Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wonder Wednesday #238 (International DOT Day)

Wonder Wednesday - Making our MARK

*International Dot Day is every September 15th.

*This day celebrates the picture book Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

*I love sharing his book with my students each year and exploring the topic of making our mark on the world.

*We enjoyed some good old fashion "dots" as we created our own DOT masterpieces.

*My learners enjoyed the celebration and were quite creative with their imaginations and creativity.

*Here is a look at the artists in action and the finished products...

Monday, September 17, 2018

An Inside Look #61 (Author Interview)

An Inside Look with Phil Bildner
(Author of the Rip and Red Series)

*During the summer of 2016, I added this feature to my 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.  

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

*This is the TENTH interview of what I'm calling Season #FOUR.  

*Thank you to Phil Bildner for being the Sixty-First author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first Sixty interviews…



Interview #53 with Preston Norton (Author of Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe)

Interview #54 with Jonathan Auxier (Author of Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster)

Interview #55 with Sharon Creech (Author of Saving Winslow)

Interview #56 with Stacy McAnulty (Author of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl)

Interview #57 with Kelly Yang (Author of Front Desk)

Interview #58 with Jennifer A. Nielsen (Author of Resistance)

Interview 59 with Christina Collins (Author of After Zero)

Interview #60 with Eric Walters (Author of Elephant Secrets)

*I remember when I read the first book in the "Rip and Red" series called A Whole New Ballgame.  I was amazed at how good the story was and how the author truly knew what kids were like.  It was even more cool when I had the chance to meet Phil in person.  He does not disappoint.  Some of my classes have been lucky to Skype with Phil about one of the novels in the series.  It was sad to learn that there would only be four books in the story of these incredible boys, but they are four books that I always highlight in my classroom.  

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

*Here is a link to my review of the fourth and final story in the series...

*Thank you Phil Bildner for writing these stories for readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here...

Most Valuable Player (May 29, 2018)

Tournament of Champions (June 2017)

Rookie of the Year (July 2016)

A Whole New Ballgame (August 2015)

Rip and Red Series 
by Phil Bildner

How did you come to know Rip and Red?
That's easy. Rip and Red are based on the kids in my life. They're composites of all the kids I've come to know over the course of my existence. 

I first met them growing up in the suburbs. Then I got to know them better when I was a middle school teacher in the city. Then I got to know them even better visiting schools all over the country and world. Hanging with my nieces and nephews and all of my friends' kids has brought them even closer to me. 

We all have people like Rip and Red in our lives.

What do you think are Rip and Red's most admirable qualities?
I love the way they look out for one another. 

Sadly, there are still far too many people in our culture who subscribe to an archaic mindset that believe boys should act a certain way and shouldn't engage in certain behaviors. This unenlightened segment possesses a warped perception of what it means to be man. Unfortunately, this world and worldview is a breeding ground for toxic masculinity.

Rip and Red debunk this backwards and broken way of thinking. Through their actions and words, the boys demonstrate how all men should behave, how all humans should behave. They are kind, sensitive, genuine, and true.

Is there anything you wish they would have changed or done differently in their story?
Yes and no.

Whenever I re-read one of my books, I'm always reading it with a critical eye. Not entirely, but at least in part. I'm constantly questioning the way I crafted a scene or developed a character. Without getting into specifics, there are definitely places where I think I could have explained things more clearly or developed an idea differently and more effectively.

But overall, no. Taken as a whole. I love the Rip and Red relationship and friendship. Over the course of the four books, I think readers have a clear sense of who these characters are, what they mean to one another, and what they mean to me.

What do you think the boys can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what they went through?
We often talk about books being mirrors and windows and sliding glass doors, and when we do, it's important we drop the footnote and credit Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop for the concept. 

I was very mindful of this when I was writing the series. I wanted kids -- all kids -- to see themselves or perhaps better versions of themselves in Rip and Red. Many kids go through similar experiences, and perhaps how Rip and Red reacted to their situations and worked through them could provide readers with guardrails, guideposts, and road maps.

How did you research Rip and Red and the circumstances they found themselves in?
More than anything, I found talking to people and engaging people was the most useful form of research.

Of course, as a middle school teacher for eleven years, I felt I had a fairly solid grasp on what inclusion, community, and empathy in a classroom looked like. Still, I spent a great deal of time speaking to educators and visiting schools since it's been quite a few years since I had my own classroom.

When it came down to getting the details -- the finer details -- I was constantly talking to and interviewing people. It was verbal exploration. That's how I learned about Avery's wheelchair for the "That's Nasty" project (A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME), Tiki's father and family (who we never actually see in ROOKIE OF THE YEAR), peregrine falcons (for the hotel room scene in TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS), and the rules of wheelchair basketball (needed in MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS).

Do you and the boys share any similarities?  


Like Rip and Red, as a kid, I was super active, loved basketball, liked being the center of attention (occasionally), and was prone to clowning around (more than occasionally). So I guess I'm still a lot like Rip and Red!

At the same time, both Rip and Red are considerate and thoughtful. They're not just nice to one another; they're kind to one another, and kindness is a lifestyle choice. I like to think I'm constantly working towards making similar lifestyle choices.

What was the hardest scene to write about them?
The next scene!

Whenever I write a scene, I always ask myself the same question: How does this scene move the story forward?

Of course, that applied to every scene with Rip & Red, but there were always many other factors I needed to take into consideration. I needed the scenes to be consistent with one another, and I needed the boys to be true to their respective characters. But the scenes couldn't be repetitive. There could be similarities -- and that's important -- but the scenes had to be interesting and engaging. They needed to possess a forward momentum that made the reader want to keep on reading.

With each next scene, that became more challenging, but I think I rose to the occasion, which is life!

Who do you think were their biggest supporters and why?
Teachers and parents, without a doubt.

A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME came out in the summer of 2015, and the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) was available months ahead of the publication. From the moment teachers and parents began reading the first Rip and Red book, I started seeing their posts and comments, receiving their messages and emails, and reading their reviews that said this is a book they had to share with their middle grade readers.

I think there are a number of reasons for this, but I often find myself going back to the same one. In many ways, the book (and series) contains an idealized version of things. Rip and Red's friendship is the beautiful friendship we wished our own kids had. Mr. Acevedo's classroom and the sense of community is genuine and what we wished we had in our own classrooms. The basketball scenes are fun and exciting, but at the same time, they're tender and inspirational. The books contain the worlds we wished we had and the ones we aspire to build.

Why do you think some young people (Rip) are able to accept and befriend others that may be different from the “norm” when other kids shun, ignore, or lash out at them?
When given the chance, I think all kids are able to befriend and accept all kids and all kinds of kids. I just think it takes some kids longer to get there, and for some of those kids, that longer journey may involve points in time where there is shunning or lashing out.

As to why this is the case, I think there are countless reasons, so it's up to us as educators and parents to help young people navigate these moments and provide them with the necessary tools to deal with them. This applies not only to the kids being less than kind, but also to the ones being targeted.

What do you think these two boys are doing as the present time?
That's such an interesting question. At one point, we were discussing the idea of a book five and book six for the series. Book five would've taken place during the summer between fifth grade and middle school, and book six would've taken place at the start of middle school. 

For book five, at summer camp, I saw Red blossoming in this new, fresh environment, but I envisioned Rip struggling being away from home. That changing dynamic would've continued in book six, when the two boys began middle school.  

In my mind, that's where the two boys still are. That's the world where I currently see them.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/17/18)

Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this idea on their site.  Here is a link to the site...
Books I Read this Past Week…

Wonderland by Barbara O'Connor

*Middle-Grade Novel (5 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley

*Middle-Grade Novel (5 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Origin by Dan Brown

*Novel Published for Adults (Abandoned this novel)

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

*My Young-Adult Novel

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

*My Middle-Grade Novel

The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

*My Novel Published for Adults

The Perfect Secret by Rob Buyea

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

*My Novel Published for Adults (Audio)

Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

*My Middle-Grade Novel