Margin Notes

Craft Studio: Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

Nov
19

What I Was Reading:

Puddin’ is the much-anticipated and equally joyous companion to Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’. Puddin’ focuses on Millie Michalchuk and Callie Reyes, two characters we met in Dumplin’. Millie and Callie seem to have little to nothing in common, yet they are brought together unexpectedly when Millie identifies Callie on security footage taken the night her uncle’s gym is vandalized. Callie, who mistakenly blames the members of her dance team for turning her in, begins working with Millie at the gym to repay her debt. I loved this book as much as I loved Dumplin’, which tells you a lot!

The book opens with an introduction to Millie:

“I’m a list maker. Write it down. (Using my gel pens and a predetermined color scheme, of course.) Make it happen. Scratch it off. There is no greater satisfaction than a notebook full of beautifully executed lists. (more…)

Guest Student Writer Paige J. Albert Recommends Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz

Nov
15

Finding Perfect is an emotional story arraying a twelve-year-old girl’s heartbreak at her parent’s separation alongside her struggling attempt to tame her unhealthy requirement of obsessive perfection. Molly Nathans isn’t just a hardcore perfectionist, for her, the need for perfection is absolutely quintessential. After her parent’s sudden separation resulting in Molly’s mother leaving in pursuit of her juice business in Toronto, Molly’s organizing fixation doubles. And now it is not only a strange mania but an actual neurosis. Molly thrives to perfect everything into the late hours of the night, fails to complete tests if her writing isn’t ruler straight and ceaselessly counts by four in order to obtain her idea of perfection. And topping her crazy tower of rituals is the nonsensical belief that if she stops, her little brother, Ian, will get hurt.

When Molly enters a slam poetry competition, she’s convinced that her winning will bring her mother home again. But as she progresses into the competition and her perfection compulsion worsens, Molly’s life is flipped upside down and no matter of measuring, counting or straightening can right it this time.

Finding Perfect was a very interesting novel. It showed the struggle to hide and put on a brave face that everybody just assumes is your normal. Molly’s story has the prospective to urge kids in similar conditions to seek help along with the potential to enhance awareness of mental health disorders such as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and Tourette’s Syndrome which are often overlooked as minor complications in our society.

I suggest this story to lovers of books such as Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything and Melanie Conklin’s Counting Thyme. Each of these books describes the medical struggles of unique, characteristic girls that are striving to both save something and escape from a difficult situation in their lives. Finding Perfect will make you remember Molly longer than you ever expected.

Bio:

Paige is a 13-year-old student at George Street Middle School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Outside of school, Paige is involved in Highland dance and enjoys creative writing, drawing and spending time on her scooter. Paige is passionate about literature and is more than pleased to share her personal opinions on various novels so that other children like her can share in the joy of reading a good book.

Craft Studio: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu

Nov
13

What I Was Reading

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu explores the aftermath of a tragedy shared by a group of girls on a canoe trip at summer camp. It traces the threads of the experience and its impact on each of the girls—Nita, Andie, Isabel, Dina, and Siobhan—through their teens and into adulthood.

The novel opens with a scene from camp, in 1994, with the campers on the dock singing the official camp song:

“They stood straight-backed and solemn-faced as soldiers in formation, even the ones who itched to squirm, to collapse into their natural posture, who were rolling their toes in their shoes and humming to themselves, squeezing their lips in their fingers to suppress a bubble of nervous laughter.”

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making

* I was immediately impressed by the complexity of this sentence and how, thanks to the skillful use of hyphens and commas, Kim Fu managed to pack so much detail into it.

* The pair of compound adjectives, “straight-backed and solemn-faced,” combined with the simile comparing the girls to soldiers in formation adds efficiency and precision to the description of the girls.

* The rest of the sentence, marked by the use of “even the ones…,” describes the girls who are struggling to stifle laughter and the careful organization of the details makes what might have been two or three separate sentences flow perfectly as one. The details are organized into a series of phrases and the use of repetition helps me as a reader link the individual phrases together and see the description as a whole: to squirm and to collapse, who itched and who were rolling, humming and squeezing.

Possibilities for Writers

* Read this sentence as a writer to notice and name other interesting craft moves and discuss how they impact you as a reader.

* Use this sentence as a model to write one of your own, trying out some of the same moves Kim Fu has used.

* Revisit a draft in your notebook and find a series of short sentences that can be combined into a single sentence using commas.

* Be on the look-out for other interesting sentence structures in your reading.

Guest Student Writer Paige J. Albert Recommends Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Nov
08

Lily and Dunkin is a beautifully crafted novel describing the unlikely friendship between two middle school students, a transgender girl and a bipolar boy. Lily Jo McGrother who wants nothing more than to gain her father’s approval and get the hormone blockers that will prevent her becoming the person she doesn’t want to be, is stuck in a war between wanting the approval of society including her father and being the young lady she really is.

Dunkin Dorfman who wants nothing more than to blend into the crowd at his new middle school and play for the basketball team with all the “cool” guys, is struggling to overcome the obstacles hurtled at him by his bipolar disorder and simultaneously attempting to escape the cruelty his illness has caused him in the past.

These two driven thirteen-year-olds will stop at nothing to obtain their goals, even when the storms in life are raging against them day and night. As their lives slowly intertwine, Lily and Dunkin begin to learn and prosper, for better or for worse, and slowly take steadier steps towards becoming who they really want to be.

Lily and Dunkin is a powerful and raw novel that trapped me between its pages and stayed with me long after the last page was turned. It had the recognizable passion displayed in books similar to R.J Palacio’s, Wonder and Ali Benjamin’s, The Thing About Jellyfish, each exhibiting similar inspirational characters that impact the world around them in one way or another. Lily and Dunkin could greatly change our generation’s view on the LGBTQ+ society (see also: George by Alex Gino) and boost awareness about certain mental health conditions frequently found in adults and children alike. I truly believe that Lily and Dunkin is a novel with the potential to make a difference (however slight it may be) in each of its readers lives and is definitely worth the time to read. At the end of the day, I’m not suggesting it, I’m prescribing it.

Bio:

Paige is a 13-year-old student at George Street Middle School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Outside of school, Paige is involved in Highland dance and enjoys creative writing, drawing and spending time on her scooter. Paige is passionate about literature and is more than pleased to share her personal opinions on various novels so that other children like her can share in the joy of reading a good book.

The 19 Best Sentences of 2017

Nov
05

Slate posted The 19 Best Sentences of 2017,  which in itself is extremely helpful to anyone looking for interesting sentences to share in sentence studies and mini-lessons. I think this list can be used in a variety of ways:

* Share some or all of the sentences on the list with students and discuss what criteria may have been used to determine that these sentences are, in fact, the best.

* Invite students to name the sentence on the list they would consider “the best of the best” and cite the reasons for their choice.

* Invite students to nominate sentences from their own reading that will be considered for The Best Sentences of the Year or The Best Sentences of the Semester. Determine selection criteria and select which nominated sentences will make the final list.

Congratulations!

Nov
01

Michelle Wuest and Krista deMolitor, you are the lucky winners for the month of October for #ASDWReads!  We will have a shiny new book in your hands, ASAP:)

To be entered into the draw for November, simply post a picture of a book you have read and use the hashtag #ASDWReads on Twitter.  Happy reading and tweeting!

Guest Writer Lindsay Perez Recommends Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Nov
01

The books in our classroom libraries can become valuable teaching tools to be used to create a culturally responsive classroom where students feel included and represented. If you’re looking to add to your classroom library, Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan is a book to add to your collection.

Amina and Soojin have been best friends since elementary school. Now in middle school, they face the difficulties of fitting in, merging new and old friendships and staying true to their families’ culture.  A complication arises when Soojin starts to hang around with Emily, Amina’s nemesis.  Soojin soon wants to change her name to something more American sounding and this ignites jealousy and confusion in Amina. Things are changing too quickly for Amina and she is not sure what to do. The only thing Amina is sure of is her love of singing and playing the piano but she is shy and never has had the confidence to do in public. It is not until the local mosque and Islamic Community Center is vandalized that Amina finds her voice and confidence by helping to rebuild the mosque and unite the community.

Readers can connect with Amina’s journey through middle school during the struggles and triumphs she faces while staying true to her friends, culture and family. Readers will learn about Pakistani and Korean culture, and the similar experiences all children and families face no matter who they are or where they come from.

Bio:

Lindsay Perez is a guest blogger for Margin Notes who teaches Grade 6 Language Arts at Nashwaaksis Middle school in Fredericton New Brunswick. She is married with two young children Kai (4) and Myla (3).

NY Times Article of the Day

Oct
29

Finding current and engaging articles can be a challenge, which is why the NY Times Article of the Day column is such a fantastic resource.

Here is their description of the site: “Every weekday we choose an important or interesting news or feature story to become our Article of the Day, then write a quick series of questions and activities designed to help students both understand the piece and connect it to their own lives. Each edition has suggestions for engaging students before they read, comprehension and critical thinking questions to support them as they go, and ideas for taking the topic further when they’re done.”

Topics range from science to sports to current events to video games and the activities offered are designed to spark critical thinking and discussion.

Craft Studio: For Those About to Rock: A Road Map to Being in a Band by Dave Bidini

Oct
25

What I Was Reading

You may know Dave Bidini from his career in music with Rheostatics and now Bidiniband, or you may know him as the author of Tropic of Hockey or Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, the Music, and the World in 1972 (among other titles). For Those About to Rock combines Bidini’s passion for music with his skill as a writer. It is a combination of memoir, music history, and advice to aspiring musicians.

In the chapter, “The Myth of Making It,” Bidini explains, “There’s no rock-and-roll blueprint. It’s not like studying a manual and learning how to build a Battlebot. You can’t diagram it and watch it come to life.” Instead of a how-to manual, For Those About to Rock is a roadmap. When I opened the book to check out the Table of Contents, I appreciated how it was organized:

Introduction

Let There Be Rock

The Mythology of Making It

And the Fickle Fruit of Fame

A Very Slow Hand

Your First Instrument

Playing in a Travelin’ Band (more…)

Taste Test

Oct
23

The Takeout is a goldmine for food lovers. The feature, Taste Test, is an excellent source of mentor texts. Each article analyses and rates a food that ranges from everyday fare to the exotic and/or outrageously priced. These short articles can be used by students as mentors to write their own versions about foods they love (or don’t). Also, they are brief enough to use in mini-lessons and contain excellent examples of description, word choice, and sentence variety.