Margin Notes



When Emily Weiss, founder of the cosmetics company Glossier, was a high school student in Connecticut, she got a job babysitting for a neighbor who worked for Ralph Lauren. Her belief that it “just can’t hurt to ask” led her to inquire about the possibility of an internship and soon after, she was interning in the women’s design department. Weiss’s boss at Ralph Lauren was so impressed by her, that she recommended her for an internship at Teen Vogue. And her boss at Teen Vogue was so impressed that she recommended her for a role on the MTV reality show The Hills. These backstories set the stage for the combination of entrepreneurship, drive, connections, and never letting a possible opportunity go unexplored that led Emily Weiss to launch Glossier as a start-up in 2014 and lead its growth to an expected 275 million dollars in sales this year.

Weiss had been writing a beauty blog called Into the Gloss and saw the potential market for her own products. After securing initial angel investors and venture capital funding in 2013, Weiss started Glossier the following year with only 4 products and the slogan “Born from content; fueled by community.”

Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier by Marisa Meltzer is much more than a business biography. It also explores the challenges faced by women in leadership roles, examines the phenomenon of influencer marketing, and analyzes the problematic and diminishing nature of the term, “Girl Boss.”



A real whodunit. Nick Brook’s Promise Boys is the story of a murder and the search for truth. Urban Promise Prep is a private school that “vows to turn boys into men.” The principal, Kenneth Moore, has proudly self-titled his strategies as the “Principal Moore Method” and is dedicated to the extremely rigid rules, with equally extreme discipline. It’s these strict policies that have landed three students in detention during the shooting that killed Principal Moore. Each of the three students had left detention at the time of the murder and fingers are pointing in all directions – after all, wouldn’t their punishments be motive? It becomes clear that unless these boys band together to find the murderer, their reputations will be forever changed.

Promise Boys is a fast-paced mystery told through multiple perspectives and a narrative mix of prose, text messages and police reports. Although there is a layer of systemic racism when it comes to criminal justice, the book focuses on the power dynamics within a school, between teachers and students as well as between staff members and within the students themselves. The varying perspectives show the labels and assumptions people place on each other and how that thinking changes when you dig beyond the surface. Students attend school together every day; but do they really see what is going on?

I would recommend this book to fans of Karen McManus, Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas. Every teacher has the mystery/thriller lover in their class just waiting to read this book!



Rez Ball by Byron Graves takes the reader into the heart of the Ojibwe community where Tre Brun is finding his way after an accident killed his brother. The story follows his resilience, shows insight into his struggles, and gives readers hope that his story will have a positive outcome. The reader is truly rooting for him! Tre has spent his summer improving his basketball skills with the goal of making the varsity team and continuing the legacy his father and brother started by taking the team to their first state championship win. He battles conflict from unaccepting teammates, racist communities, unrequited love, friendship disputes and family grief.

In his author’s note, Bryon shares that many of the elements of this story are true, and even the selections that were created for the story are based in the his experiences of growing up as an athlete on a reservation. Beyond the grief, the pressure to party, and the racism experienced, there is a beautiful story of community. Tre has the unwavering support of his lifelong friend Wes, his new acquaintance Kiana, the memory of his brother and the entire reservation.

Byron Graves’ writing is both engaging and thought-provoking, inviting readers to immerse themselves in the world of Rez Ball and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and triumphs of Indigenous athletes. The plot and voices of the characters are a realistic depiction of teenage experience – including the curse words and slang. Rez Ball is a must-read for sports enthusiasts, as well as anyone interested in the intersection of sports, culture, and resilience. It celebrates the power of the human spirit and the transformative influence of basketball within Indigenous communities.



In October of 1944, Claire’s family needs help with the apple harvest. Claire’s brother, Danny, is overseas fighting in World War II and there are no other workers available. Claire’s dad decides to hire German prisoners of war to help with the harvest. One of the POWs is Karl, who is starting to question everything he has been taught by the Hilter regime. Told in dual-perspective and written in verse, Claire and Karl slowly break down barriers and start to enjoy each other’s company, but can a friendship truly grow between people on opposite sides of a war?

Karl’s perspective as a young German soldier just out of Hitler’s Youth, is very unique and is one that is not often told in middle-grade or young-adult novels. He is confronting the many lies he has long believed, including that Germany completely demolished many of America’s thriving cities, and what that means for the many other lies they’ve been fed. Karl provides a window into life under Hitler’s regime and the rollercoaster of emotions that came from the indoctrination, manipulation, and corruption of German youth. Meanwhile, Claire grapples with what it means to stay on the home front and make sacrifices, during a time when being a young girl can be extremely isolating thanks to the unspoken horrors of war.

Based on true events, readers will learn about some little-known history. Prior to reading this story, I did not know that enemy soldiers were housed in midwestern camps and put to work where American young men were absent because of WWII. The author does an incredible job of writing these characters in a way that makes you not only understand them but start to empathize with their respective situations.

The whole time I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but think about the read aloud opportunities it offers and the amazing discussions it could generate. It opens with two beautiful “Where I’m From” poems that could act as mentor texts for that form of poetry, and it ends with a huge plot-twist that would certainly have students considering the impact of that particular ending. This book is ideal for 5th/6th graders and up, though it can be enjoyed by adult readers alike, and anyone who may have an interest in the WWII time period.

Enemies in the Orchard is a wonderful story of loss, hope, and redemption. There is an incredible amount of craft and thoughtfulness on every page. The author’s note adds even more achingly beautiful context to this story and has readers consider the “real humans ravaged by war” (p.275) and the ways in which we determine who are the enemies and who are the allies. This one deserves a spot in your classroom libraries!



In Fashion Conscious: Change the World with a Change of Clothes, Sarah Klymkiw closes her “Letter from the Author” with this message to readers:

“It’s my hope that after reading this book you will continue to love clothes as much as I do, but with open eyes to the impact that our clothing choices have on people and our planet. I hope that you will feel empowered to demand answers to questions and take action. We have the power to collectively change the world with a change of clothes.”

Fashion Conscious raises readers’ awareness about the impact of “fast fashion” on the environment and on the garment workers making the items. It encourages shoppers to be aware of the “greenwashing” phenomenon in which companies claim to use environmentally and ethically sound practices but don’t actually deliver them. Until I read this book, I had no idea that producing just one white cotton t-shirt can use up to 2,700 litres of water depending on where and how the cotton is grown or that a single polyester item can take 200 years to decompose in a landfill.

In the UK, over a million tonnes of clothes are thrown away while 15 million tonnes of clothing make their way to landfills in the US. In light of these staggering statistics, readers are given actionable strategies for shopping more mindfully and for reducing the need for purchasing new items by mending, redesigning, organizing clothes swaps, and thrifting.

In addition to being incredibly informative, Fashion Conscious is a wonderfully illustrated information text that includes graphics such as decision trees, flow charts, timelines, step-by-step procedures, Q & A interviews, and useful resources.

Overall, the authors of Fashion Conscious remind us that we wear our values: “clothing choices matter because everyone’s individual actions collectively add up to make a big difference.”



My first interaction with the book Odder by Katherine Applegate (author of The One and Only Ivan) and illustrated by Charles Santoso, was listening to the audio version – the sweet voice of Otter 156 telling her story. This little otter will capture your heart and immerse you in a story about identity, friendship, family, loss, courage, rescue and rehabilitation and conservation. Odder is inspired by the work of The Sea Otter Program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium that works to protect and conserve sea otters and their habitats. Throughout the story we learn about sea otters’ charismatic and playful nature, swimming abilities, strong family ties, fascinating abilities to use tools in their habitats and the joyful but threatened lives they live. The emotional impact of the poetic form will help readers connect with Odder’s character and themes through a memorable experience. After my listening experience, I knew this was a book I had to get my hands on. Whether you listen to Odder or read the words, I promise you will fall in love with her story.


What I was Reading:

Watercress by Andrea Wang, pictures by Jason Chin is an Caldecott award-winning picture book that tells “a story about the power of sharing memories—including the painful ones—and the way our heritage stays with and shapes us, even when we don’t see it.” (Publishers Weekly)

This book is available on SORA and there are many ways that it could be used as teaching points in the grade 6-12 ELA classroom. 

Text Form Analysis:

As Andrea Wang states in this interview with John Schu, “Watercress is like a slice-of-life memoir in picture book format – it wouldn’t exist without one specific memory. I’ve been unable to forget picking watercress by the side of the road as a child. It took me a long time to figure out why my feelings about that experience were so different from my parents – and that realization was based on my mother’s memories of her own childhood in China. Her memories changed how I saw my parents, the same way the girl’s attitude toward her parents and eating the watercress changed when the mother in the book shares one of her own memories. Memories are essentially stories, and just like fictional stories, they can transform people’s lives. Not only did I develop more empathy for my parents, I think I became a more compassionate person after they eventually shared their memories with me.”

This book would be perfect to introduce memoir writing, to use as a mentor text for the different forms in which memoirs are told, and to help students build a must/might chart for memoir writing (a sample lesson plan for building a must/might chart can be found here)

Additional suggestions are below:

Discussion questions to practice/model reading comprehension and text analysis and criticality:

  • What is the main character’s attitude toward watercress? Her mother explains that it is “free.” What does this reveal about the girl’s parents? What does “free” mean to the girl? What in the text or images makes you think this?
  • The main character compares the taste of watercress and her mom’s memories as “delicate and slightly bitter.”
    Discuss whether the mother is “slightly bitter” about her previous life. What do you see in the text or the images that makes you think this?  Why have the mother’s memories been difficult to share? What in the text or images makes you think this?

More discussion questions can be found here

Process/craft moves that students could notice, name and try:

  • Similes (“Mom’s eyes are as sharp as the tip of a dragon’s claw.”)
  • Repetition (the way the author repeats certain words like “free” and “ashamed”)
  • How the author goes between first person narration and dialogue to tell the story (this helps propel the story forward and helps us better understand the characters). 
  • Multiple meanings of words (using context clues – like the word “bitter”). 

Other books available on SORA that could be used as mentor texts for memoir writing include:



Iris Winnow’s brother is missing. Unable to reach him after he leaves to fight in the war of the Gods, she is left to care for her struggling mother and attempt to keep their lives afloat with her low-paying journalist position. Iris knows that if she can get the columnist position at work, things will start to turn around for her family. The one person standing in her way is Roman Kitt, a rival journalist vying for the same columnist position in the paper. With pressures building for Iris at home and at work, she finds solace in a mysterious pen pal connected by magic through her heirloom typewriter. Their connection grows, writing out letters each night and slipping them through their wardrobes. Until a heartbreaking event alters Iris’ trajectory to the front lines and thrusts her into the chaos, danger, and horror of war.

Divine Rivals is a YA book that has it all! Including elements of fantasy, romance, magic, war, rivals, and gods, this is a book that would be a great entry point to different genres for readers who might be stuck in their own preferences. With the blurring lines of genre, Rebecca Ross has weaved a story so wonderful that you can’t help getting sucked into the world and rooting for the main characters. Iris is a strong female character that has her own insecurities and struggles, forced to mature because of her circumstances and is perfectly balanced by Roman, whose tough exterior shields his own fears and anxieties. They’re surrounded by a world where the gods have pulled humans into the crosshairs. By writing through both of their perspectives, the author fosters this connection we have made to both characters, to their lives as journalists, and to the realities of war they are living in. With a heart-pounding cliffhanger in the final moments, this book will surely have readers wanting to discuss and share all their thoughts, long after the book has ended.

I would recommend this book to high school students who want to try out new genres and don’t know where to start. This would also be a great novel to introduce in genre studies as it might generate some interesting discussions about the must have elements of each genre and some of the ways in which they can crossover. Whether it’s about genre, cliffhangers, or predictions for what is to come, this book is sure to start some great conversations for readers!



“Because to be funny is to be admired. And to be funnier than someone else is to win. The stakes keep going up. Be funny. Be funnier. And by all means, don’t be the person who complains about the joke. Because boy culture says that everything is funny.”

Fans of Dashka Slater’s award-winning book, The 57 Bus, will be equally captivated by her newest release that follows the true story of a high school student’s Instagram account and the overwhelming impact that was felt when the content was shared among the students, the school, and the entire community of Albany, California. Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed, is a timely and relevant story that serves as a reminder and a warning of what price will be paid when funny content leads to edgy content that leads to racist content, all for the sake of some laughs and likes for some, and heartbreak and trauma for others. Through the telling of this story, we see what price was paid by the student that created the account, those who followed the account, those who knew about the account, those who found out about the account, and of course, the victims targeted on the account.

The adults who tried to intervene were ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of the revelation of the account and the emotions of the students, staff and community. Rash decisions were made and an attempt at restorative justice turned violent. This is one reason why I highly recommend this book to educators and parents in addition to high school students, as although it doesn’t model what to do in situations such as this, it certainly details for the adults what not to do. And even high school students, who hold the understanding of the power of social media, need reminders of  the consequences of the content of their accounts, and the lasting impact it can yield.

What makes Slater’s writing and story-telling unique is her ability to elicit compassion and understanding not just for the victims who were targeted on the account, but also for those who followed, commented, and even created the account, reminding us that we are all better than our worse decisions. This book left me with more questions than answers, and kept me thinking long after the last page was read. Along with this is her unique take on the story is her writing craft, which includes poetic prose alongside hard-hitting factual narrative. Here is an example of one chapter:


Does it matter if you thought no one besides your friend would see it?

Does it matter if it was supposed to be a joke?

Does it matter if you laughed?

Does it matter if you never commented?

Does it matter if you never saw a post?

Does it matter if you knew it was wrong but you said nothing?

Does it matter if you said something but no one listened?

Does it matter if they bullied you?

Does it matter that they’re still your friends?

Does it matter that you’re a teenager?

Does it matter if you’re sorry?


Excerpt from Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed by Daska Slater 





What is a manifesto?

A personal manifesto is the Swiss Army Knife of self-awareness. Your manifesto can give you the confidence to take risks that are important to you and be persistent about pursuing goals you actually care about. You can use it to synthesize new ideas and knowledge, react to change with coherence and consistency, inform your intentions, be authentic with others, and avoid situations that lead to regret. Your manifesto can be the life raft you build to keep your head above the waters of change, travel the oceans of new technology and complexity, and work your work a little wiser every day.

Why do you need one?

You need tools to navigate the sea of change. You need the advice of a teacher, the hard-won knowledge of your own experience, the wisdom of a guru, the challenge of a goal. Some compass to carry with you on the crowded path of living. You need a manifesto to recruit yourself into exercising your power as a creator and change maker. To filter the signal from the noise. To know—not just what you can do, but what you should do, what you must do, and how to do it.

In You Need a Manifesto: How to Craft Your Convictions and Put Them to Work Charlotte Burgess-Auburn demonstrates how to use the tools of design to create your own manifesto. She outlines a five-step process for crafting a manifesto that is both “a statement of purpose and a script for action”:

  1. Commence- begin by actively examining your values and beliefs.
  2. Consider- become familiar with your goals, values, ethics, and biases.
  3. Collect- deliberately look for manifestos, guidance, prescriptions, and other texts written by people who have gone through their own process to distill wisdom out of their experiences.
  4. Curate- explore different frameworks and formats to organize collected statements into a manifesto.
  5. Cultivate- turn your manifesto momentum into a bridge for your community.

Developing a manifesto is a deeply personal process that begins with intentional and deliberate self-reflection. You have to commit to examining our goals, values, and beliefs before you begin to craft your personal statement. Collecting and curating are also invitations to reflect as you identify what resonates with you and why. Although the first four steps are completely individually, step five opens the many possibilities for manifesto creation to move from the individual to the community.

Not only would developing a manifesto be a powerful activity for teacher teams and staffs to undertake to establish shared beliefs, values, understandings, and opportunities for learning, there are many possibilities for adapting this for the classroom:

  • launching it as a getting-to-know-you and community-building activity at the beginning of the year
  • practicing using mentor texts by noticing and naming specific qualities and characteristics of manifestos gathered during the collection process and then articulating how the mentors informed the process and final product
  • establishing a practice of using a writer’s notebook as a tool for collecting and curating by capturing and writing beside the manifestos gathered for inspiration
  • engaging in partner, small-group, and whole-class discussing throughout the process to share what worked, what didn’t, new discoveries, next steps, etc.
  • annotating the final product by responding to prompts such as: Why did I choose this format and content? What examples informed my manifesto and why? What does the manifesto reflect about me? What did I learn about myself in the process?
  • self-reflecting over time by considering: How is my manifesto guiding me as a learner? How is it reflected in my actions, interactions, and the work I create? As my values, beliefs, and goals evolve, do I need to update my manifesto?

You can find lots of manifestos online, but here are a few to get you started:

How to Craft a Brand Manifesto (Guide + 10 Examples

How to Create Your Own Manifesto: With 3 Gorgeous Examples to Inspire You

The Agile Manifesto



The Expert Enough Manifesto from Coding with Empathy

How to Live by Charles Harper Webb

Like the other titles I’ve explored in this series of Stanford d. school guides, You Need a Manifesto is readable, colorful, beautifully designed, and inspiring. You can read my review of Design for Belonging by Susie Wise here.