Fourth Grade Journey

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

Saturday, July 20, 2019

One-Third Nerd by Gennifer Choldenko

How I Heard About It:  This was a novel that I began hearing about this past spring.  I kept seeing comments about the story during the last couple summer months and decided it was time to read.  

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

1.  *Liam is in fifth grade.  His younger sister Dakota is in third grade while Izzy is in first grade.  

2.  *The last thing Liam wants is to be associated with the "nerds", but his sister Dakota can make that very difficult.  

3.  *Dakota embraces her inner nerd, loves science and experiments.  Some of these experiments may get her family kicked out of their apartment.  

4.  *The three children become upset when they learn they may have to get rid of their family dog because of all the '"accidents" he continues to have in the apartment.  

5.  *Dakota and Liam, along with the help of others, come up with ways to earn money so they can take their dog to the VET to eliminate his problems.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *It was awesome to begin the book and realize it was written for early elementary readers.  It seems most books are for readers in fourth and above.  This novel could be used with second and/or third graders.  

2.  *I liked that the chapters were short and contained illustrations.  The chapter headings were also an attractive feature of the book.  

3.  *The characters were awesome and their interactions were fun, authentic, and at times hysterical.

4.  *As "light" as the story may seem, there are some meaningful and important moments/themes strewn throughout the pages.  

5.  *Any novel that highlights the joys of being a "nerd" is a sure winner in my "book"!  

Who Should Read It:    A novel that definitely could be used in grades two through five.  The story could be shared as a class read aloud and/or put in the individual hands of a child.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom by Temre Beltz

How I Heard About It:  Harper Publisher sent me a copy of this middle-grade novel.  It sat in my TBR pile for a bit of time, but then a friend recommended it.  So I've spent the last couple days enjoying the story of Birdie and all her adventures.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Birdie is a young girl that is one of many "Tragicals" spending her days at Foulweather's Home for the Tragical.  

2.  *Across the Wanderly "winds" is a witch, an evil witch named Agnes Prunella Crunch.

3.  *Birdie and Agnes begin to write letters to each other with the help of the "winds" and special delivery "helpers".  

4.  *Birdie wishes more nothing more than a friend and a way out of her horrible environment.  

5.  *The last person she would think would help would be Agnes.  Even Agnes isn't sure she can be of help.  But they both surprise themselves and find the true meaning of friendship.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *After my friend told me to read the book, I was drawn to the cover and title.  I was ready for a "magical" reading experience.  

2.  *Even though stories of children being held in "orphanages" have been told, this particular adventure had a fresh and unique twist.  

3.  *The pages contained a variety of interesting, strong, and determined characters.  They brought the story to life.  

4.  *I enjoyed reading about the "transformation" of Agnes and all that she had to endure.  

5.  *Some of the fantasy/magical elements got a bit long for my own taste, but I know that young readers would eat those scenes up.  

Who Should Read It:    The novel is on the longer side at 350 pages so I'm thinking it would best be suited for a 5th/6th grade reader and/or a middle-school child.  Of course a strong third and/or fourth grade student could handle it I'm sure.  If you know a reader who enjoys magic, fantasy, and adventure, then this is the story for them.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   3 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage

How I Heard About It:  One of my favorite middle-grade novels is Lemons by Melissa Savage.  I have used it both as a class read aloud and a "Breakfast with Books" book club selection.  I was thrilled when Melissa sent me an ARC of her upcoming novel Nessie Quest.  This book will be shared with my #bookexpedition group on Twitter.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Where would every kid like to spend their summer vacation?  Disney World of course.  That is certainly what Ada Ru is hoping for.  

2.  *Instead her parents inform her the family will be spending the summer in Scotland where her father will take a teaching position and so they can visit family relatives.  

3.  *Ada is not thrilled about this prospect and makes it clear to her parents she would rather be going to see Mickey and Minnie.  

4.  *Once in Scotland, Ada Ru meets Hammy Bean and Dax.  The combination of the three children leads to an adventure of a lifetime.  

5.  *Hammy Bean is on a mission/race to find the Loch Ness Monster and brings Ada Ru and Dax along for the ride, and dive, into the waters of Scotland.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I was thrilled to receive this advanced copy in the mail and got to reading right away.  

2.  *The plot was engaging, thrilling, and full of fun and adventure.  

3.  *One element that I enjoyed most was the "voice" and humor of Ada Ru.  Melissa Savage did a tremendous job of bringing this character to live.  I was literally laughing out loud on several occasions.  

4.  *I so enjoyed the relationship between Hammy Bean, Dax, and Adu Ru.  They each brought such a special gift into their friendships.  

5.  *The reading experience was enjoyable because there were several tie-ins to the story in Lemons.  This is an adventure story, but also has many wonderful and deep life-lessons.  

Who Should Read It:    A wonderful novel to be used with third, fourth, and fifth graders.  I would recommend reading Lemons first.  This is NOT a sequel, but definitely follows AFTER the events in Lemons.  The story would be incredible to use either as a class read aloud and/or a book club selection.  I also think the novel could be put in the hands of a sixth grader and/or a middle-school reader.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

We're Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey

How I Heard About It:  A couple of my online reading friends both recommended this middle-grade novel as a book I should look into.  I grabbed it from my TBR pile and began the reading.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Life on Earth has become uninhabitable and a group of humans have spent the last year on planet Mars.  

2.  *After a period of time, the humans realize their time on Mars is coming to an end and they must find somewhere else to live.  

3.  *A group of people, decide to make a journey to a new planet called Choom.

4.  Once on Choom, there are four members of a family that are allowed to enter their planet and live among the three different groups of "aliens".  

5.  The two children in the family must adjust to their new school and way of life while keeping their family safe and able to live on Choom.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I'm not normally a fan of science fiction, but I must say that I enjoyed this story.  

2.  *It was a fascinating concept that humans weren't able to live on Earth anymore, have lived on Mars for a portion of time, and now must relocate to a brand "new" planet.  

3.  *The theme of immigrants and being a refugee was woven throughout the story, but in a very subtle way.  

4.  *The way the children had to adjust and navigate their way in school and society was brilliantly written and showed the reader how difficult it is to live in a new world.  

5.  *To be honest, I did get a bit confused on the different aliens, their names, and characteristics.  I got to a point where I didn't worry about these details and enjoyed the story.  

Who Should Read It:    After a great conversation with fellow readers, we decided this novel would be best suited for, and understood, by readers in fifth and/or sixth grade.  There are a lot of themes that could be discussed with this age group.  The book could also be used with middle-school readers.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wonder Wednesday #274 1/2 (Summer Video #TWO)

Wonder Wednesday - What I'm Reading 

*On Wednesdays, I usually post "WONDERS" about what my fourth grade readers are up to and experiencing in our classroom community.

*Now that it is summer vacation, I don't have as many "EVENTS" to post and share.  But summer is the BEST time of the year to get some serious reading done.

*June flew by and I was thinking about what I can post on each Wednesday during July and August.  I know many bloggers post videos about their reading lives.

*I thought I would give "VLOGGING" a try.  I'm not promising they will be any good, but I plan on sharing what I'm currently reading and/or novels that I highly recommend.

*These books will include middle-grade and young-adult books, along with novels published for adults.

*Here is the SECOND video in the Wednesday summer series I plan on posting...

Wonder Wednesday #274 (#NerdCampMI Learning)

Wonder Wednesday - Memorable QUOTES

*Last Wednesday I posted pictures from my time at #NerdCampMI 2019.  What a terrific two days they were.

*I've been thinking a lot about all the learning I did while in Michigan.

*I would like to share my top-ten quotes that still spinning around in my head...

"Be the Good Kind of Trouble!" 
- Donalyn Miller

"Pick a lane to write in for nonfiction, but be willing to vear into the other lanes." 
- Jess Keating

"All conferring doens't need to be academic.  We get to know them as people." 
- Ashley Kerns

"Teaching to fidelity doesn't mean fidelity to the program but to the kids in front of us." 
- Pernille Ripp

"I'm here to make you DISLIKE reading less.  Not that you are going to LOVE reading." 
- Pernille Ripp

"Research is like a treasure hunt looking for that golden nugget that your story can be built around."
-Kathy Halsey

"Writing instruction is like marathon training.  Come up with a training plan."
-Shannon Anderson

"There are NO girl books or boy books.  There are books."
-Alicia D. Williams

"Be inspired not by what they wrote, but HOW they wrote it."
-Reading Like a Writing Panel 

"It's easy to be peaceful when your peace ain't ever been challenged."
-Jason Reynolds

Monday, July 15, 2019

An Inside Look #94 (Author INTERVIEW)

Inside Look with Keith Calabrese
(Author of A Drop of Hope)

*During the summer of 2016, I added this feature to the 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.  

*The next season (season #FOUR) of interviews took place during the summer and fall of 2018.  With each interview I became more and more impressed with the authors I was having interactions with.  

*Season #FIVE ran during the 2018/2019 school year.  I took a little break during June of 2019.

*I'm thrilled to be back with season #SIX featuring all new books, authors, and conversations.  

*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 #SIX.

*Thank you to Keith Calabrese for being the Ninety-Fourth author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first Ninety-Three interviews…

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

Interview #81 with Tony Abbott (Author of The Great Jeff)

Interview #82 with Susan Ross (Author of Searching for Lottie)

Interview #83 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Caterpillar Summer)

Interview #84 with Rebecca Ansari (Author of The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly)

Interview #85 with Ali Standish (Author of August Isle)

Interview #86 with Shaun David Hutchinson (Author of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried)

Interview #87 with Greg Howard (Author of The Whispers)

Interview #88 with Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Author of Shouting at the Rain)

Interview #89 with Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Author of One for the Murphys)

Interview #90 with Laurie Morrison (Author of Up for Air)

Interview #91 with Jody J. Little (Author of Mostly the Honest Truth)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

Interview #92 with John David Anderson (Author of Finding Orion)

Interview #93 with Lisa Thompson (Author of The Light Jar)

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

*Thank you Keith for writing this incredible and thought-provoking book.

*Here is my book review...

A Drop of Hope REVIEW

A Drop of Hope

by Keith Calabrese (February 26, 2019)

How did you come to know Ernest, Lizzy, and Ryan?

Well, in some ways each of them is a different aspect of me. I was pretty independent as a kid, like Ryan (I actually did mow lawns, and one of my customers was a very nice old lady named Mrs. Haemmerle), but at the same time I could be a bit idealistic and naïve like Ernest. And, like Lizzy, I struggled with worrying what other people thought about me instead of being true to myself.

What do you think are Ernest, Lizzy, and Ryan's most admirable qualities?

There’s a popular quote about how a true friend is someone who, when you make a fool of yourself, doesn’t think you’ve done a permanent job. I think this speaks for Ernest, Ryan, and Lizzy. They’re good friends, and being a good friend is hard. It means saying things your friend might not want to hear, and hearing things that you might not want to hear. It means sticking with someone even when they don’t make it easy.

Is there anything you wish they would have changed or done differently in their story?

Not really. Which isn’t to say that they don’t all make mistakes. But mistakes get a bad rap, in my opinion. Nobody wants to make mistakes, of course, but it’s often the best, and sometimes the only, way to learn. Mistakes are how we grow.

What do you think these three characters can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what they went through?  

Resilience, I hope. A big part of this story is about the enduring power of small kindnesses. But you have to put yourself out there when you’re kind, and that can be scary. Not to mention that the world isn’t always kind back when you do. But Ernest, Ryan, Lizzy never give up, even when things don’t go their way. Despite their setbacks, they keep choosing kindness. I hope when kids read this story, it encourages them to keep choosing kindness as well.

How did you research Ernest, Lizzy, and Ryan and the circumstances they found themselves in?

This story is heavily inspired by my own childhood and hometown, so the town of Cliffs Donnelly was ready and waiting in my head. I did spend a lot of time researching all the items in the attic, Rollo’s gifts. Safe to say that I knew nothing about vintage fire extinguishers before I started writing this book.

Do you and these three children share any similarities?  

I relate to each one of them in a very specific way. But if you asked my friends growing up, they’d all probably agree I’m most similar to Ernest.

What was the hardest scene to write about them?

When Ryan lashes out at Ernest, and says those cruel things to him because he’s scared they’re about to get caught. That was one tough.  But the hardest scenes were the ones with Tommy Bricks. The scene where his dad hits him with the belt, and when Tommy is alone in the storage shed and about to give up on himself. That one really wrecked me. Even when I was writing it, I wasn’t sure that Winston and his grandmother were going to get there in time.

Who do you think were their biggest supporters and why?

Their teacher, Mr. Earle, was their biggest supporter. Like the best of teachers, he encourages them to think for themselves. He inspires them to stand up for what they believe in, even if that means disagreeing with him. And, when an unscrupulous journalist comes to town, he has their back.

Why do you think wishes and hopes are so important for our young people, especially with the current “climate” in our country? 

Presently, there are a lot of people out there who consider hope and kindness to be foolish and weak. Of course, the opposite is true – it takes a great deal of courage and vision to want and imagine a better tomorrow – but people without hope are the easiest to control, so there you go. We need kids to hope and dream and make mistakes and persevere. Because if they start to think that there’s no point, that it’s not worth trying anymore, then we’re all in big trouble.

What do you think Ernest, Lizzy, and Ryan are doing as the present time?  

I like to think that they’re just getting to be kids. That they’re mowing lawns, reading books, hanging out. Maybe staying up late watching movies. I feel like kids today aren’t getting enough of that – just being kids

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (7/15/19)

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…

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

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

StepSister by Jennifer Donnelly

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

Just South of Home by Karen Strong

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

My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder

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

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom by  Temre Beltz

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage

*My Middle-Grade Novel

The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French

*My Young-Adult Novel