Margin Notes

Guest Writer Melissa Wilson-Smith Recommends Ghost by Jason Reynolds


Do you find yourself trying to find a book that could speak to all of your students in a general way, yet want something that speaks to each student, individually?  If so, Ghost by Jason Reynolds may be a great option for you.  Reynolds has a way of speaking to his audience that is strategically aimed at every individual’s personal struggle.  Ghost is the first book in the Track series and is a National Book Award Finalist.

Ghost is about Castle Cranshaw, a teenage African American boy who has witnessed and survived some of life’s worst situations.   Castle is the underdog, the kid that should amount to nothing.   He is a sunflower seed loving, Guinness World book obsessed boy that proves that it takes a village to raise a child.  His mother is trying her best as a single, working mother, his father is in jail for an unthinkable act, and Castle, finally, finds himself in the right place at the right time.

Trying to stay out of altercations and prove himself academically so that he can make the track team, Reynolds allows the reader to feel each decision that Castle has to make as he tries to stand up for himself, his family, and his beliefs all while staying out of trouble.  This novel truly proves that anyone can accomplish anything.

Castle’s story has the ability to speak to so many.  Students that struggle with finding and sticking with a book, who are going through a difficult life circumstance, or enjoy reading a series, Ghost may be the right novel for them.    If you are a 37-year-old mother of three that needs evidence that it takes a village to raise a child, Ghost may also be right for you.  I would encourage you to add this YA novel to your classroom library, use it as a read aloud, and ensure that it finds its way into as many hands as possible.

Melissa Wilson-Smith is a guest blogger for Margin Notes and teaches grade 8 Language Arts at Bliss Carman Middle School, in Fredericton, NB.   She is married to her high school sweetheart and is the mother of three children, Lochlan (8), Anderson (6), and Airdrie (3).   She tries to balance her school life with her home life, while on the crazy roller coaster of being a mother to an autistic child.  

For Every One: A poem. A nod. A Nothing to Lose. by Jason Reynolds


Jason Reynolds has written the anthem for all dreamers. But although he is a dreamer, he doesn’t claim to know how to make them happen. In fact, he starts out stating just that. Reynolds thought he would have made it by 16. At 18 he thought he would have made it by 25. And now he says he is making it up as he goes.

What he does know is how it feels to be a dreamer. He knows the battle of two voices, the one telling you to give up and the one that demands you keep going. He knows the fear, the doubt, the struggle.

Written for “the courageous” Reynolds explains dreams come in all forms, can be realized at any age, and “…don’t have timelines, deadlines, and aren’t always in straight lines. But the dream? The dream is what makes the dreamer special.”

The title of this book is For Everyone, and it indeed is for anyone. Anyone who has had a dream. Anyone who has doubted it. And definitely for every kid. This is why this book is a must for the classroom library or a class read aloud. I can’t imagine a better way to inspire both the dreamers in our classrooms and those who don’t even know dreams are possible than to put this book in their hands.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds


If you haven’t read anything by Jason Reynolds yet, you need to simply because he is an amazing writer. A great place to start is with Long Way Down, his newest book.

In Long Way Down, we meet Will, a 15 year old whose brother, Shawn, was just murdered on the street.  Will has been raised to believe in 3 rules: no crying, no snitching and getting revenge.  He tucks a gun into his pants and steps into an elevator to go and find Shawn’s killer.  During the ride down, where the majority of the book takes place, Will “meets” people from his past and must decide whether to avenge his brother’s death or break the rules he has been taught to respect.

The entire book is written in verse and Reynold’s sentences are powerful and direct.  Because of this, this book is accessible to so many readers, including reluctant ones.  (more…)