Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wonder Wednesday #283 (#classroombookaday)

Wonder Wednesday - Kicking Off the Year with Picture Books

*This is my third or fourth year of participating in #classroombookaday.

*Each year the "program" gets better and better.

*My crew of 23 students absolutely adore the time we come together to share a picture book.

*As of today, we are twelve days into the year and have filled our FIRST row of spaces for the covers of the books we have shared as a class.

*Here is a link to information about #classroombookaday...


Monday, September 16, 2019

An Inside Look #105 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Lisa Bunker
(Author of Zenobia July)

*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 at the start of June 2019.  

*During my summer 2019 vacation I continued a series of interviews in which I put under the heading of Season #SIX.

*To kick off my 29th year of teaching, I'm adding Season #SEVEN with a whole new season of authors, books, and interviews.  

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" about their novel, characters, and thoughts about the story.

*This is the SECOND interview in which I'm calling Season #SEASON.  

*Thank you to Lisa Bunker for being the One-Hundred FIFTH author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first One Hundred FOUR 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)

Interview #94 with Keith Calabrese (Author of A Drop of Hope)

Interview #95 with Alicia D. Williams (Author of Genesis Begins Again)

Interview #96 with Kim Ventrella (Author of Bone Hollow)

Interview #97 with Natalie Lloyd (Author of Over the Moon)

Interview #98 with Cynthia Lord (Author of Because of the Rabbit)

Interview #99 with Tina Athaide (Author of Orange for the Sunsets)

Interview #100 with Elly Swartz (Author of Give and Take)

Interview #101 with Amy Rebecca Tan (Author of A Kind of Paradise)

Interview #102 with Varsha Bajaj (Author of Count Me In)

Interview #103 with Laura Resau (Author of Tree of Dreams)

SEASON #SEVEN (2019/2020)

Interview #104 with Laurel Snyder (Author of My Jasper June)

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

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

*Here is my book review...

Zenobia July

by Lisa Bunker (May 21, 2019)

How did you come to know Zenobia?
As with many of my characters, Zen started as a “what if” – in this case, what if there was a teenage trans girl who was a coder/hacker prodigy – and quickly took on a life of her own in my mind. When I am writing a rough draft, I often feel like I’m watching a movie on the screen of my imagination and describing what the characters say and do. I get to know them by recording their words and actions.

What do you think is Zen's most admirable quality?
Like all real humans, Zen is far from perfect. She has a temper, she tends to jump to conclusions, and she can judge other people harshly. But she has a core of steel, a deep inner strength that has sustained her through patches of hard living that might have broken other people.

Is there anything you wish she would have changed or done differently in her story?
Nothing particular springs to mind so far. That said, I intend to write a whole series of Zenobia books, and I’m aware that my choices going forward will be constrained by the choices I have already made. I can easily imagine running into puzzles as I craft later books in the series. Say, for example, in the drafting of book three, I might discover that it would be super-useful if Zen had a sibling. Alas, I’ve already said she is an only child. It could get challenging!

What do you think Zenobia can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
In telling Zen’s story I tried to show her strength in a realistic way. She’s not a superhero. She’s a mere mortal human. She gets sad, and angry, and frustrated, and she makes mistakes. But she just keeps trying again.

How did you research Zen and the circumstances she found herself in?
A lot of the story is pretty close to home for me, so mostly I drew from my own experience – the things I’ve been through as a trans person and the community that has helped me. I had to do some research when it came to depicting realistic, un-stereotyped Christian families. I specifically wanted all my characters to be well-rounded humans, doing what they do for reasons that make sense to them. No cardboard cutout villains. And I took some care and got some appropriate help in crafting the character of Dyna, who is an immigrant from Africa, since her life is so far outside my own experience.

Do you and Zenobia share any similarities?
Well, sure, the whole trans experience. And I gave her a version of my own geeky intensity. But we’re different, too. I feel more like she’s a fictional child of mine, rather than a version of myself.

What was the hardest scene to write about Zen?
There’s a scene where she makes a wrong assumption about a close friend, and I had to redo it several times to make it feel right – to have the actions and reactions of both characters seem real and true to who they are.

Who do you think was her biggest supporter and why?
Zen’s biggest support is not a single person, but the family of choice and friends groups that she finds when she moves to Portland, Maine, just before the book begins. This was one of my clearest goals in writing this book: I wanted to depict the power of rainbow community to help young people who have begun to realize that they don’t fit neatly into the standard binary categories.

Why do you think some people, like Zen, are born into the wrong body and have to deal with the transition process and all the difficulties that brings?
Many trans folks take exception to the “born in the wrong body” trope, and while I’m not militant about it, I see their point. It’s more like: perfectly good body, perfectly good brain, but they don’t quite match. I don’t know why people are born trans, but at this point it’s beyond question that they are. It’s also clear that each trans person has every chance of living a full, happy, vibrant life if they are given the support they need to resolve their dysphoria in a way that works for them.

What do you think Zen is doing as the present time?
Sleeping off a three-days-with-no-sleep summer gaming and hacking marathon. :-)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/16/19)

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...

Rising Above Shepherdsville by Ann Schoenbohm

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

My Book Review

The World Ends in April by Stacy McAnulty

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

My Book Review

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee

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

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

*My Novel Published for Adults (BBC - Boy's Book Club)

Things You Can't Say by Jenn Bishop

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Stone River Crossing by Tim Tingle

*My Middle-Grade Novel (AUDIO)

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

*My Middle-Grade Novel 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee

How I Heard About It:  This much anticipated middle-grade fall release came to me via my #bookexpedition Twitter reading group.  I was a bit far down on the list so it was extremely exciting when it arrived in the mail.  So many of my online reading friends had read, raved, and recommended the book.  I couldn't wait to read.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Seventh grade is difficult.  For Mila it becomes even more difficult than your typical seventh grade girl.  

2.  *A group of boys, who she thought were friends, begin to make Mila uncomfortable and question what they are doing.  

3.  *At first she tries to ignore their "behavior", but after awhile this strategy isn't working and she is feeling more and more awkward around these boys.  

4.  *When she shares with her small group of friends what is going on, each has differing opinions on how she should handle what is going on.  

5.  *As the school year progresses, Mila realizes she must take "things" into her own hands and stand up for what she believes in and knows is right.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *Well, the reviews were spot-on.  This was an engaging, powerful, and emotional read.  

2.  *Once I started the story, I had a difficult time putting the book down.  I was engrossed in Mila's story and what she was having to endure.

3.  *To be honest, I was uncomfortable during some of the reading; but I'm thinking this was intended  by the author.  

4.  *Even though it hurts my heart, I'm sure they are real life situations happening in our schools on a daily basis to some of our young girls.  It is horrible that women in our society have to put up with unwanted "behavior", but even more of a disgrace when our young girls are faced with boys just being "BOYS".  

5.  *This is going to be an important novel that will foster deep, real, and emotional discussions.  We can't ignore what is happening and I believe this is a story that will help us make progress in the real world.  

Who Should Read It:    After finishing the book, I've been thinking a lot about who should read the story.  Readers in grades five and above would be the appropriate audience.  I think it definitely needs to be in every middle-school library and/or classroom.  The young-adult and adult reader will also come away from reading the book with a better awareness of UNWANTED "advances".  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

The World Ends in April by Stacy McAnulty

How I Heard About It:  Stacy McAnulty was so kind and sent an ARC of her upcoming novel.  This novel will be shared with my #bookexpedition Twitter group.  I so enjoyed her first novel so was definitely looking forward to reading what she came up with the second time around.  The novel was released into the world on September 3, 2019.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *We all have a "bucket list".  Most of us want to accomplish and experience certain things during our lifetime.  What would happen to that bucket list if the world were going to end.

2.  *That is what Eleanor and her friends are faced with.

3.  *Even when Eleanor's grandfather always made the family "practice" for the END, she thought it was a bunch of silliness. 

4.  *After seeing a report from a world renowned scientist, Eleanor begins to believe that an asteroid just may hit planet Earth.

5.  *She and her friends begin a "nature club" which is really a group of students that want to make sure they are ready for the "end".  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I so enjoyed the story of Eleanor, her friends, and family.  

2.  *The plot moved along at a perfect pace, kept my interest the entire reading experience, provided a chuckle or two, and warmed my heart on more than one occasion.  

3.  *The friendship between Eleanor and her BBF, Mack, was the type of friendship all children deserve.  I could feel their closeness jumping off the page.  

4.  *Another strong aspect of the story was the transition that Eleanor and her arch "enemy" took while preparing for the end of the world.  

5.  *I'm a sucker for stories full of "life-lessons" and Stacy's novel provided many important themes about friendship, acceptance, and finding your true calling.  

Who Should Read It:    I know this story would be awesome for a class read aloud in grades three through six.  There are so many elements that would keep the listeners on the edge of their seats.  Individual readers in grades four, five, and six would easily be able to handle content.  Being that the characters are in middle-school, any middle-school reader looking for a new and exciting novel, should take a look at this one.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wonder Wednesday #282 (#ONEword)

*This was our second week of school.  The twenty-three students and I are spending time getting to know each other, sharing ourselves as writers and readers, and celebrating our strengths.  

*I got this idea online from my friend Colby Sharp.  When I read about his class doing this activity, I knew I wanted to try it with my learners.

*Our entire grade level, five classes, gathered together and talked about #ONEword.  Each teacher, along with our two principals, shared our own words that we are going to focus on this school year.

*We then gave the kids the weekend to think about and brainstorm their words.  When everyone came back this past Monday, we got busy creating our #ONEword posters.

*As I wandered the room, I was so impressed with all the creative, unique, and important words that each child came up with.  

*Here are some of the posters that my fourth graders created.  We have posted them on our lockers so everyone in our building can see them...