Margin Notes

Guest Student Writer Paige J. Albert Recommends Maybe A Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee

Dec
13

Maybe a Fox is a heartbreaker of a read, showing an eleven-year-old girl’s devastation at her sister’s sudden unexpected death and a fox hidden in the woods that will stop at nothing to help the young human.

Jules Sherman’s father had one golden rule, “never go near the Slip”. Her sister had one golden wish, “to run faster”. Jules still had the mitten that had slipped off Sylvie’s fingers when she tried to restrain her sister from running into the woods to toss her wish rock in the river. But Sylvie had gotten away. She had run too fast. And the Slip had taken her as a prize. They never found her body. Now Jules must find a way to keep hold of her sister, like the mother whose memory had dribbled through her fingers like water, leaving barely a wisp of anything for her to remember.

A parallel story develops alongside Jules’-deep in the woods, a fox is born. From the very first day, Senna, the young fox, knew that she was meant to find someone. She tingled with energy to track down the human girl she was destined to serve.

As the book progresses, Sylvie, Jules and Senna’s stories intertwine.  When Senna places a strand of the headband that Sylvie was wearing the day she died at Jules’ feet, Jules is plunged into a mystery and her burning desire to understand her sister’s wish intensifies. Jules will stop at nothing to solve her mystery, even if it means breaking her father’s golden rule.

Maybe a Fox is a beautifully structured novel that perfectly demonstrated the oblivion felt after a loss and the extreme measures to which people will go in order to do what they believe will heal them. Its burning display of characters driven by a dream is comparable to Beth Hautala’s, Waiting for Unicorns and Kathi Appelt’s, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Though it was a rather simple read, the raw emotions were crafted into words in a way that everybody can relate to. Maybe a Fox will keep you pressed between its pages long after you’ve finished reading.

Bio:

Paige is a 13-year-old student at George Street Middle School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Outside of school, Paige is involved in Highland dance and enjoys creative writing, drawing and spending time on her scooter. Paige is passionate about literature and is more than pleased to share her personal opinions on various novels so that other children like her can share in the joy of reading a good book.

Guest Writer Meghan Lyons Recommends The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

Dec
10

The fact that this book is about wolves, a girl who trains them, a rescue mission to save her imprisoned mother and that it takes place in the cold forest of northern Russia, makes “The Wolf Wilder” my favourite read of 2018.

Feodora, or Feo, is a young girl growing up in the frozen forests of Russia. Both she and her mother rescue abandoned wolves that have been dropped off in the forest by their owners who no longer can handle their wild pets. Their job is to retrain them to be wolves again. How to hunt. How to sense danger. How to survive.

Their unique job attracts the attention of a local army general who shows up at their cabin and takes Feo’s mother hostage. He is well known for exerting his evil power on the people in the surrounding villages. Feo manages to escape, but not before injuring the general. With her pack of wolves, she embarks of a long, cold journey to rescue her mother with the help of an unlikely group of children who also want to stand against the oppression from the general.

If you like adventure, unique settings, and girl power, this book is for you…oh, and wolves are pretty cool too!

Bio:

Meghan usually teaches grade 6, 7 and 8 in Stanley, New Brunswick but is on deferred leave this year working on her Masters in Education.

Guest Writer Sarah Bacon Recommends Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Dec
03

Good Bye Days is a novel that will no doubt touch the hearts of all who read it but it is especially relevant to high school students.

“Where are you guys?” are the four words that forever changed Carver Briggs’s life. A simple text message results in a fatal car crash, taking the lives of his three best friends, Eli, Mars and Blake The novel follows that aftermath of the tragedy, and the impact that the death of his friends has not only on him but their families. Carver can’t help but feel responsible for the accident and does not know how to move forward. One can’t help but feel Carver’s pain, as it is so raw and real. This novel sheds light not only on the importance of not texting and driving but how to make a wrong right and move forward.

Unfortunately, Carver is not the only who feels that he is to blame for the death of his three friends. Mars’s father is an influential attorney who is making sure that the accident is investigated, and Eli’s twin sister is using her social status at school to make Carver feel even more alone.

Carver does not have many people in his life whom he can trust and find support. Blake’s grandmother reaches out to Carver and asks him to help her say goodbye to her grandson. She proposes that they spend one day together sharing memories and doing everything that she would do with her grandson Blake if she had just one last day with him. The other families learn about the “Good Bye Day” and want the same for themselves. Carver wants to help his friends’ families grieve, but at what cost?

Bio:

I am a grade 9 English teacher, wife and mother of a three-year-old. I do my best at keeping up with the latest young adult novels, as I strongly believe in knowing what my students are reading.

Guest Student Writer Paige J. Albert Recommends Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz

Nov
15

Finding Perfect is an emotional story arraying a twelve-year-old girl’s heartbreak at her parent’s separation alongside her struggling attempt to tame her unhealthy requirement of obsessive perfection. Molly Nathans isn’t just a hardcore perfectionist, for her, the need for perfection is absolutely quintessential. After her parent’s sudden separation resulting in Molly’s mother leaving in pursuit of her juice business in Toronto, Molly’s organizing fixation doubles. And now it is not only a strange mania but an actual neurosis. Molly thrives to perfect everything into the late hours of the night, fails to complete tests if her writing isn’t ruler straight and ceaselessly counts by four in order to obtain her idea of perfection. And topping her crazy tower of rituals is the nonsensical belief that if she stops, her little brother, Ian, will get hurt.

When Molly enters a slam poetry competition, she’s convinced that her winning will bring her mother home again. But as she progresses into the competition and her perfection compulsion worsens, Molly’s life is flipped upside down and no matter of measuring, counting or straightening can right it this time.

Finding Perfect was a very interesting novel. It showed the struggle to hide and put on a brave face that everybody just assumes is your normal. Molly’s story has the prospective to urge kids in similar conditions to seek help along with the potential to enhance awareness of mental health disorders such as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and Tourette’s Syndrome which are often overlooked as minor complications in our society.

I suggest this story to lovers of books such as Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything and Melanie Conklin’s Counting Thyme. Each of these books describes the medical struggles of unique, characteristic girls that are striving to both save something and escape from a difficult situation in their lives. Finding Perfect will make you remember Molly longer than you ever expected.

Bio:

Paige is a 13-year-old student at George Street Middle School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Outside of school, Paige is involved in Highland dance and enjoys creative writing, drawing and spending time on her scooter. Paige is passionate about literature and is more than pleased to share her personal opinions on various novels so that other children like her can share in the joy of reading a good book.

Guest Student Writer Paige J. Albert Recommends Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Nov
08

Lily and Dunkin is a beautifully crafted novel describing the unlikely friendship between two middle school students, a transgender girl and a bipolar boy. Lily Jo McGrother who wants nothing more than to gain her father’s approval and get the hormone blockers that will prevent her becoming the person she doesn’t want to be, is stuck in a war between wanting the approval of society including her father and being the young lady she really is.

Dunkin Dorfman who wants nothing more than to blend into the crowd at his new middle school and play for the basketball team with all the “cool” guys, is struggling to overcome the obstacles hurtled at him by his bipolar disorder and simultaneously attempting to escape the cruelty his illness has caused him in the past.

These two driven thirteen-year-olds will stop at nothing to obtain their goals, even when the storms in life are raging against them day and night. As their lives slowly intertwine, Lily and Dunkin begin to learn and prosper, for better or for worse, and slowly take steadier steps towards becoming who they really want to be.

Lily and Dunkin is a powerful and raw novel that trapped me between its pages and stayed with me long after the last page was turned. It had the recognizable passion displayed in books similar to R.J Palacio’s, Wonder and Ali Benjamin’s, The Thing About Jellyfish, each exhibiting similar inspirational characters that impact the world around them in one way or another. Lily and Dunkin could greatly change our generation’s view on the LGBTQ+ society (see also: George by Alex Gino) and boost awareness about certain mental health conditions frequently found in adults and children alike. I truly believe that Lily and Dunkin is a novel with the potential to make a difference (however slight it may be) in each of its readers lives and is definitely worth the time to read. At the end of the day, I’m not suggesting it, I’m prescribing it.

Bio:

Paige is a 13-year-old student at George Street Middle School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Outside of school, Paige is involved in Highland dance and enjoys creative writing, drawing and spending time on her scooter. Paige is passionate about literature and is more than pleased to share her personal opinions on various novels so that other children like her can share in the joy of reading a good book.

Guest Writer Lindsay Perez Recommends Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Nov
01

The books in our classroom libraries can become valuable teaching tools to be used to create a culturally responsive classroom where students feel included and represented. If you’re looking to add to your classroom library, Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan is a book to add to your collection.

Amina and Soojin have been best friends since elementary school. Now in middle school, they face the difficulties of fitting in, merging new and old friendships and staying true to their families’ culture.  A complication arises when Soojin starts to hang around with Emily, Amina’s nemesis.  Soojin soon wants to change her name to something more American sounding and this ignites jealousy and confusion in Amina. Things are changing too quickly for Amina and she is not sure what to do. The only thing Amina is sure of is her love of singing and playing the piano but she is shy and never has had the confidence to do in public. It is not until the local mosque and Islamic Community Center is vandalized that Amina finds her voice and confidence by helping to rebuild the mosque and unite the community.

Readers can connect with Amina’s journey through middle school during the struggles and triumphs she faces while staying true to her friends, culture and family. Readers will learn about Pakistani and Korean culture, and the similar experiences all children and families face no matter who they are or where they come from.

Bio:

Lindsay Perez is a guest blogger for Margin Notes who teaches Grade 6 Language Arts at Nashwaaksis Middle school in Fredericton New Brunswick. She is married with two young children Kai (4) and Myla (3).

#ASDWReads

Sep
06

Since we had such a great time this summer looking at all the titles you shared on Twitter with the hashtag #ASDWSummerReads, we decided to continue the book love throughout the school year!  The hashtag is now #ASDWReads and we encourage you to snap a picture of the book you are enjoying then post it on Twitter and add #ASDWReads.

We gave away 5 books to teachers at the end of the summer and we will be drawing a name every month for a book to send to the lucky winner.  The more you post, the higher your chances are.  Happy reading!

Guest Writer Heidi Muise Recommends Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

Sep
04

Far From The Tree is realistic fiction that tells a touching story of three adopted siblings who eventually meet and learn the true meaning of family. This beautifully written story grabs the reader right away in the first chapter when you are introduced to Grace, an only child in her adoptive family. Pregnant at sixteen, giving up her “Peach” for adoption, the reader is drawn to her struggles of finding the perfect family for her baby, and her decision to search for her own biological mother. Thus, she discovers that she has two biological siblings, Maya and Joaquin. As the chapters switch from sibling to sibling, we see how each of the teenagers have lived very different lives.

Maya, the youngest and most vocal sister, struggles living with an upper-class family of redheads while she is the only brunette. Her sarcasm and humour draws the reader into her story. Her adoptive family starts to fall apart and she apprehensively begins to build a new relationship with her new found siblings. The stress of her relationships is also played out in the story with her girlfriend, Claire and her adoptive sister, Lauren.

Joaquin, the oldest brother, was not as fortunate as his siblings and spent most of his life raised in foster care. His unshakable fears from spending 17 years in foster care system show how he struggles to build relationships. When asked by his sisters to help search for his birth mother, he has no desire to find her. Gradually, he begins to trust his new siblings and together they start their quest to find for their birth mother.

This tear-jerking YA novel is a National Book Award winner and it does not disappoint. The multi-layered characters express how dysfunctional families can be, yet shows the importance of family at the same time. It is written in third person narrative and touches on teen pregnancy, adoption, foster care, alcoholism, and family. It is an emotional read and I would highly recommend this to my grade 8 students!

Bio for Heidi Muise:

I am a grade 8 Language Arts teacher at Ridgeview Middle School. Passionate about reading,  I love doing read alouds with my students and conferring about their reading.  In my spare time, I can be found at a sports’ field or arena cheering on my three daughters, Adrianna, Olivia, and Carly.

Guest Writer Ryan Price Recommends Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Aug
28

Winter, 1945, Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe. Readers follow the stories of four refugees from four different homelands, harbouring four separate secrets that have torn their lives apart akin to the physical destruction of Europe caused by World War II. Joanna, Emilia, Florian, and Alfred attempt to flee Eastern Europe in search of safety, family, revenge, closure and escape from their past.

Ruta Sepetys’, Salt to the Sea will certainly appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, specifically World War II history, but also any reader who enjoys texts driven by complex characters. The format of Salt to the Sea, with short, cliffhanging chapters rotating between the perspectives of the four main characters, makes it very easy for the reader to become engaged in the characters and their stories. It’s a novel that leaves you wanting to continue reading to find out what happens next.

Joanna, Emilia, Florian, and Alfred’s secrets, much like their safety, are made vulnerable by the events of war unfolding around them. They also place each character on a destined path that inevitably brings them together aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that is meant to transport the four ‘heroes’ and their friends to safety. As their rescue mission reaches its climax, their secrets are revealed causing an emotional impact that mirrors the physical impact of the war taking place around them.

Salt to the Sea would appeal to middle and high school students. As a work of historical fiction, it would be very easy for students to make cross-curricular connections with social studies courses. It tackles many themes that are prevalent in texts set during war, including but not limited to fate, survival, family, guilt, loss, and redemption. I highly recommend this novel!

Bio for Ryan Price:

I am a High School Literacy and Assessment Coordinator in Anglophone School District-South. While a large chunk of my time dedicated to reading is immersed in professional research, I feel it is extremely important to frequently return to what made me fall in love with reading in the first place, engaging stories with complex and dynamic characters.

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

Aug
22

After reading Kwame Alexander’s award-winning novel, The Crossover, students invariably ask the same question, “Do you have any other books like this one?” and with the release of Rebound comes a book that will thrill these readers.

Set in 1988, Rebound is the prequel to The Crossover and tells the story of Chuck “Da Man” Bell’s summer when he is 12 years old and struggling to live with grief after his father’s sudden death; the summer he is sent to live with his grandparents; when he faces the consequences of bad decisions; discovers his passion and talent for basketball; and, supported by his family, is finally able to “find his smile.”

Rebound is written in verse that mirrors that of The Crossover, and with the author’s command of this form, and his creative and precise use of space and placement, readers experience the full power and intensity of a single word or line as they journey through the story (insert photo). The addition of graphic pages illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile serve to further captivate the reader and reveal the dreams that Chuck is too fearful to share with even those closest to him.

Fans of Kwame Alexander will be delighted to be reunited with characters from The Crossover, and the new characters introduced are just as spirited, loving, and funny as we have come to expect. But you certainly do not need to have read The Crossover to read Rebound; this book as a stand-alone is just as powerful.

I would recommend this book as an addition to both middle and high school classroom libraries…with one warning. Start thinking about what you are going to suggest to students as their next read because we all know what question they will ask when they finish.