Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, January 18, 2021

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

How I Heard About It:
*I bought this novel back in August of 2020.  I saw a review and was in the market for a novel published for adults.  When the book arrived, I began reading, but then put it aside as it didn't grab my attention at the time.  I've been reading it on and off since and recently finished.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
*The story begins with Franny "working" her way onto a fishing expedition heading toward Antarctica.

*She isn't truthful with the crew of the fishing boat as to why she wants to join them.

*As they make their way south, both the crew and Franny realize they all have their personal reasons for being on that boat.

*During the journey, there are flash backs, to Franny's earlier life with her family, her professor, and deep dark secrets.  

*Franny has portrayed herself as one person, when in reality she is someone completely different.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
*Because it took me so long to read, you can probably gather this wasn't a page-turner for me.

*The writing was beautiful, detailed, and quite descriptive.  

*I enjoyed the startup of the story, but once the flashbacks began, I personally became confused and wasn't quite sure what was going on.

*When the "mystery" was revealed, I was drawn in again, but that didn't last for the rest of the story.  

*The plot was slow and I didn't feel like I ever really got to know the characters.

Who Should Read It:
*I'm in the minority, but this novel wasn't for me.  Based on GoodReads and Amazon, many adult readers loved the novel and gave it four and five stars.  This is definitely a story for adult readers that enjoy a well written, slower paced fiction story.  Happy Reading!  

STARS out of 5 Stars

An Inside Look #159 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with John David Anderson
(Author of One Last Shot)

*Welcome to my favorite feature of my blog.  

*Season #ONE (June of 2016 to March of 2017)

*Season #TWO (Summer of 2017)

*Season #THREE (School Year 2017/2018)

Season #FOUR
ummer/fall of 2018)

*Season #FIVE (School Year 2018/2019)

*Season #SIX (Summer 2019) 

*Season #SEVEN (Fall 2019) 

*Season #EIGHT (Winter/Spring 2020)

*Season #NINE (Fall 2020)

*I'm excited to be back for season #TEN 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 SECOND interview in which I'm calling Season #TEN.  

*Thank you to John David Anderson for being the One-Hundred Fifty-Ninth author I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.

*Here is my Review of the Novel..

One Last Shot

by John David Anderson

(May 5, 2020)

How did you come to know Malcolm?
For me, at least, every new novel is a mystery, a chance to meet new characters and figure out what drives them, what makes them shake in their shoes, what they wish for when they blow out their birthday candles. For Malcolm I only knew at the start that he wanted his parents to be happy and that he felt he couldn’t live up to his father’s expectations. Also, he hates baseball. From there I just let him evolve alongside the conflicts of the story, and I was happy to see him grow and change.

What do you think is his most admirable quality?
Malcolm’s most admirable quality is his concern for others, though it doesn’t always come out given the kind of shy, introspective kid he is. Of course this also manifests itself as an overwhelming desire to please, to make others happy, which can—when taken to extremes—be emotionally unhealthy for him. I think that’s something a lot of young readers can relate to.

Is there anything you wish he would have changed or done differently in his story?
I can imagine a hundred ways that Malcolm’s story might have gone—for example, the decision he makes during the tournament at the end of the book could have gone very differently—but that’s not the story I set out to tell or the character arc I chose to paint. I suppose I could say that I wish I’d written it better, but that’s only because I believe no piece of writing is ever perfect, only finished. I could tinker with sentence structures and diction and metaphors for eternity, but then I’d never make a deadline 😊.

What do you think Malcolm can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?
I hope a lot. Find a good friend to confide in, that helps. Don’t worry if you talk to yourself—it’s normal, we all do it (but if you get in an argument, make sure you win). But I think one of the biggest lessons Malcolm learns is that his parents’ happiness is not all on him. Yes you should be giving and empathetic and kind and he should strive to do his best, but if you spend all of your time trying to make other people happy, you can lose sight of what makes you happy. A lot of Malcolm’s journey is him learning to be comfortable with who he is.

How did you research Malcolm and the circumstances he found himself in?
I was born. I played Little League baseball (poorly). I listened to my parents argue every night. I struggled to make friends. I lived inside my own head. I drank slushies. I yearned to find something I was good at and I did my best to avoid conflict. That’s basically it. I think all of my novels have an autobiographical edge, but this one especially.


Most of the outside research I did was actually on miniature golf, its history and its current appeal. Also proprietary eponyms. I studied those a lot.

Do you and Malcolm share any similarities?

See #5 above. We definitely share a lot of the same DNA, even down to some of the voices we hear in our heads. One place we differ is that by the end of the book, Malcolm learns not to be so hard on himself. I’m 45 and still working on that.

What was the hardest scene to write about him?

The conversational scenes between him and his parents were tough—especially the heart-to-heart he has with his mother near the end where he learns one of the reasons why his parents sometimes fight about him. Some things are just so difficult to talk about—it takes guts just to open the door—and I often worry that the words I’m choosing as a writer don’t do justice to the emotions that I can feel my characters going through.


That said, all writing is hard. Fun. But hard.

Who do you think was his biggest supporter and why?

I think all three adults in Malcolm’s life evolve in that role (some with more difficulty than others). Obviously Frank comes to be the kind of cheerleader for Malcolm that his father always struggled to be, but even his motives are questionable at the start. If I had to pick any character who believes in Malcolm from the moment she meets him, I’d choose Lex. Sometimes it takes someone your age to know exactly what you’re going through. Waka waka, man.

Why do you think young people, like Malcolm, are sometimes afraid to be their true selves and not share with their parents what they truly want out of their life?

At what point in your life do your parents stop dictating the direction it will take? At what point do you truly find the agency to be your own person, develop your own credo, and make your own choices? That’s incredibly hard to do at age 12 or 13. It’s hard for some people to do at age 30 or 40. Add to this the added pressure of not wanting to disappoint said parents (tick them off, sure, but disappoint them, that’s the worst), and the fact that most people of any age struggle to know what they truly want out of life--not to mention whatever the thing you want always seems to be changing, and it makes sense that this would be something that would cause anxiety. However parents can do a great deal to create a safe and supportive environment for kids to express their hopes, dreams, and insecurities by being encouraging mentors and guides.

What do you think Malcolm is doing as the present time?

I think he would still be playing miniature golf, for starters. It’s nice when you find something that energizes you, that you want to invest yourself in and get better at, and I’m happy that he found his. But right at this very moment I’m guessing Malcolm and Lex are probably playing Pacman, eating Little Debbie Snack Cakes, and discussing why Frisbees are called Frisbees and not flying discs. 

*Here are links to the One Hundred Fifty-Eight interviews...

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

SEASON #SEVEN (Fall 2019)

SEASON #EIGHT (Winter/Spring 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)

Interview #127 with Phil Bildner (Author of A High-Five for Glenn Burke)

Interview #128 with Leslie Connor (Author of A Home for Goddesses and Dogs)

Interview#129 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Queen Bee and Me)

Interview #130 with Jody J. Little (Author of Worse Than Weird)

Interview #131 with Jenn Bishop (Author of Things You Can't Say)

Interview #132 with Kaela Noel (Author of Coo)

Interview #133 with Rebecca Stead (Author of The List of Things That Will Not Change)

Interview #134 with Gae Polisner (Author of Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me)

Interview #135 with Emily Blejwas (Author of Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened)

Interview #136 with Joy McCullough (Author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost)

Interview #137 with Kim Baker (Author of the Water Bears)

Interview #138 with Erin Entrada Kelly (Author of We Dream of Space)

Interview #139 with Jess Redman (Author of Quintessence)

Interview #140 with Melanie Conklin (Author of Every Missing Piece)

Interview #141 with Lindsey Stoddard (Author of Brave Like That)

SEASON #NINE (Fall 2020)

SEASON #TEN (Winter 2021)

Interview #158 with Rebecca Ansari (Author of The In-Between)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (1/18/21)


Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this idea on their site.  Here is a link to the site...

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

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

*My Novel Published for Adults (Audio)

*I'm not getting very far as I'm teaching from home, but will soon be back to teaching at school.  Then I'll get back to listening.  

Books I Read this Past Week...

Bea is for Blended by Lindsey Stoddard

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

Star Fish by Lisa Fipps

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

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

*Novel Published for Adults (3 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Bea is for Blended by Lindsey Stoddard

How I Heard About It:
*I've been a fan of Lindsey Stoddard's since her novel Just Like Jackie.  I was excited to hear she had a new middle-grade novel coming out in May of 2021.  I was even more excited when #bookexpedition was able to get a physical ARC of the book.  The novel recently arrived and I spent a couple of days enjoying the story of Bea and her family.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
*Bea has loved her life with her mom and her soccer.

*All that changes when her mom marries a man with three sons.

*One of the sons is in Bea's class and also plays soccer.

*When a new school year starts, a new girl moves in across the street from Bea, and the girls want a soccer team of their own, life gets very interesting for Bea and her new family.

*A story of family, friendship, and standing up for what is right and deserved.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
*I loved the story of Bea, her family, and the kids at school.  

*This middle-grade story has it all:  strong characters, strong plot, and strong desire to turn the page.

*The life-lesson of children standing up for what they believe in is at the center point of the story.

*I so enjoyed the journey Bea and her new brothers took and the changes that occurred from the start to the end of the story. 

*Lindsey sure knows how to capture the heart of a middle-grade reader, and those adult readers looking for the best stories to share with young readers.  

Who Should Read It:
*I would love to see Lindsey's new novel in all classroom libraries from grade three all the up to grade six.  Middle-school readers would also be a target audience for the book.  I can't wait to add another Lindsey Stoddard novel to my classroom.  Happy Reading!  

STARS out of 5 Stars