AIS Middle and High School Spring Break Reading Contest

For the first time in AIS history, the Secondary Library hosted a reading contest over spring break.

Anna J. Pruess

For the first time in AIS history, the Secondary Library hosted a reading contest over spring break. While the library has held a school-wide reading contest over summer break for several years, this year, they chose to do an exclusive middle and highschool competition during spring break!  

When asked why the library decided to do a spring break contest this year, Ms. Jamgochian said that she and the library staff thought it would be good to try something new during lockdown, and that a new contest would help liven up the socially-distanced spring breaks of many students. The contest definitely did that, and there was a positive response from middle and high school students. Some elementary school students did make an effort to read over the break, even though the contest was not open to them, with one student reading exactly 152 picture books!  Ms. Jamgochian said that next year, the spring break reading contest will probably be open to elementary school students as well as middle and high school students.

The student in each grade level that read the most out of their classmates won a unicorn-shaped piñata full of candy and was announced in the high school bulletin, as well as on the AIS Secondary Library’s Instagram page.  The winners were: Daria Gusa (grade 12), Evgeny Stolyarov (grade 11), Hulda Kristbjarndottir (grade 10), Anna Pruess (grade 9), Mallory Reed (grade 8), Miriam Pruess (grade 7), and Liam Parment (grade 6).  The winners came to the library on May 30th to collect their prizes.

One requirement for the participants in the contest was to write a review about the logged books read over spring break. Below are some of the reviews picked by the librarians:

Book: In The Woods by Tana French

Reviewer: Laavanya Sahay

Rating: 4 stars

Review: Three children go in the woods, and only one is found, and twenty years later, the surviving Adam (Rob) Ryan is back by the woods, solving a murder.  This case may just be the opportunity to figure out where his friends went, and why they were never found.

Detective Ryan was an unreliable narrator.  His involvement in the case muddled with his head, which led to confusion in both the case itself and the reader’s information.  It was an interesting take, as now, people are left to wonder if what they had read was even real at all, especially since we saw Rob deteriorate as the book progressed.  However, I admired that.  It showed the realness of life, in a way.  Detective Ryan was in constant turmoil which got worse as the case progressed, but he still had his happy moments.  Those fresh breaths of air in a world that was suffocating him.  I liked that about the book.  It was a realistic portrayal of life, as it showed that everything isn’t always black or white, happy or sad, positive or negative.

It was a melancholy book, one that didn’t have a positive end, at least for the main character, but the mystery was well-constructed and extremely engaging, something that I personally loved.

Overall, this book was amazing.  I’d recommend it to people who like murder mysteries, and are okay with desolation. 

Book: Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Reviewer: Anna Pruess

Rating: 5 stars


Flygirl, by Sherri L. Smith is an awesome and inspiring book about a young woman with a dream in her heart, fire in her eyes, and a soul inside a body that aches to fly. Ida Mae Jones, the main character of the book, is one of the toughest and most realistic women I’ve seen in a book, and the way her story is written is truly amazing. “Flygirl” follows Ida Mae as she overcomes numerous obstacles in order to follow her dream and serve her country, although she has to lie about her race and family to do it. She sets out to prove to America that women can fly planes and defend their country just as well as men can, and to prove (in a much more private way) that a woman of color can do anything a white woman can do, and just as well. Ida Mae is strong, but not in the forcedly aggressive, man-hating way that modern media expects “strong” women to act – Ida Mae perseveres, she faces challenges head-on, she fights without her fists but with her actions, she’s kind and supportive and compassionate and inspiring, and she grows into the best version of herself she can be while doing it. “Flygirl” is a book that helped me realize that I, too, am strong, even though I’m not a uniformed soldier or a WASP pilot, and that fighting for my dreams and using my passions to help and protect those around me is what I should spend my time doing. I highly recommend “Flygirl” to anyone and everyone, but especially to the girls who feel that they are being held back and that there is something more they can do, just like how Ida Mae felt before she enlisted with the WASPs. To the girls who want to prove – if not the world, then to themselves – that they are more than what they think they have to be, and that nothing can hold them down any more. To the girls who just need that final push to reach for the sky and fly: “Flygirl” is the book you need.

Book: Hvísl Hrafnanna by Malene Sølvsten

Reviewer: Hulda Soley Kristbjarnardottír

Rating: N/A


Hvísl Hrafnanna (Ravens Whisper) is a Danish young adult fantasy about Norse mythology. My friend in Iceland has been recommending this series to me for years and I finally decided to go for it. It was extremely long or about 600 or 700 pages. I read it in three days where I did pretty much nothing but reading. I really love this book and all of the world-building behind it especially because of the base in Norse mythology. It was very exciting with too many plot twists to count. It contains murder, ghosts, runes, witches, gods, giants, human sacrifice, magic, seeing into the past and the future, multiple worlds, fighting, talking giant wolf dogs and so much more!

To conclude, the first-ever AIS Spring Break Reading Challenge was a success, and it definitely fulfilled its purpose of bringing something new, fun, and exciting into the lives of students struggling with lockdown and stress related to the current COVID-19 pandemic.  Thank you to the librarians who organized the contest and to the students who participated and made it the success it was!  We are excited to see what next year’s contest will bring and the books everyone will choose!

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