Fourth Grade Journey

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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Burned by Ellen Hopkins...

How I Heard About It:  I've seen the different covers for Ellen Hopkins' books over the years.  They always grabbed my attention, but I didn't know much about her or the stories.  Last weekend while I was stacking up on audio books from the library, I noticed a few of her books on the shelf.  They didn't have her first novel Crank, but did have this one which was the second book published.  I listened to it on my daily commute to and from school.  

What It Is About:  Pattyn has grown up in a religious Mormon family.  She is the oldest of many siblings.  Her family appears to be "perfect", but they have some heavy secrets behind closed doors.  Pattyn's father drinks too much and when he does he is abusive toward their mother.  When her mother becomes pregnant again, the abuse is directed toward Pattyn.  She turns toward a boy who she believes likes her.  When her father catches them together, he sends Pattyn to live with her aunt out in Nevada for the summer.  At first, Pattyn is angry about this decision, but after spending time with her aunt and being away from the family she realizes there is more to life.  She always realized this, but didn't know how to obtain it.  While in Nevada she meets another young man and they begin to grow close.  When Pattyn receives a letter from one of her sisters about what is going on back on home, she knows she must return.  Once back at home, things aren't any better, in fact they are worse.  Pattyn knows she must get out before something really wrong happens. 

What I Thought Of It:  This was an easy listen and I finished it in one week.  I didn't realize the story was written in prose until I read some online reviews after finishing it.  No wonder it was such a quick listen.  I enjoyed the story even though it was pretty depressing and heavy.  Not knowing much about the Mormon way of life, this was an interesting insight.  I enjoyed the relationship that Pattyn formed with her aunt while in Nevada.  She was the one character that was somewhat positive and gave hope to this young girl.  The ending was shocking and I didn't see it coming at all.  I still have some questions about the conclusion and hope to find some comments online to clarify a thing or two that I still have now that I finished the story.  

Who Should Read It:  The story is perfect for the high school reader.  I know that the author's books are quite popular and have sold millions of copies.  I'm sure females would be more drawn to the book than males, but there are several major characters that are male.  Young-adults can learn about the Mormon way of life; both positive and negative.  If a young-adult reader were a struggling reader, this might be a good fit because it is a pretty quick read.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin...

How I Heard About It:  I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this at NCTE15.  I remember walking through the exhibits after getting a copy and being intrigued by the cover.  My pile of books to read is ever growing but after seeing RAVE review by Colby Sharp, I found my copy of this book and got busy writing.  

What It Is About:  Thyme Owen is use to life in California.  She has to put this life behind her when her five-year old brother is accepted into a program in New York City to treat his aggressive cancer.  Thyme knows this is the right move for her family, but is sad to be leaving her home and her best friend.  Once the family relocates to New York and her brother Val starts his treatments, Thyme finds herself lost both physically and emotionally.  She makes the best of her new school, tries to get to know the new kids and "fit" in.  The  family has ups and downs with Val's treatment which brings stress to the household.  Thyme continues to keep her California friendship in check while navigating new waters with the girls at school.  She gets involved in the school show which also has positive and negative effects.  As more and more time goes by, Thyme realizes her time in New York might not be as temporary as she thought and may have to say goodbye to California altogether.  

What I Thought Of It:  I can see why Colby raved about this book so much.  I so enjoyed the story and am really thrilled I got the chance to read it before it hits shelves in April.  One element of the story that I appreciated the most was the character of Thyme.  She was well developed, authentic, and easy to relate to.  The main plot was engaging, but there were also many "mini-plots" that enriched the entire story.  The author included serious themes, light themes, and everything in-between.  It was such a rich and beautiful story line that I had a hard time putting it down each night.  Of course there was also a bit of mystery as to what the outcome would be with Val and if the family would stay in New York or return to California.  

Who Should Read It:  This will be an outstanding middle-grade novel to add to your classroom collection.  The book would make for a wonderful read aloud in grades four, five, and six.  Fifth and sixth grade readers would find great satisfaction with Thyme and her life.  It may appeal a little bit more to female readers, but I wouldn't discourage our boy readers from giving it a try.  If there is time this year, I would like to use this as a read aloud this year.  Adult readers should also give it a read because I know they will love it as much as Colby and me.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley...

How I Heard About It:  I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this middle-grade novel.  I saw it talked about on Twitter many times and it appeared on many "must-read" lists.  I tried to check it out of our school library, but it was always out.  That is a good sign.  I finally bought my own copy and finished it last night.  

What It Is About:  Ada and her little brother live with their mother in London during World War II.  Ada has a "club foot" and her mother has hidden her from the world since she was born.  She isn't kind to Ada and is a bit more kind to Jamie, but not much.  There comes a time when the children of London are being shipped out to avoid the war.  Jamie's mother sends him, but is going to keep Ada with her.  Ada decides this is the time to escape with her brother.  The two children end up with Susan Smith outside of London.  At first Susan doesn't really want these two young people, but takes them in anyway.  As the war rages on; Ada, Jamie and Susan get to know each other.  Their old lives begin to disappear and Susan creates a new one for them.  Ada learns about horses, learns how to read, and begins to use manners that were never used before with her mother.  Ada even gets involved with the war, spies, and keeping out of harm's way.  When their mother shows up, the children are torn between their old life and this new one with Susan.  

What I Thought Of It:  I read this book at the perfect time.  My next unit of study is historical fiction and I wanted to find a new read aloud to share with my fourth graders.  After reading this story, I have now found the story that I will share with my listeners.  I'm also going to recommend it to my colleagues to read to their classes as we cover the unit.  The story was beautiful written and had such a seamless flow to it.  Ada and Jamie are fascinating characters and will work their way into your heart.  I also liked the development of Susan and learning more about her life.  The book has it all and I know will be a winner with my students.  

Who Should Read It:  If a middle-grade reader were to read this book, I think they would need to be a strong fourth grade reader or in grades five or six.  I think middle-school readers would also enjoy the story.  I'm excited to share it with my fourth graders as a read aloud and think it would be well received by listeners in grades four through six.  Of course adults that enjoy top-notch historical fiction, have to read this book.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens...

How I Heard About It:  It was my turn to pick the next book for our BBC (Boy's Book Club).  Sometimes I have a book in mind and other times I'm starting from scratch.  That is what happened with this pick.  After some research online and the book store, I came across this title.  I knew nothing of it, but the cover, the title, and the reviews caught my attention.  I'm glad I picked it for our book club because it was extremely good.  

What It Is About:  Joe is a college student at the University of Minnesota.  He was thrilled to get out of Austin, Minnesota and away from his dysfunctional mother and her "loser" boyfriends.  What he wasn't happy about leaving was his younger brother who has Autism.  As part of an assignment at school, Joe goes to a nursing home to interview a man to write his autobiography.  This man has just been released from prison after spending thirty years there for murdering the neighbor girl. He has always maintained his innocence.  Joe wants to get his "true" life story and the elderly man wants to finally share the truth before he dies from cancer.  As Joe gets to know him, he begins to uncover the past through the stories the man tells him about his experience in Vietnam.  With the help of another college student, Joe begins to dig into the case that sent this man to prison.  Joe has to juggle his school work, his family life, and now trying to clear a man's name before he leaves this Earth.  

What I Thought Of It:  I loved this book.  I could not put it down.  I could not read fast enough.  The plot was unique and special.  The character was Joe was one of a kind and one that all readers could relate to.  There were so many elements of this book that I enjoyed.  The writing was excellent.  The different characters throughout the story were larger than life.  The story was about people, their relationships, and doing the right thing.  There was also a fascinating mystery that kept me guessing right up until the end of the book.  I know the other members of my book club enjoyed this story as much as I did.  The beginning of the book was stellar, the middle of the book was great, and the ending was good; just not as wonderful as the first 2/3 of the story.  

Who Should Read It:  This is the type of book that I can recommend to any reader.  It would appeal to female readers.  It would appeal to male readers.  I can't wait to share this book with all of my reader friends.  This is a bit of fictional literature and a bit of mystery.  You will not be disappointed in this incredible adult novel.  Happy Reading1  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde...

How I Heard About It:  I can't remember why, but I put this novel on my GoodReads "to read" list.  It sat there for quite some time.  During one of my visits to the local library, I came across the audio book.  I decided to check it out  and give it a try.  

What It Is About:  August is a recovering alcoholic, a high school science teacher, divorced, and a father that lost his nineteen year old son.  He is about to head out to Yellowstone National Park when his trailer breaks down.  August meets a mechanic with two young sons.  The mechanic fixes and truck and after a series of "strange" encounters, August ends up taking the boys with him on his journey to Yellowstone.  The three of them spend the summer together in the RV, in different spots in the United States, and in Yellowstone.  During this summer adventure, they get to know each other and become close.  August learns about their life with their father, and the boys learn about August and his family.  At the end of the summer, August has to return the boys to their father now that he is "free."  August goes on with his life, and the boys try to go on with their lives with a father that isn't always present for them.  Years later the three of them connect again and the boys have a life changing surprise for August.  

What I Thought Of It:  This is a hard book to review.  This was the first audio book where I didn't enjoy the narrator.  The voices he used for August and the two boys was somewhat annoying.  One of the brothers was suppose to be twelve years old when August met him, but he sounded more like a five or six year old.  I found myself getting frustrated every time the two of them would talk to each other.  I kept trying to just focus on the story itself and not get hung up on the narration.  That is kind of hard to do when you are listening to an audio book.  The plot itself was alright and an enjoyable story.  I didn't find myself emotionally connected to the story or the characters.  There must have been something I liked because I listened to all twelve CD's.  I kept looking at reviews online and so many people gave this book 4 or 5 stars.  I just didn't see it.  

Who Should Read It:  Readers that have read other novels by this author will probably enjoy this story.  In my opinion, it is a basic adult fiction story with nothing extremely special about it.  I would recommend reading the book instead of listening to the audio.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friend Friday #125 (Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon)...

Hi!  I am Jordan and I read the book/series called Hamster Princess Harriet the Invincible written by Ursula Vernon.  

I think this book/series is funny because there is a princess that gets a spell and she's a hamster.  

My favorite part in the story is she hates one prince because she likes another prince.  

The character that I liked best was the mom because she is super duper funny.  

I think the author wrote this book because she liked the story of Cinderella and wanted to create a new story that was kind of like the traditional one.   

I would recommend this book to my friends because some of them would love it as much as me especially if they like the Cinderella story.  

Reading to me is fun because it takes you on a journey and you don't even have to leave your house or classroom.  It is awesome.  

*Jordan came in not loving to read.
*She would flit from book to book, but I know she wasn't truly reading it from cover to cover.
*When I brought this new book into the room, she had her hand up first to get the copy.
*Everyday she would tell me how many pages she had read and was so happy.
*She was even more happy when she finished the book.  It was so fun to see!  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trailer Thursday #125 (I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios)...

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (Young-Adult Novel)

Life Lesson #17 (Be Positive)...

"Be Positive"

*It is Thursday and that means it is time for another "Life Lesson" video clip.

*This is such a fun and unique video.

*My students always enjoy for the humor, but are also able to grasp the meaning of it!

*I'm always trying to find ways to help my students reach their full potential.  

*Each Thursday I feature a different video with a "life lesson" in it.  

*After viewing the video once or twice, we chat a bit about it as a group.

*I then have the writers record their thoughts in their writer's notebooks.

*They can write their thoughts, reactions, connections, wonderings, learnings, or whatever is on their mind regarding the video.

*Encouragement is also given to reflect on the "message" of the clip.

*After about 5-10 minutes of writing, we listen to a few of the students share what they wrote.

*It is my hope that through these "life lessons", my students can become the best young people they can be.

Life Lessons (2015-2016)...
Lesson #1 - Be Courageous 
Lesson #2 - Be Kind
Lesson #3 - Be Courageous (part two)
Lesson #4 - Be Motivated
Lesson #5 - Be a Buddy, Not a Bully
Lesson #6 - Be Inspired
Lesson #7 - Be Spooky (Halloween Edition)
Lesson #8:  Be Kind (Kindness Retreat)
Lesson #9:  Be Shoutful
Lesson #10:  Be Happy
Lesson #11:  Be a Reader
Lesson #12:  Be Powerful
Lesson #13:  Be Merry
Lesson #14:  Be a Team
Lesson #15:  Be Giving
Lesson #16:  Be Brave (part two)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wonder Wednesday #125 (Breakfast with Books Skype Visit)...

Wonder Wednesday - Breakfast with Books #4

*On Friday, January 22nd, we had our fourth "Breakfast with Books" book club.

*Some of my fourth read A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner during December and January.

*During our book club this past Friday, we enjoyed some breakfast treats, chatted about the story, and had the chance to share our comments and ask questions with the author.

*The hour went by so quickly and we all had such a great time getting to know Phil.

*I'm so lucky that so many authors are willing to give their time to interact with my students.

*It brings the story, the book, and the author to a whole other level.

*Here are some photos from our book club…

Picture Wednesday #19 (Concert in the AIR)...

"Concert in the AIR"

*This photo came across my Twitter feed under "Fascinating Pictures."  

*The photograph caught my attention and led me to study it for a bit.

*I love the fact that all these people came together to help out this individual to enjoy whatever it is they are watching and enjoying.  How cool is that!  

*Each Wednesday we write in our writer's notebooks about a particular image.

*They can record their thoughts, reactions, connections, likes/dislikes, reminders, noticings, or anything else they would like.  

*Some of the writers choose to write a fiction story based on the picture.

*We write between five and ten minutes and then do a quick share at the end.  

*The photos always lead to lots of conversation and the sharing of ideas.  I try to get them to write first and then we can share what we wrote and what we were thinking.

*The writers are really enjoying writing and talking about these photographs.