Spotlight: our Year 10 Sports Scholar Tara
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The theme of the last of this term’s Year 7 Book Club was memorable food and drink scenes in our favourite books. A lively discussion evoked tasty (and sometimes nasty!) images, including the grand feasts in Harry Potter, the deceptively appealing gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel, the river of chocolate in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Madhatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland and the many fruity images in James and the Giant Peach. Some more unusual choices were Winnie the Pooh with honey on everything, Murder Most Unladylike Arsenic for Tea (the title explains it all!), and Hunger Games.
The celebration naturally finished with chocolate for everyone!
In a belated Book Week visit we were delighted to welcome Holly Smale, author of the hugely successful, award-winning Geek Girl series.
Holly spoke about her formative years and how her childhood experiences ultimately led to the creation of lead Geek Girl character Harriet. Holly was a determined child– at the age of 5, she announced she was going to be a vegetarian, a feminist and a writer – all of which are true to this day. But she was also beset by bullying and self-doubt, leading to a personality change. Despite being spotted by a modelling agency at the age of 15 (which is also the age of her lead character, Harriet), Holly was still being bullied and was also showing signs of the co-ordination disorder dyspraxia.
Holly decided to focus on her education, obtaining an English degree and an MA in Shakespeare before becoming a writer. At the age of 25, realising she couldn’t relate her own life and experience to any of the books she was reading, she began to write her own story of being a bullied, ‘strange’ and uncomfortable child. Geek Girl emerged to massive acclaim, selling 3.4 million copies.
It wasn’t until her 30s that Holly was formally diagnosed with autism and dyspraxia. And after 10 years of discussions about turning Geek Girl into a TV series, it was Holly’s (and Harriet’s) neurodivergent diagnosis that caught the eye of Netflix, who this year bought the rights to the series.
The students asked some fantastic questions such as: how long does it take to write a book, did her bullies ever approach her following her fame, who will play the lead characters in the Netflix series.
Holly has written other Young Adult fiction including The Valentines and has recently finished her debut adult novel, The Cassandra Complex, due out in May 2023.
Holly ended with some fantastic advice to our students - ‘Learn to be other people through reading – walk in other people’s shoes!’. Thank you for showing us your life through your books, Holly!
Read our Year 8 review on this inspiring real life story:
The talented author of Geek Girl Holly Smale came to our school on 29 March to talk to the students about her book, the struggles with writing it and her experience being autistic growing up.
Holly Smale is an autistic author whose book is about a girl named Harriet Manners (who is a representation of Holly when she was younger) and who always felt left out and a bit geeky hence the name Geek Girl. She talked to the students about how growing up she was bullied and never stood up for herself until she took control of her life and it turned around.
The book is not quite an autobiography, but an adapted story of her life. It is safe to say that the students left feeling inspired to write their own stories and to strive for their dreams when they are older, after Holly talked about the struggles of writing her book. She said that, at first, many times she felt like she couldn’t make her book good enough to be published and yet she powered through and now is a world-famous author with 3.4 million books in over 30 languages. The talk left us feeling empowered, confident and feeling like you can do anything that you put your mind to, as Holly did.
Anyone who has read Geek Girl would say that it is an amazing representation of how being autistic doesn’t have to affect your life - it is a recommended great read!
Written by Charlie, Year 8