howard Jacobson at 72 and the youngest, Joshua Ferris at 39. If Jacobson wins he will become only the fourth multiple winner in the Man Booker’s history (having previously won in 2010 with The Finkler Question) alongside J.M. Coetzee, Peter Carey and Hilary Mantel. Not bad company. If Ali Smith wins it will cap three Man Booker shortlistings. If Ferris or Fowler win they will become the first US novelists to scoop the prize. If Richard Flanagan wins he will be the first Man Booker laureate to have some river rapids named after him – “Flanagan’s Surprise” on the Franklin River in Victoria, Australia. If Neel Mukherjee wins he will become the first Anglo-Indian winner since Salman Rushdie in 1981.

What the list also recognises is expertise born of practise. None of the chosen novelists are literary ingénues, all have served their apprenticeships. Jacobson is the author of 13 novels, Fowler of seven, Smith and Flanagan of six, Ferris and Mukherjee of three. That’s a cumulative 38 novels before the innumerable short stories, plays and works of non-fiction have even been taken into account. These are all authors who know something about constructing novels. At this stage the judges will have read each of the shortlisted books at least twice and it is a rare book that merits a second reading. Privately the judges will admit that some of the novels in fact improve on a further reading.

– See more at: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/feature/reflection-shortlist-man-booker-prize-2014

Check the English Hallway for Writing Contests

Throughout the fall, we will be posting submission guidelines for various writing contests for high school students. If interested, check it out, and send in your best work!

We’ve just posted the guidelines for the annual Bennington College Contests in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Grab a submission form, or check out the contest HERE. The deadline is NOVEMBER 1, and the top entries in each category win $500.

2014-15 Collab Now Open for Submissions, Calls for Poetry

Collab, the BHS literary magazine, has just announced the opening of their annual poetry contest. Any student who wishes to submit his or her original poetry will be eligible for a top prize of $25 at True North Coffee in Burlington. Students can submit to the box outside of the Collab room, or to Mr. Lally in room 200. HERE is a link to the Collab website’s announcement.

Dystopia? That’s so 2012. Authors Collaborate to Write Optimistic Sci-Fi

Tired of world-gone-wrong literature? Maybe you’re not alone… a collection of writers and scientists have united to write a collection of stories that envision the challenges of the future, and protagonists who actually overcome them. The project is known as Project Hieroglyph, and the publication comes out on September 9th. To read up more on the project itself, visit their website, or read this BBC article

Maybe Big Brother is watching only because he gets such joy from seeing us live our lives…