Margin Notes



Picture books can be used in variety of ways in the literacy classroom and well-known author and educator Pernille Ripp believes,

there is no “too old” for picture books. In her July 2015 blog post she outlines five reasons why picture books should be in every classroom and available for every reader:

  • Picture books give us a common language.
  • Picture books can teach us complex matters in a simple way.
  • Picture books can make us feel successful when we have lost our way.
  • Picture books relieve stress.
  • Picture books can make us believe that we can read well.

To read the entire blog post you can click here.

Knowing that picture books can provide all these positives in the classroom, please take a moment to check out Pink A Women’s March Story by Virginia Zimmerman and illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma. Told from the prospective of a young girl name Lina, the story provides the reader context and history for the January 2021 Washington D.C. Women’s March.  Lina learns that one small person can become part of a much wider and larger movement and that no one is ever too small to make a difference.

Beyond the lessons of perseverance and personal growth, readers will learn about taking a stand for one’s beliefs and that we all have a role to play in our democracy. Pink A Women’s March Story provides common language, makes a complex issue understandable, and is accessible for readers. To learn more about the authors and Pink A Women’s March Story click here.



Last year the ASD-W Literacy team asked literacy teachers of grades 6-12 to complete a reading volume survey. That survey provided our team a multitude of valuable information.  One piece of data that resonated with me was the fact that 80 of the 84 respondents shared that they use personal funds to purchase books for their classroom library. We know that classroom libraries are recommended to include 20-30 books per student and that these titles need to appeal to a diverse audience and include selections accessible for all students.  This need for books can creates a financial burden for many teachers who want to provide students with rich reading experiences .

Given this reality for teachers, may I suggest a strategy to stretch both personal and school funds.  The recently published, Intervention Reinvention by Harvey et al suggests that teachers share books with colleagues to “maximize classroom library resources and ensure that every student has access to a range of appealing and varied texts” p. 144.












  • By knowing your own library well, you can decide which topics, genres, or formats are needed to rotate to supplement your own library.
  • Connect with colleagues in your building and reach out to see if they are willing to collaborate and rotate books.
  • Identify rotating books with a sticker on the back or inside cover.
  • Organize rotating books in bins or a separate shelf.
  • Check out the school book room. If titles are available here, ask the administrator if these can be part of a rotating collection.
  • Finally, don’t forget to borrow from the school and the public library.

Curating a diverse well stocked classroom library is a huge challenge. Working with colleagues can stretch and strengthen your resources and knowledge of texts.

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























I’ve been a long-time fan of author Mindy McGinnis, and her most recent publications, The Initial Insult and The Last Laugh left me an even bigger fan. This YA thriller duology features fast paced, plot driven page-turners that many readers will devour in a single read. Allusions to many Edgar Allan Poe stories are found in both titles, adding another layer of allure for many readers.

The Initial Insult

Tress Montor wants answers and she’ll stop at nothing to get them, including killing her (ex) best friend Felicity Turnodo. When the girls were in grade 4, Tress’ parents were driving Felicity home late one night…and were never seen again. Felicity was found wet and unconscious and alone on the riverbank and claims to have no memory of what happens. Tress has a plan to “help” Felicity re member. It’s Halloween and the teens of Amontillado are celebrating in an old, abandoned house. Tress lures Felicity to the basement, ties her up, and brick by brick begins to build a wall that will be the last thing Felicity sees if she can’t give Tress the answers she is so desperately searching for. Add to all of this the fact that there is a black Panther on the prowl, making the situation more tense and dire.

Told in alternating viewpoints, we learn both the girls’ histories and their current realities, all while wondering, is Tress actually capable of killing her former best friend?


The Last Laugh

The story continues in The Last Laugh immediately following the final event in The Initial Insult. There is a search party organized to find Felicity, which Tress joins (even though she obviously knows where Felicity is). But Tress is barely hanging on. Her injury from the tiger is infected and she fears she is losing both her arm and her mind. She also knows there is no way she can tell a doctor what happened. Her best friends charm that she shared with Felicity suddenly seams to have it’s own heart beat and Tress is finding it more and more difficult to tell what is real. Her 18th birthday is approaching, and another twist comes into play. Tress’ cousin Ribbit simply cannot have her be alive for the occasion. As some secrets get revealed, many more are just coming into play. Prepare for some major twists and turns in the plot. Where The Initial Insult had readers wondering if there is any way Felicity could make it out alive, in The Last Laugh it is Tress’ life on the line.


Mindy McGinnis does not hold back for her audience of YA readers. There are dark and twisted plot lines, family secrets, and lives are lost. Readers who enjoy a good thriller are going to love this duology.



If you have been searching for ways to share writers’ processes, craft, and experiences, The Craft of Writing newsletter from Literary Hub has you covered. This weekly newsletter contains a writer’s first-person description of a craft technique using examples from their own work and offers links to other writers’ reflections on the same topic. This is particularly helpful for anyone looking for resources to support a craft or process study in writing workshop.

The Craft of Writing is always a quick and engaging read about writers and their writing and the newsletter format makes it easy to save them in one spot to use a resource depending on what your writers need. You can sign up here. 



I’ve always been a fan of Rainbow Rowell. She’s recently been back on my radar for her compilation of short stories, Scattered Showers, due to be released in fall 2022. While her readers await the new release, it is a perfect time to recommend the Simon Snow series finishing last summer with the third book, Any Way the Wind Blows. This trilogy begins with Carry On which introduces readers to the world of Mages and Normals, magic and darkness, along with, in true Rowell fashion, a cast of characters that will keep the pages turning.

The exposition from several perspectives sets the stage to help the reader understand Simon, his best friend Penny and how they got to be at Watford School of Magicks. Simon’s nemesis, Baz, is mentioned often and missing in action. The pace of the story picks up when his absence is explained, and his voice is added to the narration. The three realize they have a common enemy and begin the challenge of working together instead of trying to kill each other. Woven into the plotline is a subtle political debate between the old vs new ways and parental influence in belief systems – bringing a contemporary twist causing reflection on who the “good” people are.

Sure, the book deals with magic, ghosts, vampires and monsters; but it also deals with human emotion. The reader sees characters battle their family history, their peer relationships, their sense of belonging and their sexual identity. The fantasy element will satisfy those looking to escape reality and the connections in the novel will appeal to those wanting to see themselves. This book has something for everyone; but don’t expect to leave completely satisfied because there are two more in the series to read after you finish Carry On!



Writing poetry can be daunting, which is why mentor texts are a powerful tool. Poems with a clear structure provide a scaffold for writers who might not know how to get started. Mentor poems in which repetition features prominently make it easy for them to warm up their poetry-writing muscles. Writers can rely on the same or similar repeated words or phrases while adding their own ideas. Don’t forget to share your own version with your students as another model!

Here are a few examples of poems with repetition that might get you and your writers started:

Why I Write Poetry by Leah Kindler

Students can follow Kindler’s lead and create their own “Why I Love” poem and begin every line with “Because…”

Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem by Matthew Olzmann

Students can borrow Olzmann’s opening line “Here’s what I’ve got, the reasons why…” and follow the same format Olzmann uses to list the reasons.

Possibilities by Wislawa Szymborska

The repetition of “I prefer” at the beginning of each line is a terrific model to share their likes and interests.

Using poetry mentors with repetition is a quick and fun way to inspire students to get started with their own poems.



From Jasmine Warga, the author of Other Words from Home, comes another must-read middle grade novel. The Shape of Thunder takes place months after a horrific tragedy and is told from alternating perspectives by former best friends Cora and Quinn. Cora’s sister, Mabel, was shot and killed by Quinn’s brother, Parker, in a school shooting. Both families are reeling from the loss, while Cora and Quinn are now also dealing with the breakdown of their friendship. Quinn, in a desperate attempt to make things right with her friend, comes up with an idea to try and prevent the violence of that unspeakable day. Neither wants to believe that things cannot be changed, so they embark on a seemingly impossible journey to make things right. Through their journey, they discover that confronting their pain may be easier than changing the past. This is an excellent middle grade story about the aftermath of a school shooting and how two former friends cope with guilt, loss, racism, and grief.

Right off the bat, one of the only things I can say is wow. What a heart-wrenching, yet hopeful book. This may be one of the best portrayals of loss and grief in a middle grade book. Cora and Quinn are both struggling in their own ways, but they often find themselves grappling with the same questions fueled by their grief. The dual perspective is a great insight into how two people can be dealing with the same situation in completely complex and different ways. Jasmine Warga does a great job of writing this book with care. There are no detailed scenes of the tragedy that took place for those who may be sensitive to the subject matter, instead only the emotional aftermath of the events and the people who are left to deal with them. Despite this, she remains honest in her storytelling, with her characters never shying away from asking the big questions, and the adults admitting they don’t always have all the clear answers.

This is an important book to have for educators, librarians, and children alike. I would highly recommend this one for grades 5-9. This book will help kids find their way through dealing with tragedy, grief, and anger. Warga takes some heavy issues and makes them manageable and understandable for middle grade readers and ultimately provides a message of hope and understanding. There are many things in this book that would also make for great mentor texts, such as the dual perspective, some in-story letter writing, the descriptive nature of the writing, and the ways in which the author integrates flashbacks. This has quickly become one of favourite middle-grade novels to date and it will have a place on my shelf for a long time.

Lauren Sieben is a Grade 8 ELA teacher at Perth-Andover Middle School. Her favourite activity is reading books. Her second favourite activity is talking about them.



If you teach Grades 9-12 in our district, this news is for you! To support LGBTQI2S+ inclusive education, the ASD-W Education Support Services Team has sent a combination of some of the following titles to all High Schools. If you haven’t seen them, reach out to your Administration Team. Many of these titles and others are also available on SORA.



We are happy to share some wonderful news to Grades 6-8 teachers in our district! To support LGBTQI2S+ inclusive education, the ASD-W Education Support Services Team has sent a combination of some of the following titles to all Middle Schools. If you haven’t seen them, check with your Administration Team. Many of these titles and others are also available on SORA.