Margin Notes



This Is Where It Ends is a beautifully written novel following the events of a school shooting. Readers follow the lives of the people closest to the shooter and how they are affected throughout his terror. The reader is placed into the lives of five separate students and learn the relationship they had with the shooter and how it feels to have no power in a terrifying situation. 

This novel highlights the life of public-school students and the constant fear that they face with the rise of school shooting. It shows that no one is safe in this kind of position, not even family. Each chapter leaves you wanting more, and makes you wish you had another book to follow each of the characters.  

Tyler Browne is the shooter. This is a familiar name as you flip the pages and immerse yourself into this story. This Is Where It Ends puts the fear that the students feel within you. Your heart will break for anyone who has been affected by, or lost a child to, school shootings. Rather than chapters, the plot follows a timeline, the 54 minutes that feel like a lifetime to the students and teachers at this school. There are many trigger warnings of course, with school shootings and the loss of children or student.  On the same note, there are gory details about people being shot – which is hard for an audience to read when they are so deep into the story.  

A reader who enjoys reading fiction that reflects current events should definitely read this title. 

My name is Chloe Despres, and I am a grade 11 student at Leo Hayes high school. I enjoy reading and writing during my free time and being with my family. Reading has become a new passion of mine and consumes my time, as does Book Tok. I work a lot so hanging out with my family and my dog is my escape and calm! 




They Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera is a great choice for fans of young adult, dystopian, science fiction narratives. This bittersweet story connects two unlikely people, who push each other to live their last day to the fullest. I enjoyed the author’s modern take on fatalism, as it is easy to relate to as the two teen protagonists must come to terms with mortality. It evokes the realization of human mortality in the mind of the reader and makes them question the base of fatality. It beautifully demonstrates how a single day lived to its best is better than a lifetime of just existing – making everyone who reads want to live each day as though it’s their last.  

This book has great representation through its main characters Matteo and his antithesis Rufus, who although very different, create a deep bond. Matteo is an 18-year-old Puerto Rican teen, who suffers from anxiety and keeps to himself as much as possible. He meets Rufus a 17-year-old Cuban teen, who is vivacious and confident on “The Last Friend” app. Both character’s growth in just the short time they spend with each other shows that you don’t have to spend an eternity with someone to have a lasting effect on their life.  

I could not put this book down, I finished it in just one sitting and as you grow to love and empathize with the characters, you begin to dread the inevitable ending. However, it was satisfying as they both lead meaningful lives. Readers will be left thinking about this book long after they’ve put it down. 



‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’  

Through the Woods is a graphic novel written by award winning Canadian author Emily Carroll. This novel contains 5 haunting and eerie stories about topics such as the chilling adventures of three sisters after their father’s disappearance as seen in Our Neighbour’s House or the story of a girl who witnesses the horrors awaiting her in the woods during her trip to visit her brother after their mother’s death as told in The Nesting Place.  

Carroll’s fast paced story telling had me absolutely entranced the whole time. Each story is easily digestible with a charming art style. It is easy to imagine yourself in the shoes of each character and wondering what you would do in their situation. That is until the real horror element truly seeps in and darkens every crevice, making you reconsider all of the trust you’d once put into the characters..  

All this, paired together with Carroll’s unique panel placement and organization, truly makes for an unforgettable read that will have every horror fan on the edge of their seat.  This graphic novel is one that’s stuck with me for quite some time after devouring it in one sitting. 



Eleanora Fagan better known as Billie Holiday did not have a happy life. After all, she sang the blues for a reason.  

“Becoming Billie Holiday” is a poetic interpretation of her life story. Readers follow Billie as she matures from a troubled adolescent into the fearless and passionate musician we know today. The text offers the privilege of watching her navigate a world that seems to be against her with parents that leave her, a neighbor that rapes her, and a drug addiction that destroys her. Billie must summon every ounce of her courage to fight against the brutality.  

Carole Boston Weatherford recounts this story beautifully and entirely through free verse poems with titles that correspond to each of Billie’s songs. The poems are accompanied by compelling illustrations.  

It was extraordinary to discover the complex story behind the famous musician. The book was exactly what I needed to incorporate a little bit of poetry and a lot of imagining into my reading routine.  



All Maggie wants is some time alone – and she has a plan to get it. With a few lies about where they are, Maggie and her friends plan a sleepover at her empty grandparents’ house. To say things don’t go as planned is an understatement. Her friends are caught and can’t come. During her secret night hidden alone, her town is evacuated, and Maggie is indeed left alone…totally alone. 

This novel, written in verse, is a fantastic middle level survival story. Readers follow Maggie as she slowly accepts that no one is coming back and realizes she is on her own to take care of herself and her neighbor’s dog, George. The slow descent into survival mode is realistic and brings authentic threats such as food, water, weather, fire and wild animals. 

Other than the obvious challenges of survival, the conflict of the plot is a steady build of loneliness. Maggie is aware of the hope she is losing and searches for connection in radios and books. The seasons change and the years go by without any indication of this isolation ending. Maddie’s resilience in the environmental and mental struggles is fierce and makes her a strong character for readers to admire. Although I would give a trigger warning for animal abuse, I would recommend this book to readers who like dystopian survival stories as well as someone looking to devour a book in verse.  



Heartstopper is a graphic novel depicting an adorable yet realistic LQBTQ romance between two boys finding themselves, one an openly gay and bullied boy, the other a questioning rugby jock.

When the story begins, Charlie Spring wants nothing more than to be loved by his secret, closeted, emotionally abusive boyfriend, Ben Hope. He finds himself sitting in the art room every lunchtime, eating his lunch surrounded by the haunting memories of last year.

Nick Nelson is the epitome of a sweet jock, having a soft spot for vulnerability, but still hanging out with his rough, homophobic rugby friends. Even though he doesn’t agree with what they do, he finds himself with no one else to listen to.

Charlie and Nick finally meet after a homeroom seat change one morning, and nothing but a “Hi” every day to each other. Nick was all Charlie thought about for weeks on end, whereas his friends, Tao, Isaac, and Elle, only crushed his hopes by continually insisting that Nick was straight, without a doubt.

Then there is an incident with Nick in homeroom and a leaky pen, and after Charlie helps Nick, a spark of friendship begins to whirl between the two. They begin to chat in the halls, smile at each other when they pass, and Nick invites Charlie to learn how to play rugby after school one gorgeous, sunny day.

Unfortunately, there is then a horrible and aggressive incident between Charlie and Ben, with Nick comes to Charlie’s aid after lingering around due to a sense something isn’t right between Charlie and Ben. That event sparks the first nighttime texting session between them, evoking a stream of confused feelings about their relationship and the potential struggles of identifying as LQBTQ in an all-boys school.


Heartstopper is one of the most subtly powerful and emotional novels I’ve ever read. Each page ropes you more into the character’s life until you’re immersed into the feeling of pure excitement every time they show affection, romantic or not.

Sometimes I would take breaks in between reading, just to scream out of joy or sob at an emotional scene, and I’ve honestly never had a book do that before. It’s an LGBTQ modern classic, and I absolutely adored how many topics are addressed and how inclusive the characters are. So many mature topics are covered in such an realistic way, like coming out as gay and lesbian, being transgender, homophobia and discovering your sexuality. Heartstopper is an essential read for allies and LGBTQ alike. I guarantee it’ll be the best book you’ll ever read.


Fionna Jarvis is a 14-year-old student at Ridgeview Middle School in Oromocto, New Brunswick who likes to read atypical romance, dystopia, non-fiction and poetry books. She loves to write and has written several online novels. She plays rugby, volleyball and does all-star cheerleading. Also, she does art, she paints, sketches, and also uses oil pastels and watercolours.



the collection of titles on SORA has expanded to include titles for students in high school. To celebrate this, and to add some book buzz, Margin Notes will feature book recommendations written by high school students over the summer months. Stay tuned for some great book recommendations!

Ways teachers might use the students’ recommendations:

  • Direct students to Margin Notes to read student recommendations
  • Book talk the titles by reading the student recommendations
  • Post the recommendations in the classroom for students to read
  • Have students comment on the posts of titles they decide to read
  • Use as mentor texts for students writing their own recommendations



In their resource, Breathing New Life into Book Clubs: A Practical Guide for Teachers, Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen guide educators on how to use book clubs to create a culture of reading.  

When students are placed together to carry conversation, the discussion might begin with the question “What do we talk about?” One response suggestion in this resource is to offer the three tools of talk. This strategy can help learners who struggle to find ideas worth sharing along with those who have ideas but need support to start a conversation. 

What’s on your mind? 

This question can start a conversation with any thought, sticky-note or quote to break the silence and teach learners that their ideas are valuable. It might be a thought about a character, an important event, an interesting detail etc.  

Audacious Questioning 

All group members can ask questions that may or may not have answers. The questions could be why something happened, what others predict will happen next, help to clear up confusion or ask about an event. Students can write sticky notes with questions as they arise in reading and bring them to the discussion or ask as the discussion progresses. 

Author’s Moves 

Once students learn to read like a writer, they know how to see the craft moves of an author. Students can discuss these moves together. They could talk about the structure, the language, the perspectives, the theme etc.  

Once you introduce, model and practice the three tools for talking, you can individualize feedback and support to groups when you notice which area they are leaving out of discussions or support them in including a variety of subtopics in each branch. 

If you are interested in learning more about starting, running and assessing book clubs, this title offers a practical guide to your teaching. The mini-lessons, tracking suggestions and immediately applicable advice is invaluable. 

Cherry-Paul, S., & Johansen, D. (2019). Breathing New Life into book clubs. Heinemann Educational Books. 





There are just some authors who are an immediate “yes”. Tae Keller has become one of those authors for me, ever since reading her Newbery Medal winning novel “When You Trap a Tiger“. So, when I found out that she had a new middle grade novel coming out on April 26th, I pre-ordered it. And, let me tell you, it does not disappoint.

Mallory, the narrator of the story, is so real and raw. I love how we are privy to all of her thoughts, insecurities, and feelings. She is a complicated character and is not simply “good or bad”. The shame and guilt she feels over her actions and those of her friends is written with sensitivity, and I certainly felt empathy for her- despite the fact that as a parent and a teacher I wanted to tell her to give her head a shake many times.

This is a story of bullying, aliens (yes, I said “aliens”), being the “new kid”, standing up for what is right, and speaking up for others EVEN when it makes you stick out. This novel would be an amazing read aloud for a grade 6 or 7 class.

I highly recommend you add this to your TBR stack of summer reads. And if you haven’t read “When you Trap a Tiger”, add that one too!



As educators we want to ensure that our students have daily time to read each day when they are with us at school.  To keep this momentum, it is important that we consider ways to set students up to read at home on weekends, holidays and of course over the summer.  With summer fast approaching teachers may want to consider the following suggestions from Intervention Reinvention by Stephanie Harvey et al, on how to prevent the phenomenon known as “summer slide”.  These strategies may be especially helpful when brainstorming ways to support our more vulnerable learners who according to research experience higher degrees (80%) of stalled learning over the summers break.

  • Consider having students make a vacation reading plan. Have children plan ahead and get them talking about what they would like to read and prepare copies of books/ebooks, and teach them how to access books at the public library. Photocopy calendar pages and conference with students to support their interest and reading plan.

  • Consider sending students home with books that were carefully book matched to their interests using books from your classroom library.
  • Consider organizing book swaps before the school year ends. Put out a call for gently used books and book match with your students and set up a display letting families know books are available and that they are welcome to what interests them.
  • Consider promoting book ownership through giveaway promotions. Studies have found that book ownership when paired with a summer reading programs has more impact when no strings are attached (Allington, McGill-Frazen 2010). Students build home libraries of high interest books and pride in book ownership.
  • Consider keeping the school library open over the summer. Advertise it as a one-time special events or exclusive offer. It may be easier for students to access the school library rather than the public and even if students have been sent home with books, allowing access to the school library with allow them to refresh their stack. Perhaps a new interest has popped up over the summer, and accessing the library allows them to continue that interest.

Get together with colleagues and the school administration to discuss these ideas or brainstorm  other out of the box ideas to support students over the summer.  Plan for a leap and not a loss!

To learn more about Intervention Reinvention and other reading volume interventions strategies click here.