Margin Notes

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 Noella Jeong Recommends Love, Hate, & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Aug
08

As suggested by the title, this book has it all! Samira Ahmed’s debut novel is realistic fiction which will resonate with many students in your classroom. I have nothing but praise for Love, Hate, & Other Filters, and I feel that it is not only an enjoyable read but also a valuable resource to use with regard to the character development that we aim to foster in our multicultural classrooms.

Maya Aziz is an American-born Indian girl who is learning to maneuver her parents, relationships, life, and (most importantly) her own identity. While Maya’s parents are already sure that her future consists of studying medicine at their hometown college, as well as marrying the proper Muslim boy they’ve chosen for her, Maya has other dreams. She’s passionate about the arts, especially film-making, and what better place to pursue that career than New York City. As for her love life, well there is that someone special…

But when Maya’s town is suddenly rocked by terrorist actions elsewhere, she begins to question everything from society, to loyalty, to the person she truly wants to be. Much of this story is spent in Maya’s thoughts, and this style of writing feels candid and authentic.

As someone for whom multiculturalism is an integral part of family life, I have always had empathy for the many students from various backgrounds in my classes. However, it wasn’t until I read Love, Hate, & Other Filters that I began to truly understand the perspective that my own children and so many students must experience as part of their daily lives. I am so happy that in this novel I was able to find both a mirror and a window!

I am a grade 9 teacher, mother of 4, and an avid reader. I love to explore young adult fiction as a way to connect with my students and to also help guide them in their choices!