Margin Notes



Six realms. Six terrible curses. Only one chance every hundred years to break them. This is what is on the line for Isla Crown, ruler of the Wildling realm and Aster’s protagonist, as she prepares to compete in the Centennial: a deadly event on Lightlark, an island which appears only once every hundred years for one hundred days. To break their curses – and gain immense power in the process – the rulers of each realm must fulfill a prophecy. What makes the Centennial so dangerous, though, is that fulfilling this prophecy requires the death of one ruler, and consequently, their entire realm. And to make matters worse, since the five hundred years the curses have affected them, the realms have been getting weaker and weaker. Now more than ever, the rulers are feeling the pressure to break their curses, once and for all. As the Centennial goes on, so many questions arise – will Isla and her best friend and fellow ruler Celeste’s secret plan to break their curses work out? Can she trust the cold, distant King of Lightlark that seems to despise her? Why is the Nightshade ruler so familiar to her, and why can’t she stop thinking of him? No one is safe as secrets are revealed, lies are told, trust is broken, and love blooms.

Full of action, mystery, and plot twists, Lightlark is sure to capture the attention of high school fantasy, dystopia, and/or romance fans. And the best part? It is the first book in Aster’s Lightlark saga so readers can continue embarking with Isla on her adventures in Nightbane, its newly released sequel.

Kie Gates is a student from the Bachelor of Education program at the University of New Brunswick When she is not busy with school, Kie loves going for walks, hanging out with friends, listening to music, and of course, cozying up with a good book. Her favourite part of the day is drinking her morning coffee.



In our ever-evolving digital landscape, navigating the nuances of media representation and diversity are integral to nurturing informed and empathetic students.  One resource that supports this endeavor is the “That’s Not Me” portal by MediaSmarts. This comprehensive resource is specifically designed for educators seeking engaging and relevant content to incorporate into their literacy curriculum.


This resource includes a Professional Development section for teachers, as well as the following:

  • “That’s Not Me” Tutorial: Empowers students to challenge media portrayals and advocate for positive representations.
  • Background Articles: Offers information on the media portrayals of Indigenous People, Visible Minorities, 2SLGBTQ+ Representation, Persons with Disabilities, and Racial and Cultural Diversity.
  • Lesson Plans: Engages students thoughtful lessons dissecting bias in news and exploring diversity in media ownership.
  • Diversity in Media Toolbox: A comprehensive suite featuring professional development tutorials, interactive student modules, lesson plans, and articles addressing bias and hate in media.

As with every resource, you will want to adapt lessons based on curriculum outcomes/skill descriptors and the needs and interests of your students, but this resource will provide you with great ideas and relevant and timely texts.



Malinda Lo’s A Scatter of Light is a quintessential coming of age novel about identity, sexuality, and self-discovery. Lo introduces us to Aria Tang West, a young woman whose plans for the future are cruelly disrupted when intimate photos of her are distributed online. Her ideal summer plans now ruined, Aria heads to California to spend the summer with her grandmother. It is this diversion that exposes Aria to the ideas, relationships, and experiences that will truly define who she is, and who she is becoming.

The core tension in A Scatter of Light is between Aria’s perceived identity and her real identity. Anyone who has learned to appreciate how much growth is born from disruptions, disappointments, and failures will appreciate how this tension plays out. Aria comes from an affluent family, is preparing to attend MIT, and considers herself heterosexual. However, in California she develops a strong bond with her artist grandmother, forms friendships with working class young adults, and (most importantly) falls in love with Steph. These relationships alter how Aria understands her identity, but none more than her connection with Steph. This connection allows Aria to accept who she really is and who she could become.

Anyone who enjoyed Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club will appreciate the issues covered in A Scatter of Light and the explicit connections between both stories. More than a celebration of sexual identity, A Scatter of Light is a bittersweet reminder that our identity is a product of our positive and negative experiences and Lo provides a reflective journey that reminds us that self-discovery and acceptance are often the result of things going wrong.





Whether you call it “word collecting”, “looking for interesting language”, or “word harvesting”, it all boils down to the same thing: you and your students are looking for words, writing those words down somewhere, and then discussing those words.  Collecting words can be done in a myriad of ways, and for a variety of reasons in the classroom.


One reason might be for looking at, and discussing, author’s craft.  This could be modeled through a “Think Aloud”, where you read aloud a text and pause and write down a few words/phrases that you want to think about later. Then, after reading, you discuss what you’re thinking (and students can join in). You can then have students collect words/phrases from their own books.

Here are some things you and your students might notice about words in the books you read:

Words/phrases that are:

  • descriptive
  • setting the mood/tone
  • figurative language
  • rare words (uncommonly used)
  • colloquialisms
  • synonyms/homonyms, etc.
  • alliteration

After students have collected words, you can discuss their meanings and why the author might have chosen that word/phrase:

  • How does it affect the meaning?
  • What other words could the author have used?
  • How would that have changed the story?
  • How can we use that word/phrase in our own writing?

Research has demonstrated that helping students become “word aware” is an important part of vocabulary acquisition. Taking the time to discuss words and frame it as “author’s craft” is another way to expose students to words and their meanings, while also supporting word choice in writing.





Forgive Me Not by Jennifer Baker is a moving and emotionally charged young adult novel that explores the complexities of forgiveness. The story centers on the protagonist, Violetta Chen-Samuels, a fifteen-year-old girl who makes one bad decision that causes life-altering repercussions.

The story opens with a devastating accident that upends Violetta’s entire existence when she chooses to drive drunk, taking the life of her young sister. Violetta not only faces incarceration, but she also must confront the challenge of seeking forgiveness from the people she has harmed – her family. However, Violetta not only seeks the forgiveness of her family; she is also in pursuit of self-forgiveness.

In Jennifer Baker’s compelling portrayal of the justice system, a complex dynamic emerges where the family of the victim holds the power to determine the punishment for the youth offender. Violetta, at the crossroads of her fate, confronts three possibilities: a return home to her family if forgiveness is immediately granted, a prolonged sentence upstate, or a difficult path through the Trials – a series of daunting tasks designed for youth rehabilitation. While the Trials were invented to improve the youth justice system, it is evident that the system remains broken and flawed, possessing the same biases as before: racism, sexism, and classicism.

What truly distinguishes the story is the dual perspective that it offers, allowing readers to intimately experience both Violetta’s journey within the justice system and the profound impact her situation has on her family through the lens of her older brother, Vince. While the reader witnesses Violetta’s inner turmoil and her struggle within the justice system, they also are exposed to the heart-wrenching transformation of the family as they navigate grief and forgiveness.

Jennifer Baker empathetically addresses a multitude of heavy topics, including death, grief, drug abuse, suicide, and the inherent racism present within the justice system. This book is great for high school students who wish to engage with literature that sparks discussions about the justice system, the heavy struggles that teenagers may face, and societal issues at large.

Julia Copeland is from a small town in Ontario. She is currently a Bachelor of Education student at the University of New Brunswick in hopes of becoming a French and English high school teacher!






What I was reading:

Accountable by Daska Slater brings readers into the unsettling aftermath of a high school student’s private Instagram account where racism and sexism are disguised as humor. Slater explores the complexities of accountability in the digital age, probing the impact of harm behind screens and challenging readers to think about what it truly means to be held accountable in an online era. Read the Margin Note’s recommendation here.

This book is full of craft studies as it uses a variety of forms to tell the history, context and personal stories behind the account. The text for this craft study can be found here.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  1. Repetition: The repetition of “You can…” establishes a pattern, emphasizing the various ways harm can be inflicted. This creates a rhythmic flow, intensifying the impact of each method described.
  2. Conventions around the repetition: The repeated pattern starts with a single word to describe how you can do it followed by a comma and a more detailed description. Ex: “You can do it indirectly, through rumors or exclusion or assumptions.”
  3. Analogies and Metaphors: By likening racism to a weapon—a blade honed by repeated use—the author employs vivid imagery, creating a tangible and visceral understanding of the pervasive and enduring nature of racism’s impact.
  4. Historical Context: Referencing “centuries of wounds” contextualizes the weight of racial discrimination, underscoring that every act or expression carries the weight of a history stained with injustices.
  5. Rhetorical Question: The closing question—”So what do you do with all that history?”—engages readers, prompting reflection and inviting contemplation on how individuals grapple with the legacy of racism and its pervasive effects.


Possibilities for Writers:

Writers can:

  • Write where their thinking takes them after reading the text.
  • Borrow the craft moves. Use the beginning line “THERE ARE LOTS OF WAYS TO ___________ ANOTHER HUMAN BEING” and follow the repetition of “you can *single word*, *more description of single word*
  • Write about how they would answer the question the text ends with.

“So what do you do with all that history? The person who made the joke or used the slur didn’t commit all of racism’s many crimes, but they still used the same weapon, its blade honed by repeated use.”

  • Write their own opinion piece on the topics in the text.



“Once there was a girl with a big laugh and a big heart and very big dreams.” So begins the picture book Big by Vashti Harrison. This thoughtful book tells the story of a little girl who just wants the freedom to be herself, and not what society has deemed she should be. A fantastic read aloud option for middle and high school; there are many themes and craft moves students could explore.


Here are a few things that you might considering noticing with students:

Author’s Craft

  • The use of colour to depict mood. In the story, the main character is always accompanied by the colour pink. The hue becomes more or less saturated as the story unfolds. What colour would you choose to depict your mood?
  • The word choice. Vashti Harrison fills this book (both in the story and out) with descriptive words…(hint: take off the book jacket and have a look). This would be a great book to use a 
  • The use of different fonts when different characters speak. Students could try this out in their own writing. 

Watch the video below with your class…Vashti Harrison talks about her motivations for writing the book, as well as a lot of the craft moves she makes as an author.

Here are some different articles that you could pair with Big: Girlhood Interrupted, Weight Bias

And here are some books available on SORA that would make a great text set to delve further into the topic: