Margin Notes

GUEST WRITER ISABELLA LIRETTE RECOMMENDS THE DARKENING BY SUNYA MARA

Feb
27

Vesper Vale feared the Storm just as much as most in the fifth ring did. Being in the outer most ring of this dystopian society, meant that Vesper and those she loved were on the cusp of death, or worst, the curse that the Storm bestowed on those who merely touched it. If the Storm didn’t get to them, then the unrelenting hunger might. When Vesper’s father is taken away for his revolutionary past and illegal use of magic by the men tasked to save their society, Vesper must sneak into the inner circles of society to save him. Navigating an unknown society of wealth and abundance, Vesper befriends Dalca, the son of the Regia and leader of the society. Yet, she may end up getting closer to Dalca than she had planned, putting everything into question: What was it that divided their people? What is the story behind her parents’ secretive past? What brought on the Storm? And what is Vesper willing to sacrifice to save them all? Confronted with her growing affection for Dalca and her conflicting feelings for her father, Vesper must decide for herself what she really wants, before others decide for her.

This novel covers themes of friendship, love, family, class discrimination, and the often complicated need for revenge. Woven together with stunning imagery and magic, this novel is perfect for high school students, especially those who enjoy genres of  fantasy and dystopian. Furthermore, this is the first of two novels in the series and the cliff hanger at the end will have any reader reaching for the next novel!

Isabella Lirette is a graduate of Mount Allison University and a current Education student at the University of New Brunswick. She is an avid EcoLiterature and Indigenous Literature fan and is eager to bring her love of reading and writing into the classroom.

GUEST WRITER ALISHA HATHI RECOMMENDS NEVER LIE BY FREIDA MCFADDEN

Feb
20

The novel Never Lie written by Freida McFadden is an exhilarating thriller underlined with multiple compelling relationships between characters. The book is centered around Tricia and Ethan, a newly wedded couple in search of the perfect house to grow their relationship. They stumble upon the most beautiful mansion, one previously owned by a famous psychiatrist named Adrienne Hale. The house recently entered the market after the investigation of Adrienne’s mysterious disappearance was concluded. The police were unsuccessful in finding out what happened to the renowned psychiatrist, and the house appears to hold no answers.

The couple makes a trip to view the mansion during a snowstorm, and unfortunately, they get trapped at the house, with no reception or means of leaving. While waiting for the snowstorm to pass, Tricia stumbles upon a secret room filled with tape recordings of every session Adrienne had with his patients. The tapes unravel events up to the disappearance of Adrienne Hale. Each tape has Tricia more and more on edge as she discovers more about Adrienne’s lies leading up to her disappearance.

This novel is the perfect thriller for any high school student who enjoys a great mystery as well as compelling love stories. Learning about the love Tricia and Ethan share, and what they would do to keep that love alive, as well as the toxic relationship Adrienne was in at the time of her disappearance, gives the reader much to consider. The short chapters make this novel a quick read and easy to pick up when you have a minute to spare. If you enjoyed The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, then Never Lie will also pique your interest. The plot twists throughout the story make this a page-turner!

Alisha Hathi is a first-year education student at the University of New Brunswick.

GUEST WRITER RYAN HARB RECOMMENDS MISSED TRANSLATIONS BY SOPAN DEB

Feb
13

Sopan Deb’s Missed Translations is a touching and humorous memoir about his journey of self-discovery and reconciliation with his immigrant roots. Despite his success as a New York Times writer and comedian, Sopan realized that he was often hiding his insecurities behind humor. While he told stories and jokes typical of an Indian immigrant, it was not true to his background.

The parents of Sopian immigrated separately to America, and, although not compatible, they married in an arranged marriage. Shortly after the birth of their second son, Sopian’s father returned to India without warning or saying goodbye.As a result of not knowing his father and isolating himself from his mother, he sought refuge in the homes and lives of his white-American friends. As Sopian approached his 30th birthday, he began to reflect on the fact that he knew nothing about his parents. How old they were, where they were born, if they had any siblings, and he didn’t even know his own mother’s phone number.

As a result of these reflections, Sopan travels to India to reunite with the father he hasn’t seen or spoken to in nearly a decade. The outcome is the discovery of a man who is thinking, passionate, and proud of his son. He makes discoveries about his father as well as his extended family, eventually leading him to reconcile with his past and reunite with his estranged mother.

Using Missed Translations in an English classroom to explore themes of identity and belonging or cultural perspectives would be a great use of this memoir. It could be used as a mentor text in many ways, including:

Voice and Style: Examine Sopan deb’s writing style and voice. Analyze his use of humor, wit, and emotional depth. Discuss how his unique voice contributes to the storytelling and engages the reader.

Character Development: Study how the author portrays himself and other characters in the memoir. Explore the development of his character and his family members. Discuss how dialogue, actions, and inner thoughts reveal character traits.

Transitions and Pacing: Study how the author manages transitions between different parts of his life and how pacing is used to maintain reader engagement.

Reflection and Analysis: Focus on how the author reflects on his experiences and analyzes their significance.

 

Ryan is a dedicated educator with a Master’s in English Language Teaching and a Bachelor’s in English Literature. With over a decade of international teaching experience, he specializes in innovative methodologies and teacher mentoring. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Education with an Englih and IB specialization, he’s passionate about advancing education.

GUEST WRITER KIE GATES RECOMMENDS LIGHTLARK BY ALEX ASTER

Jan
30

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.

GUEST WRITER MATTHEW FLANAGAN RECOMMENDS A SCATTER OF LIGHT BY MALINDA LO

Jan
23

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.

 

 

GUEST WRITER JULIA COPELAND RECOMMENDS FORGIVE ME NOT BY JENNIFER BAKER

Jan
16

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!

 

 

 

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: BIG BY VASHTI HARRISON

Jan
09

“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: 

GUEST WRITER WILLIAM BAIRD RECOMMENDS WAKE THE BONES BY ELIZABETH KILCOYNE

Dec
12

“At nineteen years old, Laurel was only a few years younger than her mother had been when she died. She’d inherited her mother Anna’s ash-blond hair, and the weight of the town’s judgement. But even when she was a child, Laurel’s ironweed resolve was strong. She could handle schoolyard whispers and the sometimes sympathetic, sometimes disgusted grocery-store gazes. She even learned to live with the one irritating nickname that spread across Dry Valley like the sickly-sweet scent of graded tobacco off to market in the fall. The devil’s daughter.”

Meet Laurel Early, protagonist of Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake The Bones. Amateur taxidermist, tobacco farmer, village outcast, and a young witch in the making, Laurel returns home to rural Kentucky to find an unwelcome guest. The landscape and the bones buried beneath it have come alive, twisted into a macabre parody intent on devouring her and everything she holds dear. It is up to Laurel, with the support of her friends, to find within themselves the strength to fight off a malign creature of the underworld and, in the process, find their own paths as they come of age.

Seamlessly mixing Gothic horror with fantasy, complete with many of the usual fixings – death and decay, darkness and gloom, magic and a supernatural threat – Wake The Bones nevertheless carves out its own niche by superimposing these Gothic elements on the warm, fertile, sunny hills of rural Kentucky. The result is a case study in effective setting- and world-building. Everything from the turns of phrase (which one cannot help but read with a Southern drawl), to the almanac-like description of farm ritual and routine, and to each polite greeting followed by gossip and rumour, Kilcoyne creates a sliding door into a place that is unmistakably Kentuckian, proudly rural, and distinctly unwelcoming.

This setting gives Kilcoyne the room to explore themes in the downtime between nightmares and witchcraft, including sexuality and gender, finding one’s path and purpose in an uncertain world, grief and loss, classism and the divide between urban and rural life. Most interestingly, the setting brings to mind questions about where the evil in the story really lies: is it in the supernatural entity attempting to swallow up Laurel’s home, or in the common bigotry of the human world?

Overall, Wake the Bones certainly has a clear target audience to whom I would recommend the book. If one has a morbid curiosity with the grim and gothic, and wishes to embark on a weird, dreamlike story full of vivid and often dark detail and emotion, then I recommend this book wholeheartedly. With that said, I caution any potential reader of Kilcoyne to take her trigger warning seriously. While skillfully done, the novel deals with mature subject matter.

William Baird is a BEd student at the University of Fredericton. He teaches Secondary Humanities, with a focus on English Literature, History, and Philosophy. In his spare time, he spends his time with friends and family, hiking, travelling, watching cinema, and reading history, literature, and philosophy. His main areas of interest are classical history, Greek and Enlightenment philosophy. His favorite authors are Hemingway and Huxley, and he particularly enjoys media with notes of thriller and horror.
William also has a soft spot for Chinese literature. He is currently rereading Yu Hua’s To Live.

GUEST WRITER ADRIEN BEAMAN RECOMMENDS DREAMS: VISIONS OF THE CROW

Dec
05

“Deams: Visions of the Crow”, written by Wanda John-Kehewin and illustrated by nicole marie burton  is a beautifully vivid graphic novel where the main character, Damon, discovers his ancestry through his dreams. The color scheme of burton’s work is full of eye-catching juxtapositions of drab and polychromatic panels, culminating in an intensely riveting visual experience. Disinterested with his school life, and a social outcast, teen Damon escapes the stasis of his life through listening to music and dreaming. Eventually, he begins to dream about time periods from long ago, and from his ancestors and a new friend Journey, Damon learns tradition and language in the face of his intergenerational trauma—including his mother’s struggle with substance abuse.

John-Kehewin and burton depict Damon’s mother’s, Marnie’s, alcoholism with immense realism and compassion, facilitating educated empathy from the readers. Although potentially triggering to some audience members, the care that John-Kehewin and burton put in conveying a difficult subject is a must-read for any readers comfortable in reading some about that topic. In sum, “Dreams: Visions of the Crow” is a striking graphic novel exploring the trauma and beauty of a young teen that will undeniably hook young readers.

 

Adrien Beaman is a student from the Bachelor of Education program at the University of New Brunswick. He completed an English Honors there and looks forward to a career as a literacy teacher.

GLOSSY: AMBITION, BEAUTY, AND THE INSIDE STORY OF EMILY WEISS’S GLOSSIER BY MARISA MELTZER

Nov
28

When Emily Weiss, founder of the cosmetics company Glossier, was a high school student in Connecticut, she got a job babysitting for a neighbor who worked for Ralph Lauren. Her belief that it “just can’t hurt to ask” led her to inquire about the possibility of an internship and soon after, she was interning in the women’s design department. Weiss’s boss at Ralph Lauren was so impressed by her, that she recommended her for an internship at Teen Vogue. And her boss at Teen Vogue was so impressed that she recommended her for a role on the MTV reality show The Hills. These backstories set the stage for the combination of entrepreneurship, drive, connections, and never letting a possible opportunity go unexplored that led Emily Weiss to launch Glossier as a start-up in 2014 and lead its growth to an expected 275 million dollars in sales this year.

Weiss had been writing a beauty blog called Into the Gloss and saw the potential market for her own products. After securing initial angel investors and venture capital funding in 2013, Weiss started Glossier the following year with only 4 products and the slogan “Born from content; fueled by community.”

Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier by Marisa Meltzer is much more than a business biography. It also explores the challenges faced by women in leadership roles, examines the phenomenon of influencer marketing, and analyzes the problematic and diminishing nature of the term, “Girl Boss.”