Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (12/10/18)

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…

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

After the Fire by Will Hill

*My Young-Adult Novel

The Shadows We Hide by Allen Eskers

*My Novel Published for Adults

Game Changer!  by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp

*My Professional Reading

Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger

*My Middle-Grade Novel

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

*My Young-Adult Novel (AUDIO)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

How I Heard About It:   After finishing my last audio book, I ventured into the world of Audible to find a new "listen".  When I saw the cover, I remember reading positive reviews about the story.  After a bit of research, I decided to purchase the book.  

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

1.  *Darius is a high school student living in the United States.  He struggles with his identity because he is half Persian and half American.  

2.  *Darius has also struggled with depression and is currently taking medication to "stabilize" his emotions.  His father has also dealt with depression.  The two of them have a strained relationship.

3.  *When Darius' grandfather becomes seriously ill, his family must travel to Iran.  Darius has reservations about the trip.  

4.  *Upon arrival, Darius struggles to connect with his grandparents, his own parents, and the culture of Iran.  

5.  *When Darius meets Sohrab, a Iranian neighbor boy, he begins to feel differently not only about himself, but his family, life, and outlook on life.  

What I Thought Of It:  Darius' story was a story that many young people will be able to relate to.  It seems many young-adult novels about depression are geared toward female characters.  I appreciated that Darius was the central character dealing with real-life emotional/social/mental issues.  While reading, I found it fascinating to read about life in Iran and how experiences differed from American customs.  Being a father myself, I was intrigued by the dynamics between Darius and his father.  Depression is such an important theme and I think Abid Khorram wrote about the topic with grace, dignity, and personal insight.  

Who Should Read It:   Sometimes I think there aren't enough young-adult novels for male readers.  This is a novel that much be shared with any high-school and/or college male that you may know.  Whether or not they are dealing with depression issues themselves, they will take so much from the story of Darius, his family, and their experiences.  The novel will also appeal to adult readers.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

How I Heard About It:  While browsing the Internet for novels published for adults, I came across this title.  After a bit of research, I decided to order the book in Amazon and give it a try.  

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

1.  *This historical fiction story takes place in the early 1930's.  The times are hard for many Americans and families are struggling to make ends meet.  

2.  *Ellis Reed is a reporter who has more than one family secret.  While out on the "road" on assignment, he runs across a sign that says: "Two Children for Sale".  

3.  *Ellis snaps a picture of it, but never intends for the picture to go any further.  After a grave mistake, the image ends up going public and changes Ellis' life in more ways than one.  

4.  *Lillian is an employee at the paper and can relate to the image that has gone public.  She and Ellis come together to "fix" the mistake of the story that the world "thinks" they know.

5.  *A mother and her two children are separated.  Lillian and Ellis embark on a journey that will require them to look at their own pasts and do everything in their power to save a family divided.  

What I Thought Of It:  It has been such fun getting back to reading novels published for adult readers.  The last year was spent reading many middle-grade stories due to my Charlotte Huck Committee work.  Sold on a Monday was a fascinating story that was hard to believe actually occurred in our own country.  The separation of a mother and her children was hard breaking to read and one of the elements that kept me reading to find out how this situation would conclude.  The characters of Ellis and Lillian were well developed and multi-faceted.  The author did an incredible job of describing this time period and I felt like I was actually back in the 1930's.  

Who Should Read It:   I think any adult reader who enjoys historical fiction needs to read and experience this story.  It is well-written, engaging, and thought-provoking.  I can't imagine any reader not enjoying it.  High school and/or college readers would also be an audience for the novel.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Monday, December 3, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (12/3/18)

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…

To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer

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

My Book Review

Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

*Young-Adult Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars)

Sold on a Monday by Kristina M. Morris

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

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

After the Fire by Will Hill

*My Young-Adult Novel

The Shadows We Hide by Allen Eskers

*My Novel Published for Adults

Game Changer!  by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp

*My Professional Reading

Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger

*My Middle-Grade Novel

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

*My Young-Adult Novel

Sunday, December 2, 2018

To Night Owl from DogFish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

How I Heard About It:  While at #NCTE18 in Houston, Texas, I attended the Nerdy Book Club cocktail party sponsored by Penguin.  All of the guests received an ARC of this upcoming middle-grade novel.  This was the first book I read when I returned from the convention.

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

1.  *Avery lives with her dad on the east coast.  Bett lives with her dad on the west coast.  

2.  *When their fathers meet, fall in love, and decide to take an extended trip to China; the girls are sent to a summer camp. It is the hope of the dads that they like each other and the four of them can create a new family.  

3.  *Before camp, Avery and Bett begin to communicate via emails and texts.  They aren't thrilled about the idea of going to camp or being forced to get to know each other.  

4.  *While at camp, the girls begin to share more and more about themselves.  They have a variety of experiences that involve their past, current, and future stories.  

5.  *After a series of unfortunate events in China, the dads return with shocking news for the girls which send them into a tailspin.  Each girl returns home, but continue to communicate, scheme, and plot to bring their worlds back together.

What I Thought Of It:  The entire story was told through texts, emails, and other forms of communication.  I've read stories with this same format and they didn't necessarily work for me.  This particular book worked incredibly well with the format.  It wasn't even like I was reading "communication" between the two girls.  It was more of an engaging narrative.  Each girl was delightful, fun, and pleasing to read about.  There was many humorous moments where I found myself laughing out loud.  There were also some tender and touching scenes that warmed my heart.  The writing was realistic, thought-provoking, and full of emotion.  I enjoyed reading about the transition and progress each girl took throughout the story.  After finishing the book, I knew this would be an important novel to put into the hands of certain readers that are living/experiencing similar situations.

Who Should Read It:   I think this would be the perfect novel to give to a student that has two moms and/or dads.  The story could be a mirror for them.  The book could also be used as a window for other young readers.  Because of some of the content, topics, and situations; I would recommend the story for students in grades five and above.  The story is probably best suited for our middle-school readers.  I'm so pleased I had the opportunity to read and know it will be an important story for many readers.  Happy Reading!

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Monday, November 26, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (11/26/18)

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…

Any Second by Kevin Emerson

*Young-Adult Novel (3 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

August Isle by Ali Standish

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

My Book Review

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

 To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer

*My Middle-Grade Novel

After the Fire by Will Hill

*My Young-Adult Novel

Sold on a Monday by Kristina M. Morris

*My Novel Published for Adults

Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

*My Young-Adult Novel (Audio)

Friday, November 23, 2018

August Isle by Ali Standish

How I Heard About It:  The Ethan I was Before by Ali Standish is one of my favorite middle-grade novels.  I used it for a "Breakfast with Books" selection and it was a HIT with my readers.  When I heard Ali was coming out with a new novel, I was beyond excited.  As I browsed the exhibit hall during #NCTE18 and spotted the ARC in the Harper Collins booth, I great big smile speed across my face.  After chatting with a representative from the publisher, she graciously put a copy in my hands.  This was my read on the flight back to Minneapolis on Sunday.  

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

1.  *Miranda is worried about her relationship with her mother.  Miranda can't figure out why her mother would rather work all the time and take business trips that take her far from home.  

2.  *During one such business trip, Miranda's parents are both "busy" with their jobs which forces them to send their daughter to August Isle.  

3.  *August Isle is a small town in Florida that Miranda has always been curious about.  Her mother use to spend her summers here, but as an adult will NOT discuss the town and/or her experiences there.  

4.  *When Miranda arrives, she stays with her "Aunt" Clare who has a daughter named Sammy.  Miranda and Sammy bond quickly along with a boy named Caleb.

5.  *The three of them stumble across a deserted home in town which brings Mr. Taylor into their lives.  They discover that their present situation has a whole lot to do with Miranda's mother and her earlier years in August Isle.  

What I Thought Of It:  "So so so good."  I actually got this quote from Kylene Beers during NCTE18.  She was speaking to the idea of readers being able to "gush" over a book before they head straight into "academic" talk.  Adults love to gush about books and we should let our students do the same.  I'm gushing about this story.  I knew, as I soon as I began, that it was going to be an incredible story and incredible story it was.  Ali has a way of bringing the reader directly into the middle of the story with the characters surrounding them on every side.  There was so much heart with Miranda.  I had such empathy for her and so wanted her to find the happiness, and answers, she was looking for.  As she got to know Sammy and Caleb, I knew she was on the right path.  The mystery surrounding Miranda's mother and her family was suspenseful, intriguing, and intense.  Ali Standish has knocked it out of the ballpark with this one.  I could continue to "gush", but I think you get the fact that I LOVED this novel.  

Who Should Read It:   When this book hits the shelves in April of 2018, EVERYONE needs to get a copy and read.  The story is absolutely perfect for readers in grade four, five, and six.  I would also recommend it for readers in middle-school.  The book could be used either as a read aloud and/or put in the hands of individual readers.  If you are an adult who enjoys middle-grade stories, you MUST read this one.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Blended by Sharon M. Draper

How I Heard About It:  This novel by the one and only Sharon M. Draper came to me via the publisher.  I thought the cover was eye-popping.  I was intrigued by the title.  All of this lead me to anticipation about the new story from this talented writer.  

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

1.  *Isabella is eleven and is "blended" between her two families.  

2.  *Her parents are divorced.  Her father is black.  Her mother is white.  She divides her time between the two homes.  Each environment is quite different from each other.  

3.  *Isabella is trying to figure out where she fits in.  Does she find herself more at "home" with her wealthy father and his new family or her working-class mother and her "people".  

4.  When her parents engage in an argument over Isabella, she feels more divided than ever.  

5.  Isabella has an incredible support system between all the adults in her life, along with her friends, but she realizes she must depend on herself to find her own place in the world.  

What I Thought Of It:  Sharon M. Draper does an excellent job of writing a compelling story for the middle-grade reader.  This particular story was quite different from her other works of fiction.  I enjoyed reading about Isabella and her feelings about being 1/2 white and 1/2 black.  I've had students in that same situation and I know this story will resonate with them.  The format of "mom's week" and "dad's week" alternating with each chapter worked well and represented her going back and forth each week.  There were several sub-plots that surrounded Isabella.  Some of them worked for me and others weren't that necessary; in my opinion.  Overall, I enjoyed the story and look forward to book talking it with my students.  

Who Should Read It:   I'm thinking the best audience for this book would be a fifth and/or sixth grade reader.  I do think a strong fourth grade reader could also handle the context and text of the story.  As always, middle-school readers should also be considered.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

How I Heard About It:  You would have to be living under a "middle-grade author rock" if you don't know the name Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  She has written  two of my favorite middle-grade novels:  One for the Murphy's and Fish in a Tree.  I was over the top with excitement when I found out Lynda had written a third novel.  I was even more thrilled when she sent me a signed copy of the ARC.  I took it with me to #NCTE18 and read the entire book on the flight.  

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

1.  *Delsie and her grandmother have created a safe, warm, and loving family between the two of them on the "Cape".  

2.  *Delsie has never considered herself an orphan, but when a friend mentions the fact that she has no mother and/or father, she begins to contemplate her life and why her mother "left".  

3.  *She is excited that a summer friend is returning to the Cape, but surprised to find the friend has changed, outgrown their "rituals", and taken a new friendship under her wing.

4.  *While dealing these changes, Delsie meets Ronan, who is like no one she has ever meet.  He helps her navigate the rough waters of friendship and standing up for what she believes in.  

5.  *Delsie, Ronan, family, and friends all rely on each other for support and care while creating their own definition of their own family.  

What I Thought Of It:  I'm such a book nerd that I was actually "giddy" with excitement as I opened the book and began the first pages.  I had been waiting for so long for another Lynda Mullaly Hunt story.  She is a master storyteller.  Lynda has a special way of creating characters that the reader cares about and allows them to intertwine their way into your heart.  Delsie and Ronan created one of the most unique friendships I've encountered through a middle-grade novel.  Actually all of the characters in the story ended up holding a special place in my heart.  As I was reading, I wanted to jump into the pages and experience life on the Cape.  Because I was enjoying the story so much; I began to read quickly.  I know this will be a story I will return to.  I want to take my time and enjoy the exquisite writing contained on the pages.  

Who Should Read It:   After finishing Shouting at the Rain, I now want to share One for the Murphy's and Fish in a Tree with my current students.  Then I want to read this newest work of fiction with them before its release date in May of 2019.  The book is perfect for readers in grades three through six.  Of course it could also be used in a middle-school setting.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

How I Heard About It:  While in search of an audio book on Audible, a friend of mine mentioned this title as one of her favorites from the year.  I decided to give it a try.  

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

1.  *Based on actual events in our country's history, this novel is told in two separate stories that eventually "collide" into one by riveting conclusion.  

2.  *The story begins in 1939 in Memphis where a loving family is expecting their sixth child.  When the birth takes a turn for the worse, the five children are left alone while their father rushed their mother to the hospital.  

3.  The five children are "taken" and thrown into the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage.  They are told they will be reunited with their parents, but eventually they all are "sold" to new families.  

4.  The second story brings the reader to present day in South Carolina where a wealthy political family reside.  Avery Stafford is at the center of the family dynamics.  

5.  While visiting a nursing home, Avery stumbles across a women that hold many of Avery's family secrets.  Avery begins a journey that will not only change her life, but those of everyone in her family.  

What I Thought Of It:  This story was unbelievable.  The astonishing part is that it actually needs to be believable because it happened.  The format of storytelling was unique, engaging, and thought-provoking.  As a reader, I was so curious as to how the two stories were going to "meld" into one.  The more I read/listened; the more I wanted to know.  Another aspect that drew me in were the two women characters suffering from Alzheimer's.  My own mother had the disease so I could relate to these sections of the story.  

Who Should Read It:   This is definitely a novel published for the adult reader.  I believe the author has written other novels.  In my opinion, the female reader may be a bit more drawn to the story.  If you are a historical fiction fan, then this would be the perfect book for you.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

How I Heard About It:  I can't remember exactly where I read about this title, but I sure glad I did.  I picked this book for my BBC (Boy's Book Club) and all members rated it a 5 star novel.  It was such an incredible story.  

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

1.  *Sam Hill was born with RED eyes.  While most people would think this to be an abnormal trait, his mother embraced this condition and her son.

2.  *Sam Hill, "Hell", was called Devil Boy by his Catholic classmates and school became an unwelcome place.  

3.  *When Ernie Cantwell arrives at the same school, they become of the best of friends and rely on each other for support, advice, and survival.  

4.  *Sam must endure the school bully and learns that his mother will stop at nothing to make sure her son is safe and taken care of.  She ensures that the bully leaves the school, but this incident will follow Sam into his adult life.  

5.  *As an adult, Sam becomes an eye doctor, and must confront his past in order to save a young girl.  

What I Thought Of It:  This past year I have not been able to read as many adult novels as I normally do because of my work/reading on the Charlotte Huck Book Awards committee.  As the 2018 reading came to a close, I was able to dig into a novel published for adults.  This story was incredible.  I absolutely loved it.  The character of Sam was one that I won't soon forget.  His mother was such a strong and important lady in his life and central to the story.  I also appreciated the friendships that Sam experienced during his life.  Although there were few friends, the ones he did have were the type of friendships we all deserve in life.  The chapters were short which lead to reading way past my bedtime because I kept thinking "just one more chapter".  I can't recommend this story enough.  It was a highlight in my 2018 reading life.  

Who Should Read It:   I think this story would appeal to both the high school and adult reader.  If you are a fan of great literature with a story that will hold your interest the entire reading experience, then this is the novel for you.  Be sure to put it on your TBR list.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Wonder Wednesday #247 (#NCTE18)

Wonder Wednesday - #NCTE18

*This past weekend, I spent in Houston, Texas.

*It was my fourth NCTE experience.

*Each yearly convention just gets better and better.  It is one of my most favorite four days of the year.

*The learning is top-notch.  The connections are real and meaningful.  The conversations are professional, personal, and full of book talks.

*This year I was lucky to serve on two panels.  One was for #classroombookaday and the second one was about authentic response for our young readers.  Both sessions were well attended and full of great information.

*The highlight of the weekend had to be my Charlotte Huck Book Awards Committee work.  The committee met all day on Thursday to narrow our choices down and put together a solid collection  of fiction.  The luncheon on Saturday was exciting, enjoyable, and full of anticipation.

*I'm already looking forward to next November in Baltimore.

*Here is my #NCTE18 experience...