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The Reading Joys of Croydon High

It was glorious for the Community Book Club to meet in person, rather than by zoom, two weeks ago. We enjoyed tea, cake and book-chat in the netball pavilion. We started on a jolly note with Gerald Durrell’s My Family & Other Animals, first published in 1956, still appealing in its charm and humour. Based on the real-life antics of the unconventional Durrell family, Gerald (1925-95), a British naturalist and, at one time, zookeeper, relates what happens when the family decides to ‘upsticks’, escape the grey English skies, and move to exotic Greek island of Corfu. The Durrells find themselves sharing their villa with a menagerie of interesting creatures – toads, bats, butterflies, geckos, as well as the more conventional creatures like puppies, goats and kittens.

On a more sombre note, we discussed Christy Lefteri’s The Beekeeper of Aleppo, a highly appropriate read for Refugee Week. It is a powerful, compassionate and haunting novel, told with deceptive simplicity. Nuri, a beekeeper, and his wife, Afra, are forced by war to leave their beautiful home in Aleppo, Syria, and undertake a dangerous journey to Britain, covering about 2,200 miles. The horrors which Afra has seen results in her blindness while Nuri is sustained by thought of his cousin, Mustafa, waiting for them in Yorkshire. One of the greatest difficulties is that of finding each other again, in the midst of terrible loss. It is a novel of love and hope as well as a testament to the human spirit.

This was a special meeting as it was my last; I am retiring. We all agreed that Book Clubs can stretch us and change us, altering our perception of the world and others.

And now a novel for us all (Year 7 and up): Sita Brahmachari’s Where the River Runs Gold, which tells the tale of Shifa, and her brother Themba, who live in Kairos City with their father, Nabil. The world is diminished by climate change – the bees are gone, flowers are a rare sight and food is limited. When they ‘come of age’ Shifa and Themba are sent to a farm to labour to produce crops. But they are cruelly treated and freedoms are curtailed. This is a good adventure story with timely climate change themes. Croydon High has gifted each of the incoming Year 7s (September 2021) with a copy. One young lady took just a couple of days to read it and has responded:

I gave this book five stars because of the absolutely gripping language and plot and also the characters. The twists and turns of the plot really hooked me. I was always on the journey with healing Shifa and trusting Themba on their arduous journey’.

Sita, who visited us virtually mid-June, will be proud of this recommendation!

I have had 13 lovely years at Croydon High, made extra special because of the wonderful pupils, staff and parent community who have made my job a joy. Goodbyes are always hard; I will leave you with four suggestions:

  1. Read
  2. Question
  3. Stand up for the human rights of others
  4. Be kind

Mrs K. Abrams

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