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Once upon a time..When Daisy Buchanan came to Assembly: Celebrating World Book Day 2018 at Surval

Posted on: 26th April 2018 | Category: Teacher blog

On the Surval trip to Prague last Winter, we found ourselves passing the majestic façade of its world-famous Klementinum library, and unanimously voted to pop in for a tour. The doors of this spectacular Baroque building first opened in 1722, and it is a permanent fixture on lists of “World’s Most Beautiful Libraries” – on our return to Switzerland, many of our students said that discovering its wonders was one of the highlights of their trip.

Travel is, of course, an integral part of Surval life – our students have the opportunity to broaden their cultural horizons every term, whether by getting on a bus, a train or a plane. And yet, sometimes we don’t have to go very far at all to travel; on the wall of Surval’s own beautiful library, where the Chesterfield sofas invitingly tempt one to curl up with a book, and the panoramic windows gaze out upon lofty mountain peaks, there is a framed quotation by the incomparable Dr Seuss – in flowing calligraphy, inscribed by a former student, the words read:

“The more that you read,

the more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

the more places you will go.”

Looking upon the booklined walls of a library teaches us wisdom: it is a humbling reminder of how much we can never know – how many lifetimes would it take to read everything that has ever been written? And yet, paradoxically, how many lifetimes does a library allow us to experience…

As part of World Book Day at Surval, students and staff were invited to dress up as a character from one of their favourite books – a snapshot of the results offers a glimpse into the power of a novel. Daisy Buchanan drifted into assembly in a shimmer of sparkles topped off with a snow-white feather boa – dip into Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and it’s a plane ticket to the turquoise shores of Long Island, a time travel journey to the gloriously hedonistic Jazz Age, and an invitation to the best party you’ll ever go to. One of our Foundation Year students strode into the library purposefully, dressed in black, with a French flag hitched patriotically to her waist: pick up Victor Hugo’s masterpiece and you’ll be plunged into early 19th century Paris and the heroic struggles of the revolutionary Les Misérables. Books aren’t bound by the rules of reality either: a certain French teacher donned a red hooded cloak, and instead of dutifully visiting her sick Grandmamma, came to our WBD assembly instead. (Happily, a “huffing, puffing” wolf has yet to appear…)

The old cliché dictates that a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps – but a book contains at least a thousand pictures – all conjured up by the magic of one human imagination connecting with another. And in our World Book Day assembly, we were lucky enough to see that magic come to life – Surval’s Artist-in-Residence, Laura Mochrie, a published children’s illustrator, shared some of her own artwork; her impossibly intricate illustrations are a fascinating insight into the way words on a page transform into compelling, unforgettable images in the mind. In Ms Mochrie’s classes, as part of our WBD celebrations, the Surval girls are now pencilling up some magic of their own – designing new covers or illustrations for either a favourite book, or, in an academic cross-curricular project, one of their set texts for their IGCSE Literature. One G10 student’s powerful image of the tortured face of a King, scorpions crawling from his crown, is a rendering of Shakespeare’s tragic hero Macbeth that would surely get a thumbs up from The Bard himself – the literary genius whose date of death, April 23rd 1616, is the reason we celebrate World Book Day on this day.

And now, outside Surval’s panoramic library window, storm clouds are rolling in over those proud Alpine peaks; inside, the soft sofas are just asking to be curled up on. It’s a day to discover new places and meet new people from the comfort of home; today at Surval, we’ll be following Dr Seuss’s wise words and exploring the world from the pages of a book.

Kate Macleod

Teacher of English

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