Fourth Grade Journey

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

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

StepSister by Jennifer Donnelly

How I Heard About It:  This young adult novel came to via the publisher.  I first I put it away as I wasn't sure I wanted to read it.  After seeing several friends RAVE about the story, I pulled back off the shelf and started to read.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Ella, Cinderella, has been locked away when the prince shows up to see if the slipper fits.  The stepsister, Isabelle, tries to fit into the shoe, but we know how that turns out.  

2.  *After Ella and the Prince leave for "happily ever after", Isabelle is left to fend for herself and make amends for her mistakes.  

3.  *A character, Chance, takes on the goal of changing Isabelle's "fate" which begins a series of events that may or may not change everyone involved.  

4.  *Both Isabelle and her sister Tavi have been shunned from the townspeople for the way they treated Ella.  

5.  *Isabelle's mission is to find the missing pieces of her heart and change from the "evil" being to something better and much more kind. 

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I enjoyed the start-up of the story and revisiting the fairy tale of Cinderella.  

2.  *When the story introduced the "fates" and the character of Chance, I began to get a bit lost.  

3.  *I was hoping for more from the story because of all the positive reviews, but I just couldn't find my way into the plot.  It could be because I'm a 51 year old male.  

4.  *I do think because of so much high praise, this novel is definitely a winner for most young-adult readers along with adult readers.  

5.  *Toward the second half of the novel, I did find myself skimming and scanning.  There were some parts when I slowed down and read about Isabelle and her journey.  

Who Should Read It:    Just because this novel wasn't for me, I do think so many readers will LOVE it.  I know it is geared toward the young-adult reader, but I think adult readers would enjoy just as much.  The premise was awesome and unique.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   3 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Ask Again, Yes! by Mary Beth Keane

How I Heard About It:  I can't believe this is the first novel published for adults that I've read and finished this summer.  I guess I've been reading more middle-grade and young-adult.  I saw this book written up in several places at the beginning of the summer so I ordered it via Amazon.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *The story begins with Francis and Brain who are both NYPD cops and also become neighbors.

2.  *Each man marries and begins a family.  Even though they live side by side, the two families don't interact too much for various reasons.  

3.  *The men's children, Peter and Kate, begin a friendship when they are very young which continues until their early teens.  

4.  *During one horrible night, a tragic event takes place that divides the two families for years to come.  

5.  *As Kate and Peter each move on from the "event" on their neighborhood street, their hearts and minds continue to be pulled back to their earlier years together.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *When I first began at the beginning of summer, I was drawn into the story and was excited about the plot.  Then it seemed life, and other books, got in the way and I didn't have as much time as I wanted to really dig in.  

2.  *I enjoyed the background information about both Francis and Brain's beginnings and how their families were created and evolved.  

3.  *The "event" between the two families came as a shock to me and really pulled me into the pages.  

4.  *I enjoyed the development of both Kate and Peter and what life brought each of them for the many years to come after they "parted".  

5.  *The author did a phenomenal job of creating a rich and moving story of these two families that spanned over many years.  A complete joy to read!  

Who Should Read It:    I recommend this adult novel to any reader that enjoys great fiction, character driven stories, and strong writing from the first page to the very last.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Just South of Home by Karen Strong

How I Heard About It:  Simon and Schuster were kind enough to send me a copy of this new May 2019 title.  I had no previous knowledge of the story so it was going to be a brand new and fresh read.  Sometimes those are the best ones to experience.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Cousin Sarah lives in a small southern town where life is simple, fun, and innocent.  

2.  *Cousin Janie is from the big and bustling city of Chicago where there is always something to do and someone to do it with.

3.  *When Janie's mother heads to California to pursue her acting career, Janie is left behind with Sarah's family.  

4.  *At first, neither girl is thrilled with the new living situation with Janie making life difficult for Sarah when all she wants to do is enjoy her summer vacation.  

5.  *After a visit to a local "spot" in town, the girls discover a mystery which takes them on a journey of discovery about the small town, about themselves, and several of the townspeople.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *When I began the story, I loved the southern "flair" of the plot and characters.  I was especially drawn to the grandmother Mrs. Greene.  

2.  *The plot drew me in and I appreciated the "tension" between Sarah and Janie.  The reading was engaging as the two girls were "drawn" together.  

3.  *Once the girls were immersed in the mystery of the story, I found myself reading faster and faster I was curious to find out what was truly going on.  

4.  *Not only were Sarah and Janie compelling characters, but Ellis and Jasper added greatly to the action and events within the story.  

5.  *I enjoyed how the story included elements of realistic fiction, mystery, and even a bit of fantasy.  

Who Should Read It:    The novel is at 310 pages with the chapters being a bit on the long side.  In my opinion, I could see a fifth and/or sixth grade reader being the perfect audience for the story.  Of course it could also be read by middle-school readers.  The book would be great for a class read aloud because of the mystery and fantasy element.  Happy Reading1  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars!