Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Weeks 9-10 (HALLOWEEN EDITION!)

October’s been all about monsters and stories that give you the heebie jeebies! What are you reading for Halloween?

Day 31: The Fall of the House of Usher

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Publication: 1839 (short story)

What It’s About: The narrator visits his ill friend, Roderick Usher. Usher and his sister live alone in a huge, rotten, creepy house. It feels very similar to the film Crimson Peak. My Gothic lit classes have covered this work to see an example of a classic Gothic setting, one which is still seen in today’s horror works: an expansive, but enclosed, space with several nooks and crannies for creepy ghouls and secrets to lurk. *shudder*

Read Online

Day 32: The Most Dangerous Game

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Publication: 1924 (short story)

What It’s About: Sanger Rainsford washes up on an uncharted island and finds that its resident, General Zaroff, hunts people. Zaroff invites Rainsford to join him in his “game.” I’ve taught this work several times, but Zaroff’s explanation of his sport still gives me the chills.

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Day 33: Beowulf

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Publication: 700-1000 (epic poem, told orally); 975-1010 (date of manuscript)

What It’s About: A classic hero’s tale, this epic poem recounts the adventures of Beowulf as he battles 3 monsters: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a dragon. This work is often studied as an example of the effect of the Christianisation on pagan literature.

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Day 34: A Monster Calls

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Publication: 2011 (YA novel)

What It’s About: A child struggles with coping with his mother’s losing battle with cancer by day, and faces a monster that sweeps him out of his room by night. If you read this story, you must get the illustrated edition by Jim Kay. The artwork is absolutely amazing!

I could not find a free version of this book online.

Day 35: The Divine Comedy

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Publication: 1472 (narrative poem)

What It’s About: Dante makes himself the main character as he travels through all the levels of hell, purgatory, and heaven in this allegorical tale of man’s journey to God. Most students study only Inferno, the account of Hell, because… well, it’s Hell and it’s exciting!

Read Online (I love this resource for Dante!!)

Day 36: The Phantom of the Opera

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Publication: 1910 (novel)

What It’s About: The Palais Garnier Opera House is said to be haunted by a killer ghost… but it’s actually a hideous but talented musician lurking in the shadows of the building. He preys on the young and impressionable Christine, who believes him to be the Angel of Music. The Phantom in the book is more murderous and less cuddly than the one in the musical.

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Day 37: Dracula

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Publication: 1897 (novel)

What It’s About: An Eastern European vampire wants to move to England to make a legion of vampires. I’m reading this book for the first time right now–so far, it develops a creepy mood beautifully. While looking up information on this book, I found that this is an example of invasion literature, a movement in British literature that popped up in the late 19th century leading up to WWI. I love seeing how political climates (in this case, the fear that outside forces will invade England and change English culture) influence the arts!

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These are part of my 2017-2018 project for my classroom: give book talks every day (or nearly every day), and letter a quote from each book on the board! I want to share examples of classic literature/good books with my students, with the hope that they’ll find beauty in words. Leave a comment if  you’ve got a good book suggestion!

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Weeks 7-8

Over these weeks, I was transitioning from American regional works to embracing October and giving book talks about famous spooky stories. Stay tuned for weeks 9-10 for some fun books and stories for Halloween!

Day 25: All the Pretty Horses

This is still the only Cormac McCarthy book I have read, and I was surprised by it. After watching No Country for Old Men and The Road, I expected to read a sordid tale of cowboys. Instead, I found a romance written in a style reminiscent of Faulkner.

Day 26: All the Light We Cannot See

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The physics teacher had some qualms with this quote, but I still think it’s lovely. Although neither American nor horror, I suggested this work because many of my learners expressed an interest in WW2 and historical fiction.

Day 27: Rip Van Winkle

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I don’t think I would have known about this story if it weren’t for Wishbone. That adorable dog taught me a lot about major literary works, and unfortunately there’s no equivalent for kids today (that I know of). Hence, why I’m doing daily book talks.

Day 28: Joy Luck Club

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I hate that I had to rush this one. I love this line.

Day 29: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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Yes, I recycled the “Washington Irving” lettering from two days ago… I’m a busy teacher! Lettering takes time!

Day 30: Frankenstein

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Did you know that Mary Shelley created this story as part of a spooky storytelling contest among her friends?

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Weeks 5-6

Because I work at a PBL school, my weekly schedule can get pretty weird depending on where we are in a project. Weeks 5-6 of the school year were part of our transition from Project 1 to Project 2, so I had to give up some English days to cover things like presentation etiquette and practice presentations. Our second project of the year covers American regions, so I continued presenting works from various parts of the US.

Day 20: Brown Girl Dreaming 

I adore this book of autobiographical, narrative poetry. This is a good entry into poetry for readers who are intimidated by it. It tells the story of Woodson’s youth during the Civil Rights era as she and her family moved through the Midwest, South, and Northeast.

Day 21: The Bean Trees

This book surprised me. On the surface, it seemed like a piece of “chick lit”: a young woman gets tired of living in her tiny town and seeks adventure by driving out west. When she makes a pit stop in Oklahoma, someone drops a baby in her car and vanishes. She takes the baby with her and finally settles in Arizona when her car breaks down. It sounds like a Lifetime movie. But this book has a sense of humor as the narrator navigates through her new parenthood, and grapples the topic of undocumented immigration when she makes her new family in Arizona.

Day 22: Dandelion Wine

A few years ago, I had a student who was terrified of growing up. All the adults in her life either pressured her about growing up or told her (truthfully) that growing up sucks. By the time she got to me in the 9th grade, the transition into high school had completely shaken her. I suggested that she read this book, the story of a boy who realizes that childhood and life will end one day, and she loved it. A lot of things happened that school year to give her more confidence about her place in the school and life, and I’d like to say that this book was one of them.

Day 23: The Great Gatsby

Yes, I realize I got the quote wrong. It should be “Can’t repeat the past?…” But I was going off memory and lettering while the IT Specialist was talking to me about some student concern. I didn’t realize until the end of the day. Oh well… It still applies to Gatsby.

Day 24: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Another book that surprised me. This is an beautifully written work of YA literature. I love the writing style, and it’s got a touch of the surreal: it’s the story of a girl born with wings. It feels like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with the way it describes the history of her family, and like Chocolat with the way it shows how her family settles in a new town in the Northwest. It’s got a touch of romance for teens, and a touch of melancholy for adults.

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Week 4

Life got busy. The lettering and Instagram went on, but my blog got neglected. I’ll be updating all weekend! 

Week 4 was the week of September 11. School was officially in full swing, and everyone was in the weeds. This was the week when I learned that I need to keep my boards simple. All my morning meetings cut it too close to the start of class for me to have an intricate typographical masterpiece.

Day 15: Leviathan Wakes 

I haven’t read this book, but the math teacher has. He’s a good source for sci-fi literature, a genre I’m still unsure about, but which my STEM students crave.

Day 16: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

I was pleasantly surprised when my students smiled and laughed over the story of Tom and the fence. Mark Twain does it again!

Day 17: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

One of my favorite books. I read this when I was feeling disillusioned with teaching, and it reminded me why I love working in education.

Day 18: O Pioneers!


I haven’t read this books either… but as my students are in the middle of a regional project, I thought Willa Cather was appropriate. Plus, there’s a pretty cool plaque for this book on the New York Library Walk .

Day 19: Seraphina

I don’t like many YA books, but I enjoyed this one because it seems to try to explore race politics through dragons. I love dragons.

Literary Whiteboard Lettering, Week 3

It’s always the short weeks that feel the longest.

With Labor Day off, I only had 4 boards to do this week. And I felt rushed through 3 of them. Now that we are getting deeper into the school year, I’m feeling time and obligations pulling me in every direction. The time I spend lettering in the morning is helping me stay grounded.

This week’s boards:

Day 11: Flowers for Algernon 

Day 12: Oliver Twist

Day 13: The House on Mango Street

Day 14: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride board was the only one that I actually had time to perfect this week! Love that one!

Favorite thing this week was hearing students and teachers share their opinions of the books and authors they’ve read from this week’s boards. I’m loving how much this project is encouraging discussions about Books!