Margin Notes



Click on the image to watch the book trailer



Click on the image above to watch the book trailer



Margin Notes is thrilled to announce an exciting summer blog series showcasing a series of book trailers created by Megan Young-Jones’ talented grade 6 students at Hanwell Park Academy . These trailers will engage you as teachers, and we hope you will share them with your students in the future, as a means of:

  •  Generating Interest: Book trailers are designed to capture the attention of viewers and create curiosity about the book. By showcasing trailers to students, teachers can create a buzz around specific books or authors, motivating students to read those titles.
  • Providing Visual Representation: Book trailers provide a visual representation of the story, characters, and settings, providing background information that supports comprehension.
  • Creating a Multimedia Experience: Today’s students are  accustomed to consuming multimedia content and book trailers tap into this familiarity and provide a different medium through which students can engage with literature. By presenting books through movie trailers, we can bridge the gap between traditional print reading and other forms of media that students consume.
  • Promoting Critical Literacy: Book trailers can help develop and reinforce important literacy skills. Students need to analyze the trailer’s content, make inferences about the story, and assess its appeal. Additionally, book trailers can spark discussions among students, encouraging them to share their thoughts and opinions about the book.
  • Presenting Models: For students choosing to create their own book trailers, these student book trailers can helpe them understand the the purpose and elements of a book trailer and can be analyzed for their effectiveness.

We hope you enjoy this viewing opportunity over the summer months. A special thank you to Megan Young-Jones, who tirelessly fosters a love of reading in her students, and who took on this project in the last wild weeks of middle school!



Four Eyes by Rex Ogle and Dave Valeza is a graphic novel dealing with the adjustments of starting middle school. The memoir focuses on when Rex begins a new year without his elementary friends due to re-drawn school catchment areas. He is faced with all the typical drama of locker combinations, height differences, trying to fit in and new academic expectations. As if that is not hard enough, Rex discovers that he needs glasses which his mother cannot afford.

This piece of Ogle’s story includes important themes around the topics of divorced families, poverty, bullying, friendships and school. Although very age-appropriate, he does not shy away from the realities of divorced parents fighting about money, the cruelness of peers and generational conflict.  At the same time, this realistic coming-of-age story encompasses the sweetness of grandparents, an accepting portrayal of stuttering and the joy of new friendships.

Ogle’s portrayal of how friendships change was powerful. People change and those who were your friends throughout elementary may not be the same as you grow up. The message that you don’t need to change to find a group of friends that show belonging, laughter and support is one that every middle grader needs to hear. This book would be a great addition to a grade 5 and 6 classroom library.



Nic Stone begins her book Chaos Theory with a beautiful letter to the reader where she shares a glimpse of her personal story and reasons for writing this book. It, along with the following page, offers several content warnings. She cautions readers about suicide and self-harm discussions as well as triggering content around “living with brain chemistry that functions in a way that occasionally obliterates your innate survival instincts.” Yet, her letter also details that these topics are exactly why she wrote the book. She hopes the story provides comfort for those who relate along with compassion and learning for those who are watching from the outside.

Chaos Theory follows Shelbi and Andy through a chance connection and weaves together their stories of struggle, friendship and love. These teens are dealt situations with alcoholism, abortion, bipolar diagnosis, divorce, and betrayal. Sounds heavy, right? It is. But it is also a positive view of seeking therapy, creating support systems, owning mistakes and taking action to live your best life.

Through a narrative mix of text messages and prose, the story shares the message that mental health is as important as physical health – and how the two are linked. The topics covered make this recommendation one for mature YA readers.



Former professional hockey player Akim Aliu tells his life-story in the graphic memoir Dreamer, co-authored with Greg Anderson Elysee and illustrated by Karen De La Vega. Aliu, who was born in Nigeria and spent his early years in Ukraine, moved to Toronto in 1997, and discovered the game of hockey. Although the game was too expensive for his immigrant parents, and, as his brother liked to remind him, “black people don’t even play hockey” his obsession with the game only grew.

Wearing a pair of $9 hockey skates purchased at at yard sale, Akim hit the ice for the first time. Like, literally hit it. He was 10 years old at the time, which, in the opinion of many, is much too old to ever dream of playing competitive hockey, let alone even dream about playing in the NHL. But Akim knew deep down that this was his game. In the book he states that finding hockey made moving to Canada make sense and felt that hockey was the thing that would “make [him] make sense”. Fast forward three years and the hockey prodigy was playing for the prestigious Toronto Marlboros Hockey Club, and then the OHL, and then the Chicago Blackhawks made Akim their second pick in the second round of the National Hockey League Draft.

Before reading this memoir, I knew nothing about Akim Aliu, but I was already rooting for the young hockey player on the front cover. I was expecting an, “overcome the obstacles” and “keep dreaming” story, but what I read was something much more important.  The overt racism, the hazing, the abuse this young hockey player endured was shocking, but Aliu’s courage to stand against it is something that may very well change the future of hockey. His current organization makes me believe this even more.

Overall, Dreamer is a raw and powerful memoir that offers a firsthand account of the experiences of a Black hockey player in a predominantly White sport. Aliu’s story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a call to action for those who want to make sports a more inclusive and welcoming space for all athletes – which I hope is everyone.



Anna Hunt’s family has moved from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin and when Anna begins eighth grade at East Middle School, her Social Issues class is assigned an un-essay—a semester long project instead of an exam—on a social topic of their choosing.

At first, Anna struggles to come up with a topic for her project. But as she watches Rachel Riley being ostracized by their entire grade, she spends some time on Rachel’s social media and discovers that the year before Rachel had many friends in their class. Anna decides to take a deeper dive into what happened. She turns her un-essay into an investigation and presents her findings in a podcast series.

As Anna compiles evidence for her un-essay, she uncovers many challenging truths about bullying, toxic masculinity, and the disconnect that sometimes exists between our words and our actions. As she explains in a letter to her teacher:

Enclosed you will find the results of my research. In addition to my notebook, you will also find one pair of swim trunks, an old iPhone with recorded interviews, a gift certificate for Lee’s dairy Emporium, a purple lighter, a stapled packet of text message transcripts, and a pack of hallway passes. The passes were stolen from Mr. Corey’s desk in the art room—you can return them if you want.

I hope you learn, from everything in this box, how Rachel Riley went from the most popular girl in school to a Complete Social Outcast of the First Degree. I hope you learn that when asking a complicated question, you should prepare for that question to shake and quake into a thousand more. Because people, like fires, can surprise you. And lies, like flames, can spread faster than we can put them out.

Told through prose, letters, emails, texts, and audio transcripts, What Happened to Rachel Riley? is a fantastic read-alike for readers who enjoyed Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone and Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee.



There are four stories woven into the Schusterman’s brilliantly conceived novel, Roxy. Brother and sister, Isaac and Ivy Ramey, are accompanied as narrators by two anthropomorphized drugs: Roxy (OxyContin) and Addison (Adderall). The siblings recount their experiences with prescription drugs while Roxy and Addison unfold the tales of themselves and their party-going friends who frequent an exclusive club that pits them in a competition to get their ‘plus-one’ into the VIP Lounge.

I very much loved this book, and contend that it is essential reading for teens. North Americans are in the torment of an opioid crisis. Among people aged 12 or older in 2020, 3.3 percent (or 9.3 million people) misused prescription opioids in the past year and opioids were involved in 68,630 overdose deaths in 2020 (74.8% of all drug overdose deaths).1 Until recently, the term “drug use” typically referred to illegal substances like cocaine, heroin or crystal meth. Today’s teens are more likely to get hooked on prescription medication, especially painkillers. Most often teens receive opioid prescriptions after dental procedures and sports injuries. Similarly, adolescent abuse of Ritalin and Adderall is largely driven by the belief that these drugs can improve academic performance. This is more urban myth than reality; it is true that stimulants will heighten energy and focus in the short-term, but after the brain adjusts to the presence of such drugs, these effects are weakened and become more elusive.2

This pervasive problem is addressed in both the dedication: “For those in the throes of addiction, may you find the strength to fight off the demons who pose as gods“; and in the authors’ opening note that reads in part: “It is our hope that everyone who reads Roxy will leave the story with a clearer understanding of how insidious, seductive, and dangerous these drugs can be.”

Isaac and Ivy have relatable teen lives and plausible experiences that lead them to be prescribed opioids. Isaac receives Roxy (OxyContin) after a painful soccer injury, and Ivy takes Addison (Adderall) to help her focus on increasing her failing grades so she can graduate on time. With a popular post-modern nod, we begin at the end: “They tag your toe with the last name on your ID, and your first initial: Ramey, I.”(4) and then flash back through time unravelling how this pivotal moment came to be. Who dies: Isaac or Ivy?

Roxy introduces herself with confident self awareness : “I am so hot right now. And everyone knows it. It’s like I own the world. It has no choice but to yield to my gravity” (16). You enter the party with her, where: “Al greets [you] at the door, a glass of champagne in each hand… Al’s older than the rest of us,” Roxy amiably explains, “been around longer, but he carries his age well” (16). At the bar, you can catch a glimpse of Addison: “He’s dressed in a conspicuous style, like he belongs to a yacht club that his father owns. All prestige and privilege” (17). Also spotted: Molly, Mary Jane, Rita, and the Coke brothers, Charlie and Dusty. Each of them act predictably, like the drugs to which their names nod, and readers get a multi-sensory tour of how they work. For example,  we find Addison sitting at a piano recital with his older sister, Rita, comparatively ordinary next to their cousins: Crys, and the twins, in their “white silk suits and flashy jewelry, lounging in a private booth like they own the world, making the party come to them” (33) they instead, calm kids, help them focus– play the piano flawlessly, or as Rita points to her own ward in the audience, sit still through a performance.

The book is awash in delightful craft moves. There are six character-titled “interludes”, each matched with their molecular formulas (you can Google them– they are hyper-linked in this post for your convenience) and explore further the chemical literature of the National Library of Medicine‘s entries for each compound: Mary Jane (C21H30O2); Dusty & Charlie (C17H21NO4); Lucy (C20H25N3O); Phineas (C17H19NO3); Vic (C18H21NO3) and Hyde (CH2O). On their own, they provide poignant personified snapshots of marijuana and it’s legalization and medical use; cocaine, who boasts of his long historical significance, including once being the key ingredient in Coca-Cola (until replaced by caffeine); the powerful taunting of an acid trip; morphine as the Prince of Palliative Care, vicodin (Roxy’s brother) and even formaldehyde, the final drug used, when the character is embalmed for their funeral.

Michelle Wuest is and English teacher & SPR at Leo Hayes High School with over 20 years helping students find the right book. When not teaching or reading you’ll find her tap dancing, practicing yoga, walking her Doodle, seeing live music with her husband, or listening to her son rattle of random NFL stats for the eleventy-billionth time.



The Pigeon and I go way back. All the way back to the early 2000’s. My oldest child started kindergarten in 2004 and I discovered this hilarious book called Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! that we read over and over. By the time my youngest child came along, there were even more books in the series to read and love. All of them continue to be family favourites. If you asked my (now) teenage children if they remembered The Pigeon, you would probably get a chuckle and a nod.

It is because of my fondness for all things Pigeon, that I was so excited when I was gifted the book Be the Bus: The Lost and Profound Wisdom of The Pigeon as told to Mo Willems.

This book is hilarious. Written for a more mature audience (making it a fun read-aloud for high school students!) this book is full of fun and delight. For example, “Like Plato already said, “Never trust a quotation.” and “I regret nothing…except that last half hotdog”.

If you are a fan of Mo Willems or have students who remember The Pigeon from their younger days, this is a book you will want to read and share. 

Mo was interviewed about the 20th anniversary of The Pigeon and his new book Be the Bus. He has some great advice to share for adults in this video.  

My advice to you? Be the Bus…



From Tommy Greenwald, the author of Game Changer, comes another high-stakes, youth sport story that takes us through the risk and reward of contact sports, using a plethora of different multimedia to tell a relevant and compelling story. Dinged is a story about Caleb Springer a high-school freshman who has just made the starting quarterback position at his school. Caleb lives and breathes football, but when Caleb’s dad, an ex-NFL star, starts to act differently and begins to forget things, Caleb begins to worry that the game he loves so much could come at a great risk. Soon Caleb realizes he will have to make a choice, football, or his life. Dinged approaches the complex issue of CTE and the dangers of contact sport in a way that helps us understand Caleb’s struggle with playing the game he loves and understanding the risks involved.

One thing I have loved about Tommy Greenwald’s writing, is the way he uses multiple forms of media to tell his stories. Dinged follows the same script, as Greenwald tells Caleb’s story through text messages, school newspaper clippings, sports announcements, and radio shows. This format allows readers to get a clear insight into Caleb’s life, and the pressure he is feeling from all angles. It also gives some insight into his motivations as a character, while giving the thoughts of the people surrounding him. While reading you can start to understand Caleb’s insecurities, motivations, and understand that he is a very self-aware character trying to make a seemingly impossible choice. This format is very student-friendly, especially for readers who enjoy breaks from all-prose text. It would be a great novel to use as a craft study on different text formats, such as using text messages to convey dialogue between characters. It would also be an engaging read aloud that would encourage some thoughtful group discussions about character motivations and the influences we feel from the people we surround ourselves with, as well as the culture surrounding sports today that is just accepted as part of the game.

This book would be a great addition to classroom libraries middle school and up. Students who enjoy sports, especially football, will love the football commentary throughout the book, and will be invested in Caleb’s freshman season. However, this is not simply just a book for sports fans. I would recommend this to adults and youths alike. It has such a powerful message, told in a way that doesn’t just provide criticism but also allows for compassion. Greenwald uses his authors note to convey that that he doesn’t want to tell you want to think, he just wants to encourage you to think about the subject.

Lauren Sieben is a Grade 8 ELA teacher at Perth-Andover Middle School. Her favourite activity is reading books. Her second favourite activity is talking about them.