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Read Outside the Margins: Chapter Three

From Vietnam, to Chile, to outer space, the third and final chapter of Read Outside the Margins is taking you to far off places! Travel across the globe with beautifully illustrated adventures, tales that will touch your heart, and stories that will show you the world as you’ve never seen it before. Grab your suitcase, take the quiz below, and get ready to explore new sights and cultures with a book just for you!


The Name Jar - Yangsook Choi (picture book, preschool)
I loved reading this sweet story with my students when I worked at a preschool. When Unhei arrives at school in the U.S. for the first time, she’s surprised to find that she’s expected to pick a new American name! Unhei’s journey to find home and comfort in a new land, while still cherishing her Korean heritage, will introduce kids to concepts like immigration, culture, and identity.


Esperanza Rising - Pam Muñoz Ryan (chapter book, late elementary school)
I could not get enough of historical fiction when I was a kid -- there’s something magical about traveling back in time through text. Author Pam Muñoz Ryan uses her writing to tell a story inspired by her own grandmother’s past, moving from wealth and status in Mexico to poverty and hardship in a labor camp in California. Although the book has some serious themes, it remains an accessible and engaging read, and tells an immigration story that often goes untold.


The Boy and the Bindi - Vivek Shraya (picture book, elementary school)
My heart swelled with each beautifully illustrated page of this story. Vivek Shraya tells the story of a boy who becomes enamored with his mother’s bindi. Rather than enforcing the strict gender code that bindis carry, his mother opens up the cultural significance of the bindi, allowing him to feel connected to his history and explore his sense of self.


Dawn - Octavia Butler (novel, high school)
My absolute favorite kinds of sci-fi books are ones that reimagine what what aliens can be -- and Butler is the master of this kind of reinvention. Dawn takes place on a biological spaceship circling the moon where the Oankali aliens have rescued a group of humans from the crumbling earth. The book tackles complex questions of what it means to be human, how place interacts with one’s humanity, and what it means to consent in an environment of manipulation. It’s not a light read, but it will have you thinking for days after you close the spine.


Ten Women - Marcela Serrano (novel, middle school)
What do a nerdy teen, a middle aged social pariah, and a housekeeper have in common? It might be more than you think. Ten Women tells the stories of ten women who represent the different demographics of Chile who are brought together by their therapist to share their life stories. Through each tale, links, and threads are made between the women to paint a broader picture of the variety of unique lives of Chilean women.

What We All Long For - Dionne Brand (novel, high school)
I’ve never been to Toronto, but Dionne Brand brings this bustling multicultural city to life in a such a real way that I feel like I’ve lived there myself after reading this book. This haunting and heartbreaking novel follows the interconnected stories of four twentysomethings caught between cultural worlds and struggling with their immigrant identities. Brand weaves separate narratives together so skillfully that these stories will stick with you long after the cliffhanger conclusion.

Thank you for following us on our journey through Read Outside the Margins! If you're just joining us, the goal of Read Outside the Margins is to shine the spotlight on stories that students from all walks of life can connect with and actually want to read. You can read more about our mission here.

From growing up, to family bonds, to trips around the world, we hope that you found at least one new story to make part of your life.  



Read Outside the Margins: Chapter Two


Sometimes a family is two parents and their 2.5 kids, and sometimes it’s a group of super-powered teens and a dinosaur. Not everyone’s relatives look like the Bennet bunch or the Addams clan, so we're bringing a diverse range of family-centric stories to the table. With stories of tight-knit families growing into their shared future, fractured families finding solace in one another, and found families redefining what “home” is, our list has there is something for everyone. Find out which book is your perfect match with the quiz below!

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Tar Beach - Faith Ringgold (picture book, preschool)
Ringgold’s picture book is a love letter -- to New York, to family, and to the magic of childhood itself. My mother and I read this story all the time when I was young, and I was just as enchanted reading it for this blog as I was back then. For a fun activity, check out Ringgold as she reads her own work here


Abuela - Arthur Dorros and Elisa Kleven (picture book, preschool) 
I never read any of Elisa Kleven’s books when I was a kid, but when I discovered her illustrations a few years ago, I instantly fell in love. Her brilliant combinations of color and pattern are the perfect pair to Arthur Dorros’ magical story about Rosalba and her beloved Abuela. Follow along as the two take flight and explore the sights and sounds of New York City from the sky -- and don’t miss the chance to practice your Spanish at the same time!

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Cloudia & Rex - Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas (comic book, elementary school) 
The power of the gods in fun-sized packages! Cloudia & Rex follows siblings Cloudia and Rex as they set off on a road trip with their newly widowed mother. When the gGods bestow their powers upon the sisters, they are flung into a journey of discovery, sacrifice, and reconciliation. Ultimately a story about the power of family and healing, I found myself laughing at their uniquely teenage problems, and tearing up at their ultimate dedication to one another.


Runaways - Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, and Takeshi Miyazawa (comic book, middle school)
When your parents turn out to be super-powered evil masterminds, your friends become your family. From alien powers to a telepathic link with dinosaurs, the group of friends grapples with how to use the powers passed down to them to undo the chaos their parents created. Despite existing in a world of wizards and aliens, the comic is one of the most realistic depictions of found family that I’ve encountered, dysfunctions and all.


Fun Home - Alison Bechdel (graphic novel, high school) 
Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home has become a classic -- and rightly so. The autobiographical story tracks Bechdel’s journey coming into her lesbian identity against her father’s downward spiral with his own identity as a gay man. The “tragicomic” broke my heart and put it back together so many times with it’s starkly honest portrayal of internalized homophobia, mental illness, and parent-child relationships. Once you finish the book, you can relive the whole thing with the Original Broadway Cast Recording.


The Inexplicable Logic of My Life - Benjamin Alire Sáenz (novel, high school)
Seventeen-year-old Salvador knows who he is -- or at least he thinks he does. But when tragedies strike both his own family and that of his best friend Sam, Sal is sent into an identity-crisis tailspin. Surrounded by a wonderful cast of characters, from his gay adoptive father to his beloved grandmother, Sal grapples with grief, masculinity, and identity before ultimately redefining what it means to be a family. Once I dove into Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s poetic writing, I could hardly put this book down.

The goal of Read Outside the Margins is to shine the spotlight on stories that students from all walks of life can connect with and actually want to read! Read more about our mission here! Don’t miss the rest of the series, catch up on Chapter 1!




Read Outside the Margins: Chapter One


The first response that pops up when you Google “coming of age books?” is The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger’s novel features the famous Holden Caulfield as he wanders 1940s New York City, turning a cynical eye on everything and everyone he interacts with. While Holden’s story has become a staple in English classrooms all over the country, we are here to open up the world of coming of age stories to include tales that provide new and refreshing points of view. There are many perspectives when it comes to growing pains and it’s time for a refresh on the spotlight.

The goal of Read Outside the Margins is to shine the spotlight on stories that students from all walks of life can connect with and actually want to read! Read more about our mission here!

We dug a little deeper to create a reading list that’s ripe for the picking. From being true to who you want to be to the courageous stories of standing up for what you believe in, our book list has something for just about everyone.

Take the quiz below to find your perfectly paired book match! 


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Radiant Child - Javaka Steptoe (picture book, preschool)
Step into a vibrant New York City as imagined by Steptoe in this biography of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat is one of my all-time favorite artists, so I was thrilled to discover this picture book that introduces kids to his uniquely beautiful art, and celebrates the Haitian-Puerto Rican ethnicity that impacts his work. This story reminds us that art doesn’t have to be neat, clean, or inside the lines to be beautiful!

For a fun post-read activity, encourage kids to make their own masterpieces inspired by Basquiat’s works. If you can, take a trip to the museum to see his art in person -- try the Whitney in New York or the Broad in LA!


El Deafo - Cece Bell (graphic novel, elementary school)
Introducing El Deafo, the world’s first deaf superhero! In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Cece imagines herself as the superpowered El Deafo to cope with the frustrations of being the only deaf kid in a hearing person’s world.

I’ve spent some time studying American Sign Language, so I was so pleasantly surprised to stumble across a kid’s book with a deaf main character. Cece brings a unique deaf perspective to traditional themes of friendship and belonging, and brings the story to life through a graphic-novel styled book. Use El Deafo to introduce kids to concepts of deafness and difference, to talk about healthy friendships, or if you just need a good giggle!


Lola Levine Is Not Mean - Monica Brown (chapter book, middle elementary school)
Spunky Lola Levine just wants to play her favorite sport -- soccer! But when she gets a little too competitive at recess and accidentally injures her friend Juan, she must find a grown-up way to deal with the unpleasant consequences.

In this charming chapter book series, Monica Brown brings Lola Levine to life. This pick made my list because of the wonderfully casual way Brown weaves in Lola’s multi-ethnic Jewish and Latina identity, emphasizing its importance to Lola without making it a source of tension in the plot.


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The Witch Boy - Molly Ostertag (middle school, graphic novel)
In a hidden world of shapeshifters and witches, Aster finds himself stuck in the middle. Despite the pressures of tradition all around him to grow into his shapeshifting powers, Aster can’t help but be drawn to the teachings of witchcraft. But there’s one big barrier: magic is only meant for girls.

As a long-time fan of Molly Ostertag, I was over-the-moon excited about this beautifully drawn gender-binary breaking story. Not only does it offer kids and teens representation of gender role exploration, but it acts as a mirror for adults to examine their own implicit biases about gender that they might be imposing on the Asters in their classrooms and homes.



Does My Head Look Big in This? - Randa Abdel-Fattah (middle school, novel)

When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full time, she is faced with an onslaught of opinions, reactions, and taunts. The biography follows Amal’s decision to stay true to her faith and her decision in the face of the minefield that is the social world of high school.

This novel explores issues of identity, growing up, and managing social interactions, all threaded together with Amal’s decision to wear the hijab. It brings the experience of a young, Muslim woman into focus in a way that many students, including myself, can relate to and learn from.



The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Emily Danforth (high school, novel)
When rough and tough Cameron Post’s bible-thumping aunt finds out that her feelings for girls run deeper than friendship, she sends her off to a conversion camp where Cameron is faced with the reality of her identity.

This book is near and dear to my heart. While a difficult read, it was the first book I read that was centered on a queer experience -- in fact, before this book, I didn’t know that queer characters existed in books at all. This moving story pushes readers of any sexuality to understand and empathize with a varied range of LGBTQIA+ realities.




The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros (high school, novel)
Through vivid descriptions and lively vignettes, readers are pulled into the world of Esperanza as she grows up in her house on Mango Street. She faces the normal ebb and flow of getting older along with some of the harsher realities of her world.

The book was banned from many school curriculums, which automatically drew me to the story. The semi-autobiographical novel ultimately is a story of individuality and growing into yourself despite a harsh world of labeling, stereotyping, and even violence. This novel contains some graphic accounts of sexual assault, so giving students a proper warning is necessary when teaching this book.



Introducing "Read Outside the Margins"


This post was co-written by Allie Caton and Claire Nataro, Spring 2018 marketing interns at FableVision Studios.


There is nothing quite like the feeling of finding a book that truly resonates with you. A book where you feel as though you are right there, experiencing the action alongside your favorite characters. For Allie, that story was Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin—a story about alien planets and otherworldly races that felt more real than any of the human stories she had read in school. For Claire, it was Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, a deeply personal read that closely paralleled her own grandmother’s immigrant experience. 

When we found these books, we realized that an expansive world of stories had gone ignored in our English classes with reading lists chock full of classics, including names like Dickens and Fitzgerald. Now college students, we look back on the reading lists we endlessly trudged through and realize it wasn’t us, it was the list!

Read Outside the Margins was inspired by these personal experiences reading normative stories in school. Between homework and after-school activities, the books assigned in class are often the only stories that students are reading, and schools have long relied on “high literature” to expose students to a variety of stories. But no matter how different the plots of these literary classics might be, most of their characters and worlds reflect the same normative themes of the western canon.

When students can’t relate to any of the stories they are assigned, reading stops at the classroom. Incorporating reading that showcases a variety of thoughtfully written identities will help students of all races, sexualities, and genders connect with their readings as well as help cultivate empathy and respect in all students for each other’s differences.


Read Outside the Margins takes these tropes and flips them on their head. The series will highlight hand-picked stories that students can connect with and actually want to read!

Each post in the Read Outside the Margins series will feature books spanning all reading levels and age groups. Claire’s picks will be focused on books for kids in preschool through elementary school, and Allie’s picks will feature books for middle and high schoolers. We’ll give you a brief description of the book, why we chose it, and how it can be useful in the classroom! If you’re short on time, take the interactive quiz at the top of each post with your student to find your book match, and skip straight to the description of your perfectly paired book.

Follow along with us over the next month, and tweet your own picks to us at #ReadOutsideTheMargins!