Margin Notes



Can you feel the butterflies in your stomach? Are they excited butterflies or nervous butterflies – or maybe they are both? A new school year brings many unknowns with it which can result in a mixture of emotions for children.

One way to ease some of those jitters would be to welcome your students into your classroom community by reading the book All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman. Students are sure to see themselves reflected in the bright, cheery pages of All Are Welcome. The opening images of the nervous, uncertain children saying good-bye to their parents will offer them some reassurance that they are not the only ones feeling a bit scared about going to school. As students begin to meet the unique characters in the story, they will be delighted to see themselves portrayed on the pages. All Are Welcome will not only act as a mirror for children, in which they can see their own stories being told, but it will also provide a window from which students are invited to view the experiences of others. A visual celebration of diversity and individuality greets the reader at every turn of the page. The vibrant images are accompanied by the mantra, “All are welcome here”, which is echoed throughout the text. Inviting illustrations, paired with rhyming, simplistic (yet impactful) text will ensure that students receive the message that they belong to a special classroom community that recognizes and values diversity; the message being that, “You are welcome here.”

You will want to make space in your classroom library for All Are Welcome. It is a story that belongs to your students.

Sarah Carr is a K/1 teacher at Geary Elementary Community School who enjoys buying and reading books. One of her favorite pass-times is playing with her active puppy, Murphy.



In a democratic society, one of the most important things we can teach our students is the ability to spot fake news and think critically about the media they are consuming.

Below, I’ve compiled some excellent resources for teaching and learning about fake news.

Tips for Spotting Fake News: is the gold-standard (and it’s Canadian). On this site, you will find lesson plans and tons of resources.

This is a great infographic I found for evaluating a news article. (click the picture to go to the website)

Websites and videos that can act as practice material for spotting fake news and websites:

Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel

Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

Spaghetti Harvest in Ticino

Introducing the Screen Cleaner App

And a card game for teaching media literacy!



Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo is a powerful novel written in verse, about two sisters, Yahaira and Camino, who, when the story opens, don’t know the other exists. Soon though, they are thrust together by their father’s death and left to deal with the secrets and devastation he leaves behind. Told in alternating perspectives and set in alternating countries, Yahaira and Camino, struggle to find forgiveness for a father they both loved, and who was living two very separate lives. The story explores grief after the loss of a parent, the recognition of familial bonds, and how our decisions and relationships can inexplicably change the course of people’s lives.

Packed with diverse own-voices representation, Clap When You Land is a great novel-in-verse addition to any high-school classroom library. Both girls have unique and distinct voices, which lends well to the telling of the story in two different geographical locations and strengthens the characterization of the girls. It would serve as a great mentor text for lyrical and verse writing, as Acevedo has mastered the rhythm and pacing for a novel in verse, that makes it both easy to read and impactful in its purpose. The tough subjects the book deals with, like grief and forgiveness, are done realistically and sensitively, and would be great introductions to having conversations about those themes in a classroom setting. Acevedo has created a masterpiece YA novel with Clap When You Land, as well as a must-have for your bookshelf.

Lauren Sieben is a High School ELA teacher at John Caldwell School in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. Her favourite activity is reading books. Her second favourite activity is talking about them.



It’s All About the Books is the dream “how-to” book for organizing a school’s world of books in a way that gets the right book in the right place at the right time….in the hands of a student ready to learn!

Authors Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan have been coworkers for 24 years, with the last fifteen years spent developing systems that will create bookrooms and classroom libraries that encourage student choice and support teaching goals for both ELA and content area teachers. It had never occurred to me that there would be professionals tasked with this job, but it makes perfect sense that there are experts in this precise and essential field. Luckily, they share their expertise in an accessible manner for educators everywhere.

Anyone who has had any responsibility for managing bookrooms or a classroom library will love how this book brings to mind practically EVERY question that could ever be asked or considered when designing book collections in an effective way: How do we make purchasing decisions when we frequently don’t know what we already have? How many schools have you been in that have a clear and up to date inventory of their book collection? How do we organize the book bins in our classrooms? Could students be organizing bins based on thematic patterns they are noticing? Could we improve reading instructions by improving our organizational strategies?

The answers to all these questions are found in this clearly-organized book. Carefully curating a collection demands a great deal of effort and time, and the expertise shared by two professionals with a combined background of 30 years in doing this work takes the guess work from the reader offering a clear how-to.

Teacher Takeaways:

  • Every move in this book is intentional and the intention is to get the right book in the right hands to keep students engaged as learners.
  • It gives an answer to all the questions you might consider, and many that you probably haven’t, when designing a library in your classroom.
  • You will learn how to do an inventory of resources.
  • There are many tips and tricks about how to get the most bang for your budget dollars.
  • The book is full of useful photographs showing exemplars of libraries.
  • It demonstrates both how to get more books and how to organize them to support readers’ choice and agency.
  • You’ll find tips to get your students involved in library upkeep.
  • You’ll learn how to find and organize digital resources.
  • Online resources include forms for taking inventory, lists of vendors, lists of tried and true favorite books, and more.
  • Resources are provided to assist in creating book collections to honour the diversity in classrooms.
  • The authors share very creative ideas for encouraging summer reading.
  • All author royalties from the sale of this book are being donated to the Book Love Foundation to get more books in the hands of readers.

The authors suggest that having a whole-school focus on the books available to support instruction and enrich readers is a valuable exercise in professional development. Reading this book as a school team and following its incredibly detailed step-by-step advice on how to organize book collections and to prepare for and budget for purchasing would be a worthwhile focus for any school staff. It is the needed template for a carefully planned approach to spending over the long term.

Is it time for a serious look at your school’s book supply? It’s All about the Books is a complete guide. Get everyone involved in one of the main pillars of our education system – a wealth of well-organized texts to support and hook growing readers.

Elizabeth Ann Walker is a life-long educator with a background in the performance arts and wellness. She served as vice chair for Pride in Education and was one of the first diversity leads in the province.





A beautiful story about finding your voice in a world that sometimes you do not feel apart of.

“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you”. Most students can relate to a time when they felt left out or felt like they did not have anything interesting to say or share. When asked what they did during a summer break lots of kids are eager to share about their summer adventures, but there may be a student who does not share and usually behind that there is an insecurity or worry that what they did was not exciting enough. This story shares many examples of how one might feel different from the rest, whether it be clothing, skin color, hair, or the food they eat. The art and the words in the book lead us to a point where a student feels like they are on the outside looking in. Until one day they find their voice and courage to speak up. “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you until the day you begin…” and then you find “the world opens itself up to make some space for you”. The art is so beautiful and the color contrast between the moments of feeling left out to the moments of celebration are breathtaking.

This was the first book I have read from Jacqueline Woodson; she has a lyrical way of telling a story and with Rafael Lopez’s art it is as if the words are singing and the pictures are dancing.

My grade 5 students really enjoyed the book and the pictures. One student said, “Not everyone is the same and that’s okay!” Another said, “I felt really sad in the beginning but in the end happy”. “I love the art! Each kid is different. I loved the book!”

Stacy McCarthy teaches at Andover Elementary School. She has been teaching for 10 years and loves being introduced to new authors. When she is not teaching you can find her with her family, sledding or skating.





When I started reading Engaging Literate Minds: Developing Children’s Social, Emotional and Intellectual Lives, K-3 by Peter Johnston, Kathy Champeau, Andrea Hartwig, Sarah Helmer, Merry Komar, Tara Krueger, Laurie McCarthy, I knew I was in for a treat when, at the very beginning of Chapter 1, the authors say:

“We’ve come to believe that in intellectually healthy classrooms children should be: meaningful engaged (not merely complying), inquiring/ questioning, theorizing, seeking evidence, productively disagreeing, helping each other and seeking help when necessary, collaborating and expecting and engaging in different perspectives. We should not expect children to be held in place by intellectual hierarchies.-p. 1”


This quote is from the first paragraph of the book! And the rest of the book beautifully lays out a way to make those beliefs a reality in classrooms.

This book was born out of a desire for change. The co-authors (who wrote this book along with Peter Johnston) are all teachers.They were teaching in the same school and read Peter Johnston’s book Choice Words as a whole staff book study. Over the last 10 years, Peter Johnston has been working with, and observing and documenting the changes taking place in these teachers classrooms. Since beginning this journey, the teachers have all moved to different parts of the US but their collaboration has not ended. They have all been intrinsically motivated to improve their practice through collaboration and continued professional learning.

I really think that makes this book unique.

I love the dedication in this book, and I think it says it all.

“To all the teachers and their students searching for ways to value thinking together to build a more engaging, just and humane world.”

You can find a free preview about the book and learn more about the authors here. 



Padma Venkatraman was introduced to the plight of homeless children in India by her mother at an early age. Though a poor, single mother herself, she taught Padma to support charitable causes, especially those that provided education for children. Using a variety of true stories and characters as the basis for The Bridge Home, she creates a powerful look at what home and family looks like for the young and homeless.

Sisters Viji and Rukku do have a “traditional home” at the beginning of the book. However, when their abusive father starts beating not only the mother, who makes excuses and forgives him, but also the girls, Viji decides it is time to take control. The next morning Viji packs their school backpacks with necessities instead of schoolwork. Though the bags are heavy she adds the book her teacher had given her as a gift, unable to leave it behind.

The girls use most of their money on bus fare. Once they arrive at their destination, they struggle to avoid danger and find safety. Rukku is a special needs child and Viji has been taught all her life to keep her sister hidden, and avoid hospitals or schools where they would take Rukku away from the family. Viji worries about taking care of her sister, when in fact, Rukku finds many ways to take care of Viji. The girls meet up with two homeless boys when they seek shelter, eventually coming together as a family, complete with a dog that Rukku befriends.

This story shows how resilient and strong homeless children must be, and how trusting and working with others makes it better. However, they are children and need the support of good, kind adults to break the cycle.

This book is eye opening- examining poverty even beyond books like Paper Things, No Fixed Address, and Benefits of Being An Octopus. And yet, these children become a family and move towards a better life while enduring an incredible loss, together. Hope shines strong throughout.

Jean Anne Green is a middle school teacher in Florenceville, NB- the French Fry Capital of the World. She loves to read, watch hockey and talk books with her daughter, an aspiring librarian.






After meeting Darius for the first time a couple of years ago in the first installment of the Darius series, I was thrilled to hear of the second book. The first touched on mental health, the importance of speaking your truth, and understanding the importance of families. Khorram wrote about being in a multi-racial family and showed the beauty of learning about your own heritage and culture. While the second book in the series does have small parts that focus on microagressions and how they are dealt with (or not dealt with) Darius the Great Deserves Better reminds us what it’s like to fall in love for the first time. This book is about falling in love not only romantically, but learning to love yourself, too.

The best part of this book was what wasn’t there. We learn quickly that Darius has come out to his family and friends as gay – and what’s missing? There’s no fall out. There’s no dismissive or abusive parents. There’s no being kicked out of your church, family, or school. There’s support. And you know what? That’s needed. Books that show positive reactions to queer young people need to exist, and this novel is a fantastic example.

This is not meant to be dismissive of LGBTQ+ centered media that does shed light on the abuse and neglect that happens to queer people, but there is a serious lack of positive and affirming media that shows how being gay is not the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean that your life will become dismantled in all ways, shapes, and forms. We are inundated with negative facts and statistics about LGBTQ+ youth, but so rarely is there a spotlight given to anything that may talk about the positives of being gay. There are times in Darius where there are characters that may say something homophobic, but there is not a central plot that focuses on any sort of abuse and this, sadly, is rare to see. Having three young male characters who are not heterosexual yet do not fall into stereotypes is fantastic and can often be a source of healing for many.

Daruis and his extended family are easy to fall in love with – his gifted younger sister, his workaholic but loving mother, and of course, his father. The real relationship that should be spoken of is the one between Darius and his father – both of whom suffer from depression. Having an adult character who is dealing with mental health issues in a realistic way is important for young readers to see. This novel sheds light on the fact that parents do not always have the answers, and that’s ok.

While I would suggest reading the first book in the series beforehand, you will be happy to have this novel on your shelf. Covering many relevant and current issues, this book is one that will inspire and encourage young folks to be their true selves – and what more could we ask for?

Laura Noble teaches English and Writing at Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton. She is an avid reader of true crime, realistic fiction, and feminist literature.