Fourth Grade Journey

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

Friday, March 27, 2020

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit

How I Heard About It:
*I was excited when this middle-grade novel came my way because I had several friends who had given it pretty high marks.  Thank you to Dial Books for sending me a copy of the new book. 

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:

1.  *Meet Vivy.  She is eleven years old.  She is autistic.  She is also a baseball player.   

2.  *Well, at least she wants to be.  And it won't be easy.  

3.  *After receiving a writing assignment at school, Vivy begins writing to a major league baseball player named V.J. Capello.  To her surprise, he begins to write back.

4.  *As Vivy nagivates the world of an all boys baseball team, she shares her feelings, experiences, and thoughts with V.J.  He in return begins to share his life with her.  

5.  *Vivy finds it isn't easy to be the only girl, let alone autistic girl, on a baseball team; both on and off the baseball diamond.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *Overall, I enjoyed the story of Vivy, V.J., and their correspondence with each other.  

2.  *I'm not a huge baseball fan, and some of the "details" of the game slowed me down in the reading, but I tried not to let that get in my way.

3.  *The strong element of the story was the relationship that developed between Vivy and V.J.  I so enjoyed the letters/emails between them.

4.  *Of course no middle-grade story would be complete without the "bully" and this novel didn't disappoint in this department.  

5.  *Don't worry, there is also a wonderful peer friend to Vivy who warmed my heart on more than one occasion. 

Who Should Read It:

*I believe all young readers will enjoy this story.  If you know of a kid who loves baseball, this may be the perfect story for them.  Readers in grades four, five, and six would be ideal for the book.  I'm happy I read it and I think you will be too.  Happy Reading! 

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

How I Heard About It:
*During #NCTE19 in Baltimore I had the honor of attending a dinner by Little Brown Publishers.  It was such a wonderful evening and this novel was one that we all went home with.  It sat in my TBR pile for quite some time, but I finally got to reading the story over the last several weeks. 

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:

1.  *The story takes place in Germany 1945 after the war finally ended.  

2.  *Zofia is eighteen years old and has spent too much time in a concentration camp.  

3.  *In fact her entire family went to the concentration camp together, but of course were separated.

4.  *Some family members went to the right, while other went left.  

5.  *Now the Zofia is out of the hospital after being released from the camp, her focus is on finding her brother whom she vowed she would see again one day. 

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *When I began I was drawn into Zofia and her release from the hospital.  I was also intriqued by her goal of reuniting with her brother.

2.  *As she began her journey, I found the plot moved a bit slow and I had to work my way through page after page.  

3.  *Then the events/action would pick up and I would become more engaged.  This scenario would continue throughout the rest of the book.  

4.  *I did enjoy the focus on the human existance after the war itself.  Most historical fiction novels that center on WWII occur before and/or during the actual war.  

5.  *During parts of the story I did find myself skimming and scanning, while picking up the overall just of the plot.  Some of the details bogged me down. 

Who Should Read It:

*The novel is marketed as a young adult novel, but I actually think adult readers would enjoy the story just as much as the young adult.  Readers who enjoy historical fiction, especially WWII, will definitely want to put this on their "to be read" list.   Happy Reading! 

Rating:   3 STARS out of 5 Star

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #312 (Our FIRST Online Book Club)

Wonder Wednesday - Breakfast with Books

*Author Melissa Savage was going to join us in person on Friday, March 20th.

*She was going to be in town for author visits.  We were so excited.

*Unfortunately she had to cancel author appearances because of the virus.

*We decided a Skype visit on March 20th would be the next best thing.

*Nope:  our schools were closed as of March 16th.

*These last two weeks have been interesting to say the least.

*Melissa and I wanted to find some way for the readers to connect with her.

*We came up with the idea of hosting a Google Hangout for the readers, the teacher, and the author.

*I was excited to see many of the students that read the book join Melissa and myself.

*They had the opportunity to share comments, ask questions, and take part in a great discussion about Melissa's newest novel.

*Thank you so much Melissa.  We LOVED chatting with you!

Junk Boy by Tony Abbott

How I Heard About It:
*I'm a huge fan of Tony Abbott books.  I've loved them all.  When I saw that he had written a new story, due out in the fall of 2020, I was thrilled, excited, and full of anticipation.  Tony was gracious to send me an ARC to read and share with #bookexpedition.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Bobby Lang is a high school boy living with his father.  Well, if you can call it that.  

2.  *The kids at school call Bobby "Junk" because of where he lives.  

3.  *Bobby and his father coexist in a world that is both physically and emotionally a mess.  

4.  *His life changes when he meets another high-school students named Rachel.  

5.  *They each have their own "junk" to deal with, but together they begin to navigate a new world with a possible sense of new hope.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *When I began the book, I was surprised that the words were written in free verse.  I don't think Tony has ever done this before in previous novels.

2.  *While it took me a few pages to get use to this format; once I did I completely enjoyed this format for this story with this character.

3.  *The writing was so real and spot-on that I could actually feel myself trying to exist in Bobby's home and yard.  This wasn't always a pleasant feeling, but it shouldn't be when living in a junk yard.

4.  *Bobby and Rachel came together when they both needed a friend and as a reader I was drawn into their new friendship and wanted the best for the two of them.

5.  *The reading experience went quite quickly because of the free verse which was both a positive and a negative.  A positive because I read the entire book quickly, but a negative because I didn't want the story to be done.

Who Should Read It:
*Tony's new novel will be perfect for readers in both middle-school and high-school.  This age reader will be able to appreciate and relate to Bobby and Rachel's experience.  I also think that adult readers will also enjoy the novel and find it quite a satisfactory experience.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

How I Heard About It:
*While browsing GoodReads I came across an online friend who had read and finished this memoir.  They gave the story such high praise, that I knew I wanted to read the book.  I even chose it as our next BBC (Boy's Book Club) selection.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Jesse was one of three boys that were abandoned by their parents.  

2.  *Their yearly years were quite difficult and the boys were forced to help their father steal and beg for things they needed and didn't need.  

3.  *The brothers then spent some of their early years with their grandparents.  Life for Jesse was full of uncertainly, risks, and bad decisions.  

4.  *As a teenager he found himself wrapped up in a world of theft, drugs, and difficult situations.  

5.  *In his early years of adulthood, Jesse tried to find the right path; but this wasn't easy and took him many fails before he found some sort of peace.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I don't read many memoirs, but when I do I find myself so immersed in the life of the writer.

2.  *This memoir was well written, well developed, and flowed beautifully from page to page.

3.  *I'm always in awe of what humans must endure in their own life time.  We certainly are resistant living creatures.

4.  *Jesse story was authentic, personal, and raw.  I appreciated his honesty and ability to tell a really strong story.

5.  *As a reader, and a man, I'm always profoundly affected by the journey of other people who had to struggle, fail, and rise up before finding who they truly were meant to be.  Jesse's story makes me want to be a better human.

Who Should Read It:
*I think all adult readers will find great satisfaction with this memoir.  The writing was strong, the events unfolded in a clear and logical method, and there was a lot of powerful and emotional moments throughout the entire book.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Monday, March 23, 2020

An Inside Look #132 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Kaela Noel
(Author of Coo)

*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 TWELFTH interview in which I'm calling Season #EIGHT.  

*Thank you to Kaela Noel for being the One-Hundred Thirty-Second author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.

*Here is my review of the Novel...


by Kaela Noel

(March 3, 2020)

What do you think is Coo’s most admirable quality?
I admire Coo’s loyalty to her family members, both bird and human, and her courage as she tries to find a way to help those who are in danger.

Do you and Coo share any similarities?
I hope I have at least half as much loyalty and courage as she does.

How did you research Coo and the circumstances she found herself in?
Coo is a fairy tale at heart, and at the beginning, when I was still figuring out how to depict Coo’s world, I read a lot of folkore about children raised by wild animals—so-called feral children. Romulus and Remus, who were rescued by a wolf and went on to be involved in the founding of Rome, are probably the most famous. But there are also many legends about the ancient Assyrian queen Semiramis and how doves cared for her after she was abandoned as an infant. I had Semiramis in mind quite frequently when I began writing about Coo.

There are also modern stories of feral children. Some have been proven to be hoaxes, but others are very real and heartbreaking accounts of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Real life is not a fairy tale. I tried to balance this in my depiction of what Coo goes through.

When I was in middle school, I read The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse (1998) several times in a row. It’s a novel about a girl called Mila who is raised by dolphins for several years after a plane crash strands her alone on an island, and what happens after she is discovered and returned to the human world. I found the book disturbing—the ending is wrenching—but absolutely fascinating. As a child, I was anxious about environmental destruction and the mistreatment of animals to such a degree that I was referred to the school psychologist for counseling about it after our fourth grade unit on ecosystems. I sought out books like Hesse’s because I was eager to read books that confirmed the intuitive feeling I had that animals are actually very intelligent and emotionally complex in ways our capitalist American culture willfully avoids recognizing. 

When I set out to write Coo years later, I definitely had Hesse’s book in mind. I also knew I wanted Coo’s story to end differently than Mila’s and on a more positive note, which it does. I’ve mellowed out since I was a child—almost certainly because it is hard to survive and bear with the ecological grief otherwise.

What was the hardest scene to write about Coo?
Some of the emotional scenes towards the end were challenging, as I wanted to make sure they rang true and were impactful. I went through many drafts trying to get them right.

Why do you think humans and animals have such a special connection?
We share the same world, though at this point in time, humans have the upper hand in what effects we make on it. Animals are at the mercy of how we choose to treat them and our shared environment. It feels pretty bleak these days, but I’m hopeful that the coming generation understands just how much is at stake and treats the planet and all of its inhabitants with more reverence and compassion. Our survival depends on it. 

*Here are links to the One Hundred Thirty-One interviews...

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

SEASON #SEVEN (Fall 2019)

SEASON #EIGHT (Winter/Spring 2020)

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

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

Interview #123 with Lindsay Lackey (Author of All the Impossible Things)

Interview #124 with Tae Keller (Author of When You Trap a Tiger)

Interview #125 with Jamie Sumner (Author of Roll With It)

Interview #126 with Hena Khan (Author of More to the Story)

Interview #127 with Phil Bildner (Author of A High-Five for Glenn Burke)

Interview #128 with Leslie Connor (Author of A Home for Goddesses and Dogs)

Interview#129 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Queen Bee and Me)

Interview #130 with Jody J. Little (Author of Worse Than Weird)

Interview #131 with Jenn Bishop (Author of Things You Can't Say)