Ha ha hard question, hmmmm

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Tell me about a book that made you laugh…

This week, in honour of the LOLLIES which announces its winner on January 18 2018, we’ve been asking people what books made them laugh. The question, though, has produced more thoughtful faces than immediate grins at the memory of a hilarious book.

Lots of people pursed their lips and did that thing where you look off into the space behind and above the person you’re talking to. Quite a few “hmmmed” thoughtfully and leaned against a desk, table or the nearest wall whilst they thought some more. “A book that made me laugh? Hmmm…”. Not such an easy one to answer, in truth. Lots of people said that their reading provoked a mixture of responses – some laughs, yes, but also sadness, sympathy, elation, empathy and so on.

We do have some suggestions for funny books though, starting perhaps obviously with one by P.G. Wodehouse, the famous OA for whom we are named. Our 42 Reading List includes Carry On, Jeeves which begins with Jeeves, the valet,  floating “noiselessly through the doorway like a healing zephyr“* and dealing with Bertie Wooster’s hangover. This is an amusing series of related short stories offering escape and diversion, so we thought we would pop it on our list of books that could make you laugh.

Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island and The Road to Little Dribbling both got mentions for making people laugh. The latter book was shortlisted a few years back for the TSBA and remains popular with borrowers here. Notes was written first and Dribbling is a 20-year anniversary follow-up of anecdotes and observations about the habitual oddities of Brits. Again, amusing, not necessarily taxing and it starts with the funny story of Bryson getting hit in the head. We know the head hitting story is funny because we showed it to Dr Hulls and he laughed out loud right there at the Issue Desk.

Back on the 42 list we have The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams and A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, both of which are blurbed as funny. Evelyn Waugh’s satire Decline and Fall might cause you to crack a smile too. The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett is Funny (note capitalisation!), especially any of the stories starring Death.

So there’s a start to our list of books that could well have you laughing out loud and, in the same week that boasted the most miserable Monday, here’s something that brought a bittersweet smile to our faces. A tweet from Grasmere School which included a photo of the mobile library van welcoming children into its warmth on a wild weather day. Easy to forget how lucky we are here at Dulwich College since every single one of us has access to 4 libraries where we can escape into another (sometimes warmer) worlds, find books to support our studies, work quietly and collaboratively or simply chat about reading with library staff.

*p.12 Carry On, Jeeves


Michaelmas Round-up

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It’s been a busy Michaelmas Term for the Wodehouse Library.

Over the summer a new Library Management System came on stream so there was a fresh look to the Library Catalogue and, at half-term, the new security system was switched on. Gradually all the items in the Wodehouse collection will be RFID tagged so, please, do return to the Issue Desk if the alarm goes off as you leave – you’ll hear a beeping noise if you have an item that hasn’t been issued and deactivated.

Pupil Librarians and Library Prefects have worked hard to help staff sort all the items which have been withdrawn from the collection during the tagging process. All the removed items will eventually go to charity or be recycled where possible.

We’ve been encouraging all Library users to make good use of the resources, including space, in the Wodehouse Library. This means that we are prioritising PC and table spaces for boys who want to get on with prep or quiet reading. Likewise, in the Periodicals Room we have been asking anyone not reading the magazines or newspapers to make way for others.

There have been a number of exciting author visitors to the school since September including Alex Wheatle, MBE, Matt Haig and Stewart Foster. For Stewart, this was a return to Dulwich College where his novel Bubble Boy won the TSBA Award 2017 earlier in the year.

Junior School boys visited the Wodehouse Library for a Shakespeare Tour. Groups were shown around by Mrs Lucy, the Keeper of the Archives, Mrs Cerio and Mr Fletcher.

Back at the start of Michaelmas, boarders spent an evening in the Wodehouse with Mr Fletcher and Year 9 boys took part in a Library and Archives induction. This offered a chance for boys to learn about the resources available to them in the Middle School. Working in groups the boys completed a quiz and listened to a brief talk on Library procedures.

Mr Fletcher presented the non-fiction collection and e-resources that will support Upper School boys, particularly those undertaking CREST Awards or EPQs, in their studies and all Wodehouse Library staff have tried to keep the Upper School study area a peaceful working environment. Specifically aimed at the Upper School we also introduced ‘Readaxation’ as a way of helping boys understand the benefits reading for pleasure can bring despite the various pressures of deadlines and preparing for the future beyond Dulwich College.

Many classes have also come to the Wodehouse with their English teachers to take a closer look at the 42 Reading List books and all have been encouraged to borrow from the fiction collection as part of our ongoing promotion of reading for pleasure in the school.

The Wodehouse Library staff took that reading for pleasure message out and about with our pop-up libraries just after half-term. Popping up in the PE Centre, Lord George Building, The Laboratory and the Christison Hall we were really pleased to speak with so many boys and staff about reading and loans for the week were encouragingly high. If you’re ever stuck for inspiration for what to read next, themed displays appear throughout the Wodehouse and staff are always on hand with suggestions.

We hope the long Michaelmas term has been successful for you all and wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and we look forward to many more good reads in 2018.

Alex Wheatle Visits Dulwich College

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On Wednesday 6th December the award winning Children’s and Young Adult novelist Alex Wheatle (MBE) visited Dulwich College.

Alex is best known for his debut novel Brixton Rock (1999) and for his Crongton series – a fictional estate where a cast of memorable characters live and negotiate tricky emotional and social situations. Although Brixton Rock is the most obviously autobiographical of his fiction, his stories all draw on the author’s experience – including his early years in Brixton, his time in care, and his period in prison following his participation in the Brixton Riots in 1981.
Pupils from three classes from Year 7 and 8 and the whole of year 9 were treated to some readings from his Crongton series, interspersed with accounts of his life that had inspired some of the characters and events in his novels and – in one session –  to a remarkably well-improvised rendition of one of Alex’s early Reggae compositions—Uprising! Alex is a remarkably good story teller and had his audience as much invested in the story of his life as they were in the extracts from his fiction that he shared with them.
Alex also spent time with 12 members of the Joint Creative Writing Workshop in the Upper School who learnt about crafting characters and engaging their readers by appealing to their sense of empathy.
Later in the day, Josiah Roberts did a first rate job of interviewing Alex in front of a small panel audience and on behalf of the Afro-Caribbean Society. The discussion focused on the state of BAME fiction in the context of market forces, the competitive state of the publishing industry, and the roles and responsibilities of authors to their readership. Josiah and Alex also explored the changing cultural and political fortunes of Brixton in the context of the ongoing process of gentrification and what this might mean for local artists and residents and for the long-established Afro-Caribbean community.
The staff and some of the pupils who attended any of these sessions were all struck by how down to earth Alex is, by how warmly and generously he answers questions, and by how committed he is to making a difference to his young readers through his fiction. We were fortunate to have him in for the day and look forward to maintaining our links with such a prominent local author. Grateful thanks to Mrs Stein and the Library and to Miss Coppin and the English Department for organising and facilitating this visit.

Award winner

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The Books Are My Bag Readers Awards saw some goodies winning prizes

You can read the full list of winners here.

Congratulations to Adam Kay, OA, on winning 2 categories with his memoir This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor which you can find here in the Wodehouse Library.


Pop goes the library

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The Wodehouse Library got out and about last week, popping up in different parts of the school.

With the aim of encouraging boys and staff to #readmore we gathered up a small part of the Wodehouse Library collection (based on recommendations from tutors, reading lists and popular loans) and took it into 4 different locations around the school campus.

Books could be borrowed, renewed, reserved and returned and it was heartening that so many browsers and borrowers stopped by. We had some good chats about what people are currently reading and what they’re looking forward to reading too. A lot of smiles as well (sometimes after an initial ‘huh?!’ moment to see us in unexpected places!), which was great.

Many thanks to everyone who supported us last week, to all the pupil librarians who helped out and happy reading to all our borrowers!


Lucky dips, tutor recommendations and the 66 spinner
Lord George Building
The Laboratory


PE Department Book Club

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It’s half-time in our #popuplibrary week and James Walsh sends us this report from the PE Department Book Club:

The PE crew average one book per month and then meet over dinner to discuss our thoughts and opinions on that book. The club is led by [Mr] Davies and the flavour of the book choice is often sport oriented. In recent times we have read No Hunger in Paradise by Michael Calvin and Das Reboot by Raphael Honigstein. This concept creates a great discussion amongst colleagues in the faculty and ensures that we maintain close links with the College Library who always help us out with the book we are searching for.


Pop-up library week

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The Wodehouse Library is hitting the road this week!

With a carefully chosen selection of titles from the collection, you will find us in pop-up form at morning breaks and lunchtimes in various locations around campus:

  • Tuesday = PE Centre
  • Wednesday = Lord George Building
  • Thursday = The Laboratory
  • Friday = Christison Hall.

You will be able to borrow, renew, return and reserve items as normal. The pop-ups will have a member of library staff and some volunteers helping out so do come and take a look, say hello and choose a book.

#readmore #popuplibrary