Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Joy McCullough

How I Heard About It:
*Several of my reading friends read advanced copies of this title and gave the story positive reviews.  I was excited when I saw an ARC of the book during #NCTE19 and was able to bring home a copy with me.  Today was a gray, chilly Sunday and this was an enjoyable afternoon read.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Sutton is a young girl living with her father.  She is passionate about robotics.

2.  *Luis is a young boy living with this mother.  He is passionate about writing, science, and NOT having allergic reactions.  

3.  *Sutton's parents are divorced and her mother spends a lot of time doing her research in Antarctica.

4.  *Luis' father died of cancer.  His mother is his world, but can be overprotective at times.

5.  *After Sutton and Luis' parents begin dating, these two individuals are brought together whether they like it or not.

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *This was the perfect story for a wintry Minnesota Sunday afternoon.

2.  *The short chapters, alternating viewpoints, and personable characters made for a strong middle-grade story.

3.  *I found both Sutton and Luis to be unique, interesting, and fun to read about.  They both had incredible passion and interests which made me smile on several occasions.

4.  *Joy McCullough did a tremendous job of writing about two families coming together and navigating new, and sometimes stressful, territory.

5.  *Many readers will certainly enjoy the adventures of Sutton and Luis, as single-parent families are a major part of our family structures.

Who Should Read It:
*This novel would be perfect for individual readers in grades three through six.  I could also see the story being shared as a class read aloud in those same grades.  Readers from single-parent homes would also be able to relate to the story of these two young characters.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Mananaland by Pam Munoz Ryan

How I Heard About It:
*I was able to pick up an ARC of this middle-grade novel while at #NCTE19 in Baltimore this past November.  The book will be released on March 3, 2020.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Maximiliano Córdoba (Max) is a young boy who lives for futbol with his buddies.  

2.  *Max lives with his father and grandfather and tries to get information from the two of them about the whereabouts of his mother.  

3.  *After his group of friends all join a prestigious futbol club, Max is left behind with time on his hands.  

4.  *He begins to "investigate" a family secret that involves both his father, grandfather, and maybe even his missing mother.

5.  *The answers may be found in a mysterious tower which Max isn't sure he should explore, but can't seem to help himself.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I enjoyed the story of Max, his father, and grandfather.

2.  *I also enjoyed the mystery of his missing mother.

3.  *The writing was thoughtful, intentional, and created beautiful visuals in my mind.

4.  *For me personally, the plot moved a bit slow and at times lost my attention.

5.  *As a reader, I was also a bit confused on what was actually "reality" and what may have been "magical"?

Who Should Read It:
*I'm not sure who the intended audience of this story would be.  Because of the pace of the story and the complex story line, I'm not sure young readers would find it interesting and/or a page-turner.  In my own opinion, I would guess that readers in grade six and above would be most appropriate for the novel.  I know several adult readers who have already commented on how much they enjoyed this newest work of fiction by Ryan.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   3 STARS out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #302 (Breakfast with Books)

Wonder Wednesday - Book Club in ACTION

*We had our fourth "Breakfast with Books" book club on Friday, January 17, 2020.

*We were lucky to have author Abby Cooper join us in person.

*Our fourth book club selection was Abby's third novel Friend or Fiction.

*Each member got a copy of the novel, read it on their own, and came to book club ready to talk all things "Friend or Fiction".

*We enjoyed some breakfast treats, had our novels personalized by the author, and had the opportunity to ask our questions.

*The hour flew by, Abby was awesome as always, and the readers had a terrific time!!!

Monday, January 20, 2020

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

How I Heard About It:
*I think you would have to be living under a rock if you have not heard of this novel published for adults.  Over the last few months, I have seen and read so many incredible reviews about the book.  I was lucky to get an ARC from a co-worker.  I've spent the last two days reading and was blown away by the story.  After I finished, I began to see some negative "posts" about the story, author, and content.  I'm not going to get into all of that, but just write about my own thoughts and opinions of the story.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Lydia is a wife, mother, bookstore owner, and quite content with her life in Acapulco, Mexico.

2.  *When the cartels begin to take control of the city, Lydia and her journalist husband begin to feel the stress, anxiety, and danger of the situation.

3.  *After a horrific incident at her family's home, Lydia must flee with her eight-year old son Luca.

4.  *The two of them travel many, many days and many, many miles from Acapulco to the border of the United States.

5.  *While on this journey, they face extreme danger, come across both good and bad people, and do everything in their power to survive.

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I couldn't believe what I was reading when I started the first chapter.  The events were horrific, grabbed my mind and heart, and didn't let go until I finished.

2.  *Because there was so much "hype" about the novel, I was worried it would measure up, but measure up the pages did.

3.  *I was in awe of Lydia, Luca, and the other "travelers".  They displayed strength, courage, and the utmost of love for each other.

4.  *Even though the story is a work of fiction, I found myself learning quite a bit about the social, economical, and political climate of Mexico; especially Acapulco.

5.  *As I neared the end of the novel, I found myself wanting to read faster and faster to find out what was going to happen, but I also wanted to savor the writing.  The speed got the better of me!

Who Should Read It:
*I personally would recommend the book to all adult readers.  I know there is controversy surrounding the storyline, but I think readers should give it a shot and make up their own minds.  No author and/or novel is perfect.  This is a work of fiction and that is how I read it.  I'm excited for others to read the story to hear what they think.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

An Inside Look #123 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Lindsay Lackey
(Author of All the Impossible Things)

*The first season of interviews ran from June of 2016 to March of 2017.  

*Season #two ran during the summer of 2017.  

*Season #three ran during the school year of 2017-2018.  

*The fourth season ran during the summer/fall of 2018.

*Season #five ran during the 2018/2019 school year. 

*During summer 2019, the sixth season ran.  

*The seventh season of interviews ran during the fall of 2019.  

*I'm excited to be back for season #EIGHT with brand new interviews/authors.  

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" about their novel, characters, and thoughts about the story.

*This is the THIRD interview in which I'm calling Season #EIGHT.  

*Thank you to Lindsay Lackey for being the One-Hundred Twenty-Third author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the One Hundred Twenty-Two interviews…

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

SEASON #SEVEN (Fall 2019)

SEASON #EIGHT (Winter 2020)

Interview #121 with Melissa Savage (Author of Nessie Quest)

Interview #122 with Tamara Bundy (Author of Pixie Pushes On)

*Here is my review of the Novel...

Review of All the Impossible Things

All the Impossible Things

by Lindsay Lackey

(September 3, 2019)

How did you come to know Red?  

First of all, I love the way this question is phrased because it implies that getting to know a character takes work, just like getting to know a person—and that is true! 

Years ago, a young girl walked into my head and got stuck there. She was quiet with a big interior life, and I knew she carried a lot of sadness. I didn’t know much else about this girl for a long time. And then the idea for a story about a girl in foster care came to me, and I suddenly knew where this mystery child belonged. As soon as I put my sad, imaginative little girl into the world of foster care, magic wind, and a giant tortoise, I knew I was on the right track.

After that, I simply did a lot of work to get to know Red. I got to know her by writing scenes between her and other characters. I even wrote letters to her, and journal entries in her voice to get to know her. And it was all such a pleasure because Red—Ruby—is full of such love, heartache, and magic!

What do you think is Red’s most admirable quality?

I think one of her most astounding strengths is her courage. Red is brave so often in the story. She faces the hardship of moving from house to house in foster care with a sense of determined resilience, certainly, but her true courage lies in her willingness to be vulnerable. She isn’t so willing at first—she has to learn this kind of courage. But Red wants so much to love and be loved that she decides to let people (and tortoises) in, and she responds so courageously and lovingly, even when people disappoint her. 

Is there anything you wish Red would have changed or done differently in her story?

Well, if anything, I think Red would wish I wasn’t such a mean author who put her in so many difficult situations! I’m sure Red would prefer not to be in foster care in the first place. She may even prefer not to have such a complicated relationship with the wind. But the realities of Red’s life are what make her so uniquely her. Like any of us, Red may prefer to skip the painful parts if given a choice, but ultimately she knows that pain, like grief, can strengthen us and lift us to new heights.

What do you think she can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?  

I hope that Red’s journey will offer readers honesty and hope. I hope that children who identify with Red’s situations will come to believe in their own courage, and will learn to recognize what they truly need and how to fight for it. 

How did you research Red and the circumstances she found himself in?

The circumstances of Red’s story were inspired by my own family’s experience with foster care and adoption. About ten years ago, my aunt and uncle became foster parents. Their situation was very similar to Celine and Jackson’s. It was a second marriage for them both, and they had grown children at the time, but still decided to open their home to children who needed a safe place. Much of my research came through conversations with my aunt, as well as other people in my life who are involved in foster care and adoption in some way. 

Do you and Red share any similarities?  

As a child, I had very BIG emotions. Sometimes it felt like my emotions would swallow me whole or come bursting out of me as some destructive force. The idea that Red’s emotions manifest as wind, as something that can be both destructive or soothing, is one that felt very accessible and real to me. I think a lot of kids feel things in a big way, but don’t always have the language to express their emotions successfully. I certainly felt that way, as does Red, and I love that her wind gives voice and visibility and even validity to her emotions in the story.

What was the hardest scene to write about her?

Emotionally speaking, many of the scenes between Red and Wanda were difficult to write, but particularly Red’s first reunion with Wanda. It’s a tense scene for both characters, but there is a moment in it that really defines their relationship in a heartbreaking way to me. It’s a quick moment—many readers miss it entirely—but it is fundamentally important. When Wanda first sees her daughter again after a long separation, she calls her “Ruby,” but Red reminds her that Wanda’s nickname for her has always been “Red.” Wanda then recalls how she long-ago decided that her daughter is not fancy enough to be called “Ruby,” which is why she started calling her Red instead. This moment—the idea that a parent decides their child isn’t special enough for their own name—defines so much about Red and Wanda’s relationship, and absolutely broke my heart in the process.

Who do you think was Red’s biggest supporter and why?

Ms. Anders is absolutely Red’s biggest supporter! She has been Red’s social worker for years, and as Red herself says, Ms. Anders is always there. She arrives quickly to remove Red from difficult situations. She provides candy as a form of comfort whenever Red has to change homes. And, most importantly, she recognizes and accepts Red for who she is—magic and all.

How do you think young people, like Red, are able to navigate their world when they are “torn” between their biological family and a “foster” family that may offer everything they wish for? 

I have so much admiration and respect for the many, many young people who face this difficult reality. It takes so much courage to open yourself up to another family after you’ve experienced the pain of being separated from your biological family for whatever reason. Daring to allow other people to love you is scary no matter who you are. But the important and amazing thing about love is that it always makes room, it doesn’t take room. In other words, it’s possible to love and be loved by a family that isn’t biologically your own while still loving and being loved by your biological family. With love, there’s always, always room for more love. I think anyone who understands this is better able to navigate life, no matter what it brings.

What do you think Red is doing as the present time?

I hope she’s leaning up against Tuck’s shell, reading him a book in a patch of warm sunshine; and I hope the breeze is pleasant and calm!