Margin Notes

CRAFT STUDIO: THE TRIALS OF APOLLO BY RICK RIORDAN

Apr
14

What I Was Reading:

apolloNow more than ever there are a plethora of great YA novels to get our students reading. One such series that also has the benefit of enjoying a movie adaptation is Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. His spin off series The Trials of Apollo centers around the god Apollo losing his memories and becoming human. A strong recommendation for any students who like fantasy.

One of the things I really enjoyed was how every chapter begins with a haiku. These haikus, often humorously, foreshadow what is going to happen in the coming chapter. Not only is this a great writing move but it also pays homage to the source material. Many of the Greek myths and tales are either told through or prominently feature poetry in a number of ways: look back to Homer, Aeneid, and many of the Greek philosophers. So, given this is a story centered around gods and demi gods from the Greek pantheon, this is very fitting.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • The haiku always foreshadows something that will happen in the chapter.
  • The haikus vary in tone and subject matter for every chapter.
  • They operate as an epiphany, a comment or a thought on the story.
  • They often use metatextual references or break the fourth wall.
  • They always follow the 5-7-5 convention.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Provide students with a chapter of a book, short story, or video clip and have them write a haiku summarizing the content.
  • Provide the opposite: Provide them a haiku and have them write a narrative inspired by the content.
  • Have students provide haikus and/or writing to each other and for each others’ work.
  • Experiment with other poem structures to summarize a piece of writing or to function as an aside to what is happening (rhyming couplet, limerick, etc).
  • Encourage students to look into the genres they enjoy and employ something relevant to that genre, culture or tone. For example, introducing a science formula or a captain’s log entry at the beginning of a chapter of science fiction, a historical quote for a historical piece, or a text message exchange for a YA drama.

Guest writer Mitch Caissie is a nerd with a heart of gold and a head of hair, currently working through his Bachelor of Education and eagerly waiting to finish and begin his journey into teaching. He enjoys his wife, his pup, his video games, and his ability to speak in the third person.

GUEST WRITER LAURA NOBLE RECOMMENDS COMICS WILL BREAK YOUR HEART BY FAITH ERIN HICKS

Apr
07

ComicsOur world is inundated with nerd-culture. We pay the expensive prices for movie tickets and wait in line to get the best seats on opening night. We travel far-and-wide to ride the superhero rides, for a chance to get our picture taken with leotard and cape-sporting characters. Many of us go as far as permanently inking our bodies with our ride-or-die favourite characters or our favourite alliances. In other words, you’d be hard-pressed to find a young person who hasn’t at least passively watched a superhero movie or television show. Superheroes are just that – heroes. Extraordinary people who go to extraordinary lengths to do things for others.

Comics Will Break Your Heart shows its audience a side of comics that many people haven’t thought about before – the origin stories. Not of the characters within the books, but of those who create them. Who are the writers? The artists? Who chooses the colour of the capes and the distribution of the work itself? Faith Erin Hicks reminds us of something that we so often forget – we are all creators of our own worlds. We imagine scenarios in our heads – what could happen vs. what we want to happen in our real lives.

Mirroring a Romeo and Juliet type love affair, Hicks writes a coming-of-age story for wannabe-nerds and hardcore-nerds alike. Mir, a devotee of nerd culture, is conflicted about leaving her small-town life behind after high school. Weldon, a rich kid exiled to small-town Nova Scotia for a summer, is trying to get his act together. The unlikely pair try to overcome their family’s intertwined histories to make new lives for themselves, but their last names seemingly leave them suffocated. Their families battled against each other in an ugly, long-winded court case for the rights to the comic series, The TomorrowMen.

This YA novel will surely appeal to those who are familiar with the history of comic books and their worth on our current superhero culture, but also to an audience who loves coming-of-age stories. A simple love story about friends, family, and their interconnectedness, Comics Will Break Your Heart gives students a new romance novel for daydreamers, artists, and nerds alike.

Laura Noble is an English teacher at Leo Hayes High School and is currently finishing her Masters in Education. She is an avid reader of true crime, feminist literature, and realistic fiction.

CRAFT STUDIO: SISSY: A COMING OF GENDER STORY BY JACOB TOBIAS

Apr
02

What I Was Reading:

SissyI used to have a rainbow flag accessory on my phone, but it broke. My quick fix for making sure my students continue to be sure that I’m an ally of the LGBTQ++ community is to openly read very obviously queer novels. One of my favourites so far has been Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story by Jacob Tobias. It’s a hilarious and hard-hitting autobiography that discusses gender, sexuality, sex education, religion and all kinds of social issues that come along with growing up as a non-binary person within a society that upholds a restrictive gender binary.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

Jacob Tobias’ voice comes through so clearly in their writing. One of the moves I see Jacob making to emphasize their voice in the book are the little faux-footnotes they sprinkle in. Instead of elaborating within the text, Jacob sometimes just inserts an asterix and explains or elaborates points in a little footnote at the bottom of the page. These footnotes range from explanations of words that the reader may not be familiar with to little additions to stories they tell in the text. These little additions are usually more informally written than the core text, which makes it feel like the author is adding in these details just for you, and makes the text feel even more authentic and personal than it already is.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • I mostly see this craft move as a way to insert additional ideas into a text without interrupting the flow of the main piece of writing.
  • When writers are writing about something they are an expert in, a faux-footnote would be a great way to throw in “fun facts” that might otherwise throw off the flow of a piece.
  • When writers are writing a more serious piece and are struggling to have their voice come through, this craft move could allow them to add in some humour/personality without interrupting the decorum of their writing.
  • When writers want to make sure readers understand the point they are making, a reiteration as a faux-footnote is a creative way to ensure readers understand the idea they’re trying to convey.
  • As Jacob uses them, faux-footnotes are also a great way to define a word that is necessary to use but may not be known to the piece’s audience.

My name is Caroline Wilson and I’m a student in the UNB faculty of Education. I love to be able to recommend all sorts of books to my students so I have been trying to fill my Non-Fiction book gap with memoirs like this one. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about first-hand experiences in the queer community or about the gender binary.

GUEST WRITER LINDSAY PEREZ RECOMMENDS THE PARIS PROJECT BY DONNA GEPHART

Mar
31

Paris ProjectMiddle school student Cleveland Rosebud Potts has a dream: A dream to escape her life in Sassafras, Florida and travel to Paris, France where everything will be “parfait”.

Cleveland comes up with an idea – The Paris Project: A list of six items that will prepare her for Paris. There is only one problem: Life.

This novel follows Cleveland’s journey to deal with what life throws her way as she checks the items off her list to say “Good Riddance!” to Sassafras, Florida only to learn “C’est la Vie“.

The Paris Project is a great addition to any middle or high school classroom library. Students will connect and relate with Cleveland’s journey as she navigates her way through middle school.

Lindsay Perez teaches at Nashwaaksis Middle School.

CRAFT STUDIO: HUMANS OF NEW YORK BY BRANDON STANTON

Mar
26

What I Was Reading:

Humans of NYThis book brings a whole new meaning to the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Using photographs and short pieces of text, Brandon Stanton captures the stories of diverse New Yorkers who catch his eye on the city streets. Short texts that vary in length from a sentence to a page sized paragraph accompany the photographs, making for a casual but captivating read. As a reader, you immediately connect with the humans in the photographs and are greatly moved by their stories.

You can read many of the stories on the Humans of New York website.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • The photographer/writer is giving others a voice.
  • Using images to tell powerful stories.
  • Organized in a way that the stories can be read in any order.
  • Using different ways to tell stories. Some photographs are accompanied with short dialogues; some are the stories they share; and some are simple observations made by the photographer/writer.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Choose a picture that you feel tells a story of you. What do you think this picture says about you?
  • Caption a picture that you once took of somebody else, either with an observation, some dialogue, or a short story that explains the picture.
  • Ask your friends/family to send you some photos they have taken of you and choose one that you feel tells a story. What does it say?

Guest writer Rebecca Landry is a Bachelor of Education Student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and has an undergraduate degree from the Université of Moncton with a major in French and a minor in English. She hopes to become a Language Arts teacher at the Middle/Secondary school level.

GUEST WRITER ANGELA LARDNER RECOMMENDS WHAT IF IT’S US BY BECKY ALBERTALLI AND ADAM SILVERA

Mar
24

What If It's UsArthur is in New York for the summer when he meets Ben at a post office. Ben is bitter at the world and is there to mail out his ex-boyfriend’s items when he notices Arthur’s awkward ways.

However, when a marching band and proposal at the post office separate Ben and Arthur before they can exchange numbers, let alone names, it seems like their stars are not aligned. But Arthur will not be deterred.

Arthur decides to go to extreme measures to find Ben; he wants the romance and the chance to see what the universe has in store for them. And Ben is curious about him, too. When they finally do find one another, it is a balancing act of getting the perfect first date (four or five times over), the disappointments of unmet expectations, and the realization that life is not a Broadway show, most of the time.

Ben has been in relationships before; this is Arthur’s first one. Together, they help one another find love and true friendship. They control their fate and destiny, with a few ups and downs along the way, in true teenage drama.

This book explores what it means to find your first love and to follow your heart. It makes you believe in love at first sight and takes you back to your teenage years of puppy love, crushes, jealousy, and suspicions. It has all the drama of balancing the fine edge of ending a relationship yet trying to remain friends with that someone, while also trying to start a new relationship with someone new.

Angela Lardner is a teacher at Stanley Consolidated School. She teaches English 9, English 112, English 122 as well as Resource. Her greatest joys are reading and her 2 dogs: Thor and Apollo.

CRAFT STUDIO: THE PRINCESS SAVES HERSELF IN THIS ONE BY AMANDA LOVELACE

Mar
19

What I Was Reading:

princess saves herselfMy co-operating teacher recommended I read this poem from The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace when she was using it with her creative writing class for students to read and imitate with any topic relevant to them. I like this poem because it’s a poem about facing the world and learning to stand on your own two feet. I think this poem is a great fit for high school students because of the message it sends (it refutes the fairytale idea of the prince saving the day when what we need to understand is that we can save ourselves) and because of the writing moves it shows writers.

Warning I:

this is not a
Fairy tale.

there is no
princess.

there is no
damsel.

there is no
queen.

there is no
tower.

there are no
dragons.

there is simply
a girl

faced with the
difficult task

of learning to
believe in

herself.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • Using parallel structure to create the idea of what this poem is not about.
  • Using periods as an emphasis as to what this poem is not about.
  • The author titles this poem Warning I to alert the reader that this poem will connect with other poems in the collection.
  • The author has organized the short stanzas in order to emphasize each point.
  • The writer organizes her writing in a way that invites students to emulate the writing.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Writers can brainstorm events in their own lives that have not had a “fairytale” ending and choose one in order to write their own “Warning” poem.
  • Writers can follow the organization of the poem to allow for emphasis on each point they make leading up to the final point.
  • Writers can play with punctuation to create the emphasis they want and impact the message sent to the reader.

My name is Katie Morgan and I am a pre-service teacher at UNB. I am from Newfoundland and am currently obsessing over Instagram poetry!

GUEST WRITER WILL MILNER RECOMMENDS STRANGERS BY DAVID A. ROBERTSON

Mar
17

StrangersAdmittedly, I was not ready for this book. I began with several others on the go and exams looming around the corner. I felt like it was going in fits and starts, and I was ready to give up. The thing is, once exams were over, I went back to it and finished it in a day!

David A. Robertson’s first instalment of The Reckoner Trilogy takes us to the (fictional) Manitoba town of Wounded Sky where we’re drawn into the lives of a community still reeling a decade on from a devastating school tragedy that claimed the lives of many of the town’s young people. We’re immediately thrown into the schemes of Choch, the coyote trickster of First Nations’ lore, as he plots to coerce Cole Harper back to the town that drove him away for his role as hero and scapegoat in the fire ten years ago.

After the tragedy ten years ago, Cole, along with his grandmother and aunt, moved to Winnepeg. As we see the broken and conflicted life that they have pieced together since leaving Wounded Sky, the inevitable becomes clear: Cole must return and face the demons that await him back home.

What follows is the beginning of a mystery that, while already well under way, really starts to unfold as soon as Cole touches down at the rural community’s airstrip. Cole is forced to face not only the conflicting emotions of his old friends and neighbours, but he must also try to reconcile his current life with his painful past.

Along the way, Choch is weaving his way in and out of Cole’s life, pulling strings, playing games and adding a supernatural level of uncertainty to Cole’s attempt to straighten his life, and his community, out. Trust is scarce, and suspicion is rampant – what really happened all those years ago, and why are people dying now that Cole has returned?

Strangers does contain violence, and mature language/content, so it is best suited to more mature readers. Its themes of family and friendship, and community and belonging ring with sufficient universality that most readers should find themselves drawn into Robertson’s story. Once hooked, as I was, it seems unfair that by the end of the book, Cole’s story has really just gotten started.

Will Milner is an English & Outdoor Pursuits teacher at Fredericton High School, where he also coaches soccer and track & field. When not teaching, or coaching, he can be found with his wife Jen outside with their dogs and playing with their daughter Olivia.

CRAFT STUDIO: INTRODUCTION TO POETRY BY BILLY COLLINS

Mar
12

What I Was Reading:

I was first introduced to Billy Collins during a time in my life when I had no desire to enjoy poetry, and I was a little disappointed to discover that there was a poet out there – a Poet Laureate out there – whose poems I couldn’t help but love. Since then, I have gone through several cycles of forgetting he exists, then rediscovering him, and being equally excited by his poems each time. There’s something irresistible about the way he defies all the pretentious and irritating “rules” that turn so many people off of poetry. Many of Billy Collins’ poems are laced with cynicism, but somehow make me feel light-hearted and optimistic. “Introduction to Poetry” is probably one of his poems that does this the most explicitly. While re-discovering it recently, I was struck by how effective his use of simple and original metaphors is.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

  • Collins uses vivid and intriguing imagery to engage many of his readers’ senses (sight, sound, and feeling) in a way that leads us to understand and feel the unsettling truth in his message.
  • He uses line breaks (sometimes multiple) in the middle of sentences to control the flow of his ideas.
  • He uses metaphors to express an idea/opinion – in this case a criticism of how students approach, and are taught to approach, the analysis of poetry.
  • He uses very simple language to convey his ideas.
  • He uses contrasting metaphors to depict the way something is vs. the way it ought to be (two different metaphors to depict two different approaches/perspectives on analyzing poetry: i.e. stanzas 1-5 contrast with stanzas 6 and 7).
  • He also uses these contrasting metaphors to create a shift in tone at the end of the poem (i.e. between stanzas 5 to 6).

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Try to use original imagery to engage as many of the five senses as you can.
  • Try creating a shift in tone by using contrasting imagery.
  • Use contrasting metaphors to describe two different perspectives on the same idea.
  • Communicate an idea using metaphors and similes.
  • Experiment with breaking up sentences onto multiple lines and see how that changes the cadence and flow of your writing. Does this enhance the delivery of your message?
  • Billy Collins’ writing shows us that there is beauty in the simple. Try expressing an idea in one sentence. Revise your sentence using simple language. Does this revision make a greater impact?
Thea Froehlich is a pre-service teacher pursuing her B.Ed at the University of New Brunswick.  She loves spending time outside and staying active, especially in the form of whitewater kayaking.

GUEST WRITER JOANNE MCDONALD RECOMMENDS PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING BY RANDY RIBAY

Mar
10

Patron Saints of NothingPatron Saints of Nothing engages the reader in a journey of self-discovery with Jay Reguero, a high school student in his senior year, who lives in Michigan with his American mother and Filipino father. His father, having left the Philippines to give his children a better life when they were young, expects Jay to go to an Ivy League college to make the move seem worth the stakes it has cost him—great personal shame and grief from some family members who deem him a traitor.

Disappointingly, Jay has an estranged relationship with his father, who has few meaningful conversations with him, and a shallow relationship with his best friend, Seth, who only shares his love of gaming and playing basketball. It is only Jay’s cousin, Jun, living in the Philippines with whom Jay has a deep relationship with from a memorable vacation when he was ten and the subsequent years of letter writing, that is, before Jay stopped responding to Jun’s letters.

Early on in the story, the reader discovers that Jun had been living on the street for a few years and was shot by the police for doing drugs. While questioning his parents, Jay is introduced to President Rodrigo Duterte’s harsh campaign on cleaning up crime in the Philippines, leaving him feeling ashamed for not knowing or understanding what his Filipino family has been enduring while he has lived a fear-free existence in the United States. When an anonymous person messages Jay from a fake account, indicating that Jun’s death was not related to drugs and that he didn’t deserve to die, Jay embarks on a journey back to his “other” homeland to clandestinely uncover the truth behind his cousin’s death since no one will talk about it. From there, Jay is faced with getting in touch with his Filipino roots; developing an understanding of his father; and coming to grips with the fact that people aren’t always what they seem, which has to be okay.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good mystery or coming of age story and/or who is interested in mixed-race identity, family bonding, social responsibility, and current issues in the political sphere of the Philippines.

Joanne McDonald teaches grade 9 English, Writing 110, and Canadian Geography 120 at Oromocto High School. Over the past couple of years, she has become passionate about getting great books into the hands of her students and has reconnected with her old creative writing self.