Margin Notes

CELEBRATING CREATIVITY AND COLLABORATION: HANWELL PARK ACADEMY’S SECOND ANNUAL STUDENT FILM FESTIVAL

Jun
13

Hanwell Park Academy recently hosted its second annual Student Film Festival to celebrate student learning and showcase the incredible talent and creativity of their middle school students. We were thrilled to receive an invitation to attend. The festival is an initiative started by teachers Megan Young-Jones, Stephen Stone, and Sara Stevenson, who aimed to foster traditions in a new school that would engage learners, provide an authentic audience, celebrate student leadership and achievement, and allow students to take pride in their accomplishments.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, students were placed in small groups and participated in a series of mini lessons led by their language arts teachers. These lessons covered essential filmmaking topics, including genres, story arcs, different types of shots, the art of short films, scriptwriting, and analyzing mentor films across various genres. The goal was to provide students with the foundational knowledge they needed to create compelling films.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this year’s festival was the ease with which students navigated the technology. Using iMovie and CapCut, they edited their films with minimal guidance, showcasing a level of proficiency that left the adults in attendance in awe. The ideas, editing skills, and collaborative efforts were evident in every film presented, reflecting the hard work and dedication of the students.

Ms. Young-Jones served as the Master of Ceremonies, bringing her trademark enthusiasm and humor to the event. She kept the audience entertained between each film and ensured that every student’s work was celebrated. Her ability to motivate and champion students was on full display, making the event not only entertaining but also inspiring.

Respecting the diverse learning identities of students, the festival allowed for flexibility in participation. While all students were placed in groups, they had the choice to either appear on camera or take on roles behind the scenes. This approach ensured that every student could contribute in a way that was comfortable and meaningful for them, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment.

The festival concluded with the panel of guest judges having the difficult task of selecting the award-winning films. Awards were given in various categories, recognizing the outstanding efforts and achievements of the students. Below are two of the award-winning films that exemplify the creativity and inclusivity nurtured at Hanwell Park Academy (click on full screen and then press play!):

Fans’ Choice and Best Overall: Toast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judges Choice: Disney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for inviting us to this special event, and please invite us back again next year!

GUEST WRITER ISOBEL O’BRION RECOMMENDS AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW BY ZOULFA KATOUH

Jun
11

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is a heartbreaking, inspiring, and insightful novel which takes place in 2011 Syria during the early Civil War. This book finds a way to fuse terrifying, devastating, unfathomable historical events with the innocence of youth, love, and relationships, ultimately humanizing complex issues and providing young readers a perspective that is both informative and relatable. Salama, the protagonist, is enduring something that many young, western readers will have never experienced, while giving a voice and story to many Syrian people who have undergone similar circumstances and have grappled with the same complexities and dilemmas throughout the ongoing civil war. Salama has lost so much already and is left to protect her best friend/sister-in-law who is pregnant with her niece, as well as the members of her community who need medical attention. She was studying to become a pharmacist, but her role in healthcare suddenly became much more than that. Katouh adeptly blends Salama’s youthful mind, filled with anxieties, dreams, and awkwardness, with the psyche of a traumatized, heroic figure which is fostered within Salama’s healer/protector identity. This story is anchored by a theme of fear and uncertainty. Salama fears what might happen if she leaves Syria, however, lives in fear every day she remains there. This feeling is something that many people can relate to, the uncertainty about leaving behind a context you feel the need to protect, or remain connected to, without thinking of yourself first. To me, this novel perfectly articulates this feeling and balances a love for Syria with a powerful, heartbreaking reality that is seeking refuge from your homeland.

There are many great literary strategies in this novel, balanced with casual dialogue and easy, relatable thoughts. I particularly love the contrast of the desolate world building with the warm memories, reference to Studio Ghibli films and landscape, and budding love story. Katouh uses a fascinating literary strategy where she represents Salama’s anxieties as a person, who acts as a sort of guide, much like a devil on her shoulder at times. This representation is so important for everyone who struggles to understand their anxieties either generally, in the face of adversity, from traumatic events, or as one navigates love for the first time, like Salama. Representation runs deep in this novel as it provides an incredible voice and hopeful, authentic narrative for Syria and for young Syrian women and girls. This book has something to offer everyone, touching your heart in ways that both shatter and warm it, as it skillfully balances the nightmares of war, loss, and fear with the themes of love, friendship, loyalty, and nostalgia all through the lens of Salama’s journey navigating so much for such a young woman.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: SIXTYEIGHT2OHFIVE

Jun
06

Writer Hanif Abdurraqib started SIXTYEIGHT2OHFIVE as a playlist project. When he expanded it to a website, he began inviting writers to contribute essays “in praise of or in reflection of an album (within this window of years) that changed their life.” The Essays on Albums library, searchable by decade, is an absolute mentor text treasure trove.

These first-person essays combine memoir, analysis, and personal reflection. They can be used as mentors for students to reflect on the music (or any other media, person, or experience) that has impacted them. Excerpts of beautiful passages and sentences can be used as micro-mentors or incorporated into craft studies and mini-lessons.

This project is a gift to music lovers and to writing teachers.

GUEST WRITER KAYLA STRANG RECOMMENDS GRACELING BY KRISTIN CASHORE

Jun
04

Graceling is a fantasy graphic novel, written by Kristin Cashorein and illustrated by Gareth Hinds,  that tells a story in the mythical land of The Seven Kingdoms. A king rules each of the Seven Kingdoms, all striving to maintain their own eminence and prowess over their kingdom. The gracelings, who are born with a specific talent, are what give the kings of the seven kingdoms their power. Meanwhile, there is only one way of distinguishing a graceling from the general public: by looking at their eye colours. Katsa, the blue and green-eyed heroine of the story, the niece of the king of Middluns, is graced with killing. The king of Middluns uses Kasta’s skill to his benefit, but in return, Katsa is left bitter, alone, and exploited. When the King of Middluns sends Kasta to yet another killing expedition, she encounters Po, a graceling who is the prince of Lienid with the skill of combat; Katsa is then drawn into a liberation quest across the Kingdoms.

Cashore creates a bond between the reader and the characters by incorporating fantasy, romance, magic, battle, rivals, and adventure. She also places an emphasis on independence, creating one’s own identity, and the triumph of good over evil. At the same time, Gareth Hinds’ illustration of the story perfectly captures all of its most crucial details and conveys the emotions in a way that words cannot.

I would recommend this book to high school students or late middle school students who like fantasy, mystery, romance, and adventure or a student who wants to broaden their genre horizons, finds it hard to get into books that lack action, or a student who does not know what genre they would like. Graceling has a fast pace; it has a way of throwing you into the plot that your eyes have a hard time keeping up. This book could also be used as an EAL recommendation; even though it can be hard to follow (there are lots of characters, kingdoms, and storylines to keep up with), the image tells a story itself. At the same time, the sentences are short and easy to follow but are filled with lots of imagination. And while there are many characters, kingdoms, wars, and rivalries to remember, this could also encourage students to discuss different strategies for keeping track of characters and more. No matter why a reader picks up this book, they are sure to enjoy the story within!

 

 

CRAFT STUDIO: THE BOOK OF (MORE) DELIGHTS

May
30

What I Was Reading:

The Book of (More) Delights by Ross Gay is based on the same premise as his previous collection, The Book of Delights: a year’s worth of brief essays, beginning and ending on his birthday, that celebrate the delights he encounters in his daily life. Gay explains that for the second collection he “kept to the same constraints—write them daily, write them quickly, and write them by hand—though truth be told, I was a little looser with those this time around, for one of the delights of a constraint, or a rule, is breaking it.”

Also like the previous collection, these essayettes as Gay calls them, are filled with inspiration for developing our own personal practice of delight by tuning into and documenting the small and large things that bring us joy.

Gay’s prose often reads like his poetry—alive with rhythm and energy. His sentences are complex, filled with strong imagery and emotion, and uniquely punctuated. This sentence is just one of a hundred I marked while reading:

As is my mother’s way sometimes, she offered this dime of wisdom as we were driving home from a sweet Christmas at my brother’s, almost in passing, dipping into a serious or serious-ish conversation, grave maybe is the better word, as is common for us, when she said—describing her grandchildren, now sixteen and fourteen years old, who will forevermore call her Munga, which is precisely how the oldest couldn’t say Grandma, both of whom still sometimes like to sleep over, or come over for a meal, and for whom she always bakes a this or a that (that requires some clarification: the best pound cake, eighteen kinds of cookies, etc.), and goes to games major and minor, traveling often quite far to sit on the hard stands despite the arthritis creeping into her lower spine, and worries on their behalf, for she changed their diapers and bathed them and when their parents were off early to work she was the one who got them off to school, which included, after waking them up very gently, soothingly as a loon singing their diminutive names, I kid you not, making for them whatever breakfast they wanted, I think they called it putting in our orders, usually eggs and bacon for the one, and chocolate chip pancakes for the other, and who still not infrequently takes them to doctor’s appointments and always makes the award ceremonies and the concerts, and if ever their folks are caught up she’s the one takes over—They saved my life.

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • There is a lot going on in this sentence punctuation-wise!
  • One of the unique elements of Gay’s style that I really appreciate is the way he interrupts himself in his writing. In this sentence, Gay pauses his original thought to add background details about his mother and sets them apart with a pair of dashes. It feels as though we are in conversation and he has veered off mid-thought to give me the important backstory.
  • When I read this extra-long single sentence with its variety of punctuation and combination of phrases, I could feel the energy behind the pacing. I felt myself inhale with the first dash and exhale when I reached the second one.
  • At first glance, this appears to be a giant run-on sentence, but it is really an exemplar for comma use and transition words.
  • This sentence would be perfect for a fluency mini-lesson that invites students to describe how the punctuation guides their reading expression.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Notice and name other interesting craft moves in this passage.
  • Explore the types of punctuation and their unique purposes in the sentence.
  • Identify the transition words and explain how they connect parts of the sentence to the whole.
  • Reflect on how the punctuation impacts the way you read it. Watch for interesting pacing strategies in other texts you read.
  • Use Gay’s technique of interrupting a shorter sentence by adding details such as anecdotes or examples.
  • Revise a draft in your writer’s notebook by incorporating some of the craft moves you notice in this excerpt.

 

 

GUEST WRITER MADISON PRICE RECOMMENDS THE HILLS OF ESTELLA ROJA BY ASHLEY ROBIN FRANKLIN

May
28

Kat Fields and Marisol “Mari” Castillo are headed to Estrella Roja, a tiny town in rural Texas, but for different reasons. After receiving an anonymous tip about the strange things that happen there, Kat loads up her car for a solo trip to the town to investigate it for her podcast, “Paranormal Texas.” Upon arrival, she finds the people of Estrella Roja distant and cold, except for a girl she runs into at the local diner. Mari is on her way to Estrella Roja, a place she hasn’t been since her mother packed up and left with Mari and her sister nine years ago, for her abuela’s funeral. Plagued by nightmares and bored out of her mind, Mari seeks a distraction through Kat, a girl determined to discover whatever secrets Estrella Roja holds. The two girls team up, and as the town’s mysterious past comes to light, it’s not just feelings swarming up around them.

The Hills of Estrella Roja is a story about self-discovery and learning to love yourself, even when you think you’re a monster. With its beautiful illustrations, heartfelt moments and the highs and lows of teenage love, this graphic novel is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a visual experience while reading. It’s also a wonderful choice for students looking for books that contain LGBTQIA2S+ representation. Before recommending this book, it’s good to mention that there are spooky elements that may frighten students.

CRAFT STUDIO: GOOD DIFFERENT BY MEG EDEN KUYATT

May
23

What I was reading:

“Good Different” by Meg Eden Kuyatt is a captivating and heartwarming novel that delves into the lives of middle school students navigating the challenges of identity, acceptance, and friendship. To read more about this novel in verse, check out the book recommendation here.

 

Text:

For Mrs. V’s Homework Assignment On Why I Like Pebblecreek Academy

By Selah Godfrey

Why do I like Pebblecreek?
It’s a silly question. Of course
I like Pebblecreek. I just do.

I like the sound of the whole class reciting
the same jingle, or singing the same song, together.

I like the way my best friend Noelle wiggles her eyebrows
in the goofy Noelle way and makes me laugh
when we’re in class or on cleanup duty.

I like that the stairwells always smell like Pebblecreek stairwells
and the classrooms always smell like Pebblecreek classrooms.

I like that I’ve been in the same school building
every year of school and know where all the rooms are.

At Pebblecreek, there’s a way for doing everything:
raise your hand to speak in class
electronics off and put away
no makeup
lunches and jackets on the shelf
in your assigned spot
just outside the classroom.

Even though lots of kids complain
about all our rules, I like
that I don’t have to think about
what to wear
and know what I’m
supposed to do.

Everyone at Pebblecreek is part of the Pebblecreek family,
and it really feels like that,
like all the teachers are my aunts and uncles who always tell us at the end of each day,
“You are loved and worthy
and can do great things.”

At Pebblecreek, all the kids invite each other
to each other’s parties.
Even if we aren’t all close
They’re always there,
Because we’re stuck with each other
In the same classes each grade,
so we kind of have to get along.

I like that everyone knows me
As the Girl Who’s Good at Drawing
and people always say nice things about my drawings
and ask me to draw them.

I like that there’s a place for me at Pebblecreek.
Pebblecreek might not be perfect
but it’s familiar
and I never want to change it,
like a pair of favorite shoes
that even if they’re falling apart
you tape up and try to fix
because they’re special and important
and yours.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  1. Descriptive Language: The author uses sensory details to describe the environment and atmosphere of Pebblecreek Academy. Descriptions like “the stairwells always smell like Pebblecreek stairwells” and “classrooms always smell like Pebblecreek classrooms” evoke a vivid sense of familiarity and routine. She capitalizes what she is known for as if it is an official title.
  2. Character Development: Selah introduces and describes her best friend, Noelle, showcasing a personal connection and adding depth to the narrative. This helps create a more relatable and engaging story.
  3. Voice and Tone: The tone of the piece is personal and reflective, conveying the author’s feelings and experiences. The voice feels authentic, which allows readers to connect with the narrator’s emotions and perspective.
  4. Repetition and Rhythm: The repetition of phrases like “I like” and the consistent structure throughout the piece create a rhythmic flow, emphasizing the author’s sentiments and reinforcing the central theme of fondness for Pebblecreek Academy.
  5. Symbolism and Metaphor: The analogy of Pebblecreek being compared to a pair of favorite shoes that one wants to keep despite their imperfections is a metaphor that adds depth and emotional resonance to the author’s feelings towards the school.
  6. Themes of Belonging and Community: The text explores themes of belonging and community within the school, emphasizing the sense of belonging and acceptance the narrator feels among her peers and teachers.

 

Possibilities for Writers:

Writer’s can:

  • Reflect on their own communities and buildings where they feel they belong.
  • Practice crafting vivid and sensory descriptions of places, whether it’s a school, a neighborhood, or any familiar environment. Detailing the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings associated with a place can create a strong sense of atmosphere and nostalgia.
  • Experiment with using metaphors and analogies to describe feelings, experiences, or places. Similar to Selah’s comparison of Pebblecreek to a pair of favorite shoes, writers can use metaphors to evoke emotions and connections.
  • Experiment with the style of narrative. Try using repetition, varied sentence structures, or different points of view to convey emotions and experiences effectively.
  • Write about that they are known for like how Saleh is known as “the Girl Who’s Good at Drawing”.

 

 

 

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.

 

CRAFT STUDIO: THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT MINI STUDY

May
16

When all 2 hours and 2 minutes of The Tortured Poets Department dropped, the reactions of swifties and non-swifties alike dominated online spaces. Since students (and their teachers) are reading and debating the merits of these digital texts, it seems like an excellent opportunity to leverage this current engagement and create a mini craft study.

After I pulled together a small collection of reviews that range from glowing to mixed to negative, I identified a learning target from our ELA curriculum: evaluate an author’s effectiveness using textual support. Then, I selected a paragraph from each of the reviews that demonstrates the use of textual support:

Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department / The Anthology Album Review  (Pitchfork)

It’s not Swift’s fault that we’re so obsessed with her, but this album gives the impression that she can’t quite hear herself over the roar of the crowd. Tearjerkers like “So Long, London” and “loml” fall short when every lyric carries equal weight. There’s no hierarchy of tragic detail; these songs fail to distill an overarching emotional truth, tending to smother rather than sting. It would help if Swift were exploring new musical ideas, but she is largely retreading old territory—unsurprising, perhaps, given that the last three years of her life have been consumed by re-recording her old albums and touring her past selves. The new music is colored in familiar shades of Antonoff (sparse drum programming, twinkly synths) and Dessner (suppler, more strings). Songs sound like other songs—“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart” like Midnights’ “Mastermind”; the intro of “So Long, London” like that of Folklore’s “My Tears Ricochet.” Her melodies feel staid, like they are made to fit the music, rather than the other way around.

Taylor Swift’s ‘Tortured Poets Department’ Is More Puzzling Than Poetic  (Huffington Post)

When it comes to Swift’s music, I often think of a concept introduced by Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers on their podcast Las Culturistas: Taylor Swift vs. Tayla Swiff. In their analysis of “folklore” and “evermore,” they posit that at her best, Swift portrays her genuine self in her music, exuding raw emotion and vulnerability. At other times, she leans too far into Tayla Swiff (the name they have given her public persona), and tries to wink at her listeners that she’s in on the joke of her celebrity, or worse, garner pity for her struggles as one of the most powerful women in the world. Tayla is alive and well on “The Anthology”: She writes of the hyper-attention on her breakups, saying, “Come one, come all / It’s happenin’ again / The empathetic hunger descends” in “How Did It End?” and in “The Prophecy,” she claims, “Don’t want money / Just someone who wants my company”…

Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department review  (AV Club)

Swift is hardly the only artist whose work is in conversation with itself, nor is she the first to return to ideas on multiple albums. But The Tortured Poets Department exists in the inescapable shadow of the incredible volume of music immediately preceding it. It’s easy, on many tracks, to point to an analog, musically or lyrically, from a previous album. “Who’s Afraid Of Little Old Me?” is this album’s “mad woman”; the reference to CPR on “So Long, London” inevitably recalls “You’re Losing Me.” Perhaps this wouldn’t be a detriment if we had time away from these repetitive themes. But Swift has released eight albums in the last four years, and the influence of that hyperproductivity is evident in Tortured Poets. Production-wise, many of Swift’s collaborations with Jack Antonoff sound like Midnights B-sides, or worse, like 1989 Vault Tracks (essentially, C-sides). Songs that are brand new feel done before within this Taylor Swift Experience context.

Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Review  (Billboard)

Furious rhetorical questions and errors in judgment dot the Tortured Poets Department lyrics, as Swift aims at a target beyond vulnerability, that allows her wide listenership to understand her heart and mind. In a career defined by her songwriting, Swift has never placed so much emphasis on her words — the production, courtesy of Swift and close collaborators Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, seems to evaporate at points, the music almost incidental compared to the lyrics. The warm synth-pop of Midnights serves as the closest reference point, but that album was cleanly orchestrated, while The Tortured Poets Department wants to get in the mud with soft-loud dissonance and tracklist sprawl. Really, the album is in conversation with her entire catalog — a country-pop chorus here, a Folklore folk tale there — while still making time to explore the unknown.

Album Review: Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ is written in blood (NPR)

Swift’s musical approach has always been enthusiastic and absorbent. She’s created her own sounds by blending country’s sturdy song structures with R&B’s vibes, rap’s cadences and pop’s glitz; as a personality and a performer, she’s all arms, hugging the world. The sound of Tortured Poets offers that familiar embrace, with pop tracks that sparkle with intelligence, and meditative ones that wrap tons of comforting aura around Swift’s ruminations. Beyond a virtually undetectable Post Malone appearance and a Florence Welch duet that also serves as an homage to Swift’s current exemplar/best friendly rival, Lana Del Rey, the album alternates between co-writes with Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, the producers who have helped Swift find her mature sound, which blends all of her previous approaches without favoring any prevailing trend. There are the rap-like, conversational verses, the reaching choruses, the delicate piano meditations, the swooning synth beats. Antonoff’s songs come closest to her post-1989 chart toppers; Dessner’s fulfill her plans to remain an album artist. Swift has also written two songs on her own, a rarity for her; both come as close to ferocity as she gets. As a sustained listen, Tortured Poets harkens back to high points throughout Swift’s career, creating a comforting environment that both supports and balances the intensity of her storytelling.

Taylor Swift’s New Album, ‘The Tortured Poets Department,’ Could Use an Editor: Review  (NY Times)

Plenty of great artists are driven by feelings of being underestimated, and have had to find new targets for their ire once they become too successful to convincingly claim underdog status. Beyoncé, who has reached a similar moment in her career, has opted to look outward. On her recently released “Cowboy Carter,” she takes aim at the racist traditionalists lingering in the music industry and the idea of genre as a means of confinement or limitation.

Swift’s new project remains fixed on her internal world. The villains of “The Tortured Poets Department” are a few less famous exes and, on the unexpectedly venomous “But Daddy I Love Him,” the “wine moms” and “Sarahs and Hannahs in their Sunday best” who cluck their tongues at our narrator’s dating decisions. (Some might speculate that these are actually shots at her own fans.) “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived” is probably the most satisfyingly vicious breakup song Swift has written since “All Too Well,” but it is predicated on a power imbalance that goes unquestioned. Is a clash between the smallest man and the biggest woman in the world a fair fight?

Invite students individually or in small groups to notice and name the various types of textual evidence as well as the range of techniques for incorporating it they find in each of the excerpts. Then ask them to rank each of the reviewer’s use of textual evidence from most to least effective and explain their decision. In other words, they’ll be evaluating the reviewers’ effectiveness using textual support.

You could use these reviews for a number of different mini craft studies, including:

  • Select paragraphs that focus on the same element of TTPD and compare points of view or perspectives.
  • Give students different highlighters to identify analysis, summary, and examples and compare the ratio across excerpts.
  • Compare sections of each text where the writer is persuading the audience. List the techniques and evaluate their effectiveness.

This framework for organizing mini craft studies (curate a collection of texts, identify a learning target or focus, select a paragraph or excerpt from each text, and inviting students to notice, name, and evaluate the effectiveness of the techniques) can be adapted for any collection of responses, reactions, reviews, and hot takes on something your students are reading and talking about (a new product/movie/series/game, the outcome of a sporting event, a current event, etc).

No matter what your mini craft study focuses on, you can extend students’ learning by asking them to find examples of similar craft moves in their reading and by incorporating them into their writing.

 

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!