BOOK REVIEWS

  • BOOK REVIEWS

Six books we think you and your students will love

Six books we think you and your students will love

The Buzz

(David Hodgson, Crown House, £9.99)

Based on NLP techniques, this is a sparky, positive handbook for navigating the turbulent waters of adolescence, teaching teens the kinds of things that can often get left out of the standard school curriculum – how to get out of an argument; ways to relax; understanding your personality; and making those important and potentially daunting decisions about what is going to happen beyond compulsory education. Hodgson delivers his training with warmth and humour, and packs the pages with games and activities that could easily and usefully be worked into a classroom session. There’s a website (thebuzzbook.co.uk) too, featuring free resources including personality tests, excerpts from the book, MP3 downloads and ‘Ask the Buzz’ – an online advice service especially for teens.

Guerrilla Teaching

(Jonathan Lear, Independent Thinking Press, £18.99)

Although written with teachers of primary school aged children in mind, this is a book with plenty to offer educators in any phase – because above all, it is a heartfelt call to revolution. Lear has had enough of false dichotomies and self-indulgent pedagogical debate; he has as little patience for progressive gurus as he does for political posturing; and he understands that ‘creative’ and ‘direct’ are not mutually exclusive adjectives when applied to ‘teaching’. It’s time, he insists, for those responsible for young people’s learning to remember what’s important, to trust their instinctive and experienced understanding of what is in the best interests of their pupils, and to resist any attempt to introduce initiatives and strategies that go against it.

HEAP 2016

(Brian Heap, Trotman, £35)

This year’s HEAP is, amazingly, the 46th edition of what has come to be known as ‘The Bible’ for anyone looking at higher education. Written, as ever, by Brian Heap – whose dedication to the cause and minute attention to detail is legendary – this is the definitive guide to university degree course offers, gathering together all the information that candidates need in order to choose the next step that is right for them. It’s the kind of tome that could do some serious damage if dropped on a foot – yet it’s clearly laid out and remarkably easy to navigate. Yes, the internet age means that the facts are considerably easier to access independently than they were when Heap put together his first guide, but the 2016 edition still offers young people a clear, accurate overview, and as such, should be stocked in every sixth form library.

Skullduggery Pleasant

(Derek Landy, Harper Collins, £6.99)

“It didn’t take me long to become immersed in this amazing page-turner – the first in Derek Landy’s bestselling horror-comedy series. The main character is a girl called Stephanie Edgely, who meets the wisecracking detective, Skullduggery Pleasant – a living skeleton sustained by magic. Stephanie soon becomes the detective’s sidekick and starts to develop magic powers herself. I absolutely love the Skullduggery series; after I finished the Harry Potter books, I just couldn’t find a series, let alone a single book, that could satisfy me – until I found Mr Pleasant, waiting on the library shelf. Landy always throws in more plot twists and turns than you could count, and occasionally puts the crime-fighting detective duo into situations where all odds are against them, or in seemingly unescapable death traps. Instead, they crack a joke, escape with milliseconds to spare, and sound extremely smug afterwards. If you want something to put your students on the edge of their seats, burst out laughing or shiver in their shoes, then Skullduggery Pleasant is an absolute no-brainer!”

Homeroom Diaries

(James Patterson, Arrow, £6.99)

Mental health is a growing problem in schools. Indeed, some reports suggest that we are ‘sitting on a time bomb’, as a perfect storm of funding cuts and increased pressure on young people gathers around us. James Patterson’s latest book for teens is his first foray into the world of illustrated ‘diary fiction’, and features a protagonist who has recently had a brief stay in a mental institution. Touching, funny, fast-moving and keenly observant, the story follows Margaret ‘Cuckoo’ Clarke as she embarks on a ‘Happiness Project’, with the aim of bringing the various tribes of her high school together and learning more about herself in the process. Perhaps most significantly, she also discovers that that there will always be a few haters who can’t help hating. And that actually, in the grand scheme of things, it’s something that can be lived with.

Being Me

(Pete Kalu, HopeRoad, £6.99)

How does it feel to be a young girl whose passion and talent are invested in what tends to be seen as a man’s game – football? What does it really mean to be ‘black’ – when you look ‘white’? Will a spot or two of shoplifting always come back to haunt a person? And why can’t adults be more… grown up? These questions and more are tackled in Pete Kanu’s fresh slice of life in modern Britain, as star striker Adele Vialli attempts to impress an England scout, negotiate a relationship with her boyfriend Marcus, and work out what on earth her city banker dad is doing flirting with her best frenemy Mikaela’s mother. As Adele herself warns from the start, there are no neat, happy endings here – but there is plenty of honesty and everyday heartache with which many young adult readers will be able to identify.

Meet the AUTHOR

Why did you first start researching admissions requirements for universities?

The 1960s saw an increase in the numbers of applicants for universities when students were only permitted to apply for six courses or universities. Unfortunately, neither UCAS (called UCCA in its early days) nor the universities published the offers required for each course, so applications could easily be wasted and places lost. Something had to be done, so I researched the admissions policies of each institution and in 1969 published the first edition of ‘Degree Course Offers’, now HEAP 2016. Many universities were very unhappy that their admission ‘secrets’ were being revealed!

HEAP is now in its 46th year; how has it changed since you first compiled it?

I quickly realised that admissions tutors were looking beyond A level grades for the best applicants. In some cases interviews were compulsory. What type of questions were being asked and what information were they looking for on the UCAS form? So I added more information. Then it seemed a good idea to begin to provide information about each degree subject and how they differed between universities – for example, some offered sandwich courses in which students spent time working in industry or commerce as part of their studies. So from a book of 100 pages in 1969 the latest edition has 745 and now includes courses at local colleges of further education.

Are you happy to be known as ‘the guru of higher education’?

A ‘guru’ is one who knows all the answers, and that’s certainly not me! There are teachers reading this who have snippets of useful information about admissions which I don’t have (perhaps they’ll send them for my next book…) I think I was first introduced as a ‘guru’ at a lecture I gave at an international school in Switzerland; the Press picked it up and it stuck.

If you had to give one piece of advice to all students, what would it be?

There are over 1200 separate degree subjects and if we include joint and modular degrees in each subject we are talking about thousands of alternatives. Add to this over 200 universities and colleges offering courses, and there’s really only one answer: start early. Once the GCSEs are over and A level choices made, settle in and begin to focus on the subjects you enjoy the most. By January or February you should really start thinking about what you might like to study to degree level, and also where.

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