Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar

How I Heard About It:  This was another novel that came to from the publisher and I knew nothing of it, but was willing to give it a try. 

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Donut is her name and she is dealing with some major "stuff" in her life.

2.  *She lost her mother early on and now is dealing with life without her pops.

3.  *With her father gone, her Aunt Agnes has arrived in their hometown to care for Agnes.  She is ok with that, but is not alright when her Aunt shares her plan to take Donut to Boston to live with her.  

4.  *Donut and her best friend Tiny decide to come up with a plan to keep her in their little village and living life as they have come to know and enjoy.  

5.  *Donut, her family, and friends are living in 1920's and this historical fiction novel explores the issues of loss, coping, friendship, and moving forward.  

What I Thought Of It:  This was another book that most readers enjoyed while I thought it was alright.  The cover, the storyline, and the tone all felt very old fashioned to me.  This may have been done intentionally since it is a historical fiction novel.  The story was simple, but warm and full of heart.  I did appreciate the humor that was used throughout the story.  

Who Should Read It:   I'm thinking this story would be appreciated by middle-grade female readers.  I think they would enjoy Donut and her lively characteristics.  The book isn't very long.  Readers in grades four, five, and six could handle it with ease.  I've seen many positive reviews by adult readers who LOVED the story.  Give it a try.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley

How I Heard About It:  I knew nothing of this novel until it came to me via the publisher.  It is a short little novel with a true fantasy/fairy tale type story.

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *The main character in this fairy tale is a "wicked woodland fairy Nix".

2.  *The queen of the forest has left and has put the Nix in charge of protecting it from the humans.  

3.  *He tries to "trick" the intruder and in return just may be tricked himself.

4.  *He serves up a variety of "pranks and spells" while doing everything in his power to fulfill his duties.  

5.  *What might appear to be a simple fairy tale turns into something different altogether.  

What I Thought Of It:  The reviews for this little novel are really strong.  Most readers enjoyed the story.  While I thought the writing was great, I didn't fall in love with the story.  I enjoyed the beginning of it, but then the plot lost me and I found myself skimming.  Even as a child, I never did enjoy the traditional fairy tales.  There was more to the story than the fairy tale on the surface, but I'm not sure I truly took in all the story had to offer.  

Who Should Read It:   I think children that enjoy reading fantasy and fairy tales would appreciate the story.  It is not long so readers in grades three through six would be able to easily handle the book.  Each reader will comprehend the content in their own way.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars!

The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell

How I Heard About It:  I saw several write-ups of this novel and thought I would give it a shot.  I decided to download it via Audible and have been listening to it during my commute to and from work.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Suzy Smith is living her life with her parents when a train shows up in the middle of her living room.  Her parents slept right through it. 

2.  *She boards the train which is called The Impossible Postal Express.  It is here she meets an assortment of odd little trolls who run the train.

3.  *Suzy becomes the Deputy Post Master and is challenged with her first delivery.  At first she is excited, but soon becomes very nervous when she comes face to face with the evil Lady Crepuscula.  

4.  *The package she delivered to Lady Crepuscula begins "talking" to Suzy and "begs" her to take him with her and away from the evil lady.  

5.  *This is just the beginning of a wild journey aboard a train to unique and unreal places.  Suzy is on an adventure of a lifetime and will risk her life to complete the mission.  

What I Thought Of It:  The story was fun.  The story was fast-paced.  The story was full of adventures, mysteries, and surprises.  It has been awhile since I have read a middle-grade fantasy so I was ready for the change in pace.  The action started in the first chapter and caught my attention.  The story-line may have slowed down a bit in the middle of the story, but that could also be that I'm a 51 year-old reader as opposed to a young child reading/enjoying it.  Suzy Smith was fun to read about and such a spunky character.  The writer certainly does have a wild imagination.  

Who Should Read It:   The book is long at almost 400 pages so I'm thinking that the story could be read by a fifth and/or sixth grade reader.  If you know of a strong reader in fourth grade with good stamina, they could handle it as well.  Middle-school fantasy lovers would also enjoy the story of Suzy and her friends.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Wonder Wednesday #242 (Game Changer)

Wonder Wednesday - Book Access for ALL Kids

*When I first heard that my friends Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp were working on a book together, I was thrilled.

*I couldn't image two better people to collaborate and write a book about the topic of book access for all kids.

*I'm excited for the book release and getting my hands on a copy.

*I've been noticing new videos via Facebook, and other social media, where Donalyn and Colby discuss various topics that will be explored in the book.

*I thought I would share some of those videos here with you...

Monday, October 15, 2018

An Inside Look #66 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Barbara O'Connor
(Author of Wonderland)

*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 FIFTEENTH interview of what I'm calling Season #FOUR.  

*Thank you to Barbara O'Connor for being the Sixty-Sixth author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first Sixty-Five 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)

Interview #61 with Phil Bildner (Author of The Rip and Red Series)

Interview #62 with Erin Soderberg (Author of Milla in Charge)

Interview #63 with Laura Shovan (Author of Take Down)

Interview #64 with Donna Gephart (Author of In Your Shoes)

Interview #65 with Alan Gratz (Author of Grenade)

*I truly enjoy reading any Barbara O'Connor novel.  She writes such a special story that always touches my heart.  I've had the honor of meeting her in person.  She is delightful.  My fourth grade class has a Skype visit coming up in November.  Her newest work of fiction is a must-read!  

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

*Here is a link to my review of the book...

*Thank you Barbara O'Connor for writing this book...

by Barbara O'Connor (August 28, 2018)

How did you come to know Rose and Mavis?
WONDERLAND actually started out as ROSE AND HOWARD GO TO WONDERLAND. I knew Rose instantly. I knew her house and her family. She just presented herself to me from the get-go. Now, the problem I had was that Mr. Duffy would NOT come to life for me. I just couldnt get a handle on him as a character. So I set that manuscript aside and began to write WISH. But I liked Howard so much, that I took him out of ROSE AND HOWARD GO TO WONDERLAND and plunked him right down into WISH.

After I finished WISH, an amazing thing happened. Mavis appeared to me - sitting on a bus stop bench with her mother. Bingo! The story came back to life - even Mr. Duffy! So now I had ROSE AND MAVIS GO TO WONDERLAND, which eventually got shortened to WONDERLAND.

What do you think are Rose and Mavis' most admirable qualities?
Rose is very empathetic and sensitive to the feelings of others. She also wants to obey rules and always do the right thing (which, of course, Mavis interfered with sometimes. haha)

Mavis is creative, independent and full of life. She also has the ability to persuade others (especially Rose) to do things her way.

Is there anything you they would have changed or done differently in their story?
Not really. MAYBE I would soften Roses mother a bit at the end so we have a little more hope for Roses family life to be happier.

What do you think Rose and Mavis can offer other children that are experiencing similar situations to what they went through?
I think they are a great example of how to be true friends and to get to know others who are quite different from you and who live in very different circumstances.

How did you research the girls and the circumstances they found themselves in?
The only research I did was in my head - thinking long and hard about them and imagining their behavior, dialogue, etc.

Do you and these two characters share any similarities?
I think they both are loyal friends.

What was the hardest scene to write about them?
The hardest scene to write was when Mavis and her mother moved into the apartment and Maviss mother is telling her she thinks she loves her new job and wants to stay. I had to make that convincing and believable.

Most of Roses scenes were pretty easy.

Who do you think were Rose and Mavis' biggest supporters and why?
Mr. Duffy, for sure. He accepted each girl as an individual and was kind-hearted, yet truthful with them.

Why do you think humans and dogs have such a special connection?
Because dogs offer unconditional love and all humans want to be loved.

What do you think the girls are doing as the present time?
I think theyre having weekly meetings of the Best Friends Club and getting together after school to play. I think Rose learns to ride the skateboard and Mavis joins the Tullys for dinner occasionally, maybe even eating tomato aspic.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (10/15/18)

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…

The Perfect Secret by Rob Buyea

*Middle-Grade Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

*Middle-Grade Novel (3 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin

*Middle-Grade Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

*Middle-Grade Novel (3 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

*Novel Published for Adults (4 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

*My Novel Published for Adults

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

*My Novel Published for Adults

The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell

*My Middle-Grade Novel (Audio)

Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley

*My Middle-Grade Novel

A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar

*My Middle-Grade Novel

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Perfect Secret by Rob Buyea

How I Heard About It:  I am a huge fan of Rob Buyea.  I loved his Mr. Terupt series and fell in love with the novel The Perfect Score.  It was exciting to know there was going to be a sequel to that wonderful story.  I got this ARC from #bookexpedition.  

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

1.  *The students from The Perfect Score are back for a second adventure in this second book in the series.  

2.  *Each kid/character gets equal treatment in the book in which their own personal stories are explored and defined.  

3.  *Each child will grow and mature while learning about themselves, their family, and secrets they all have.  

4.  *The main goal the cast of characters has is to discover why Mrs. Woods and Mrs. Magenta no longer speak and/or want to be in the same place.  

5.  *Each middle-school child also has a connection to the senior home where everyone comes together to pursue the past, the present, and even the future. 

What I Thought Of It:  The writing style of Rob Buyea is so enticing.  Every time I begin one of his novels, I'm sucked in and can't stop reading.  I find the multiple perspective story telling fun, exciting, and entertaining.  Each of these characters had so much to offer and I enjoyed them all.  Not only does the book contain wonderful individual character stories, but a few mysteries that I couldn't wait to find out the answer to.  

Who Should Read It:  All fans of Rob Buyea should read his newest work of fiction.  This is a strong and excellent follow-up to The Perfect Score.  If you know of a reader who read the first story, then they need to continue the story with this book.  Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade readers would be "perfect" for the novel.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

How I Heard About It:  This novel was recommended to me via my #bookexpedition group on Twitter.  

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

1.  *This historical fiction story follows Langston during the migration to Chicago during the 1940's.  

2.  *Langston's mother has died and left him and his father alone and suffering.

3.  *Langston is lonely at home, bullied at school, and missing his mother.  

4.  *When Langston finds the local library, he finds a place of refuge, peace, and knowledge.

5.  *The more he reads and is exposed to a variety of books, he finds answers to his past and his mother's life. 

What I Thought Of It:   I was excited to read this story, but found it quite slow and not a lot happened.  The story was quiet and introspective.  As I reader, I loved how Langston found such joy in the discovery of the library and how he found great satisfaction in reading.  I was also drawn to the relationship that Langston had with his father and the loss he felt toward his mother.  I could relate to that as I lost my mother this past summer.  I'm just not sure who the proper audience is for this novel.  

Who Should Read It:   Because of the pace of the story, I'm wondering which type of reader would best like the story.  The book isn't that long so that isn't the issue.  I'm thinking that maybe a sixth grade and/or middle-school reader would be best suited for the story.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

How I Heard About It:  Because of my membership on the Charlotte Huck Book Awards committee, I have been reading mostly middle-grade novels.  I still try to throw in a novel written for adults as much as I can.  While reading about new and noteworthy novels for adults, I came across this title and ordered it via Amazon.  

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

1.  *Eden is in the hospital after suffering injuries while fighting abroad.  

2.  *The story is told from his best friend's point of view.  He is actually dead.  

3.  *Eden's wife has spent days and months by his bedside waiting for him to either get better or die.

4.  *Eden has a young daughter, but with that comes some secrets that both he and his wife want to keep to themselves.  

5.  *As Eden lays in bed fighting for his life, the reader learns of his earlier years through his best friend's recollections and memories.  

What I Thought Of It:  I guess novels this size and length are called novellas.  Even though this was a relatively short story at about 170 pages, the plot was powerful and full of emotion.  I found the story telling fascinating and unique.  It was interesting to read about Eden's life from the view point of his best friend.  It gave me an outside view into the lives of Eden and his wife.  The author did a phenomenal job of describing the condition and pain that Eden was experiencing.  I felt like I was in that hospital room with him.  Many sides of each character were presented; both positive and negative.  

Who Should Read It:  This is definitely a novel written for the adult reader.  The story is emotional, thought-provoking, and powerful.  I would recommend it to any reader that enjoys high quality literature.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

How I Heard About It:  Because this has been such a buzzed about novel, I was thrilled when I received a copy of it from the publisher.  So many of my Twitter friends were raving about the story.  

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

1.  *This is the story of Nisha who writes letters to her mother telling her of the experience she is having in India during the year of 1947.  India has just obtained their independence from England.  

2.  *There is a lot of tension and violence between the Hindus and Muslims.  Nisha is half Muslim and half Hindu so she torn between two different cultures.

3.  *When life gets dangerous, Nisha and her father flee for a new country.  They travel by both train and then by foot.  Nisha records this journey via a dairy in which she records letters.

4.  *Nisha's family encounters many dangerous and violent situations along their way as their family, along with others, try to make the best of being refugees seeking a new life.  

5.  *She can't figure out why there is such hatred and violence shown toward her family, but as they make their way to freedom, she learns about her own history and those people she has ties to.  

What I Thought Of It:  The story was beautifully written.  It was unique to have the experience written in letter/diary form.  There were times I thought the plot moved a bit slow and wondered if young readers would be drawn into the story.  As an adult, I did not have knowledge of this time period in history so it was both an informative and entertaining read.  There were several painful moments and I was disturbed by the events in the story.  That is why stories such as these are so important of us to read.  

Who Should Read It:  Because of the content, the writing style, and the vocabulary I would recommend this novel for readers in fifth and sixth grade.  It may be even more appropriate for middle-school readers.  Even high-school children may be an audience for the story.  I'm glad I read it, but just not sure fourth grade readers would be drawn in and be able to finish the book.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars