Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, February 17, 2020

An Inside Look #127 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Phil Bildner
(Author of A High-Five for Glenn Burke)

*The first season of interviews ran from June of 2016 to March of 2017.  

*Season #two ran during the summer of 2017.  

*Season #three ran during the school year of 2017-2018.  

*The fourth season ran during the summer/fall of 2018.

*Season #five ran during the 2018/2019 school year. 

*During summer 2019, the sixth season ran.  

*The seventh season of interviews ran during the fall of 2019.  

*I'm excited to be back for season #EIGHT with brand new interviews/authors.  

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

*This is the SEVENTH interview in which I'm calling Season #EIGHT.  

*Thank you to Phil Bildner for being the One-Hundred Twenty-Seventh author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the One Hundred Twenty-Six interviews…

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

SEASON #SEVEN (Fall 2019)

SEASON #EIGHT (Winter 2020)

Interview #121 with Melissa Savage (Author of Nessie Quest)

Interview #122 with Tamara Bundy (Author of Pixie Pushes On)

Interview #123 with Lindsay Lackey (Author of All the Impossible Things)

Interview #124 with Tae Keller (Author of When You Trap a Tiger)

Interview #125 with Jamie Sumner (Author of Roll With It)

Interview #126 with Hena Khan (Author of More to the Story)

*Here is my review of the Novel...

My Book Review for A High-Five for Glenn Burke

A High-Five for Glenn Burke

by Phil Bildner

(February 25, 2020)

How did you come to know Silas?
Getting to know Silas was actually quite easy. Back when I taught middle school, I knew so many kids just like him. And these days when I visit schools, I encounter a steady stream of kids who share his qualities and traits. 

But without a doubt, what made it so easy coming to know him is the fact that I experienced -- I lived -- Silas's journey. However, my coming out and his coming out were and are very different. 

What do you think is his most admirable quality?
His sensitivity. 

It's so important that kids -- especially boys -- see characters like this in books. It's important they see that there is nothing wrong with boys who are sensitive, kind, and willing to show emotion... because there is nothing wrong with boys who are sensitive, kind, and willing to show emotion. It's what makes us human.

Is there anything you wish he would have changed or done differently in his story?
No, there isn't anything I wish Silas would have done differently, but I'm sure there are lots of things Silas wishes he had. Absolutely. 

In large part, this is Silas's coming out story. But coming out isn't a moment. It's a process, a journey. That's what I want to help kids to  understand.

Everyone's coming out story is unique. There is no road map or instructional manual. It's something you make up as you go along. That's why there are always going to be hiccups and missteps. One moment, it's going to be brutal, and the next moment it can be beautiful. It can go from debilitating to exhilarating in the blink of an eye. It's always real.

What do you think Silas can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?
Hope.  Silas can provide kids with hope and the real chance for acceptance. 

Queer kids play sports, but this book isn't only for queer kids who plays sports. Nor is it simply for LGBTQ kids in general. It's for all kids, for everyone. I hope this book will help kids grasp the importance of acceptance. I want to help kids -- and everyone --  open their hearts and minds to the realities and struggles some of their own classmates and teammates may be living.

How did you research Silas and the circumstances he found himself in?
So there's a scene in the book that takes place at a trampoline park. How do you research that? You go to a trampoline park! And let me tell you, trampoline parks can be incredibly humbling once you reach a certain age... and I have definitely reached that certain age. Back in the day, I would bounce for answers. Today, not so much.

Also, a lot of the action in the book takes place on the baseball field. I wanted those baseball scenes to be as authentic as possible. So I spent hours talking to Cole, my friend's son who shared stories of spitting sunflower seeds and dugout chants. I spoke to John, my dentist's son, who told me all about game day prep and batter's box routines. And I Skyped with Jackson, a kid I met at a school visit, who told me all about his coaches and teammates. I used my resources!

Do you and Silas share any similarities?
Yes. Like Silas, I was an athlete growing up. I played basketball, baseball, soccer, and tennis. But that's pretty much where the similarities between twelve-year-old me and twelve-year-old Silas ended.

Unlike Silas, I didn't have the internet. I didn't have his access to information, language, words, and ideas. All I knew is that as much as I loved playing ball, kids like me didn't. There were no athletes like me in the NBA, NFL, or even playing college sports. I never saw athletes like me depicted in movies or on television. And I certainly never met any in the books I read.

It's one of the main reasons I wrote this novel. No one deserves to be made to feel invisible. Visibility is critical. It leads to acceptance and respect for existence.

What was the hardest scene to write about Silas?
It's hard to pinpoint what was the most difficult scene to write, but I do know the parts of the story that cut the deepest. I'll give one example: In several instances, Silas talks about "keeping score." I don't want to give away what that means, but it's something I lived with and struggled with for years. I know it's something that many LGBTQ persons experience. They may not call it "keeping score," but the concept is one he/she/they are quite familiar with.

Who do you think was his biggest supporter and why?
Silas is surrounded by people who are incredibly supportive of him in all different ways. In the moment where he is in life, I don't think he realizes just how fortunate he is (actually, I know he doesn't). Upon reflection when he gets older, there's no doubt he'll be able to acknowledge all the people he had in his corner. When he does, I don't think he'll say one person was more supportive than another. He'll recognize he needed his entire village. I also believe Silas will strive to be the person he needed when he was younger. As we all should.

Why do you think some young people, like Silas, are able to tell others who they truly are; while others keep this part of them a secret for years and years, sometimes to the detriment of their own well-being?
Safety. For many queer kids, it's simply not safe for them to share their truths. Some risk physical violence. Some risk being kicked out of their homes. For all queer kids, no matter how accepting or loving their world appears to be, there are always risks in coming out. You never truly know how people are going to react until it's out there. And once you share your truth, there are no backsies. 

What do you think Silas is doing as the present time?
What's Silas doing right now? He's probably catching fly balls out in centerfield, singing karaoke with Zoey, or watching The Sandlot for the millionth time. No matter what he's doing, he's smiling. He's definitely smiling.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (2/17/20)

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...

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

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

Normal People by Sally Rooney

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

Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker

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

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week...

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

*My Young-Adult Novel

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

*My Novel Published for Adults

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

*My Middle-Grade Novel

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

*My Young-Adult Novel

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

*My Novel Published for Adults (Audio)

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker

How I Heard About It:
*When I saw this title at the local bookstore earlier this month, it reminded me I had a copy of the book I received at #NCTE19 in Baltimore.  I came home from the bookstore, found the ARC in my pile, and began reading.

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Ware believes in "Magic Fairness Land".  

2.  *Jolene believes in the "real world".

3.  *After Ware's grandmother falls on his "watch", his parents inform him he will now have to spend his summer at the "Rec".  This does not sit well with Ware.

4.  *On his arrival on the first day, Ware bypasses the summer Rec center, and heads over to the empty lot next door.  It is here that he encounters Jolene.

5.  *Each of them have their reasons for spending the next several weeks in the abandoned lot while trying to make sense of the "magic land" and the "real world".

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *This middle-grade novel was beautifully written and told.  I so enjoyed the last few days of reading about the world in which Ware and his new friend Jolene exist.

2.  *Ware and Jolene were from two completely different worlds and believed in opposite "views", but were able to find each other somewhere in the middle.

3.  *The view in which Ware had on his world was authentic, sensitive, and handled with grace.  He is a character that I don't soon forget.

4.  *Jolene added a complex dimension to the overall plot and I enjoyed getting to know her, her backstory, and how she was able to have an impact on Ware.

5.  *The pages were filled with lots of life-lessons and important messages that young readers will be able to apply to their own lives.

Who Should Read It:
*After reading, I would say the story is best suited for readers in grades four, five, and six.  The book would also be perfect for the middle-school reader.  If you know of a mature young reader, who is sensitive and keenly aware of their own world, this is definitely the novel for them.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Normal People by Sally Rooney

How I Heard About It:
*I was in need of an audio book and wanted it to be a novel published for adults.  When I came across this title, I remembered having seen it written up in quite a few publications.  I also noticed many of my GoodReads friends had read it and had interesting comments about the story.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Connell and Marianne.  Marianne and Connell.  

2.  *They meet during their high-school years.  Connell is popular, well-liked, and an athlete.  Marianne is rich, an outcast, and doesn't care what others think.

3.  *Connell's mother is a maid for Marianne's wealthy family.  The two of them begin a secret relationship and vow not to tell anyone.

4.  *The secret relationship works for awhile, but after Connell hurts and embarrasses Marianne, they go their separate ways.

5.  *They reunite during college, and begin an on-again/off-again unique and different type of friendship/relationship.

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *When I first posted my thought on social media, I stated I wasn't sure if I liked or disliked the story.  Other readers of the book responded with the same thoughts.

2.  *While I enjoyed listening to the story, there were many moments when I was disturbed and annoyed by each of these characters and their actions.

3.  *Marianne broke my heart on more than one occasion and I just wanted her to make better choices and be good to herself.

4.  *I did get a bit tired of the together/not together, back and forth, that these two characters went through.  I'm sure there are actual people that do this, but it got tiring.

5.  *I wanted to see the good in each character, but they were so damaged and dysfunctional that it became more and more difficult to do.  Maybe that was the author's intention?

Who Should Read It:
*This is a hard one to think of who to recommend to.  While I enjoyed the overall story, there are certainly elements to the characters that I know readers will NOT enjoy and/or like.  Proceed with your own caution and awareness.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars