Fourth Grade Journey

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

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Summer Blog BREAK

 My Summer Travel - July 2018

*I always enjoy a bit of a break from the "ReadWonder" blog, but then when I do step away from it, I miss it!

*I was lucky to attend my third NerdCampMI from July 8th- July 11th.  It was wonderful and I will be sharing my experience on a future blog post.  

*I'm now off to France with my wife, dad, and sister.  We are celebrating my father's 80th birthday.  I'm excited as I've never been to Europe.

*I have my books packed and I'm ready to do some sight-seeing and of course lots of READING.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The House that Lou Built by Mae Respicio

How I Heard About It:  This title came to me via my #bookexpedition Twitter group.  I didn't know anything about the story, but was excited to read it.  I thought the cover was quite interesting.  

What It Is About:  Most kids want to play, do sports, or hang out with their friends.  When it comes to Lou, she prefers to create, build, and use her hands.  Lou's ultimate goal is to build herself a "tiny" house on a piece of land that he father left her after his death.  Lou's mother shares with Lou that they may need to move because of a new job.  Lou isn't happy about this news; especially because it may impede the building of her own house.  Lou takes action into her own "hands" and gets started on the building of her house.  This action entails lies, sneaking around, and even harming her own friends/family.  Lou gets frustrated when several "factors" get in the way of her dream.  She learns what it means to be focused, determined, and making dreams come true.    

What I Thought Of It:  I wasn't sure what to expect from this story because I didn't really know what it was going to be about.  The story was alright.  I think I preferred the characters over the plot of the book.  The action and/or events moved a bit slow for my taste.  I did appreciate the underlying theme of not giving up on your dreams and working hard to achieve them.  There are some middle-grade stories that appeal to this 50 year old male, and others not so much.  I do think kids will enjoy the book, but it wasn't necessarily my type of story.  

Who Should Read It:  Readers in grades three through five would be the perfect audience for this novel.  I also think some readers in grades five and/or six would also appreciate the story.  Female readers may gravitate toward the book than males because Lou is the lead character.  The supporting characters are also female.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes

How I Heard About It:  I received this book via the publisher.  It was in my TBR pile when I saw a few online friends posting about the novel.  I grabbed it from the pile and began reading.  It was a quick and entertaining read.  

What It Is About:  Paloma wants to spend the summer at home in Kansas with her friends.  Her mother has another plan.  They are going to travel to Mexico for several weeks so her mother can do some research.  It is also the birthplace of Paloma's father who is now deceased.  Once in Mexico, Paloma hopes that her few memories of her father will become stronger and more vivid.  It is in the village they are visiting, that she meets Lizzie and Gael.  They want her to help them with a mystery they are trying to solve.  This village is known for a famous artist named Frida.  She is now dead, but her works of art remain and are worth a lot of money.  One piece is missing.  A peacock ring.  The twins want Paloma to help them find the ring so they can all receive the reward and thanks of the country.  As they look for and investigate clues, Paloma finds out that Lizzie and Gael may have an ulterior motive.  

What I Thought Of It:  It has been awhile since I've read a true mystery.  This plot moved along at an exciting and intriguing pace.  As I read, I kept thinking how much young readers would enjoy trying to figure out where the ring was and who took it.  The story focused on the culture of Mexico which was eye-opening and interesting.  There were a few moments when some events were a bit unrealistic, but the audience for his book is young children and they live for "unrealistic" moments in books.  It was an enjoyable read and will be "book-talked" this fall with my new group of fourth graders.  

Who Should Read It:  This title could be used as a class read loud and/or for individual readers.  It would be fun to read to a class because of the mystery and the cliff hangers at the end of the chapters.  Readers in grades three through six would be able to handle the story just fine.  There are two main female characters and male characters so I think the story would appeal to both girls and boys.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wonder Wednesday #231 (The RIGHTS of a Reader)

Wonder Wednesday - Happy FOURTH of July

*In honor of today's holiday, I'm posting something that I really love and share with my students each and every school year.  

*All readers have these RIGHTS and should always be guaranteed them.  

*Enjoy and I hope you are enjoying this National holiday... 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

How I Heard About It:  It has been quite some time since I have read a Kwame Alexander book.  I've had this on my TBR list since its release and finally grabbed it from the pile and read it yesterday.  It was a rainy Sunday so a perfect day to hunker down and read a really great story!  

What It Is About:  This is the prequel to The Crossover.  This is the story of Josh and Jordan Bell's father Chuck (Charlie) Bell.  It takes place over one summer when he was a young boy.  Chuck is dealing with a major loss and isn't making life easy on his mother.  After an incident with his buddy, Chuck is sent to spend the summer with his grandparents.  At first he isn't thrilled because he has summer plans with two of his best friends.  When he arrives at his grandparents, he finds a loving and soft grandmother and a rather tough and stern grandfather.  His grandfather puts him to work and has high expectations of him.  Chuck misses his mother, his friends, and the "freedom" he had back at home.  He also begins to learn about his father's story and how that story impacts himself.  

What I Thought Of It:  The writing of Kwame always amazes me.  I can't imagine how he is able to put words together like he does to tell a beautiful story.  It was so enjoyable to revisit this family and learn more about the father and his childhood.  The novel was in verse like most of his books, and worked incredibly well.  There were so many important themes spread throughout the story.  Through Chuck (Charlie's) story the reader learns about family, friendship, loss, and decision making.  This is a great additional to my Kwame Alexander collection of books in my classroom.  

Who Should Read It:  This newest novel would be perfect for any fourth, fifth, and/or sixth grade classroom.  Of course readers in middle-school will also enjoy this prequel.  If you are a Kwame fan, then you need to read this novel.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (7/2/18)

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 Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

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

My Book Review

The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger

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

My Book Review

Sticky Notes by Dianne Touchell

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

My Book Review

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

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

My Book Review

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

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

My Book Review

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

*My Novel Published for Adults

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

*My Young-Adult Novel

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed

*My Professional Reading

An Inside Look #54 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Jonathan Auxier
(Author of Sweep:  The Story of a Girl and her Monster)

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

*Thank you to Jonathan Auxier for being the Fifty-FOURTH author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first FIFTY-THREE interviews…



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

*This ARC came to me via the publisher.  I had read Jonathan Auxier's other works of fiction and really enjoyed his writing and story telling.  I was thrilled to see that he was coming out with a new novel.  Once I started, I could not stop reading until I finished the last page.  After reaching out to Jonathan to share my "love" for this story, he agreed to participate in my "Inside Look" blog feature.    

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

*Here is a link to my review of Sweep:  The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

*Thank you Jonathan Auxier for writing this story for readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here...

Sweep:  The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
by Jonathan Auxier (Released September 25, 2018)

How did you come to know Nan?
I think I had a very strong sense of Nan early on as a sweet, curious, wonder-filled kid. I was a lot like that growing up, but in SWEEP, Nan has been forced to shut down those childlike parts of herself in order to survive in a harsh world. In many ways, it was a thought experiment: What would I have become without my loving, supportive family? And what could help me reconnect with the parts that might have been lost?

What do you think is Nan's most admirable quality?
She's resilient and gritty in a way I'm not. Sometimes I wish I had a little more of that in my life!

Is there anything you wish Nan would have changed or done differently in her story?
I don't want to spoil the story, but Nan makes a fateful error very early in her life that only corrects itself years later. (She holds on to a memento that she was meant to throw away.) Part of her story is reconciling herself to the ways that that small decision prevents her from moving on with her life.

What do you think Nan can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
This is about to get heavy. One of the central themes of this story involves losing a parent when you are young. That became another (gut-wrenching) thought experiment: what would I want to say to my own kids if I knew I would be forced to leave them? How could I make them truly understand how much I love them? In Nan's case the answer comes in the surprising form of a monster!

How did you research Nan and the circumstances she found himself in?
My wife has been a professor of Victorian Children's Lit, and she was an invaluable resource. I spent about 10 years reading about Victorian London, child labor, architecture, road maps, poverty, chimney sweeps, and golems (which are the kind of monster that feature in the story). The back of SWEEP contains a long historical note and suggested reading for those looking to know more.

What was the hardest scene to write about Nan?
There are some pretty intense things that happen to Nan near the end of the book--and for most of the process, I was literally unable to write the scenes. I kept sending the book to my editor with the second-to-last chapter unwritten. Finally, about two weeks before the book went to galley, I forced myself to do it.

Who do you think was Nan's biggest supporter and why?
Nan meets a teacher named Miss Bloom who recognizes how special she is and helps Nan to see herself as something more than a chimney sweep. I love Miss Bloom -- I think a lot of us have that one kind adult or teacher who saw something in us and helped shape us.

Why do you think young people, like Nan, are able to handle such tough and difficult situations in life, when adults can have such a hard time navigating rough waters?
These questions are intense! I actually spent a lot of time working through this question, and I'm still not sure I have an answer. Historically, these young sweeps endured circumstances that I think would break most adults. In the case of SWEEP, Nan is able to hang on because she was raised by a loving parent -- and even in his absence, she still has that fundamental sense of self worth.

What do you think Nan is doing as this present time?
SWEEP takes place in the 1870s. So Nan is probably dead and buried, hopefully resting somewhere close to Charlie.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

How I Heard About It:  During a recent shopping trip to the bookstore, I picked up several young-adult novels.  This was one of the books.  I believe I had read a review of the book on Amazon.  

What It Is About:   This is the story of three teenagers that have all lost someone very close to them.  Each character to tied to a local band called "Unravelling Lovely".  Their stories are told in alternating chapters.  Logan is both a singer and song writer.  He is dealing with the loss of his X boyfriend and the secrets this boyfriend held.  Logan isn't dealing well with the death and is turning to "outside" sources to cope with his pain.  Shay is also dealing with a tremendous loss after the death of her twin sister.  The two of them had a bond like most twins and music was everything to them.  Shay can't seem to find her place in the world as a "twinless".  Our third character is Autumn who feels completely alone after her best friend was killed in an accident.  Autumn places a lot of blame on herself because of the accident.  She finds herself turning to her friend's brother, and isn't sure if this is the best place to look for comfort.  As these three young people try to move forward with their lives, their stories navigate toward each other with a focus on music, talent, and how one band can help heal the empty voids left in each of these peoples' lives.  

What I Thought Of It:  I was bit confused when I first began reading this book.  Each chapter was told from the point of view of the three main characters.  Some of the characters told their story in first person, some in second person, and some in third.  Once I got use to the format, events and characters fell into place.  As I read, I kept thinking how each of these characters were going to come together.  It did take until the end of the story for everything, and everyone, to fall into place.  There were not a whole lot of surprises along the way, except for Logan's story, but the plot moved along at an easy and fast pace.  The characters were well written, real, and unique.  There were several times when I could actually feel their pain.  Now that is a sign of strong writing.  

Who Should Read It:   Readers that are in high school would be the best audience for this story.  I think they would be best able to relate to the three main characters and what they were dealing with.  A reader that has dealt with the loss of a friend and/or family member would also be able to relate to the journey of recovering from such a loss.  Adult readers that gravitate toward young-adult would also enjoy the story.  Female readers may enjoy the story a bit more than males.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars!