Margin Notes



“Life is like…”

I believe that this community recognizes that different text forms can have value and impact a reader strongly, so I am happy to have the chance to share with you all a manga that moved me greatly.

Yoru Sumino is well known for her light novel I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, but today I would like to recommend the manga adaptation of her light novel I Had That Same Dream Again. The story follows Nanoka Koyanagi, an elementary student, as she attempts to find an answer to her school assignment “What is happiness?” She explores this topic through discussions with her three unusual friends, while also dealing with loneliness and other personal struggles. The manga has many relatable storylines, and I feel that all readers will be able to connect with the story in some way. It has a simple, yet profound, message that kept me turning the pages long after my bedtime. I Had That Same Dream Again leaves readers asking themselves as well, what is happiness for them, and I think this is a valuable question for students to reflect on.

Though the protagonist is a young child, this manga is targeted towards teenagers as it does deal with some serious topics. This is a coming-of-age story, though it has its own unique twist on the genre, which I will leave readers to discover themselves. Though many will predict the reveal early on, this does not take away from the emotional impact of the story in the slightest. Yoru Sumino manages to delve thoughtfully into the themes of family, friendship, courage, identity, happiness, and more in a contained and concise text. Content warnings for self-harm, suicide, and bullying.

Rowan Little is a pre-service teacher currently studying at the University of New Brunswick. They have had a passion for English as long as they can remember and are eager to share their passion with their future students.



“It took me going far away

To feel this close to you

It took dreaming of a memory

To change what I thought I knew.”


David A. Robertson’s The Barren Grounds is a book I hope many get the chance to read. The Indigenous author and public speaker recently published The Barren Grounds in the fall of 2020 as Part One of the Misewa Saga. It is marketed as a middle-grade book although I believe it would be a fantastic read for any student who enjoys themes such as fantasy, adventure, and self-discovery. The story follows two Indigenous children Morgan and Eli who have been placed in the same foster home in a white suburban Manitoban town. Morgan is our protagonist, a strongminded avid reader who at times is a little hard-headed and blunt, offering comedic relief during tense scenes. Morgan has been through several foster homes and struggles to remember who her family is – only dreaming brief visions of a woman speaking to her in Cree. Although she is apprehensive about opening up to her foster family, she bonds with Eli over his hauntingly detailed drawings. While hanging out in the attic, the two discover a portal to another world that is stuck in a cycle of wintery famine. There Morgan and Eli meet a stoic Fisher and witty Squirrel, and the two children help them reclaim their land from the infections of human greed.

The Barren Grounds is a story of losing yourself and finding yourself, of insatiable hunger and contentment, of greed and generosity, and of fear and courage. If Cree is not a language that you’re familiar with, I recommend pairing this book with the audio version as there is Cree dialogue throughout the chapters. The audiobook helped to further immerse me into the land of Misewa and hear the language as it is spoken. It is a story rich in Indigenous culture and tradition and would open any reader’s eyes to the heartaches Indigenous families across Canada face after being separated from their loved ones, their languages, and their cultures. This book will make you laugh, cry, and put you back together again.

Sarah Levita is a pre-service teacher in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of New Brunswick. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and language from the Memorial University of Newfoundland and has a background in teaching English as a Second Language. She loves to write, travel, and spend time with her Pomeranian, Chloe.



The Girl that Fell Beneath the Sea is a beautifully written historical fantasy that reimagines the classic Korean fairytale “Shim Cheong”. Mina, the novels protagonist, takes the reader from a cursed Korea, forgotten by the Gods they love, and plagued by war and violent storms. An unsuspecting heroine, Mina, sacrifices herself to become the Sea God’s bride to break the curse and save her people. However, Mina soon realizes that the Sea God’s underwater
kingdom where spirits, immortals, and mythical beasts roam, is just as dangerous as it is enchanting. As she races against a ticking clock to save her village, Mina will form unbreakable bonds with magical friends and allies, but never forgets what she holds most dear.

Axie Oh’s standalone novel is perfectly suited for a younger YA audience. Oh cleverly explores themes of free will versus destiny through each characters’ relationship to the idea of fate. Fate is both literal in the red-string that connects soul mates for eternity, but acts of agency, bravery, and loyalty are also required in Oh’s world for characters’ to meet their fate. Through beautifully interconnected realms of mortal and supernatural, Oh also confirms the power of love and family to overcome all.

Fans of Hayao Miyazaki will enjoy this novel for its similar themes of friendship, love, culture, history, and nature. However, any reader that enjoys magical settings, enchanted characters, adventure, mystery, and mythology, will love The Girl Beneath That Fell Beneath The Sea.



The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas is a young-adult fantasy novel that mixes aspects of Mexican/Aztec Mythology with more modern elements. The book tells the story of Teo, a trans teenager, a Jade semidiós, and the son of the goddess of birds. While Teo has been told his whole life that he is less important, not as strong, and no hero in comparison to the “Gold” semidióses, this is put into question when he and another Jade are chosen to compete among 8 golds in the Sunbearer Trials- an important ceremony that happens only once every ten years in which 10 young semidióses compete with one another to appease the sun god Sol. He begins to question everything he’s ever known while trying to keep himself and his friends out of harm’s way in the trials. This book feels very reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

There is so much great representation in this book. First, there is the representation of different types of mythology. So often books and movies focus on Greek mythology but forget about Aztec mythology, Indigenous mythology, Germanic mythology, etc. This book does a great job of tying real aspects of Aztec mythology into this fast-paced story. The identity of the main character Teo as trans (as well as other characters being part of the LGBTQ+ community) is written about in a refreshing way. Teo’s identity is written about in a way that does not hyperfocus on the struggle of being trans, but simply acknowledges his identity and carries on. Along with the great representation and storyline, the underlying message behind this story is amazing. It is a classic underdog story, that shows is that physical strength is not the only strength, and it is often not the best. Things like intelligence, kindness, altruism, and determination can be just as valuable.

About me: I am a 23 year old bachelor of education student at the University of New Brunswick, originally from Sudbury, Ontario. I love to read YA, historical fiction, horror, some romance, and really anything I can get my hands on. I’m so excited to share my love of reading with my future students.



A novel that leaves you with tugged heartstrings and the biggest grin on your face, Susin Nielen’s Tremendous Things, is an incredible experience. Following a teenage boy named Wilbur, we live through the challenges of growing up through his eyes, feeling his insecurities, experiencing a variety of his hardships, and watching as he learns how to build his confidence. While partaking in an exchange program and meeting Charlie, he, with the help of his friends, pushes himself to become more confident, all while dealing with many social difficulties.

This novel tackles themes such as bullying, love, friendship, and self-worth, allowing its readers to see how you are able to find a happy ending, even in the most unlikely places. This is a personal journey that we have the privilege to take, showing us that it is not about how we look on the outside, but who we are and how we feel on the inside.

This novel is recommended for readers 12 years of age and over, as it does contain some content that younger readers may not be ready for. However, I believe that many students will be able to see themselves in Wilbur’s shoes and discover that they too can build confidence and stand up for what they love.

John Harley is an Education student at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton Campus. This is his first book recommendation and he hopes that he is doing a good job. John’s interests include theatre, including comedies, Shakespeare, and musicals, hockey, music, and YA novels.



Curses can manifest in countless arrays of landscapes and surface in various scopes. They are often cloaked or buried in the unlikeliest dwellings, or concealed just around the corner, perhaps to provide us with greater motivation to be cautious in life. Nonetheless, they are indispensable components of fairy tales and fundamental principles of stories of ethics and virtues that many are exposed to in childhood. They aim to impart upon us lessons of decency and further our conviction that indiscretions ought to be reprimanded, and with any luck, to direct us toward a conservative and traditional track of nobler conduct. After all, in the absence of wickedness how could one appreciate righteousness?

Cursed: An Anthology, by Christina Henry assembles familiar tales inspired by authors such as the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Perrault, while incorporating feasibly more foreign fables influenced by ones originating from France, Denmark, and Norway. Impassioned readers of the genre looking for contemporary darlings like Neil Gaiman may be disappointed to see that Troll Bridge, a fan favourite, is his only work in the book. However,Cursed is an excellent collection with a broad assortment. Jane Yolen’s Castle Cursed and Castle Walking offer occasions for poetry, while her work Little Red with Adam Stemple, and Christina Henry’s As Red as Blood, as White as Snow deliver new alternatives for deconstructed fairy tale fans.

Containing stories that may feel quite dark and ‘twisted’ with some blood and gore, Cursed would be most appropriate for high school students. Individual readers who can digest these tales would be best left up to the discretion of the teacher.

Bio: Reese is a pre-service teacher at UNB and an enthusiastic reader of 19th century “classics.” Reese hopes to engender a love of reading in students, provoke them to question and think about what they are reading, and awaken an enduring, lifelong thirst for inquiry.



On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is a raw, tender reflection of being a newcomer, being a queer youth, and the complicated love between a son and his mother. This novel is styled as a letter written by a son to his illiterate mother; as you read, you feel as if you’d opened someone else’s mail on accident, as the narrator reveals intimate moments of his adolescence which he knows his mother cannot read. Vuong mixes prose with poetry, providing a large scope of opportunity for classroom discussion. The narrator explores his identity and the external social forces that shape who he is, a topic everyone, particularly high schoolers, may relate to.

Themes covered include masculinity, race, class, and intergenerational trauma. This novel is written quite accessibly and may be of interest to students interested in gender and masculinity, poetry, queerness, immigrant experience, and novels that are written as auto-fiction. CW: addiction, death, parental abuse.

Bradley Gamble (he/him) is a Bachelor of Education student at UNB. He is passionate about advocacy, harm reduction, and learning through dialogue. He is interested in poetry, postmodernism, and pop music.



There is no better way to spend a grey and rainy afternoon than with a thriller that at-once keeps you at the edge of your seat, while also exploring themes of identity, feminism, coming-of-age and the concept of survival in the young lives of teenagers. The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe follows the story of Nora O’Malley, the daughter of a con-artist, who finds herself trapped inside of a bank during a robbery. To make matters even more interesting, she is joined in this fiasco by both her current girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend.

Growing up as her mother’s protégé, Nora has assisted in her cons by embodying the perfectly constructed daughter to pair with each perfectly constructed con, never truly being able to be her true self, raising the question of “who is Nora O’Malley?”. Through her mother’s antics, Nora has become highly skilled in the art of con and combines her skills with her powers of persuasion in an attempt to free herself and her friends during the hostage situation at the bank. The book follows a non-linear format, primarily taking place over the course of a few hours in present-day. Additionally, it explores Nora’s past through the five girls that she has adopted as herself over the course of her life, shedding light on the lessons and consequences that arise from each.

Some content warnings should be mentioned for this novel, including violence, abuse, assault and death. This story will soon be adapted into a Netflix original thriller, starring Stranger Things actress, Millie Bobby Brown.

Taylor Floris is an aspiring English and Business teacher, currently completing her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of New Brunswick. On her spare time, she can be found cozied up, with a coffee in-hand, indulged into the life of fiction and poetry.



Picture books are delightful. I can’t get enough of them (which proves that there is no age limit for enjoying picture books). Here are some great non-fiction titles that are all available on SORA. I encourage you to read them aloud to your students. You never know what conversations might be sparked, and what insights might be found.



Two and a half miles down the pitch-black, flooded cave of Tham Luang, Thailand, a local boys soccer team (aged 11-16) and their assistant coach were trapped for 18 days (most of that time without food). They were found and rescued by being anesthetized and guided out individually by a team of cave divers.

Christina Soontornvat’s book All Thirteen reveals how an international team of experts and amateurs, Navy SEALs and local villagers, citizens and stateless people, came together in 2018 to make the impossible possible. Battling torrential rains, floods, stalagmites, darkness, cultural differences and skepticism, the team accomplished rescuing ‘all thirteen’ and doing something that had never been done before: a cave-diving rescue. This story shows us that when we work together, plan carefully, practice meticulously, act decisively and take risks instinctually, we can make miracles happen. Highly informative, All Thirteen also shares an in-depth analyses of professions like caving, diving, geology and search and rescue while also introducing the reader to Thailand, exploring its cultures, economy, geography and social issues.

Soontornvat weaves all of this into a thought-provoking, suspenseful narrative, following the dual perspectives of the rescuers on the surface and the boys’ experiences underground. What this does is not only humanize the event but also highlights the boys’ resolve, showing that we must never underestimate the will of children. An informative read covering many interests, along with a nail-bitingly engaging style, this book may appeal to the non-fiction readers in your class or students who want to learn more about world events. It’s worth noting that the book does contain mature subjects like suicide, xenophobia, death and starvation, therefore, it may be prudent to recommend this title to readers in your class who are ready for such content.

The recommendation’s author, Ryan Cormier, is currently a Bachelor of Education student, studying at the University of New Brunswick. He originally hails from Bathurst, New Brunswick but has hung his hat in many different places over the years.