Fourth Grade Journey

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

Sunday, July 12, 2020

One Time by Sharon Creech

How I Heard About It:
*While looking at upcoming titles on NetGalley, I saw that one of my favorite middle-grade authors had a new novel coming out and an E-ARC was available for request.  I requested and was granted a copy.  I spent my Sunday afternoon reading the new story from the one and only Sharon Creech.

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Gina stands out, both in her family and at home.  She loves her Italian  heritage and "displays" it for all to see.

2.  *Gina didn't enjoy her previous school year because of a strict teacher who didn't appreciate her creative writing and ideas.

3.  *She is hoping the new school year will be refreshing changes.  Gina is surprised with a new teacher and a new neighbor boy.

4.  *As the teacher challenges her students to stretch their thinking and ideas, Gina is pushed to new levels and a new world.

5.  *The neighbor boy, Antonio, also helps Gina realize she can be more than she ever thought.

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *Sharon Creech's newest work of fiction, brought me an afternoon of complete enjoyment.

2.  *I so enjoyed immersing myself in the world of Gina, her family, and her Italian culture.

3.  *The best character in the story had to be the new teacher Miss Lightstone who brought such life, energy, and excellent teaching ideas.  I'm going to use some of them in the coming school year.

4.  *I enjoyed the format of short chapters, creative chapter titles, and the journey that Gina and Antonio took together.

5.  *My most favorite chapter was the final chapter where Sharon worked her magic and brought everything together to warm this reader's heart.

Who Should Read It:
*As with all of Sharon's books, this one could be used in third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classrooms.  If you know of readers who are fans of Sharon Creech, then you must tell them about her upcoming story.  Happy Reading!

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

The Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn

How I Heard About It:
*This was another middle-grade title that I obtained during the #alavirutal2020 event.  Penguin Random House has a list of books readers could download from their virtual exhibit.  I knew nothing of the title or author so was excited going into the reading experience. 

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Andrea and her parents haven't been the same for the last three years.

2.  *That was when her younger brother, Francis, disappeared and was never heard from again. 

3.  *When Andrea finds out her parents are ready to get rid of Francis' things, she freaks out, and flees from their home. 

4.  *While she is on her own thinking, Andrea stumbles across a "circus" called Reverie. 

5.  *It is here she meets several other children, a mysterious leader called "The Sandman", and learns her brother may actually be inside the circus. 

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *As I've stated before in other posts, magical realism, isn't my favorite genre, but I certainly did enjoy the story. 

2.  *Andrea was a thoughtful, sensitive, and realistic character I enjoyed getting to know through the pages of the story.

3.  *The author did a tremendous job of slowly revealing what happened the night Francis disappeared. 

4.  *I found the world under the circus tents to be full of imagination, suspense, and mystery.

5.  *On the surface, the reader may not recognized the depth of important themes and life-lessons, but there is a lot to think about and discuss. 

Who Should Read It:
*The novel is just over 300 pages, the story line is a bit complex, and the pacing can be a bit slow and detailed during certain sections.  For these reasons, I would recommend the book for readers in grades five and six along with the middle-school reader.  The novel will be released in September of 2020.  Happy Reading! 

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

How I Heard About It:
*During #ALAVirtual2020, I requested and E-ARC on the Penguin Random House site.  I was excited when I received a great BIG yes.  I downloaded the book right away, and read the entire story during an airline flight I took last week.

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *ZJ's life consists of his loving parents, and his three best buddies.

2.  *His father has been a professional football player for years which brings a lot of attention to both ZJ's father and even himself.

3.  *ZJ begins to notice a change in his father's behavior.  At first he shrugs it off, but after awhile the behaviors get worse and worse.

4.  *He turns to both his best friends and his mother for support during the uncertain times.

5.  *ZJ must navigate a new "play" while trying to hang on to the "pass" of family he once knew.

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *Once I started the story, I could not stop reading; good thing I was on an airplane for three hours.

2.  *As one would expect with Jacqueline Woodson's writing, this story flowed from word to word, paragraph to paragraph, and page to page.

3.  *I could feel the heart and emotion within ZJ.  He was truly an amazing character that came to life with the pages of the story.

4.  *I was thinking the memory issues were going to go in one direction, but was surprised when the author took it in another direction.

5.  *I'm so happy the talented and inspiring Jacqueline Woodson has written a beautiful and memorable middle-grade novel for many young readers to enjoy.

Who Should Read It:
*Everyone should read this book when it comes out in September 2020.  Readers in grades three through six would be perfect for the story.  I can't wait to share the book with my fourth grade class during the upcoming school year.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

How I Heard About It:
*A story I've been hearing a lot about in the last couple of months.  I requested an E-ARC via NetGalley and was thrilled when I was approved for a copy.  I read the story while on summer vacation.

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Hannah appears to have it all.  A loving family, a talent at sports, and friends at school.

2.  *Her cousin Cal, doesn't have it all and he knows it.  His mother has died, his father is missing, and he isn't accepted by the kids at school.

3.  *After the death of his mother, Cal moves in with Hannah and her family.  This is the last thing Hannah wants and isn't sure how she is going to deal with it.

4.  *As Hannah's family adjust to having Cal in their home, Hannah realizes her parents are having issues of their own.

5.  *Cal tries his hardest to fit into Hannah's family, life, and school, but can't seem to leave his past where it belongs; in the past.

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I loved this story.  I loved the characters.  I loved the feelings.  I loved the themes.

2.   *The story was told in verse which I normally don't enjoy, but the format worked so well with Hannah and Cal's story.

3.  *The plot unfolded by alternating viewpoints of the two main characters which created one strong middle-grade tale.

4.  *The themes of family, friendship, addiction, acceptance, and abandonment were written about with grace, sensitivity, and authenticity. 

5.  *The only element in the story I was unsure about was an incident that occurred at the school toward the end of the story.  I'm not sure it was needed and may have been a bit too much.  Just my opinion.

Who Should Read It:
*This is an important story and one that should be in all classroom libraries from grades four and above.  Middle-school readers will definitely be able to relate to both Hannah and Cal's stories.  The story would be an excellent class read aloud and/or used as a book club selection.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, July 10, 2020

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

How I Heard About It:
*An Instagram blogger I follow chose this novel as his book club pick.  I did a bit of research and was intrigued by the story.  Then Oprah announced the novel as her book club selection.  I decided to order a copy and see what all the buzz was about. 

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *The author takes the reader back during the year 1969 and focuses on a group of people living in a "project" in the New York area.

2.   *Deacon, "Sportscoat", walks out into the middle of the Cause House and shoots the local drug dealer.

3.  *"Sportscoat" has had a slew of health issues over the years, including alcoholism. 

4.  *As the residents come to terms with the shooting incident, their stories are told and unfold throughout the pages. 

5.  *The lives of the shooter and the drug dealer are changed forever based on one single event. 

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I was extremely excited going into the story.  Based on the last couple of Oprah picks, I was thinking I was going to love her newest selection.

2.  *The start of the story was interesting and I was curious as to where "events" were going to go.

3.  *As the narrative introduced the neighborhood characters, my interest began to wane.

4.  *The plot was a bit slow and after the initial incident, not a whole lot happened.

5.  *The writing was beautiful, detailed, and quite descriptive.  

Who Should Read It:
*Since so many readers are giving the book 4 and 5 stars, I know there are definitely a lot of readers out there who have and would enjoy the novel.  For the reader who gravitates toward the richly written with a slow and deliberate plot, this is the novel for them.  Happy Reading! 

Rating:   3 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, July 3, 2020

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

How I Heard About It:
*I was excited to receive this book in the mail via my Twitter #bookexpedition group as I have been hearing really great things about the story.  The weather was extremely hot here today, so I hunkered in and read the entire book this afternoon. 

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Welcome to the world of Chattana where "light" is controlled by one man - the Governor.

2.  *Welcome to the world of Namwon, the prison across the river where there is no light.

3.  *Children born to parents in the prison must remain in the prison, which is the case for friends Pong and Somkit. 

4.  *Pong longs for freedom and life in the city of lights.  Even though he must leave his best friend, Pong risks his life and escapes. 

5.  *He finds safety, but when Nok, the prison warden's daughter, takes it upon herself to find Pong, his life becomes quite dangerous. 

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *As I posted on social media, the story line eerily represents the issues our country is facing at the moment. 

2.  *Even though the story takes place in a fantasy land of Thai, there are many similarities to the social and economic divide taking place in our country.

3.  *The strength and wisdom in which Pong, Somkit, and Nok displayed was inspiring and full of hope. 

4.  *I loved how there were plenty of surprises, twists and turns, and several OMG moments.

5.  *The writing was excellent and the plot was unique, fresh, and thought-provoking. 

Who Should Read It:
*There are many important themes and topics of conversations that could stem from the story.  I believe readers in grades four and above would be most appropriate for the content.  Middle-school readers would also gain much from either reading the story for themselves or having the book used as a class read aloud.  Happy Reading! 

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #336 (Writer Check-In #TWO)

Wonder Wednesday - My Second Week

*Two Wednesdays ago, I took a BIG leap in my life and decided to try my "hand" at writing.

*The last two weeks have been pretty cool as far as my new writing life goes.  I don't know if I'm doing it right, but I don't think there is a right or wrong way to write.  

*I've continued the structure I set up two weeks ago.  I'm writing Monday through Friday and writing a chapter, or what I think will be a chapter, a day.  

*One of the most frustrating aspects has been trying to get it "perfect" the first time through.  When this happens, I just think back to all the authors I've heard speak, and remember how they have shared that writers write and there will be many, many, many revisions along the way.

*Some days I enjoy the writing process more than others.  On the harder days, I give myself permission to write as badly and quickly as I need to in order to get a chapter written.  I know I don't have to write a chapter each and every day, but for me, this set-up WORKS.

*I'm still using the iPods and playing what I would consider "emotional" music which helps me put myself in a space to write the story; which overall is an emotional and tragic story.  

*Most days I write on the front porch where I can be alone, yet still see the world go by.  Some days when it is too hot and I need to be in the shade, I move to the backyard to the deck.  

*I have tried writing while watching television, but that hasn't worked out real well.  It takes me much longer to compose the story and I know the writing isn't as good.  

*Here is a breakdown of what I've worked on the last week...

Wednesday, June 24, 2020:  Chapter 5 (Friday, July 29, 2011)

Thursday, June 25, 2020:  Chapter 6 (Spring 1976)

Friday, June 26, 2020:  Chapter 7 (Fall/Winter 1993)

Monday, June 29, 2020:  Chapter 8 (Thursday, July 14, 2011)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020:   Chapter 9 (Friday, August 5, 2011)

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 (Today):  Chapter 10 (Fall 1980)

Blog Post from Wednesday, June 24, 2020

*If you read last week's post, which I have included down below, you know I've had the desire and the "idea" for a book for quite some time.  I'm not sure why now seems like the perfect time, but I'm more motivated now to do the writing more than I ever have.  

*This past week, I actually sat down and began writing/typing.  I was scared, nervous, and also excited.  

*After listening to many authors discuss their writing habits and techniques, I decided I needed to create some structure for myself to create a writing space and time that worked for me.

*I decided to write five out of seven days during the week.  At first, I was going to write for an hour a day, but then found myself creating a chapter a day so I'm going to stick with that plan; for now!

*Here is what my writing schedule looked like for the last six days...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020:  I wrote the prologue (I love a great prologue) = the year 2011

Thursday, June 18, 2020:  I wrote chapter 1, which actually became chapter 2 the next day =  the year 1973

Friday, June 19, 2020:  I wrote chapter 2, which turned into chapter 1 = the year 2011

Monday, June 22, 2020:  I wrote chapter 3 = the year 1993

Tuesday, June 23, 2020:   I wrote chapter 4 = the year 2011

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 (Today):  I still need to write the next chapter

*So far, I have been writing on my front porch with my laptop on my lap.  Go figure!

*I also put my iPods into my ears and have been playing around with some "writing music".  

*The music seems to put me in a space where I can create the story I'm trying to write.  I haven't found the perfect playlist yet, but still working on that each time I sit down and write.

*The book idea probably won't go anywhere, but I must say I'm enjoying the process and find myself thinking about the fictional story quite a bit.  

*Thanks for keeping me accountable and I'll check in next week.

*Happy Writing!!!!

 Blog Post from Wednesday, June 17, 2020

*If you follow this blog, you know I'm a READER.

*I pride myself on being an avid reader and sharing that love of books and reading with all those around me, especially my students.

*Over the years, I've had the honor and privilege of meeting and getting to know many authors from many walks of life.  To me, they are ROCK stars.

*During many conversations with students, fellow readers, teachers, and authors I get asked the question; "When are you going to write a book?"

*I started one story years ago and never got back to the writing.  To be honest, I have a couple ideas for both a middle-grade story and a story for adults.  I've just been too scared and intimidated to begin the actual process.

*Part of my problem, is I think I need to start, continue, and finish within a finite amount of time.  I should have known better since all the writers I've talked with have told me how long it took them to create their novel.

*I've decided to take the leap this summer and dip my toe in the waters of writing.  I have a general idea of a story I would like to create, but we shall see where the days take me.

*To start with, I'm going to dedicate an hour a day to the writing.  The structure will help me get started and get into a routine.

*Who knows, I may just stare at the blank screen, but the "ideas" will be swirling around my brain.

*I'm going to use my "Wonder Wednesday" posts to record the progress, or lack of progress.  Tracking my ideas here may keep me more accountable.

*I'm scared.  I'm nervous.  I'm excited.  I'm looking forward to this new "CHAPTER" in my life.