Margin Notes

GUEST WRITER ELIZABETH ANDREWS RECOMMENDS: TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOGFISH BY HOLLY GOLDBERG SLOAN AND MEG WOLITZER

Jun
30

9780525554561To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wollitzer will capture the interests, and hearts, of students that love realistic fiction.  I would argue that this title is also the perfect text to help transition a reader to this genre if it isn’t a typical choice for them. The book is a quick and engaging read, aimed at late elementary and middle level students. Presented in the form of emails and letters, students will need to draw on their reading and viewing strategies to comprehend the clever organization and text features. With a quirky cast of relatable characters, the authors have managed to skillfully blend representation and authenticity into the lives of two very-endearing protagonists.  Wondering if this book should become a permanent part of your classroom library?  The answer is undoubtably, YES!

In a nutshell, the book is a series of communications by, and about, the two main characters: Avery Bloom (Night Owl) and Bette Devlin (Dogfish).  Bette is an adventurous girl from California.  She loves surfing, thrill seeking, and keeping a watchful eye on her dad.  When Bette finds out her dad is in a serious relationship with a man from New York, and that the two plan to have their daughters meet at the prestigious summer camp, CIGI, Bette sees no option but to take matters into her own hands.  She puts her sleuthing skills to the test and tracks down Avery via email.  Avery is cautious, anxious, and clever, and although she is hesitant to believe Bette’s claims, soon comes to realize that she’s going to need to work with Bette if there is any hope of keeping their dads apart. Through their regular communication and experiences at camp, the girls from an unexpected bond, showing the reader that family is what you make it.

As I flipped through the pages, I felt like I was reading a modernized version of the Parent Trap, starring Hailey Mills—one of my all-time favorite movies.  The central focus of the novel is on the bond that develops between Bette and Avery. What I love most though, is the inclusion of  relatable and authentic characters representative of our world, particularly when it comes to skin color, ethnicity, age, family status, and sexuality.  While other texts I have read mention same-sex parents, or even had a central conflict relating to same-sex parents, none have celebrated it in quite the same way.  It wasn’t something a character was upset about, nor was it a side story. This book made it a focal point and made it beautiful and normal and worth celebrating.  While there were dissenting voices in the text, they were brushed aside, acknowledged, but not given power.  Despite some serious themes, this book was perfectly balanced with loads of lighthearted humor and zany antics.  I think that students will be able to interact with it on different levels, depending on their own experiences and prior knowledge.

Finally, the teaching potential in this book can’t be overlooked.  There are so many opportunities for mini-lessons and excerpts that would make great mentor texts.  I would focus on the text features, organization, context clues, inference, and voice (particularly in relation to word choice and expression).  While I feel that this book would make a fantastic read-aloud, I think that it would be important to discuss or find ways to help your students keep track of who is telling the story, as it does have alternating narration.

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wollitzer is a delight.  In fact, reading it has inspired me to pick up other books by these authors.  Be sure to check it out!

Elizabeth Andrews is a guest blogger for Margin Notes. She teaches grade 6, 7, and 8 Language Arts, Art, and Music at Chipman Forest Avenue School in Chipman, New Brunswick. She is self-declared nerd and lover of science fiction and fantasy.

“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” ~ Tyrion Lannister (A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin)

 

CRAFT STUDIO:THE SWIM TEAM BY MIRANDA JULY

Jun
23

What I  Was Reading: 

swimteam

“The Swim Team” is the second story in Miranda July’s collection of short stories titled No one belongs here more than you. All of the stories in the collection are compelling due to the wildly imaginative inner lives of the usually lonely, bizarre, and socially outcast characters. While reading through the book, I noticed that July commonly excludes quotation marks to denote speech. In “The Swim Team”, this lack of punctuation serves a unique and interesting purpose. This story starts with a paragraph about how it is being written for the narrator’s ex-boyfriend in order to explain a specific time in her past that the ex-boyfriend had wanted to know about, and which may have contributed to their break-up. The story goes on to explain what happened during this secretive time and includes multiple characters speaking to each other without using quotation marks. The lack of quotation marks made me feel like I was not reading exactly what was said, but the narrator’s memory of what was said. Additionally, it made it so that the narrators voice was the only voice I heard while reading. In this way, the story sounded the way a story would if a friend was recounting an event that happened to them. This method of delivering the story made me feel a connection to the narrator, I was standing in for the ex-boyfriend and the narrator was telling her story to me.

SwimTeam1

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • No quotation marks to denote who is speaking and when
  • Lack of separation between dialogue and description
  • Writing as if recounting a story to a friend
  • Writing as if you are speaking to a fictional reader

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Write a story from your past as if you were telling the story to a friend
  • Try telling a story with dialogue from one character’s perspective without using quotation marks to separate the speakers
  • Write a fictional story from the perspective of a fictional character to another fictional character

Guest writer Julia Mortimer is currently a student teacher at UNB. When she is not busy studying she enjoys staring up at trees in hopes of seeing a bird, talking to her cat, and spending too much time wandering in grocery stores.

GUEST WRITER ROXANNE MORNEAULT RECOMMENDS THE MIGHTY HEART OF SUNNY ST. JAMES BY ASHLEY HARRING BLAKE

Jun
16

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The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake tells the story of a twelve year- old girl named Sunny, as she begins her “new life” after a recent heart transplant.

Throughout the novel the reader learns that Sunny is unhappy with many of the decisions she made in her “old” life. (pre-heart transplant).  Secrets were told and friendships were broken, which causes Sunny to create a to-do-list that she wants to accomplish as the new Sunny.   Her list includes doing awesome amazing things that she could never do before including finding a new best friend and finding a boy to kiss.

As Sunny sets out to complete her list, she meets her mother who abandoned her 8 years ago. She feels confusion and has a lack of trust. Although she wants her mother to be a part of her life, her mother’s alcoholism, and new family are barriers to their relationship.

When Sunny meets Quinn, she instantly has a new best friend.  Together they look for boys to kiss so that Sunny can cross this off her list.  Sunny and Quinn’s friendship makes Sunny question which feelings are hers and which belong to her unknown heart donor as she finds herself attracted to Quinn.  In the end, they end up sharing a kiss and discovering that they have feelings for each other.

This novel would be a good read for many students as Sunny is a character that many teens could relate to.  There are themes of health, friendship, adoptive and biological parents, and romantic relationships.  Also, this novel explores the idea of trying to change who you are and whether this is possible.

Roxanne teaches grade 7 and 8 LA at Sunbury West School.

CRAFT STUDIO: GAME CHANGER BY TOMMY GREENWALD

Jun
09

What I Was Reading:

Game ChangerWhile I was reading Game Changer, I was struck by the many different ways Greenwald introduces different characters and dialogue without actually using any “traditional” writing styles. The story is about a thirteen-year-old boy who is in a coma from an injury on the football field, but the majority of the story circles around other characters who are trying to unpack what exactly happened to Teddy. We see a lot of different interactions with people within the story, and we get a lot of insight about how the characters are feeling about the protagonist’s journey, without getting an overload of information about them. I thought this was a very interesting and unconventional way to provide perspectives throughout the story.

Game Changer3Game Changer2Game Changer1

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • Conversations are happening in messaging format with the dates and times of when they were said and by whom.
  • You can see what perspectives of the characters are more widely shared in the book by looking at the number of “likes” the message has.
  • There is no description given to the characters speaking, but instead information about who they are and how they are involved are happening through online discussion.
  • Updates on the protagonist are given through hospital reports, or through what he hears from the people around him while he is in a coma.
  • Ambiguity around the circumstances of his injury is heightened from the amount of characters giving opposing perspectives.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Use one of the messaging conversations in Game Changer as a mentor text to get students to write out their own dialogue between 3 or more people. Have them use standard messaging techniques to provide meaning to the conversation.
  • Get students to write dialogue in a traditional sense, then have them try to take that same conversation and transfer it to a messaging platform – IMessage, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat – How does it change between platforms?
  • Have students think of a time they heard a conversation that they were not a part of, and get them to come up with a way to express that dialogue without using standard quotations.
  • Using the Game Changer example of the hospital report, have students describe their current mood or situation in a similarly unique manner.

Guest writer Lauren Sieben is a UNB pre-service teacher currently interning with Sara BeLong in Grade 6 English at George Street Middle School. Game Changer combined two of her favourite things: reading YA and football.

Resource Round-Up

Jun
08

Every Monday we’re sharing a round-up of resources that might be helpful as you develop opportunities for learning to share with your students.

CBC Books has compiled a list of 20 Canadian titles for kids and teens to read for National Indigenous Heritage Month.

What’s Going On in This Graph, is a regular series hosted by the New York Times Learning Network. Students are invited to read and respond to a wide range of graphs, maps, and charts.

CBC Books has curated a collection of 73 Canadian Short Stories available online for free.

Teaching Tolerance offers a vast collection of resources and teaching strategies with an emphasis on democracy, social justice, and anti-bias.

Lyrikline is a searchable website of poets and poems (in print, audio, and video format) from around the globe.

GUEST WRITER ERMA APPLEBY RECOMMENDS I’M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT BY KIMBERLY JONES AND GILLY SEGAL

Jun
02

I'm Not Dying With You TonightWhat would you do if a riot broke out right in front of you? Would you freeze, scream, hide, or run? For Lena and Campbell this situation throws them into a life-changing situation where the only goal is to survive.

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight places the reader into the situation where they may ask themselves, “What would I do?” Lena and Campbell represent two very different worlds. Lena is the high school student who is noted for her sense of style, her devoted boyfriend, and her well planned out future. Campbell, on the other hand, is the “newbie” at McPherson High School, who just wants to get through the school year at a new school.

Narrated in alternating chapters, Lena and Campbell recount the evening that should have been a routine high school football game. Managing the canteen for the event, both characters are expecting an evening of preparing hotdogs, pop, and snacks for the crowd. But, this game is not an ordinary event; it is a match against McPherson’s biggest rival, Jonesville. Tensions within the crowd heighten; customers waiting in line at the canteen become impatient; first a soft drink cup is thrown over the crowd, and then it all breaks loose.

Page after page, Jones and Segal take readers on a journey of survival. When the outbreak of violence expands to blockades throughout the city, both characters share a sense of fear: “…we have to get out of here. This is the most unsafe move I’ve ever made.”

From helicopters to SWAT members, this is certainly a page turner that is written for a variety of readers. Filled with wonderful mentor texts for vivid vocabulary, the authors have created a novel that makes the reader feel as if they are actually on the sidelines of all the action.

Erma Appleby is an English Language Arts teacher at Oromocto High School in Oromocto, New Brunswick. She enjoys the discussion that literature can ignite and the role that it plays in our lives.

Resource Round-Up

Jun
01

Every Monday we’re sharing a round-up of resources that might be helpful as you develop opportunities for learning to share with your students.

The Teach Living Poets website is filled with resources related to contemporary poetry, including an extensive interactive library.

Foreshadow is a digital serial anthology of YA short stories.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, has assembled an extensive list of Great Talks Most People Have Never Heard.

Brightly curates extensive reading lists by topic and interest for both  tweens and teens . (There is an option, but no obligation to purchase titles through the site.)

MG Book Village is a source of fantastic information and ideas related to Middle Grade books. Teachers of Grades 6-7 will find lots of book recommendations. This site also houses the Books Between podcast.

CRAFT STUDIO: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME BY MARK HADDON

May
26

What I was Reading:

curiousThe curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon has many craft moves for writers to try. The narration and the way the novel is written is so unique and serves as a great mentor text for personal or instructional writing. The story is told from the perspective of Christopher, a neuro-diverse narrator who finds himself in the middle of a mystery he is determined to solve. While he brings the reader along on his quest, he spends a lot of time describing his unique feelings, beliefs, and quirks to us. In one section, he explains how he determines whether or not he will have a good day, while using a variety of techniques.

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What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • He writes his labels for his days in bolded type, so when he references them again it’s easier for the reader to remember his definition.
  • He integrates his definitions into a paragraph in an organized way.
  • He writes dialogue without using any quotation marks.
  • He uses longer sentences with minimal commas so that his writing sounds like how the narrator would speak.
  • He creates a comparison between his own superstitions and others’/his own father’s superstitions.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Think about what constitutes a Good Day, Black Day, etc. in your own life and write about it, using this text and Haddon’s labels as inspiration.
  • Use the technique of bolding labels in your own writing.
  • Describe superstitions you have encountered in your own life and consider why you believe in them (or why you do not).

Guest writer Kristin Estabrooks is a Mount Allison University graduate, and is currently a student teacher studying for her Bachelor of Education at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. She is an avid reader who is now learning to read like a teacher of writing, and is looking forward to passing what she has learned on to her students.

Resource Round-Up

May
25

Every Monday we’re sharing a round-up of resources that might be helpful as you develop opportunities for learning to share with your students.

Teach This Poem features one poem each week, accompanied by related resources and activities designed to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom. You can subscribe to the weekly Teach This Poem email.

Moving Writers is one of our go-to sources for ideas. They are currently featuring many lesson ideas and mentor texts for teaching literacy remotely.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery offers a number of ways to stay connected with their programmes and resources. These options are categorized on their website by Read, Listen, Watch, and Create.

This post from the School Library Journal blog offers podcast playlists for students of all ages.

Writer’s Digest has curated a list of 100 poetic forms ranging from abstract to zappai.

 

WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS BY JULIA WALTON

May
19

25695640._UY630_SR1200,630_For some time now, the iconic movie, A beautiful Mind has been the standard portrayal of schizophrenia, but Julia Walton’s Word’s on Bathroom Walls is the new benchmark, conveying insight into what it’s like to live with such a disruptive mental disorder. Walton’s compelling protagonist, sixteen-year-old Adam Petrazelli, is coping with this extraordinary life challenge.  

To further enhance the awkward social position this puts Adam in, Walton mirrors this in the structure of her book by having Adam meet with his counsellor every week, but refuses to talk to him; so each session is an hour of uncomfortable one-sided conversation. Each chapter begins with the psychiatrist notes – succinct medical information about Adam’s diagnosis and meds – followed by a dated journal from Adam’s perspective to his psychiatrist, sharing his daily struggles and answering the questions he’s been asked the previous session. This is crucial to the success of the story as the reader anguishes with Adam at his social blunders specific to the challenges that accompany a mental disorder like schizophrenia when the medications stop working.  

From his inability to distinguish between reality and hallucinations, to his worries about dealing with a new stepfather, hiding his schizophrenia from his peers, and navigating a newfound romantic relationship, Adam is a sympathetic character and you will find yourself rooting for and sympathizing with when things don’t go as planned. This book is a must read for all those who want to understand what causes someone to behave a certain way and want to gain a unique and empathetic point of view about mental illness in 2020.