Margin Notes

GUEST WRITER BRADLEY GAMBLE RECOMMENDS ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS BY OCEAN VUONG

Nov
29

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is a raw, tender reflection of being a newcomer, being a queer youth, and the complicated love between a son and his mother. This novel is styled as a letter written by a son to his illiterate mother; as you read, you feel as if you’d opened someone else’s mail on accident, as the narrator reveals intimate moments of his adolescence which he knows his mother cannot read. Vuong mixes prose with poetry, providing a large scope of opportunity for classroom discussion. The narrator explores his identity and the external social forces that shape who he is, a topic everyone, particularly high schoolers, may relate to.

Themes covered include masculinity, race, class, and intergenerational trauma. This novel is written quite accessibly and may be of interest to students interested in gender and masculinity, poetry, queerness, immigrant experience, and novels that are written as auto-fiction. CW: addiction, death, parental abuse.

Bradley Gamble (he/him) is a Bachelor of Education student at UNB. He is passionate about advocacy, harm reduction, and learning through dialogue. He is interested in poetry, postmodernism, and pop music.

GUEST WRITER TAYLOR FLORIS RECOMMENDS THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN BY TESS SHARPE

Nov
22

There is no better way to spend a grey and rainy afternoon than with a thriller that at-once keeps you at the edge of your seat, while also exploring themes of identity, feminism, coming-of-age and the concept of survival in the young lives of teenagers. The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe follows the story of Nora O’Malley, the daughter of a con-artist, who finds herself trapped inside of a bank during a robbery. To make matters even more interesting, she is joined in this fiasco by both her current girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend.

Growing up as her mother’s protégé, Nora has assisted in her cons by embodying the perfectly constructed daughter to pair with each perfectly constructed con, never truly being able to be her true self, raising the question of “who is Nora O’Malley?”. Through her mother’s antics, Nora has become highly skilled in the art of con and combines her skills with her powers of persuasion in an attempt to free herself and her friends during the hostage situation at the bank. The book follows a non-linear format, primarily taking place over the course of a few hours in present-day. Additionally, it explores Nora’s past through the five girls that she has adopted as herself over the course of her life, shedding light on the lessons and consequences that arise from each.

Some content warnings should be mentioned for this novel, including violence, abuse, assault and death. This story will soon be adapted into a Netflix original thriller, starring Stranger Things actress, Millie Bobby Brown.

Taylor Floris is an aspiring English and Business teacher, currently completing her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of New Brunswick. On her spare time, she can be found cozied up, with a coffee in-hand, indulged into the life of fiction and poetry.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS: PICTURE BOOKS THAT DELIGHT (PART 2)

Nov
15

Picture books are delightful. I can’t get enough of them (which proves that there is no age limit for enjoying picture books). Here are some great non-fiction titles that are all available on SORA. I encourage you to read them aloud to your students. You never know what conversations might be sparked, and what insights might be found.

GUEST WRITER RYAN CORMIER RECOMMENDS ALL THIRTEEN: THE INCREDIBLE CAVE RESCUE OF THE THAI BOYS’ SOCCER TEAM BY CHRISTINA SOONTORNVAT

Nov
08

Two and a half miles down the pitch-black, flooded cave of Tham Luang, Thailand, a local boys soccer team (aged 11-16) and their assistant coach were trapped for 18 days (most of that time without food). They were found and rescued by being anesthetized and guided out individually by a team of cave divers.

Christina Soontornvat’s book All Thirteen reveals how an international team of experts and amateurs, Navy SEALs and local villagers, citizens and stateless people, came together in 2018 to make the impossible possible. Battling torrential rains, floods, stalagmites, darkness, cultural differences and skepticism, the team accomplished rescuing ‘all thirteen’ and doing something that had never been done before: a cave-diving rescue. This story shows us that when we work together, plan carefully, practice meticulously, act decisively and take risks instinctually, we can make miracles happen. Highly informative, All Thirteen also shares an in-depth analyses of professions like caving, diving, geology and search and rescue while also introducing the reader to Thailand, exploring its cultures, economy, geography and social issues.

Soontornvat weaves all of this into a thought-provoking, suspenseful narrative, following the dual perspectives of the rescuers on the surface and the boys’ experiences underground. What this does is not only humanize the event but also highlights the boys’ resolve, showing that we must never underestimate the will of children. An informative read covering many interests, along with a nail-bitingly engaging style, this book may appeal to the non-fiction readers in your class or students who want to learn more about world events. It’s worth noting that the book does contain mature subjects like suicide, xenophobia, death and starvation, therefore, it may be prudent to recommend this title to readers in your class who are ready for such content.

The recommendation’s author, Ryan Cormier, is currently a Bachelor of Education student, studying at the University of New Brunswick. He originally hails from Bathurst, New Brunswick but has hung his hat in many different places over the years.

 

 

GUEST WRITER CHANELLE COATES RECOMMENDS FAMILY OF LIARS BY E. LOCKHART

Nov
01

Lockhart’s new book is the prequel to her wildly popular We Were Liars and takes place decades earlier. Although it contains a few spoilers for We Were Liars, it is thoroughly entertaining and may engage both readers who are new to the Sinclair family, or readers who want to dive back into their family dynamics.

The Sinclair family dynamics involve pride, refinement, old and dirty money, tough-love, and the tendency to repress emotion after tragedy. We see this cause tension when the narrator, Carrie, is struggling with a recent death; she detests how everyone acts like they have already forgotten what happened. Thus begins her summer: alone with her pain and moving back for the next few months to the island her father and uncle own, which is also the location of the loved one’s drowning. However, despite her ideas of how the summer will proceed, the usual routine is disrupted when her cousin brings along a few boys that are Carrie’s age.

The novel has a satisfyingly dark ambiance and would be a good recommendation for students who enjoy plot twists and unreliable narrators. It is important to bear in mind while recommending it that the story contains one short mention of self-harm, a character with a narcotics addiction, and the death of a sibling.

Breaking away from the tougher subjects, I also believe that as someone who is not normally drawn to suspense-filled books, there are a multitude of themes within Family of Liars to engage many readers. For example, as a foodie I appreciated the author’s descriptions of flavours, scents, and textures. Lockhart makes one nostalgic for food memories that are not even one’s own. Moreover, tiny bits of poetry often end the chapters. This would be appreciated by students who love poetry or a nice little dose for more reluctant poetry readers, as it does not disrupt the overall flow of the novel and is used fairly sparingly but with great effect.

Finally, if there are any readers that are particularly fond of the recent Netflix series The Summer I Turned Pretty, based on the books by Jenny Han, this would be the perfect story to continue them on their reading journeys. There are gorgeous, grey-shingled houses, Fourth of July celebrations, and a Massachusetts beachy-feel, not to mention an overflow of romantic tension.

Chanelle Coates is a B.Ed student at the University of New Brunswick who loves reading, writing, and talking about both.

GUEST WRITER TINA KELLY RECOMMENDS TWO DEGREES BY ALAN GRATZ

Oct
25

What do two teen boys in Churchill Manitoba have in common with two girls in Miami and California? Two words: climate change. Each teenager is literally fighting for their life as they encounter a brush with death due to the devastating effect of climate change. Alan Gratz has created anther adventurous, page turning, on the edge of your seat novel with Two Degrees. Each chapter takes you through the harrowing adventure of each teen as they face the danger of each situation they are in. Owen and George, two boys from Canada, know all to well how their climate is melting the ice which is sending the polar bears closer to town. One night they have a close encounter with a polar bear and soon become a potential snack for the hungry bear. Will they make it out alive? You’ll have to read their story to find out.

Akira loves California and enjoys horse backing riding in the mountains with her dad. Suddenly the air around her becomes hot and fires are springing up around her. She is literally in an inferno and must use her instincts and trust her horse to help save her life and her fathers. Along the way they meet families who are also trying to escape the heat while their homes and cars are igniting into flames. This scary situation of  wildfires spreading and causing the destruction homes and habitats is one that is all too familiar.

Natalie Torres, a young teen from Miami has been keeping her eyes on the news as a hurricane is on the way inland. Instead of moving to higher ground with her mom, they decide to wait the storm out in their apartment. Once the storm hits, it becomes known as “The Big One”. Natalie and her mom can only do one thing and that is to fight to survive.

Alan Gratz has a novel that will be sure to keep readers turning the pages. This is a must read for students who love adventure and stories of survival. I enjoyed going between each characters’ story and felt like I was on a cliff hanger each time a chapter ended.

Tina Kelly teaches language arts at George Street Middle School. She has over 25 years of experience with middle schoolers and loves nothing more than recommending and sharing great literature. Inspired by Nancie Atwell, she believes in the philosophy of the Readers Workshop and the importance of giving students the choice to read what they want.

GUEST WRITER ABIGAIL BONNAR RECOMMENDS WILD RIVER BY RODMAN PHILBRICK

Oct
18

Wild River by Rodman Philbrick is a thrilling survival story that follows the journey five children are forced to make through the Montana wilderness. The story takes place as the ‘Future Leaders’ white-water rafting group make their way onto ‘Crazy’ river after discovering their original route has dried up. All seems well until the nearby dam breaks and floods the beach the group has set camp on for that night. Acting quickly, the camp leaders secure the children’s safety before being washed away themselves, leaving the children alone to figure out how to survive. The only known surviving members of ‘Future Leaders’ group, students, Deke, Tony, Imani, Mia, and Daniel are left to navigate the Montana wilderness. Without the guidance of adults, or knowledge of when, or if, they will be rescued, the group is pushed to their limits and forced to lea­­­­­­­rn about embracing teamwork, overcoming obstacles, and facing who they are and what they stand for.

This book is recommended for a middle school audience, but you know your students best. The story encourages personal growth and shows readers that everyone can be a hero, and that courage is a choice and not a feeling. However, this story does deal with death, violence, and hard choices in survival situations, which will engage readers who love adventure stories such as Hatchet, but like every story, it is not for every reader. But it is for those described above.

Abigail is a pre-service teacher at UNB. She is an avid reader of fantasy and wilderness survival genres. Abigail is studying to be a teacher in order to ignite a love for reading in her future students.

 

 

 

GUEST WRITER CRISTINA FUREY RECOMMENDS GALLANT BY V.E. SCHWAB

Oct
11

Olivia Prior was born voiceless. Left as a young child on the steps of Merilance, a school for girls, with only a mysterious journal to serve as a link to her life before, Olivia struggles to find connection and kindness within the stone walls. Her mother’s confusing words blend with abstract illustrations that decorate multiple pages in the green journal, fragments of home and belonging that barely sustain Olivia’s miserable and loveless existence at Merilance. After an invitation arrives from a relative, Olivia becomes entangled in the mysteries of Gallant and the strange role its inhabitants play as guardians of a door in the garden wall. As she struggles to find her place, Olivia’s sense of home deepens and she finds the courage and defiance to fight Gallant’s strange darkness beyond the wall, willing to do anything to protect those she has come to know as family.

V.E. Schwab’s Gallant is about love and belonging and a silent search for one’s place in the delicate space that exists between childhood and adulthood. It is a quiet book filled with quiet dead things and a non-verbal protagonist who finds family where she least expects it. Gallant’s slow pace makes it a great book for readers who want to take their time and enjoy every word. Gallant is for students who want to be heard, for those seeking identity and connection, and for those who don’t mind dead things that lurk in dark corners. It is for explorers of ghoulish places, for teens who love beautiful prose, and for anyone courageous enough to show quiet resistance within the shadowy places beyond.

Content warning: re-living the tragic loss of parents, brief mention of self-harm and suicide

Cristina Furey is a UNB student who loves sharing words and stories with people of all ages. She believes there is no better feeling than recommending good books to the readers who need them most and always hopes the magic of storytelling will capture attention and foster the joy of reading in all hearts and minds.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS: PICTURE BOOKS THAT DELIGHT part 1

Oct
04

Picture books are delightful. I can’t get enough of them (which proves that there is no age limit for enjoying picture books). Once a month, during the school year, I am going to pull together some picture books available on SORA that are just a delight to read. I encourage you to share them with your students. You never know what conversations might be sparked, and what insights might be found.

Enjoy!

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DANCING AT THE PITY PARTY: A DEAD MOM GRAPHIC MEMOIR BY TYLER FEDER

Sep
27

Heartbreaking, honest, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, this graphic memoir shares Tyler Feder’s story of losing her mom to cancer and just wanting the world around her “to get it”. Written 10 years after her mother’s death, Feder begins with the shocking diagnosis of late-stage cancer, takes us through the horrors of cancer treatment, and “the worst day”. And then the aftermath of the arrangements, “the new normal”, and living life without her mother.

The graphics in this memoir, such as “things that died with my mom” and “the little things that get me the most” provide an intimate understanding of the journey of grief and loss, and make you appreciate the author for sharing what many people are unable to share.

This story is a friend for anyone experiencing the loss of someone they love, and a guide for anyone who knows someone who is.