What’s That You’re Reading? – Dee Vanstone – Head of PSHE and English Teacher


What are you reading at the moment and what was the last book you read?

The last book I read was ‘The Invisible Girl’ by Lisa Jewell. The current book I am reading is ‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins.

Would you recommend it to the Downsend community and why?

I wouldn’t recommend this to students under 15 as the content is quite graphic and the storyline difficult to follow for younger children.

Do you see elements of yourself in any of the characters?

No, as it is set in a totally different world to mine!

Did it make you cry? Or laugh? Or think? Why?

It certainly introduced me to the violent and dangerous world of drug cartels in America. It made me think about how the innocent suffer at the hands of people who have no idea of their lives and the risky nature of being a journalist in a corrupt society. It did make me cry as the bookshop owner in Acapulco and her eight -year old son have to flee a city where friends become enemies and you have no idea who they can trust. Their flight, and plight was gripping and had me on the edge of my seat unable to put the book down! Whilst I have daughters, the love the mother ad for her son was astonishing and really resonated with me.

Please share your favourite quote or short extract from the book.

‘There are sixteen bodies in the backyard, almost everyone Lydia loved in the world, but she still feels on the precipice of this information – she knows it to be factual because she heard them die, she saw their bodies. She touched her mother’s still-warm hand and felt the absence of her husband’s pulse when she lifted his wrist. But her mind is still trying to rewind it, to undo it. Because it can’t really be true. It’s too horrific to be actually true. Panic feels imminent, but it doesn’t descend.’

Why/when do you read?

I read when I can, usually in the evenings to wind down from a long day at work and a heavy marking load!

How does reading help you?

Reading takes me out of my current world into the world of others and it also helps me to learn about different societies in the world and some issues that I may not have otherwise known about.

 Is there a particular genre of book you find yourself drawn to?

I enjoy all the classics, unusual books with a creative message such as ‘Noughts and Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman – a book sometimes studied in the Senior School where the white/black divide is reversed. Particularly poignant with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. I also enjoy psychological thrillers where there are many twists and turns.

What is your favourite children’s book?

Did you have a favourite book or author, growing up? I loved all horse-based books growing up due to my passion for horses, but one of my favourites was ‘Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame and also, as I was older, ‘Catch 22’ by Joseph Heller.

Name a book that’s had a lasting impression on you and tell us why?

Probably the book that has had a lasting impression on me is ‘Noughts and Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman as I mentioned earlier. The dystopic world it is set in and the fact that it is a dual narrative so you see things from the viewpoint of both the white boy (a Nought and so an underdog with little opportunity) and the black girl who comes from a wealthy background and has everything she desires. The clear message of racism in this book is so poignant right now. I also love this book as it has encouraged young teens to read when they have been reluctant to.


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