Margin Notes

GOOD DIFFERENT BY MEG EDEN KUYATT

May
21

“Good Different” by Meg Eden Kuyatt is a captivating and heartwarming novel-in-verse that delves into the lives of middle school students navigating the challenges of identity, acceptance, and friendship. The story unfolds through the eyes of Selah, a middle school student who has survived on the rules she has made for being normal. She has spent her life studying the world around her and changing her behaviors to fit into the mold.  Challenges arise and she starts to learn and explore the idea that she could be autistic. Armed with the power of knowledge and the support of some mentors, she sets out to make her own rules and accommodations so the world can adapt for her. As she forms unexpected connections with her classmates as the narrative weaves a poignant tale of self-discovery, empathy, and the power of embracing diversity.

One of the central themes of “Good Different” is the celebration of diversity. Meg Eden Kuyatt skillfully explores the complexities of identity, emphasizing the importance of accepting oneself and others for who they truly are. The novel provides valuable insights into the challenges faced by individuals who may be perceived as “different” and encourages readers to cultivate empathy and understanding. Themes of friendship, resilience, and the strength that comes from embracing one’s unique qualities are interwoven throughout the narrative. Truly, the biggest takeaway was the unwavering idea that different should be celebrated.

Kuyatt’s writing style is both accessible and engaging, making “Good Different” an ideal choice for middle school classrooms. The author seamlessly blends humor and sensitivity, creating a narrative that resonates with young readers. The characters are well-developed and relatable, allowing students to connect with the story on a personal level. The inclusion of diverse perspectives enriches the reading experience, fostering a sense of inclusivity within the classroom.

Don’t forget to read the author’s note for context and personal insights that enhance the overall reading.

 

GUEST WRITER MEGAN YOUNG JONES RECOMMENDS FINCH HOUSE BY CIERA BURCH

May
14

“It looked like a doll house. Or, it would have, if anyone ever bothered to clean it up. What was supposed to be bright yellow was closer to grayish cream. The front porch was missing boards, and the roof sagged. Even the grass, when it wasn’t covered in snow, was brown and overgrown with weeds year-round.

Micah loved it. It was beautiful and creepy and looked like it had a story to tell.”

Finch House by Ciera Burch offers a unique take on the customary haunted house tale. Eleven-year-old Michaela (Micah) is fascinated by the old Victorian home known as Finch House. Her curiosity only increases when her Poppop makes her promise that she will never step foot in that house, or even on the street where Finch House is located. No more will he reveal.

Despite her promise and best intentions, Micah finds herself befriending Theo whose family purchased and fixed up Finch house. When invited inside, Micah gives into curiosity and accepts. What she doesn’t realize is that she may never be able to leave.

This book provided the intrigue and mystery that students love in a YA novel while seamlessly folding in a deeper story about family and forgiveness. I pitched it to my class when we returned from break and have several waiting to claim it.

It is appropriate for grades 5-8 and contains enough action to keep students turning the pages. I would recommend this book as a good transition for students who enjoy Goosebumps or Haunted Canada books.

Megan Young Jones is a middle level teacher at Hanwell Park Academy. Finding and recommending books to her students is the best part of her job!

HIDDEN TRUTHS BY ELLY SWARTZ

May
07

Hidden Truths by Elly Swartz asks a big question, how far would you go to keep a promise? It tells the story of Dani and Eric who are best friends who go through something traumatic together. As Dani tries to heal, Eric is trying to come to terms with the fact that he may have been the one to cause the accident that hurt Dani. Neither of them knows how to handle their feelings, so they keep everything bottled up and focus more on who they think they should appear to be to everyone else. This drives the friends apart and sets into motion a series of events that will have you hoping these two can forgive one another and find their way back to their friendship and themselves.

Hidden Truths was such a heart wrenching middle grade novel and really had me considering the lengths we go to at all ages to be accepted and to fit in. The author does a really great job of appealing to a younger audience with pressures they would face in trying to fit in with a group of people, and leaves readers with a glaring message of hope that our differences shouldn’t separate us, instead they should bring us together.

The whole time I was reading, all I could think of was how great of a class read aloud this would be in a middle grade classroom. It was fast paced and had some dramatic moments that would engage readers. It also had a lot of points where you could stop and consider the motivations of the characters, the connections to we could make to ourselves and the choices we have made, and how the alternating perspectives of Dani & Eric really impact our understanding of the story and these young characters. There is something about a middle grade novel that can not only help us grow and reflect on our own choices, but also create empathy for the characters and their experiences and this one definitely delivers. It felt like it was appealing to every part of me that had ever struggled and gone to any certain length to try and fit in and is perfect for adults and children alike. Hidden Truths should have a place on all middle school classroom library shelves!

WHAT YOU NEED TO BE WARM: A POEM OF WELCOME BY NEIL GAIMAN

Apr
30

What do you think of when you hear the word “warm”? What images or feelings might that conjure up for you?

For  Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency Neil Gaiman, the idea of “warmth” was top of mind when winter was settling in and he knew there would be many refugees living rough…without the comfort that warmth brings. He went to Twitter to ask a simple question: What are your memories of being warm?

Well, Twitter did not disappoint.

Gaiman received thousands of replies, compiled all the responses and, with the help of 12 talented illustrators, created this unique book: What You Need to be Warm: A Poem of Welcome.

Every page is full of “warmth” both in the words and the illustrations.

This would be a beautiful mentor text to use during poetry month. You could examine the way that Gaiman uses language to evoke feelings and look at how the illustrations help to bring the text to life. You could also discuss how Gaiman took all the memories and wove them into a poem.

A great way to do low stakes poetry writing is to a collaborative poem. Students could each create a poem (based on a question or prompt) and then could put them together into one longer text. Then, students could be encouraged to illustrate different parts. This could be done with paper/pencil or with technology.

Here are some ideas for prompts:

  • Home is…
  • Blue is… (Sample lesson plan here)
  • Choose a character from a class read aloud and write a poem describing them

This book reminded me a bit of Ain’t Burned All The Bright, a collaboration between Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin, because of the collaborative nature of the work. Here are two blog posts about that book.

What You Need to be Warm: A Poem of Welcome would make a great addition to a read aloud stack for Poetry Month, or any time of year!

 

 

 

 

HOW TO WRITE A POEM BY KWAME ALEXANDER, DEANNA NIKAIDO, AND MELISSA SWEET

Apr
23

In the author’s note of How to Write a Poem, Kwame Alexander defines a poem as “a small but mighty thing. It has the power to reach inside us, to teach us to ignite our imaginations.” Yet, he observes that poetry is often regarded as complicated, intimidating, and inaccessible. To counteract poetry becoming the neglected genre, he and Deanna Kikaido wrote this book to ”help each of us find our way back to an appreciation of words…to remembering the wonder of poetry.”

Alexander and Nikaido have written a delightful poem that combines beautifully with Melissa Sweet’s wonderful artwork to invite and inspire us to pay attention to the world around us for ideas to kindle our imagination. This is where “the words have been waiting to slide down your pencil into your small precious hand and become a voice with spark.”

How to Write a Poem is brimming with possibilities for poetry month and beyond. Here are just a few:

  • Explore and discuss the many poetic elements of the poem.
  • Read like writers and use How to Write a Poem as a mentor text for how-to poems on other topics.
  • After reading, invite students to quickwrite about their process for finding writing ideas.
  • Use think-ink-pair-share for students to reflect on and then share the line that most resonates with them as a writer.
  • Launch the writer’s notebook as a tool for noticing and capturing the seeds of writing ideas with a text set that incorporates How to Write a Poem with picture books such as I Wonder by K.A Holt and Kenard Pak, Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead, and Noticing by Kobi Yamada and Elise Hurst. You can also include selections from collections like The Book of Delights by Ross Gay and World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil.
  • Build a text set on the power of noticing that combines How to Write a Poem with What to Put in Your Notebook by Grant Snider, Poetry is the Act of Paying Attention by Clint Smith, and The Patience of Ordinary Things by Pat Schneider.
  • Begin a craft or process study with How to Write a Poem and resources that provide behind-the-scenes views of writers and their writing. Interviews with Poets, Craft Advice, and How I Wrote It are terrific places to start.

THESE ARE THE WORDS: FEARLESS VERSE TO FIND YOUR VOICE BY NIKITA GILL

Apr
16

Nikita Gill’s YA debut, These Are the Words, is a poignant journey through the seasons of the soul, offering empowering and heartfelt poetry that speaks directly to the teenage experience. Divided into four sections based on astrological signs of each season, Gill’s collection serves as a guidebook for navigating the complexities of girlhood, feminism, and adolescence. Each poem feels like a warm embrace of “I see you” and touch on themes of love, friendship, family, and self-acceptance.

While many poems focus on the female experience, Gill acknowledges and validates the struggles faced by many teenagers today, from homophobia and racism to body image issues and mental health concerns. Gill encourages readers to reclaim their agency, discover their power, and fight for their dreams, reminding them that they are worthy of love, respect, and acceptance.

Overall, These Are the Words is a stunningly warm and fearless poetry collection, offering a safe space for teenagers to explore and embrace their identities and experiences. These poems are an important addition to any high school classroom, offering a voice of compassion and empowerment to young adult readers.

To offer you a glimpse into the relevance, relatability, and poignancy of this poetry collection, here is one for you to read:

INSTAGRAM

I scroll through Instagram and see the words ‘you are beautiful

as you are’ right after which a perfect picture of a perfect girl in

a perfect black bikini bewitches me. I wonder, ‘When was the

last time you had your heart broken?’ I wonder, ‘Has someone

ever taken you stargazing and been surprised by how much you

know about the constellations?’ I wonder, ‘Have you ever dug

through the graveyards of your past thinking if you left something

living in there, something you wished you had left to grow?’ Her

caption says ‘I love the sun #beachparadise #beachbody’ and I

wonder if she has ever sat in the rain, letting her tears mingle in

the water, whether her version of paradise was always perfection,

colourized just so, a filter making it brighter, a story told

flawlessly. My fingers hover over the comment button. There is

so much I want to know. But instead I log out and put my phone

away for the rest of the day.

EVERYTHING COMES NEXT BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE

Apr
09

Everything Comes Next by Naomi Shihab Nye is a collection of poems that transcends age barriers and speaks to the heart of humanity. The combination of new, previously unpublished poems and timeless favorites, come together to showcase Nye’s poetic genius.

The collection begins with an beautiful introduction by renowned poet Edward Hirsch, setting the stage for the reader’s journey into Nye’s world. Divided into three sections, the poems navigate themes of childhood, identity, and the interconnectedness of humanity. Nye’s writing style is conversational yet profound, inviting readers to contemplate the beauty found in everyday life.

A notable aspect of the collection of poems is its accessibility and versatility – there’s something for everyone within these pages. Nye’s writing tips provide valuable insights for aspiring poets, making this book a valuable resource for both readers and writers. The inclusion of artwork by Rafael López enhances the reader’s experience with striking visual imagery.

While some poems will leave you laughing, others delve into more somber topics, such as the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Nye’s ability to navigate these complex themes with sensitivity and empathy is a testament to her skill as a poet.

Altogether, Everything Comes Next is a testament to the power of words to reveal the human experience. Whether you’re seeking inspiration, solace, or simply a moment of reflection, this book delivers on all fronts. A perfect addition to any classroom library.

Here is a poem from Everything Comes Next that encapsulates the essence of Nye’s poetry:

 

Always Bring a Pencil

There will not be a test.

It does not have to be

 a Number 2 pencil.

But there will be certain things-

the quiet flush of waves,

ripe scent of fish,

smooth ripple of the wind’s second name-

that prefer to be written about

in pencil.

It gives them more room

to move around.

GUEST WRITER HANNAH MCKAY RECOMMENDS SILVER IN THE BONE BY ALEXANDRA BRACKEN

Mar
26

Meet Tamsin Lark, an aspiring Hallower, and current tarot card reader working to support her younger brother. In Tamsin’s world, a Hallower is someone who possesses a magical talent and uses those talents to find magical objects and then sell to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, Tamsin does not possess a magical talent, however her brother does. After their guardian mysteriously disappears, Tamsin and her brother, Cabell, are left to fend for themselves. The siblings work together utilizing Cabell’s magical ability and Tamsin’s photographic memory and knack for language to find displaced magical artefacts to sell. The pair’s life is turned upside down when Tamsin is offered an extremely large sum to find an artefact that would also break a curse placed on Cabell when he was young. In the process of retrieving this artefact Tamsin and Cabell become friends with their arch nemesis, Emrys and a sorceress, Neve. The four of them embark on a dangerous and fantastical journey to retrieve the magical artefact and break Cabell’s curse. This journey leads the four unlikely friends to another realm where they find others who are in more desperate need of this magical artefact that can undo curses.

Alexandra Bracken’s “Silver in the Bone” is an exciting novel that offers an amazing fantasy realm revolving around an Arthurian world, with references to King Arthur, Merlin and Sir Bedivere throughout the novel. “Silver in the Bone” is action packed, and filled with romance and betrayal, offering something for readers who enjoy fantasy, action or romance. The novel offers 470 pages of thrilling storyline; however, the font is on the larger side, with not too many words per page so readers may get through the book faster than they think! This novel is the first of a series, with a strong hook at the end of the book, which may encourage readers to continue their reading journey by reading the following books in the series.

 

Hannah is currently attending UNB to obtain her teaching certificate through the Bachelor of Education program. If she isn’t at work or school, you can find Hannah out hiking, playing board games with family and friends or getting cozy while reading a good book!

 

GUEST WRITER ZACHARY MCCOY RECOMMENDS THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF RUDOLF DIESEL BY DOUGLAS BRUNT

Mar
19

The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel: Genius, Power, and Deception on the Eve of World War I by Douglas Brunt is a succinct chronology of the Second Industrial Revolution, highlighting the pursuits of its representative cast of preeminent innovators, political figures, and business tycoons, all striving in a tense rat race to outdo and outlast one another. Brunt’s topical chronicle follows the fascinating life of Bavarian inventor and mechanical engineer Rudolph Diesel in his tiring ambition to create a world less reliant on the petrochemicals and coal which then and now corrupt our fragile biosphere, and, in doing so, developing the engine that bears his name today. Raised in the smog-filled industrial centers of Europe, Diesel became disenchanted with the polluting and inefficient methods of production of his day and thus sought, with matchless intellect and dogged determination, to produce a mechanism in which the type of fuel could be universalized, and the fuel itself utilized more efficiently. His untimely death at sea in September 1913 lends considerable weight to the suspicion that the great coveters of political power and industry, such as the Rockefellers and Hohenzellerns, had succeeded in maintaining the status quo and therefore the continued proliferation of fossil fuels into the modern age.

For those young adult students so willing to delve into this admittedly extensive historical narrative, they are sure to be gripped by the genius and forward-thinking nature of a man now inextricably connected to his now problematic namesake. Brunt presents compelling evidence that Diesel in fact aspired for a future emancipated from the contaminating sources of power that drove humanity into modernity, a sentiment that most of us hold unequivocally today. As a source of historical understanding, students will be inundated with cases of intrigue, sabotage, coercion, and power politics, but also conversely collaboration, innovation, progressivism, and even love. I strongly recommend The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel to any student with an interest in history, technology, politics, and/or economics. This latest of Brunt’s work appeals to a wide audience and engrosses the reader with a lead so thoroughly buried that one cannot help but read from start to finish.

GUEST WRITER KATE MATTHEWS RECOMMENDS LANDBRIDGE: LIFE IN FRAGMENTS BY Y-DAN TROEUNG

Mar
12

Landbridge: Life in Fragments by Y-Dang Troeung is a memoir that is fundamentally a reflection of the author’s family’s experiences as Cambodian refugees who fled the Khmer Rouge regime, ultimately finding sanctuary in Canada. However, this book can also be seen as a powerful exploration of the human experience as seen through the lens of a fragmented world.

Throughout the novel, the author takes us on a journey through time and space, weaving together narratives from different eras and regions. This book is not just about history, it’s about how history shapes our lives today. It spans continents and generations, revealing the hidden threads that bind us all. Through this book, we are invited to reflect on the concept of a “landbridge” and the idea that land is not just a physical space but a bridge between cultures, peoples, and memories. Troeung opens a window with her stories for readers to catch a glimpse of the challenging landscapes of immigration, memory, and family. This book challenges us to rethink our understanding of borders and divisions, showing us how they can be both unifying and divisive forces in our world.

Landbridge is a celebration of diversity and a call for unity. It’s a book that reminds us of the importance of preserving our cultural heritage while embracing the interconnectedness of our global society. This is a thought-provoking read that will stay with you. For students interested in history, culture, and the human experience, ‘Landbridge: Life in Fragments’ is a must-read. Y-Dang Troeung’s storytelling will captivate your mind and touch your heart.

Kate is a student in the Faculty of Education at the University of New Brunswick and is passionate about teaching. She is dedicated to fostering a love for learning and believes books in the power of books to inspire and teach.