Margin Notes

WOLFBOY BY ANDY HARKNESS

Jul
27

Newly published, this book will resonate with any parent of a child that turns into a monster when hungry. My younger daughter was once that child and now, at the age of twenty-three, still fights the wolf when waiting for dinner to be served. Inspired by Andy’s own children when hangry, Wolfboy is the hilarious story of a young wolfboy prowling amongst the hills, forests and streams searching for his dinnerHe becomes more and more hangry as the search drags on, until he spots a pair of long ears, “Rabbits, rabbits, where are you?.  Read to find out what happens when he is ready to feast! 

The illustrations are sculpted by hand using clay and are truly unique. The detail is exceptional and inspiring for any young author/illustrator looking to express their ideas using a medium other than paper and pencil. You will appreciate the author’s note on creating the artwork and a quick YouTube search will bring up a short clip of Andy demonstrating his artistic process. 

Young children will truly enjoy this gem of a book as well as searching for hidden bunnies throughout the illustrationsA fun read aloud with great word choice to delight readers, old and young.  

Also, of note is the wonderfully scary Book Trailer which, for horror movie fans, is delightfully enticing and worth checking out 

GUEST WRITER LAUREN SIEBEN RECOMMENDS CHARMING AS A VERB BY BEN PHILIPPE

Jul
20

Charming as a Verb by Ben Phillipe follows Henri Haltiwanger a star student, debater, and charmer. Henri is a first-generation Haitian who lives to please his parents, his teachers, and his classmates. He is used to getting what he wants by charming his way into it, and he will do anything it takes to get into his dream school, Columbia University, so he can fit in with his wealthy New York neighbours and friends. When one of his most intense classmates, Corinne, discovers his dog-walking business is not exactly what it seems to be, she blackmails him into helping her become popular in their prestigious school. Soon their mutual agreement starts to turn into a friendship, and things start to get a little more complicated.

Especially relevant in a high school setting, this book explores the pressures teens experience during the college application process, and how the expectations of parents can add a layer of stress to an already tense situation. The book also addresses inequality in the education system and how wealthier teens have access to certain advantages whilst applying for colleges.

If you are looking for books with strong female characters, look no further. Corinne was a delight of a character that challenged the male lead and a lot of female character tropes. This book also had great conversations around what it takes to be yourself when you feel like you are being pulled in multiple directions and would resonate with teenagers in high school who are trying to find their place among their peers. It also would be a great springboard for conversations around the choices we make when we are faced with societal pressures. Though Henri is a character who makes some not-so-great decisions, the way the author deals with them could lend nicely to teenagers who are also struggling to make choices and be themselves. Overall, this was a great own-voices YA novel that would be a great addition to a classroom library.

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.

DEATHLESS DIVIDE BY JUSTINA IRELAND

Jul
13

The long awaited and much anticipated sequel to Dread NationDeathless Divide by Justina Ireland does not disappoint. The continuation of this historical fiction with zombie twist and post-Civil War post-Apocalypse (as described in a July 2019 MarginNotes post by Jill Davidson) saga picks up where Dread Nation concluded.  Jane McKeene, her classmate Katherine Devereaux, and Jane’s past love Jackson have fled Summerland along with a rag-tag ensemble of characters in hopes of escaping the undead hordes by finding shelter and safety in Nicodemus.  Because Nicodemus is a fortified town founded by freed slaves and Quakers, they also hope to escape the racial inequality and cruelty they experienced in Summerland. Unfortunately, the road to Nicodemus is paved with danger and heartache for Jane and her companions.   

While the dangers and racial intolerance of Summerland follow Jane and Katherine to Nicodemusthey begin to forge deep friendship and mutual respect for one anotheras they continue to battle shamblersinjustice and unlikely foes until they are torn apart by tragedy. Jane and Katherine both continue west eventually making their way to California. One as a bounty hunter with a legendary reputation and the other working as security on a passenger steamship. Katherine continues to be driven by a chance of a better life in San Francisco and later in Haven, a small mountain town, and Jane by a deep-seated need for revenge against someone she thought was an ally and friend.  

Deathless Divide, like its predecessor, Dread Nation, continues the fast-paced and fascinating tale.  The unlikely blend of history, social commentary, and the undead continues the themes of racism, power, greed, and gender inequality. Once I started it, I did not want to stop listening and when finished, I could not stop thinking about the characters and what might come next.

THE BAD GUYS BY AARON BLABEY

Jul
06

Aaron Blabey’s ever growing popular graphic novel series, The Bad Guys, released its 12th edition called, “THE ONE,” in November, 2020.

The Bad Guys series is based on a group of animals destined to be bad, trying to prove they are indeed good. This series captures the reader with the funny, hilarious, and sometimes insulting dialogue between the characters that is sure to bring belly laughs from the reader.

In the 12th Bad Guys edition, readers that are fans of this series will question what they have known about Snake prior to now and wonder what is going on with him. Readers will also be very surprised to find out there is more than meets the eye with Agent Fox! (the BAD GUYS: THE ONE, by Aaron Blabey. Published by: Scholastic In, 2020)

GUEST WRITER SARAH CARR RECOMMENDS ALL ARE WELCOME BY ALEXANDRA PENFOLD AND SUZANNE KAUKMAN

Jun
29

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.

SPOTTING FAKE NEWS AND TEACHING MEDIA LITERACY

Jun
24

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:

MediaSmarts.ca 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!

GUEST WRITER LAUREN SIEBEN RECOMMENDS CLAP WHEN YOU LAND BY ELIZABETH ACEVEDO

Jun
22

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

Jun
17

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.

 

 

GUEST WRITER STACY MCCARTHY RECOMMENDS THE DAY YOU BEGIN BY JACQUELINE WOODSON

Jun
15

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.

 

 

ENGAGING LITERATE MINDS BY PETER JOHNSTON ET AL.

Jun
10

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.