Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wonder Wednesday #289 (#KidsNeedMentors)

Wonder Wednesday - 
Connecting Readers and Writers

*During the 2018/2019 school year, I heard about the #kidsneedmentors program.  I submitted my name but I was missed the deadline, but was told to apply again for 2019/2020.

*After submitting my name/class for this current school year, I was thrilled to learn that my students would be paired with a writer.

*I was even more thrilled when I learned it was going to be Sally J. Pla.

*On Wednesday, October 16th we had our second Skype visit with Sally.  My writers had worked on a piece of writing called "The Best Part of Me".  We spent some of the time sharing our writing with Sally and getting her feedback.

*Sally also shared her own version of this writing assignment with the class.  We loved hearing what Sally wrote about the best part of her.  She created a riddle about her HEART.

*Some of our time was also spent just talking about books, reading, and other various topics.

*Even after two visits, I can tell my fourth graders are enjoying the time with Sally and gaining so much information and learning that I would never be able to provide.

*Here are some images of our time with author Sally J. Pla...


Monday, October 21, 2019

An Inside Look #111 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Jess Redman
(Author of The Miraculous)

*During the summer of 2016, I added this feature to the blog which was called "Season #ONE".  This first season ran from June of 2016 to March of 2017.  

*I started up the interviews again in June of 2017.  It was great to get back to Season #TWO.  This season ran throughout the summer.  

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

*The next season (season #FOUR) of interviews took place during the summer and fall of 2018.  With each interview I became more and more impressed with the authors I was having interactions with.  

*Season #FIVE ran during the 2018/2019 school year.  I took a little break at the start of June 2019.  

*During my summer 2019 vacation I continued a series of interviews in which I put under the heading of Season #SIX.

*To kick off my 29th year of teaching, I'm adding Season #SEVEN with a whole new season of authors, books, and interviews.  

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

*This is the EIGHTH interview in which I'm calling Season #SEVEN.  

*Thank you to Jess Redman for being the One-Hundred Eleventh author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first One Hundred Ten interviews…

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

Interview #81 with Tony Abbott (Author of The Great Jeff)

Interview #82 with Susan Ross (Author of Searching for Lottie)

Interview #83 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Caterpillar Summer)

Interview #84 with Rebecca Ansari (Author of The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly)

Interview #85 with Ali Standish (Author of August Isle)

Interview #86 with Shaun David Hutchinson (Author of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried)

Interview #87 with Greg Howard (Author of The Whispers)

Interview #88 with Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Author of Shouting at the Rain)

Interview #89 with Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Author of One for the Murphys)

Interview #90 with Laurie Morrison (Author of Up for Air)

Interview #91 with Jody J. Little (Author of Mostly the Honest Truth)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

Interview #92 with John David Anderson (Author of Finding Orion)

Interview #93 with Lisa Thompson (Author of The Light Jar)

Interview #94 with Keith Calabrese (Author of A Drop of Hope)

Interview #95 with Alicia D. Williams (Author of Genesis Begins Again)

Interview #96 with Kim Ventrella (Author of Bone Hollow)

Interview #97 with Natalie Lloyd (Author of Over the Moon)

Interview #98 with Cynthia Lord (Author of Because of the Rabbit)

Interview #99 with Tina Athaide (Author of Orange for the Sunsets)

Interview #100 with Elly Swartz (Author of Give and Take)

Interview #101 with Amy Rebecca Tan (Author of A Kind of Paradise)

Interview #102 with Varsha Bajaj (Author of Count Me In)

Interview #103 with Laura Resau (Author of Tree of Dreams)

SEASON #SEVEN (2019/2020)

Interview #104 with Laurel Snyder (Author of My Jasper June)

Interview #105 with Lisa Bunker (Author of Zenobia July)

Interview #106 with Jasmine Warga (Author of Other Words for Home)

Interview #107 with Barbara Dee (Author of Maybe He Just Likes You)

Interview #108 with Graham Salisbury (Author of Banjo)

Interview #109 with Donna Gephart (Author of The Paris Project)

Interview #110 with Jake Burt (Author of The Tornado)

*Jess Redman was kind, gracious, and giving with her answers to the questions.  It is an honor to post her responses here on the blog. 

*Thank you Jess for writing this incredible and thought-provoking book.

*Here is my book review...

The Miraculous 

by Jess Redman

 (July 30, 2019)

How did you come to know Wunder?
Wunder and the very beginnings of his story came to me together. I knew that he was a boy who believed in the extraordinary and that he had lost someone very special but that was all the plot I had.
I thought about Wunder for many months before I started to write—what his parents were like and how they had raised him, what he loved and what he was afraid of, why he was so interested in miracles and what exactly a “miracle” was to him. I wrote some of his memories, the ones that he would have kept in his journal, but mostly I just thought about Wunder until he became real enough for me to write about.

What do you think is his most admirable quality?
I think Wunder’s most admirable quality is his sensitivity, which some people mistakenly view as a weakness. Wunder’s sensitivity allows him to feel compassion for those around him. It connects him to the natural world, and it leads him to ask deeper questions about meaning and emotion. His deep emotions feel overwhelming sometimes but they are guiding him to healing and to a greater understanding of himself and his loved ones and his world.

Is there anything you wish Wunder would have changed or done differently in his story?
I love this question. I’ve heard from readers about things they wish Wunder or his parents—especially his parents—would have done. But, as in real life, characters in stories don’t always do the right thing or the best thing.
Something I wished so often as I wrote was that Wunder would really talk to his parents, that he would open up and be direct and clear about how he felt and what he needed from them. Wunder doesn’t do that, not until the very end. For much of the story, he’s too confused and too afraid of hurting his parents more.
Readers have expressed frustration that Wunder’s parents were so distant when Wunder needed them, and I know that can be hard to read. I do think it’s important to remember that this story takes place over one month and that this is sometimes the reality for kids after a family loss or tragedy. Wunder’s parents love him very much, and they do eventually come to a place of healing as a family but it isn’t a straight or perfect path.

What do you think Wunder can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?
Wunder faces a very particular grief, but my hope is that his story offers comfort and light to readers who have experienced all sorts of losses. I hope they will see how Wunder is able to find support and friendship in new places. He faces feelings that seem overwhelming and asks big questions. And he ends his journey in a place of love and remembrance.

How did you research Wunder and the circumstances he found himself in?
When the seed of this idea came to me, I was actually going through a difficult pregnancy and the fear of loss was constantly with me. At the same time, I had several dear friends who were grieving and then newborn nieces in the NICU.
As a therapist, I’m no stranger to working with loss, so those experiences also informed the story. I read books on infant loss and sibling loss and did online research, and I cried often.
I also did a lot of research on the World Tree and on different “miraculous” events throughout history and in present day, sometimes using local newspapers like Wunder does.

 Do you and Wunder share any similarities?  
 Quite a few, I think. I was a sensitive kid, like Wunder. I journaled a lot, and I was very interested in faith and what people believed and why they believed it. Wunder is naturally more optimistic and extroverted than I am, although we only get glimpses of that in this story. He’s also much more dedicated and methodical in his interests. I always wanted to be fully invested in one topic, the way Wunder is about miracles, but I’m a lot more scatterbrained!

What was the hardest scene to write about Wunder?
Two scenes stand out to me. The first is chapter two. This scene is both an introduction to Wunder at age 11 and a dismantling of who Wunder has been prior to this point. Wunder’s sister has passed away and with her loss, Wunder gives up on his belief in the magical and the extraordinary. It was heartbreaking to have him pack up the treasures he had collected over the years, including his journal.
Then there’s a scene toward the end where Wunder finds out that someone he has come to trust—the maybe-witch—might not be what she seems. Before this moment, Wunder had started smiling again. He had started sharing entries from his collection of miracles. He had found hope. So it was very hard to snatch that hope away, to leave Wunder confused and hurt again, and for his parents to not understand and not be able to offer him what he needed in that moment.
These are some of the most pivotal moments in the story, however—the darkness before the light. That made it easier—to know how it would end.

Who do you think was his biggest supporter and why?
While the witch is a source of hope and new perspective, I think it’s Faye who ends up being Wunder’s biggest supporter. Faye is her own person, and she doesn’t always have the greatest boundaries; she insists on calling Wunder by a nickname, and she follows him when he says he’d rather be alone. But Faye immediately senses that something in Wunder has changed and that the two of them are connected by their losses.
Faye talks to Wunder about his sister. She isn’t afraid to be around him, she isn’t afraid of saying the wrong thing, and she realizes that Wunder needs what she needs—to grieve and to be supported and to find hope. Without Faye’s curiosity and passion, Wunder’s story would have been very different.

Why do you think young people, like Wunder, believe in “miracles” more than adults sometimes do?
Oh, I love this question too. Here’s a memory I have: My daughter is two, and I take her for a walk by the nearby river. She points to everything—grass, sunlight, shadows, a blue heron, crabs, squirrels, pebbles. She asks about everything. She is amazed by everything. And so, I am too.
When we’re young, everything is new and so everything is possible. There is no impossible. But as we get older, a line is drawn—a line that gets more and more sharply defined as we get older and convince ourselves that we have all the answers.
What I love about middle grade stories is that the line between possible and impossible, between the ordinary and the miraculous, is still blurred and that, I firmly believe, is a good thing. I quote Mary Oliver in the epigraph of The Miraculous, and I’ll quote her again here, “Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.”

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

It is now nearly a year after the events of the story. In my mind, Wunder, Faye, and Davy have become fast friends who spend much of their free time together. Wunder and Faye’s families both attend Mariah Lazar’s grief group. The Tree is still blossoming and the people of Branch Hill are still gathering together and remembering and growing closer. There is sadness some days, particularly as the anniversary of Wunder’s sister’s death approaches, but there is also joy and new friendships and Wunder is looking forward to the changing of the leaves this year.

Jess Redman has wanted to be an author since age six, when her poem “I Read and Read and Read All Day” appeared in a local anthology. It took a little while though. First, she did things like survive middle school, travel around the world, become a therapist, and have two kids.

But then finally, her childhood dream came true! Her middle-grade debut, THE MIRACULOUS, will be published by FSG/Macmillan on July 30, 2019. Her second middle-grade novel, QUINTESSENCE, will be out on July 28, 2020. You can find her at

In the tradition of heartwrenching and hopeful middle grade novels such as Bridge to Terabithia comes Jess Redman's stunning debut about a young boy who must regain his faith in miracles after a tragedy changes his world.
Eleven-year-old Wunder Ellis is a miracle-collector. In a journal he calls The Miraculous, he records stories of the inexplicable and the extraordinary. And he believes every single one. But then his newborn sister dies, at only eight days old. If that can happen, then miracles can’t exist. So Wunder gets rid of The Miraculous. He stops believing.
Then he meets Faye―a cape-wearing, outspoken girl with losses of her own. Together, they find an abandoned house by the cemetery and a mysterious old woman who just might be a witch. The old woman asks them for their help. She asks them to believe. And they go on a journey that leads to friendship, to adventure, to healing―and to miracles.
The Miraculous is Jess Redman’s sparkling debut novel about facing grief, trusting the unknown, and finding brightness in the darkest moments.

Redman explores faith, the intertwined nature of sorrow and joy, and the transformative process of grief through Wunder’s eyes in a part-fantasy, part-realistic adventure with genuinely humorous moments…Layered, engaging, and emotionally true.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Redman’s gorgeous debut uses a cozy world of bright characters to tackle themes of death, grief, and doubt with gentle compassion and a light touch…a moving lesson for young people learning to cope with both the good and the bad that life has to offer.” —Booklist

"A stunning story expressing the complexities and mysteries of love and death in all of its light and darkness. A beautifully rendered and meaningful read for young readers asking deep questions." —Veera Hiranandani, author of Newbery Honor-winning THE NIGHT DIARY

"Filled with longing, love, hope, and wisdom, THE MIRACULOUS is a small miracle of a book." —Alison McGhee, author of SHADOW BABY and the NYT Bestseller SOMEDAY

"Exquisitely crafted, serious, yet woven through with wry humor, this story's miracles are its fierce and tender characters. I loved this extraordinary debut." —Leslie Connor, author of the National Book Award Finalist THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE