Margin Notes

SPECIAL SUMMER SERIES FROM FREDERICTON HIGH’S WRITING 110 STUDENTS

Jun
27

As the school year draws to a close, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude for another year of dedicated work and commitment. With summer upon us, we hope you find time to relax and enjoy everything the season has to offer.

Every reader’s voice matters, and that includes the insightful and passionate voices of teenagers. We are thrilled to introduce a special series featuring recommendations from the talented Writing 110 students at Fredericton High School. These students, guided by their amazing teacher Liz Andrews, dove into their chosen books and emerged with thoughtful and engaging recommendations that reflect their unique perspectives.

This initiative is a celebration of young readers who are eager to share their thoughts with a broader audience. By providing an authentic platform for these students, we hope to amplify their voices and highlight the importance of diverse viewpoints in our reading community.

Starting next week, their recommendations will be posted every Tuesday throughout the summer and into the fall. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we do and find inspiration in the books that have resonated with these readers. Stay tuned to see what titles captured the hearts and minds of Fredericton High School’s Writing 110 students.

Thank you again for your dedication to literacy teaching and learning. Enjoy your summer, take time to rest and rejuvenate, and spend quality time with friends and family. And, as always, happy reading!

 

 

GUEST WRITER SUSAN MILLER RECOMMENDS THE BERRY PICKERS BY AMANDA PETERS

Jun
25

Author Amanda Peters is a mixed-race woman of Mi’kmaq and European ancestry who was born and raised in Nova Scotia. Her debut novel, The Berry Pickers, is an adult novel that delves into heavy topics so this interesting read is not for the faint of heart; however, for mature Grade 11 and 12 readers, it should be in your classroom. Peters shows her readers the ins and outs of trauma within the story of Ruthie, a four-year-old Indigenous little girl who disappears while her family is in Maine working the blueberry fields. Peters allows her readers into the minds and thoughts of the family mainly through the eyes and memories of Joe, the sibling closest to Ruthie in age. Peters uses the technique of flashbacks within this novel, and Joe shows readers in flashbacks the way he and his family deal with Ruthie’s vanishing. Joe struggles with many issues over his life— guilt, regret, grief, death, loss, anger, abuse, alcoholism to name a few —and readers will be captivated by the vivid descriptions and images that Peters carefully crafts. Readers can easily visualize what Peters writes and the words come to life on the page — this is a definite plus of the novel as a movie is taking place in the reader’s mind with every turn of the page.

The Berry Pickers is also a window into the way Indigenous individuals were treated in our country and by our neighbours to the south during most of the 20th century. At various times, it is a difficult read, but just because something is difficult to read, it doesn’t mean it isn’t important reading.

The Berry Pickers is also a story about love and Peters paints a story of resilience within the novel though the character of Norma. Norma is an only child in a home where the loving mother is sickly, controlling, and secretive in addition to not being in the best state of mind mentally; however, Norma does have an aunt who loves her like her own and who stands beside her throughout her entire life. Love is woven into the book in different ways and chapters alternate between Joe and Norma so the reader is shown many relationships and differing times throughout the two perspectives which only serves to enhance the story.

So, if you are looking to increase indigenous representation on your classroom bookshelves, and to challenge your stronger, mature readers, this story of trauma, struggle and resilience is a recommended addition.

Susan Miller truly loves her job as a teacher of English at Minto Memorial High School where she’s been since 1993.  She strongly believes that reading is the key to student success and prides herself on helping her students find great books to read.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: BURDEN OR DELIGHT?

Jun
20

The Nerdette Podcast, which is an interview show featuring people you either already love, or will be delighted to learn about, has started a new regular feature called “Burden or delight”.

“Burden or delight” is a game where the host Greta Johnson and her guests discuss different stories and decide if they are burdensome or delightful. In the latest episode, the topics included double dipping, eating snow,  and gummy vitamins.

Other topics that Nerdette guests have discussed: the end of certain road signs,  the new Apple charger, and whether having extended birthday celebrations is a burden or delight. They have also talked about the number of spiders we eat in our sleep and the best time of day to eat diner. As you can tell, this is meant to be a very non-serious discussion!  I can see it being a hit with high school students. Although the podcast is a fun listen, and a great show, please preview it first before you play it for your students- it is definitely meant for an adult audience.

This concept is easily adaptable to the classroom and could be a fun way to spark discussion and debate. You could choose any current event, although I would stick to pop-culture types of stories for this activity. All you would need would be the topic, an article or video explaining the topic, and time to discuss whether is a burden or delight. One way you might organize it is to have the students discuss the topic in pairs or small groups first, then have a quick larger discussion at the end.

I think this idea is quick to implement, easy to set up, and could be quite delightful!

 

 

 

STUDENT WRITER JOANNA DINAN RECOMMENDS SOLITAIRE BY ALICE OSEMAN

Jun
18

Few people are aware that the characters in Heartstopper existed long before Alice Oseman drew the first panel in the popular graphic novel series. In her debut novel, Solitaire, Oseman invented the beautifully complex universe that so many 21st century teens have fallen in love with.

Tori Spring is tangled in a mess of fake friendships and family issues. With such a complicated life and everything only getting worse, Tori can only seem to find solace in her blog. The chemistry of Tori’s situation may seem toxic, but she manages–until a series of Post-Its leads her to Solitaire, an empty blog… and Michael Holden. In the beginning, Solitaire seems to be a harmless organization, but of course, the blog’s impact crescendos, and leads to damage beyond anything anyone could’ve anticipated. Tori is certain that Michael Holden is involved, but she simply cannot understand what his role is within Solitaire and what their goal could be… and as the story progresses, she realizes that Michael Holden may be her only reliable friend. All the while, Tori must deal with her own mental health struggles, but she is determined to keep it together for her brother, Charlie, whose anorexia has left him dependent on her support.

One thing I feel is important to mention about this book is that it deals with quite heavy topics, such as suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, bullying, physical violence, substance use, and depression. I would not recommend this book to those for whom that may be triggering.

This book was a page-turner, drawing the reader in with Tori’s quick, quiet, dark, and sassy humor, and keeping one immersed in the mysterious air of the story and social situations almost any 13- to 16-yearold can empathize with. With an amiable protagonist, and a heart-wrenching plot with a twist at the end, Oseman’s first book is an artful piece of YA literature. All in all, I loved every minute of Solitaire and would argue that it was better than its more popular companion, Heartstopper.  

 

Joanna Dinan is currently a student at George Street Middle School in Fredericton. She is a competitive singer and pianist who enjoys binging books and writing short stories. Someday, she hopes to be a professional timewaster, procrastinator, and daydreamer, but for now, she does this as an amateur. Her favourite authors include Naomi Novik, Lois Lowry, Rainbow Rowell, and Dr. Seuss.

CELEBRATING CREATIVITY AND COLLABORATION: HANWELL PARK ACADEMY’S SECOND ANNUAL STUDENT FILM FESTIVAL

Jun
13

Hanwell Park Academy recently hosted its second annual Student Film Festival to celebrate student learning and showcase the incredible talent and creativity of their middle school students. We were thrilled to receive an invitation to attend. The festival is an initiative started by teachers Megan Young-Jones, Stephen Stone, and Sara Stevenson, who aimed to foster traditions in a new school that would engage learners, provide an authentic audience, celebrate student leadership and achievement, and allow students to take pride in their accomplishments.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, students were placed in small groups and participated in a series of mini lessons led by their language arts teachers. These lessons covered essential filmmaking topics, including genres, story arcs, different types of shots, the art of short films, scriptwriting, and analyzing mentor films across various genres. The goal was to provide students with the foundational knowledge they needed to create compelling films.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this year’s festival was the ease with which students navigated the technology. Using iMovie and CapCut, they edited their films with minimal guidance, showcasing a level of proficiency that left the adults in attendance in awe. The ideas, editing skills, and collaborative efforts were evident in every film presented, reflecting the hard work and dedication of the students.

Ms. Young-Jones served as the Master of Ceremonies, bringing her trademark enthusiasm and humor to the event. She kept the audience entertained between each film and ensured that every student’s work was celebrated. Her ability to motivate and champion students was on full display, making the event not only entertaining but also inspiring.

Respecting the diverse learning identities of students, the festival allowed for flexibility in participation. While all students were placed in groups, they had the choice to either appear on camera or take on roles behind the scenes. This approach ensured that every student could contribute in a way that was comfortable and meaningful for them, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment.

The festival concluded with the panel of guest judges having the difficult task of selecting the award-winning films. Awards were given in various categories, recognizing the outstanding efforts and achievements of the students. Below are two of the award-winning films that exemplify the creativity and inclusivity nurtured at Hanwell Park Academy (click on full screen and then press play!):

Fans’ Choice and Best Overall: Toast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judges Choice: Disney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for inviting us to this special event, and please invite us back again next year!

GUEST WRITER ISOBEL O’BRION RECOMMENDS AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW BY ZOULFA KATOUH

Jun
11

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is a heartbreaking, inspiring, and insightful novel which takes place in 2011 Syria during the early Civil War. This book finds a way to fuse terrifying, devastating, unfathomable historical events with the innocence of youth, love, and relationships, ultimately humanizing complex issues and providing young readers a perspective that is both informative and relatable. Salama, the protagonist, is enduring something that many young, western readers will have never experienced, while giving a voice and story to many Syrian people who have undergone similar circumstances and have grappled with the same complexities and dilemmas throughout the ongoing civil war. Salama has lost so much already and is left to protect her best friend/sister-in-law who is pregnant with her niece, as well as the members of her community who need medical attention. She was studying to become a pharmacist, but her role in healthcare suddenly became much more than that. Katouh adeptly blends Salama’s youthful mind, filled with anxieties, dreams, and awkwardness, with the psyche of a traumatized, heroic figure which is fostered within Salama’s healer/protector identity. This story is anchored by a theme of fear and uncertainty. Salama fears what might happen if she leaves Syria, however, lives in fear every day she remains there. This feeling is something that many people can relate to, the uncertainty about leaving behind a context you feel the need to protect, or remain connected to, without thinking of yourself first. To me, this novel perfectly articulates this feeling and balances a love for Syria with a powerful, heartbreaking reality that is seeking refuge from your homeland.

There are many great literary strategies in this novel, balanced with casual dialogue and easy, relatable thoughts. I particularly love the contrast of the desolate world building with the warm memories, reference to Studio Ghibli films and landscape, and budding love story. Katouh uses a fascinating literary strategy where she represents Salama’s anxieties as a person, who acts as a sort of guide, much like a devil on her shoulder at times. This representation is so important for everyone who struggles to understand their anxieties either generally, in the face of adversity, from traumatic events, or as one navigates love for the first time, like Salama. Representation runs deep in this novel as it provides an incredible voice and hopeful, authentic narrative for Syria and for young Syrian women and girls. This book has something to offer everyone, touching your heart in ways that both shatter and warm it, as it skillfully balances the nightmares of war, loss, and fear with the themes of love, friendship, loyalty, and nostalgia all through the lens of Salama’s journey navigating so much for such a young woman.

TRY THIS TOMORROW: SIXTYEIGHT2OHFIVE

Jun
06

Writer Hanif Abdurraqib started SIXTYEIGHT2OHFIVE as a playlist project. When he expanded it to a website, he began inviting writers to contribute essays “in praise of or in reflection of an album (within this window of years) that changed their life.” The Essays on Albums library, searchable by decade, is an absolute mentor text treasure trove.

These first-person essays combine memoir, analysis, and personal reflection. They can be used as mentors for students to reflect on the music (or any other media, person, or experience) that has impacted them. Excerpts of beautiful passages and sentences can be used as micro-mentors or incorporated into craft studies and mini-lessons.

This project is a gift to music lovers and to writing teachers.

GUEST WRITER KAYLA STRANG RECOMMENDS GRACELING BY KRISTIN CASHORE

Jun
04

Graceling is a fantasy graphic novel, written by Kristin Cashorein and illustrated by Gareth Hinds,  that tells a story in the mythical land of The Seven Kingdoms. A king rules each of the Seven Kingdoms, all striving to maintain their own eminence and prowess over their kingdom. The gracelings, who are born with a specific talent, are what give the kings of the seven kingdoms their power. Meanwhile, there is only one way of distinguishing a graceling from the general public: by looking at their eye colours. Katsa, the blue and green-eyed heroine of the story, the niece of the king of Middluns, is graced with killing. The king of Middluns uses Kasta’s skill to his benefit, but in return, Katsa is left bitter, alone, and exploited. When the King of Middluns sends Kasta to yet another killing expedition, she encounters Po, a graceling who is the prince of Lienid with the skill of combat; Katsa is then drawn into a liberation quest across the Kingdoms.

Cashore creates a bond between the reader and the characters by incorporating fantasy, romance, magic, battle, rivals, and adventure. She also places an emphasis on independence, creating one’s own identity, and the triumph of good over evil. At the same time, Gareth Hinds’ illustration of the story perfectly captures all of its most crucial details and conveys the emotions in a way that words cannot.

I would recommend this book to high school students or late middle school students who like fantasy, mystery, romance, and adventure or a student who wants to broaden their genre horizons, finds it hard to get into books that lack action, or a student who does not know what genre they would like. Graceling has a fast pace; it has a way of throwing you into the plot that your eyes have a hard time keeping up. This book could also be used as an EAL recommendation; even though it can be hard to follow (there are lots of characters, kingdoms, and storylines to keep up with), the image tells a story itself. At the same time, the sentences are short and easy to follow but are filled with lots of imagination. And while there are many characters, kingdoms, wars, and rivalries to remember, this could also encourage students to discuss different strategies for keeping track of characters and more. No matter why a reader picks up this book, they are sure to enjoy the story within!