Margin Notes



Jeff Zentner’s In the Wild Light is a coming-of-age story that follows Cash Pruitt and his friend Delaney Doyle as they prepare to leave their tiny Tennessee town. Growing up in Sawyer, Tennessee, has come with its challenges for the teens, both of whom lost mothers to the opioid crisis that ravaged their community, and both coming from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. But, when the pair make the scientific discovery of the decade, they each receive a scholarship to the prestigious Middleton Academy in Connecticut. This leaves Cash with a difficult decision – leave behind the town he loves and his dying Papaw or let Delaney, his best friend in the world, leave Sawyer without him.

This book would be a great addition to any high school classroom library. Zentner is able to masterfully capture the complexity of tragedy and loss, the confusion that comes with first loves, and the comfort of home. This book explores themes of belonging, relationships and resilience which will resonate with many students.  It should also be noted that this book has some profanity, explores issues of drug addiction and has one scene depicting a sexual assault.

Matt Whipple is a BEd student at the University of New Brunswick. He can often be found adventuring outdoors or coaching youth sports.



What I Was Reading:

In The Women’s National Team Taught Canada How to Be a Soccer Country, Harley Rustad, whose sister played for Canada from 1999-2008, analyzes the impact of the women’s national team on Canadian soccer fandom.

This paragraph is about Canada’s reaction to the team’s gold-medal win at the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo:

Canada won gold. In soccer. I cried. I watched Sinclair—who was nineteen during that breakout 2002 tournament—celebrate nearly two decades later with an Olympic gold medal. I wasn’t alone. While more than 4.4 million Canadians watched at home on the CBC, no fans were in the stadium that night in Tokyo, that second summer of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some might have seen that victory as anticlimactic: to win gold without a crowd watching and screaming. But, in a way, it was perfect: the exuberance and exaltations of the team weren’t muffled by the screams of a jubilant horde. We screamed at home, we cried at home. They screamed on the field, they cried on the field—and we heard it all.

What Moves I Notice the Author Making:

  • The first thing I noticed about this paragraph is that it includes an intentional variety of sentence types and lengths to create interest, rhythm, and flow. For example, the opening three very short sentences are followed by a much longer sentence.
  • The writer uses a wide range of punctuation for effect, including the em dash to set off details about captain Christine Sinclair in order to provide background for the reader.
  • The pairing of the related sentences beginning with “Some might have seen…” and “But, in a way…” is reinforced by repeating the same technique of using a colon to introduce detail in both sentences.
  • Similarly, the repetition of the structure “We screamed at home, we cried at home. They screamed on the field, they cried on the field…” underscores the sense of solidarity between the team and their fans being described.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Notice and name other interesting craft moves in this passage.
  • Watch for interesting sentences varieties and structures in texts they are reading.
  • Identify other paragraph organization and structure techniques they find in their reading.
  • Find places in their reading where the writer uses repetition for effect.
  • Revise a draft in their writer’s notebook by incorporating some of the craft moves you notice in this excerpt.
  • Use this as a model for experimenting with rhythm and flow in a paragraph.



Part ghost story part epic adventure novel The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home will haunt you & have you in stitches. Not because she put wax on your stairs while you were sleeping Edward, but for other. more novel appropriate, reasons.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s gnarly. There are a lot of animal guts – more than you’d expect from an old lady but that’s the thing with our antagonist (and she certainly does antagonize), she’s unexpected. How did this old woman get into your home? Why is she still here? How does she watch you (and she certainly does watch you) without eyes? To find out this & more you’ve got to read the book.

The novel is written entirely from the perspective of The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home & details her childhood and unrelentingly long life. It’s got everything: doomed young love, doomed middle aged love, doomed old woman love. It’s got people using their trauma to propel them forward and it’s got people letting their trauma propel them to revenge! It’s equal parts vicious & voracious. It is not a novel for the weak of heart (because of the animal guts.) but it is a brilliant and well-crafted piece of literature for anyone looking for something a touch macabre.

Esther Soucoup is a BEd Student at the University of New Brunswick. They’ve been involved in several local theater productions, most recently being Ask You Like it produced by Bard in the Barracks. Esther has become friends with her Faceless old Woman because she talks to her cat at 4am while they’re sleeping, which stops the cat from destroying everything they own. It doesn’t stop the old lady… but baby steps. Baby steps…



Betsy Potash, in her interview on Cult of Pedagogy, describes hexagonal thinking by saying that “while hexagonal thinking is not new in the world of business and innovation, it’s just making its way into the classroom. It’s a method for considering the connections between ideas and finding the nuances in those connections. If you’re looking for a fresh framework for discussion and critical thinking, this may be just the thing.” Her interview describes how to explain and use hexagonal thinking in both online and face-to-face settings.

Check out her description of the setup, the procedure, and the assessment of using hexagonal thinking. She even offers some ideas of variations and additions to this activity.

Helpful Links and Models:

Try hexagonal thinking in your class to make thinking visible!


Image credit



Salahudin and Noor are teenagers growing up in the desert town of Juniper, California, who dream of escaping their working-class lives. Salahudin’s parents immigrated from Pakistan before he was born, purchasing a run-down motel with the hope of a fresh start. Noor immigrates from Pakistan after an earthquake kills her parents, where she and Salahudin become best friends, both labelled outsiders by their young classmates. As they grow up, their bond intensifies until unrequited love causes the friendship to dissolve, just as Salahudin’s family life, and Noor’s academic future, fall apart. A sequence of tragedies, followed by bad decisions, forces Salahudin and Noor to face each other and learn to define themselves in an unfair world. Through the themes of love, family and forgiveness, and the use of alternating perspectives, Salahudin and Noor in the present and Salahudin’s mother in the past, Sabaa Tahir showcases that fear and love connect us all.

Tahir highlights the injustices faced by people of colour, in addition to the everyday struggles they face. Her writing makes the reader rage along with Salahudin and Noor as they face racism and injustices no one should have to endure. You will want to reach into this book and comfort the characters; make them feel safe. Not only does Tahir capture the effects of generational trauma on young people, but she also captures the intricacies of family. Sometimes those who care for us the most have no blood relation, and who you consider family is for the individual to decide.

This book should be in every High School English classroom, and I would even go as far as to suggest its use for book clubs. Its target audience is mature students, grade eleven or twelve, as it deals with physical and sexual abuse, trauma, addiction, Islamophobia, and parental death. Students will see themselves in Salahudin and Noor, regardless of their skin colour, religion, or family dynamic. Fears associated with an unknown future, and disappointing those closest to you, are familiar to us all, regardless of background. I would not hesitate to give this book to any student who enjoyed The Hate U Give or They Both Die at the End.

Tanya Senechal is a Pre-Service Teacher completing her Education degree at the University of New Brunswick. She is an avid reader of YA fiction and YA fantasy who sometimes reads passages aloud for her cat, Nebula.




The online literary and culture magazine, The Rumpus, features a regular series called Sketch Book Reviews—unique comic-style book reviews combining images with analysis. They would be wonderful additions to a text set of reviews to demonstrate for students the wide range of possibilities for responding to reading.

On their own, these reviews are mentor texts for them to develop multimodal reviews of books or any text or product that reflects their interests. Students can create their versions of sketch book reviews for albums, movies, shows, restaurants, games…the possibilities are endless.



How Do You Live? tells the story of Jun’ichi “Copper” Honda, a teenage boy growing up in Tokyo. The book was first published in 1937, but only recently translated into English for the first time after the announcement of a film adaptation directed by Hayao Miyazaki through his Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro).

After the death of his father, Copper forms a close bond with his uncle, who becomes a mentor figure as Copper navigates ethical questions about how to live a good life. The story follows a loose narrative, but is largely episodic: an event from Copper’s daily life at school or with friends is recounted and his uncle responds with insights and questions in a notebook he shares with Copper, helping his nephew to see how the event relates to larger issues that he will continue to reflect upon throughout his life. These cover a wide range of subjects, from friendship and heroism, to the relations of production and poverty. The uncle’s notes are not condescending, but supportive and challenging. For example, when Copper shares his discovery of a theory about human relations, his uncle explains that many thinkers have explored this idea before, but encourages him by remarking that it is an achievement to have come to that understanding independently. The writing is approachable and pleasing, with many beautiful descriptions, and readers will quickly become attached to Copper and his friends.

How Do You Live? is a great book for young people curious about exploring big questions. It is an excellent entry to philosophical thinking and will encourage young people to reflect upon themselves, their families and friendships, and their place in the world.

Iain McMaster grew up in Montréal and is an avid reader of translated fiction. He is working towards a Bachelor of Education degree at the University of New Brunswick and holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh.



What I Was Reading:

A Field Guide to the Heart by Georgia Heard and Rebecca Kai Dotlich is a compilation of poems written and collected by two friends discussing their experience during the pandemic through a reflection of life on the topics of love, comfort and hope.

As I was reading, I came across the poem “Flight” by Georgia Heard and was reminded of a video from Jason Reynold’s series “Write. Right. Rite.”  The website describes the series by saying “Reynolds shares his passion for storytelling while discussing topics like creativity, connection, and imagination. At the end of each video, Reynolds shares a prompt that encourages young people to work toward a specific idea.”

Here are the texts:

Tell the Story of Jason’s Tiny Neighborhood

Jason Reynolds, seventh National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, challenges kids to write about a tiny imagined neighborhood.

What Moves I Noticed:

  • The author uses descriptive language such as “oval window” and “snaking green river”
  • The author uses generic characters without detail such as “woman”, “man” and “teenage boy”
  • The author uses figurative language such as “constellation of ceiling cracks” and “roar of a plane”
  • The author uses a dash for punctuation
  • There is repetition in the sentence structure in the beginning of the stanzas marked by the commas and locations of the people




Opportunities for Writers:

Read the poem and watch the video.

  • Write whatever comes to mind
  • Using the structure of the poem, write about what other characters could be doing in the tiny houses
  • Use the beginning phrases of the poem but change the description of what they are doing. Try out some of your own figurative language!
  • Write about what you imagine when you look at houses you walk by or look down upon in a plane.