School Alerts


Astrea Reads

What is Astrea Reads and why are we doing it?

Astrea Reads Aloud is guided reading for all scholars, with a minimum of 30 minutes reading every day. This will be through a bespoke reading tutorial. Scholars will listen to their form tutor read to them from a canon of challenging texts, scholars will have their own copy of the book and will be expected to read with the teacher by having their book flat on the desk and following along using a ruler as a guide.

There is a wealth of research which outlines the academic benefits of reading, for example, scholars who read for 20 minutes a day are more likely to score higher on assessments than 90% of their peers. In addition to this, the carefully selected canon of texts will develop our scholars culture capital and increase their knowledge of the world.

What will scholars read?

If you would like to find out more about the books your child is reading, please see the summaries below:

Year 7 Book Summaries

The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen

Published in 2015

Genre/Themes: science fiction, environment, friendship, anxiety, mental health

Polly Ho Yen is a British female author, based in Bristol who set up the Bristol Teen Book Award which celebrates inclusivity.

The story seems like a straightforward science-fiction tale in which Day of the Triffids style plants consume buildings and cast out deadly spores. It takes place in a realistic urban, multicultural environment and is a fable of friendship, loyalty and bravery told through the voice of a young boy who is struggling to make sense of what is happening around him.

The novel was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award, Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Book Award.



Wonder by R J Palacio

Published in 2012

Genre/Themes: friendship, prejudice, self-acceptance, bullying, friendship, school

Raquel Jaramillo Palacio is an American author.

August Pullman is a 10-year-old living in Upper Manhattan. He has ‘Treacher Collins’ syndrome which has left his face disfigured and requires countless surgeries and special care. His condition has led to him being home-schooled, but recently his parents, wanting him to experience a larger world, have enrolled him into a private school called Beecher Prep. Auggie (August) experiences friendship and also bullying there.

The book was the winner of the 2013 Maine Student Award, Vermont’s Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award, the 2015 Mark Twain Award, Hawaii’s 2015 Nene Award and the Junior Young Reader’s Choice Award for 2015.



Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Published in 2001

Genre/Themes: action adventure, romance, racial inequality

Malorie Blackman OBE is a British writer whose parents came to Britain as part of the Windrush Generation. She was the first writer of children’s and Young Adult books to win the PEN Pinter Prize.

Noughts and Crosses is part of a series of novels. The story is based in a modern parallel universe with similarities to 21st century Britain.  Racial inequality is the driving force of the story, with few laws to prevent discrimination.

The story has been included on BBC News’ list of the 100 Most Inspiring Novels and The Guardian includes it at number 88 in a list of 100 Best Books of the 21st Century. It has won the 2002 Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year, 2002 Red House Children’s Book Award, and the 2002 Sheffield Children’s Book Award.


The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Published 1937

Genre/Themes: bildungsoman, fantasy, episodic quest, heroism, personal growth

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer and philologist. While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings led to a resurgence of the genre. This has caused him to be popularly identified as the ‘father of modern fantasy literature’.

The story is set in Middle Earth,  which Tolkien shaped on ideas from Beowulf. It follows the tale of home-loving Bilbo Baggins as he joins the wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves on a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ home and treasure from the dragon Smaug.

The Hobbit was awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for Best Juvenile Fiction in 1938 and has been recognised as the most important 20th century novel for older readers in the Children’s Books of the Century poll in Books for Keeps. In 2012, it was ranked Number 14 on the List of Top 100 Children’s Novels.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Published in 1865

Genre/Themes: adventure, fantasy, literary nonsense

Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) was a mathematics lecturer at Oxford University and mathematics and logic are central to the story.

This is a well-known fantastical children’s story about a young girl named Alice who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world of anthropomorphic creatures. It is one of the best-known works of Victorian literature and its narrative, structure, characters and imagery have had widespread influence on popular culture and literature in the fantasy genre.

The story is credited with helping to end an era of didacticism in children’s literature and inaugurating an era in which writing for children was aimed to ‘delight or entertain’.

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Rauf

Published in 2018

Genre/Themes: adventure, bereavement, friendship, politics/human rights, refugees/asylum seekers, diversity (BAME)

Onjali Q Rauf is of British Bangladeshi heritage. She is the founder of Making Herstory, an organisation that focuses on mobilising men, women and children from all walks of life to tackle the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond.

This is the story about how an ordinary nine-year-old child and three classmates have a massive impact on Ahmet’s life. Ahmet is a boy that comes to their school as a refugee from Syria. It is a tale of sensitivity, ingenuity, curiosity and bravery with a clever lack of stereotyping on gender and backstory for the narrator which adds to the message of not judging people before you know them. The story encourages the reader to think about what it means to be a good person, whatever your circumstances whist challenging prejudice and pushing for fairness whenever possible.

The novel won the 2019 Blue Peter Book Award for Best Story and the 2019 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.


Year 8 Book Summaries

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Published in 1993

Genre/Themes: dystopia, science fiction, memory, religion, colour, eugenics, and gene editing

Lois Lowry is an American writer who is known for writing about difficult subject matters. Lowry states that all her books explore the ‘importance of human connection … the vital need for humans to be aware of their interdependence … with each other, the world, and its environment.’

The society in The Giver seems utopian at first but is revealed as dystopian as the story progresses. Pain and strife have been taken away by converting to ‘sameness’ which has also eradicated emotional depth from people’s lives. To preserve order, the society lacks any colour, climate, terrain, and a true sense of equality. The protagonist is a 12-year-old boy named Jonas, who has been selected to inherit the position of Receiver of Memory. He will store all the past memories of the time before the ‘Sameness’. He struggles with the concepts of the new emotions and whether they are inherently good, evil, or in-between and whether it is possible to have one without the other.

In 1994, The Giver won the Newbery Medal and the Regina Medal. In 1996, it won the William Allen White Award, and the novel has been designated the fourth Best Children’s Novel of all Time by the School Library Journal of 2012.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Published in 2008

Genre/Themes: dystopia, science fiction, drama, action, discrimination, class, entertainment

Suzanne Collins is an American writer. She adapted the novel for the film herself and is named in Time magazine as one of the most influential people of 2010.

The Hunger Games universe is a dystopia set in Panem in an unspecified future. Across twelve different districts, children are selected via lottery to participate in a compulsory televised death match.

In 2012, The Hunger Games trilogy became the top seller for Amazon selling over 65 million copies in the US alone. Awards include the California Young Reader Medal, the Best Book of the Year in 2008 for Publishers Weekly, New York Times’ Notable Children’s Book of 2008, the 2009 Golden Duck Award for Young Adult Fiction, the 2008 Award for Fantasy and Science fiction and the Booklist Editor’s Choice in 2008.



Chinglish by Sue Cheung

Published in 2019

Genre/Themes: history, bullying, family, friendship, personal/social issues, siblings, diversity BAME

Sue Cheung is a British writer from Nottingham whose parents emigrated from Hong Kong in the 1960s. During her teenage years, the family moved to Coventry and set up a takeaway. The book is based on these experiences.

Jo’s family move to a flat above their new Chinese takeaway in 1984. She is incredibly disappointed to learn that the flat is so tiny that she has to share a room with her annoying younger sister Bonny. At school she is called names and excluded by other children because she is Chinese. She eventually makes a friend called Tina who teaches Jo to backcomb her hair. The book is written in a diary format which allows us to access Jo’s life and through the diary, we start to understand the undercurrents of tension in her family and the racism and homophobia that exist in the world around her.

Chinglish is on the 2019 Guardian’s Best Book List and has won ‘Simply the Book’ at the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards and the Young Adult category at the Diverse Book Awards.



The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Published 1903

Genre/Themes: adventure, anthropomorphism, the myth of the hero, nature vs nurture

Jack London was an American novelist. He spent some of his life in Alaska and would have seen many sled dogs like the ones in the story. The book secured Jack London a place in the canon of American literature.

This is a short adventure book set in Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush when sled dogs were in high demand. The central character is a dog named Buck who is stolen from his home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. He becomes aggressively more primitive and wild through the story because of the harsh environment where he is forced to fight to survive and dominate other dogs. At the end, he has shed the veneer of civilisation and relies on primordial instinct and learned experience to emerge as a leader in the wild.


I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Published in 2013

Genre/Themes: coming of age, around the world, politics/human rights, refugees/asylum, autobiography

The autobiographical story of Malala Yousafzai’s life is extraordinary. She was born in the Swat Valley in Pakistan during turbulent times of trouble and terror. Religious fundamentalists try to deny her and other girls an education. She is targeted and shot because of her belief and bravery to stand up to this prejudice.

In 2013, I Am Malala won the Specsavers National Book Awards and the Goodreads Choice Awards.



Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Published in 1995

Genre/Themes: adventure, coming of age, fantasy, around the world, animals, family, fear, friendship, magic, politics/human rights, religion/spirituality, relationships

Philip Pullman CBE is an English writer from Norwich. Northern Lights is part of a trilogy of fantasy novels. Pullman has been named as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 and the eleventh most influential person in British culture.

Set in a parallel universe, Lyra and her animal daemon live a carefree life with the scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. However, the destiny that awaits will take her far from home to the magical frozen lands of the Arctic. Here she will discover the truth about her identity with immeasurable consequences that reach beyond her own world.

The book won the 1995 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association and was named one of the top ten winning works by a panel composing the ballot for a public election of the all-time favourite. In 2007, Northern lights was named the All-time Carnegie of Carnegies.


Year 9 Book Summaries

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Published in 1861

Genre/Themes: bildungsroman, wealth and poverty, love and rejection, good and evil

Charles Dickens was a writer and social critic who created some of the world’s best known fictional characters of all time. He is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.

The novel is a bildungsroman focused on an orphan nicknamed Pip. It is set in Kent and London and contains some of Dickens’ most celebrated scenes starting in a graveyard where young Pip is accosted by an escaped convict. There is a cast of characters in this novel who have entered popular culture including Miss Havisham and Estella.

In 2003, Great Expectations was ranked 17th on BBC’s The Big Read Poll. In 2015, Great Expectations was ranked fourth in the 100 Greatest British Novels in a BBC book poll outside the UK about novels by British authors.



Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Published in 1813

Genre/Themes: realism, romance, marriage, wealth, class, self-knowledge, social criticism

Austen’s plots explore the dependence of women on marriage for the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her use of social commentary, realism and biting irony have earned her acclaim among critics and scholars.

This is a novel of manners and follows the character development of Elizabeth Bennet as she learns about the repercussions of hasty judgements and comes to appreciate the difference between superficial goodness and actual goodness. Mr Bennet has five daughters and owns Longbourn estate. His property can only be passed to a male heir and as his wife lacks an inheritance, the family faces poverty upon his death. It is imperative that at least one of his daughters marry well to support the others, and this is the motivation that drives the plot.

In a 2003 poll by the BBC, Pride and Prejudice took second place for the UK’s Best Loved Book. In 2008, it came first in a list of 101 Best Books according to 15,000 Australian readers. The 200th anniversary of the novel was celebrated around the globe (28th January 2013), and it is one of the most recommended books by philosophers, literary scholars, authors and journalists who cite it as an influential text.




The Outsiders by S E Hinton

Published 1967

Genre: bildungsroman, tragedy

Susan Eloise Hinton was 15 when she started writing The Outsiders which was inspired by two rival gangs at her school. With this story, she is credited with introducing the Young Adult novel genre.

The Outsiders details the conflict between two gangs divided by their socioeconomic status. It is told in the first-person perspective and takes place in Oklahoma. Fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis who is a member of a gang of Greasers, is rescued by his two older brothers as he leaves a movie theatre and is jumped by a rival gang.

In 2019, the BBC News listed The Outsiders as one the 100 Most Influential Novels.


The Boxer by Nikesh Shukla

Published 2019

Genre/Themes: friendship, radicalisation

Nikesh Shukla is a British author and screen writer whose writing focuses on race, racism, identity and immigration. He is the co-founder of the literary journal, The Good Journal and The Good Literary Agency

The Boxer is told over the course of the ten rounds of the first fight of an amateur boxer called Sunny. Sunny is seventeen and feels isolated and disconnected from the city he has just moved to. Following a racist attack, he joins a boxing club where his trainer, Shona helps him find his place in the world. Racial tensions rise in the city and when a Far-Right march through Bristol turns violent, Sunny is faced with losing his new friend Keir to radicalisation.



War of the Worlds by H G Wells

Published 1897

Genre/Themes: science fiction, horror

Wells trained as a science teacher during the 1880s. His first book was a biology textbook and his fascinations with science can also be seen in the opening paragraph of War of the Worlds as the narrator looks at Mars through a telescope.

This is one of the earliest stories written that details a conflict between humankind and an extra-terrestrial race and is one of the most commented on works in the science fiction canon. Wells later noted that his inspiration for the plot was the catastrophic effect of European colonisation on the Aboriginal Tasmanians.

The novel opens with aliens on Mars plotting an invasion on Earth. An object thought to be a meteor lands near the narrator’s home. It contains Martians who incinerate any humans that approach them. In 1938, the story was memorably dramatised in a radio programme that reportedly caused panic among listeners who did not know that the events were fictional.

In real life, scientists were inspired by the book when developing the liquid fuelled and multistage rockets that resulted in the Apollo 11 moon landing 71 years later.



Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Published in 1954

Genre/Themes: allegory, psychological fiction, dystopia

Sir William Gerald Golding is best known for his novel Lord of the Flies. He was an English teacher in South London, in Maidstone and then in Salisbury and he wrote the book whilst working as a teacher.

In the story, a group of British boys are stranded on an uninhabited island. The plot examines their disastrous attempts to govern themselves.

Lord of the Flies is named in the Modern Library List of 100 Best Novels reaching number 25 on the readers list. In 2003 it was also included in the BBC’s Big Read Poll and in 2005, Time magazine named it as one of the 100 best English language novels published between 1923 and 2005 and included it on its list of the 100 Best YoungAdult books of all time.


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Published in 2005

Genre/Themes: bildungsroman, historical fiction, death, literature and love.

Markus Zusak is an Australian author. His novel, The Book Thief, is an international best seller and has been translated into more than 40 languages.

The Book Thief is a historical fiction novel set in Nazi Germany during World War II. The story is narrated by Death and presents the lives and viewpoints of many victims of the ongoing war.

In 2006, the book won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book, the School Library Journal for Best Book of the Year, the Daniel Elliott Peace Award, the Publishers’ Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year, the National Jewish Book Award for Children and Young Adult Literature, and the Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book. In 2007, the book also won the Michael L Printz Honor Book for the Best Book for Teenagers based on the quality of writing, the Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children’s Literature, the Sydney Taylor Book Award for the Best in Jewish Children’s and YA Literature, and the Best Books for Young Adults from the American Library Club.

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry

Published in 2017

Genre/Themes: mythology, nonfiction, retellings, classics

Stephen Fry is an English actor, broadcaster, comedian, director, narrator and writer. He sometimes uses the pseudonym – Mrs Stephen Fry.

Mythos is a retelling of Greek Mythology, providing us with a coherent narrative from the creation of the gods to the story of King Midas. As a reader, we watch as wise Athena is born from the great head of Zeus as it cracks open. She then follows the doomed Persephone into the dark and lonely realm of the Underworld. In other stories, we shiver in fear when Pandora opens her jar of evil torments and watch with joy as the legendary love affair between Eros and Psyche unfolds.

There is a stage version of Mythos which was set to premiere in 2019, performed by Fry and consisting of three shows on separate nights.


Y10 Book Summaries


1984 by George Orwell

Published in 1948

Genre/Themes: dystopia, science fiction, surveillance, political fiction, censorship

The novel 1984 popularised the term ‘Orwellian’ as an adjective. Many terms used in the text have now entered common usage in the English language such as: ‘double think’, ‘thought police’, ‘thought crime’, ‘newspeak’ and ‘2 +2=5’. In real life, parallels are sometimes drawn between the novel and instances of mass surveillance and freedom of expression.

The story centres on the consequences to totalitarianism, mass surveillance and the repressive regimentation of people and behaviours within society. It examines the role of truth and facts within society and the ways in which they can be manipulated.

The story is listed in the 100 Best English Language Novels from 1923 – 2005 by Time magazine and is thirteenth in the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novel List.




Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Published in 1953

Genre/Themes: dystopia, government censorship, cautionary tale, conformity, political fiction

Bradbury was inspired by the book burnings in Nazi Germany and the ideological repression of societal control. The book, Fahrenheit 451, influenced the 2013 Internet Engine Steering Group which approved the publication of a HTTP Status Code used when websites are forced to block resources for legal reasons. These internet pages will return a status code of 451 when users request those resources.

The novel is set in an American society where books are personified and outlawed. Firemen burn any that are found. The story follows Guy Montag, a fireman who is disillusioned with his role of censoring literature and destroying knowledge. He eventually quits his job and commits himself to preserving literary and cultural writings.

Fahrenheit 45I is number seven on the list of ‘top checks outs’ of all time by the New York Public Library.



Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Published in 2001

Genre/Themes: adventure, survival, fantasy, magical realism

Yann Martel is a Canadian author who appears in the cinematic version of his book as an extra, sitting on a park bench across a pond while Pi and Rafe Spall (who plays Yann Martel) converse.

The protagonist of Life of Pi is Piscine Molitor (Pi) Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry, India who explores issues of spirituality and metaphysics from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck which stranded him on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengali tiger, raising questions about the nature of reality and how it is perceived and told.

Martel won the Man Booker Prize in 2002, the Boeke Prize in 2003 (a South African award) the Asian/Pacific American Award in Literature in 2004 for best adult fiction and was included in the Big Jubilee Read in 2022 of 70 books by commonwealth authors.




The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Published in 2020

Genre/Themes: fantasy, mental health, magic realism

Matt Haig is an English author from Nottingham. He claims that books are his “one true faith” and that “the library is his church”.

The Midnight Library is based on the idea that between life and death there is a library where the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life that you could have lived to see how things would be if you had made a different choice. A 35-year-old British woman, unhappy in her dead-end life is given the opportunity to visit this library and experience lives she might have had if she had lived her life differently.

In 2020, The Midnight Library won the Goodreads Choice for Fiction.




The Dubliners by James Joyce

Published in 1914

Genre/Themes: Irish nationalism, short stories

The Dubliners is a collection of fifteen short stories presenting Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early 20th century. Some of the stories have child protagonists and some are written in third person dealing with the lives and concerns of progressively older people.



Y11 Book Summaries

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Published in 2005

Genre/Themes: dystopia, science fiction, psychological fiction

Japanese born British novelist Ishiguro Kazuo has been awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in literature.

Although his novel Never Let Me Go has a futuristic tone, it is set in the 1980s and 1990s in a parallel world that is similar to ours. In this alternate reality, human cloning is authorised and performed.

In 2005, Time magazine named Never Let Me Go the best novel of the year and included it in its list of 100 Best English Language Novels published since 1923.



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Published 1960

Genre/Themes: bildungsroman, racial injustice, the destruction of innocence, legal story

Harper Lee based the plot and characters of her novel on her observations of her family, neighbours and a real event that occurred near her hometown when she was ten years old.

Lessons from the story emphasise tolerance and decry prejudice. Atticus finch, the narrator’s father, serves as a moral hero and a model of integrity for lawyers.

To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize a year after its release. In a 1991 survey by the Book of the Month Club, it was listed as the fourth in a list of books that are ‘most often cited as making a difference’. In 2019, BBC News included the book in its list of 100 Most Influential Novels and the BBC’s Big Read in 2003 placed the novel as sixth resulting in it being the highest ranking non-British book on the list.



The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Published in 1925

Genre/Themes: historical fiction, romance, social class, gender, race, identity, environmentalism, the American dream, tragedy

The Great Gatsby was inspired by Fitzgerald’s attendance at parties on Long Island in 1922.

The story is set in the Jazz Age near New York and depicts Nick Carraway’s interactions with mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and Gatsby’s obsession to reunite with his former lover.

When the book was first published it was not successful and Fitzgerald died believing it to be a failure. However, in World War II the Council on Books in Wartime, distributed free copies to American soldiers serving overseas and there was a surge in the novel’s popularity.


I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: by Maya Angelou

Published in 1969

Genre/Themes: autobiography, feminism, race, non-fiction

Angelou had been challenged by her friend, author and editor to write an autobiography that was also a piece of literature. This book is often categoriesd as autobiographical fiction as Angelou uses thematic development and other techniques that are common to fiction. The book covers topics common to autobiographies written by black American women in the years following the Civil Rights Movement: a celebration of black motherhood; a critique of racism; the importance of family; the quest for independence, personal dignity and self-definition. Angelou has been credited with launching African American women’s writing in the United States.

This is the first volume of seven books of autobiography where Maya Angelou shares her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. The book is joyous, painful, mysterious and memorable: just like childhood. It captures the longing of lonely children and the brute insult of bigotry. It also uses the wonder of words that can make the world right.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was nominated for a National Book Award and remained on the New York Times Paperback Bestseller List for two years.

Translate Language »