Fourth Grade Journey

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt...

How I Heard About It:  One of my favorite things to do is read book reviews.  When I see a book title appear in several different publications, I start to consider it as a possible read.  After further investigation of this book, I knew it was something I had to read.  Now that I have finished all 771 pages, I'm so pleased that I had the opportunity to read this masterpiece.  

What It Is About:  The novel follows the life of Theo Decker.  It opens when he is age 13 and living in New York City with his mother.  His father took off and left the two alone.  Theo doesn't exactly fit in with the crowd at school and has made some poor choices.  Because of one of these poor choices, Theo and his mother have to report to school to discuss the incident.  To pass some time before the school meeting, they decide to visit a museum to take in some art.  At some point Theo and his mother become separated at the museum and are victims of an explosion.  Theo survives, but his mother does not.  As Theo is making his way out of the museum, he takes a famous painting called The Goldfinch.  No one notices him take the painting as they are all consumed by the explosion.  Following his mother's death, he spends time with a friend's rich family and becomes a member of their clan.  Just as Theo is getting use to his new life, his father and new girlfriend show up on his doorstep.  The three of them end up going to live in Las Vegas.  Theo spends a few years in Vegas and becomes friends with another lost soul named Borris.  After some rough years in Vegas and another loss, Theo ends up back in New York living with and working for a man that has a connection to the day of the explosion.  The story follows Theo as he tries to make something of himself as an adult, make amends for the mistakes he has made, and to reconcile his mother's death and the painting he took all those years ago.  (This got a bit long and I didn't cover the 1/2 of it)

What I Thought Of It:   Nothing brings me more joy than finding a novel that grabs hold of me and doesn't let go until well after I finish the book.  That happened with this novel.  As long as the book was, I could not put it down and found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it.  Normally a book this size, this complex, and this detailed isn't typically my type of book.  This was not the case.  The writing in was superb.  The characters were fascinating.  The plot of unique, deep, and mesmerizing.  This novel has become one of my new favorite adult books.  My goal now is to read her other two pieces of fiction.

Who Should Read It:  If you are a reader that enjoys a "BIG" read, then this is the book for you.  As long as it is, it moves quickly and will keep your interest until the very end.  This is a novel not to be missed.  I can now see why it was on so many "must-read" list for 2013 and I'm sure will continue to be just as popular in 2014.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Treat Tuesday #24...

Treat Tuesday - Year End Blog Review

*I don't have a "treat" recipe to post today, so I had to come up with another idea for today's post.

*I have seen on other blogs, people writing about their most-viewed blog posts.

*It got me to thinking about all of the blog entries that I have posted over the last year.

*After digging around my blog "settings", I found a list of most "visited" posts from my blog...

#1 Most Visited Blog Post (Nerdlution Post)

#2 Most Visited Blog Post (Music Monday #1)

#3 Most Visited Blog Post (Surprise Sunday #1)

*It is a "true treat" to know that what I do here on this blog is getting out there into the world, hopefully giving an idea or two, and making a bit of a difference.

*Happy New Year!  What an incredible year 2013 was and I know the best is yet to come in 2014...

Monday, December 30, 2013

Music Monday (Year-End Edition)...

"What Does the Fox Say" by Ylvis
*Voted #1 Music Monday Selection from 2013 by my 4th Graders

"Hall of Fame" by The Script and
*Voted #2 Music Monday Selection from 2013 by my 4th Graders

"Good Time" by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen
*Voted #3 Music Monday Selection from 2013 by my 4th Graders

Music Monday Selections 2013-2014 (so far)...

Week Number One:  What I Am by
Week Number Two:  Proud by Heather Small
Week Number Three:  Roar by Katy Perry
Week Number Four:  Dreamer by Chris Brown 
Week Number Five:  What Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis 
Week Number Six:  The Rainbow Connection by The Muppets 
Week Number Seven:  Good Time by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen 
Week Number Eight:  Thriller by Michael Jackson 
Week Number Nine:  Hall of Fame by The Script and 
Week Number Ten:  Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka & Glee 
Week Number Eleven:  One Day by Matisyahu
Week Number Twelve:  Count on Me by Bruno Mars
Week Number Thirteen:  Louder by Charice 
Week Number Fourteen:  Do They Know It's Christmas by Band Aid
Week Number Fifteen:  Do They Know It's Christmas by the cast of Glee

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (12/30/13)...

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

*This last week was such an enjoyable week of reading.  This two-week holiday reminds me of my summer reading (minus the sun, pool, and warm weather) with the extra time I have to read.  I'm looking forward to the second week of holiday break and even more reading.    

Books I Read this Past Week…

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

*This 771 page novel took me a long time to finish, but it was well worth it.

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

*4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars

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

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

*This is my current BBC. (Boy's Book Club Selection)

The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson

*This will be my new middle-grade novel

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Surprise Sunday #5...

Surprise Sunday - 
Book Give Away

***The winner of this book give away was maria.selke.
***Congratulations!  You have won a copy of

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

*The other day I posted my favorite books from 2013 from several categories.

*One of my favorite things to do is to share book titles with friends, students, family members, Twitter pals, and via this blog.

*I've only done one book give-away via the blog and I thought what a better way to end 2013, than with another book give-away.

*I was going to try to include a google form to record responses, but I think I need a little more time to figure that all out.

*Hopefully this will be an easy way to enter the book give-away.  Please reply to this post including ONE of these statements and the title you would like if your name is drawn...

-My favorite book of 2013 was

-If I could win one of these books, it would be

-During 2014 I'm looking forward to reading 

-My best reading experience from 2013 was

-Reading to me is

-If my name is drawn, I would like the title...

*Good luck and I look forward to reading your replies.  This book give-away will be open until Tuesday, December 31st at 11:59 PM.  Happy New Year!

*Here are my favorite books from 2013…

We are Water by Wally Lamb (Favorite Adult Read)

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (Favorite Picture Book)

True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (Favorite Middle-Grade Novel)

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller (Favorite Professional Book)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Roswell...

How I Heard About It:  This title has appeared on Twitter for quite some time.  It has been on my "to-be-read" list for quite some time.  I've seen it on top read lists for quite some time.  I finally bought the book for myself as a "little" Christmas gift.  

What It Is About:  I guess you would call this your typical high school romance story.  Now that normally wouldn't get my attention, but since I have seen this title mentioned so many times on Twitter, I decided I'd better give it a shot.  Eleanor is the new girl in town and is quite different from your "typical" high school female.  Park is mixed race with a Korean mother and an American father.  Their relationship begins on the school bus without much communication.  As each day goes by, their friendship begins to grow over comic books, music, and their differences that force them to stand out more than they would like.  Eleanor comes from a broken home with an abusive step-father, a weak mother, and four younger siblings.  Park comes from a solid home with a loving mother, a strong father, and a younger brother.  As much as Eleanor and Park would love to ride off into the sunset of "high-school romance", they both realize this is going to be more difficult than they would like.  

What I Thought Of It:   This was a pleasant surprise of a book.  Based on the summary I wasn't sure it was my kind of story, but because it had gotten such rave reviews, I wanted to give it a shot.  What I enjoyed most in the story were the characters.  I came to really know and care about these two young people and what they were going through.  My heart ached when I read about Eleanor's family life and cringed when I read about Eleanor and Park trying to fit in with the high school crowd.  The story was very well-written and the plot moved along quickly.  I was able to finish the book in two days and was engaged during the entire story and that right there says a lot.  
Who Should Read It:  I know many educators have been enjoying this novel and I'm sure many more will also.  I have a daughter that is a freshman in college and I told her she should read it during her holiday break.  I think high-school readers will find this a delicious read and be able to relate to both Eleanor and Park.  Happy Reading...

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friend Friday #23...

Hi!  I’m Lucy and I’m reading the book called The Sasquatch Escape written bSuzanne Selfors.

I think this book is amazing because it is full of adventures.  

My favorite part of the story is they catch the Sasquatch because it is funny.    

The character that I liked best is Pearl, Grandpa, and Dr. Woo because they are funny to read about.  

I think the author wrote this book because for fun and wanted to entertain young readers.   

I would recommend this book to my friends because it's so good and I know they would like it.  

Reading to me is a whole new world because you are in the ZONE!

*Lucy is a fourth grade girl in my class this year.
*She LOVES to read!
*It is great to talk books with her because she has such great insight and takes things to a deeper level than most readers.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

How I Heard About It: As I was last-minute Christmas shopping on Monday, my favorite book clerk wished me a happy holiday.  We started chatting books (of course) and she mentioned this one to me. She stated based on past conversations, she thought I would enjoy this one.  Well, I couldn't resist.  I bought the book, wrapped it up, and gave it to myself for Christmas.  

What It Is About:   This is a young adult novel that I had never heard of before Monday.  I also bought Eleanor and Park at the same time, which I will be starting soon.  Once I started the novel this morning, I knew I would finish it today.  The story follows Leonard Peacock, a high-school senior, on the day he is going to kill himself.  He is also going to kill a classmate named Asher.  Leonard hasn't had an easy life.  His father left him and his mother.  His mother has a new boyfriend and lives most of the time in New York city.  Leonard is different from most of his classmates and seems to always stand-out in more ways than one.  Leonard's best friend is an elderly gentleman who lives next door.  As he moves through his day, he gives "gifts" to the people in his life that mean something to him.  There are also flash-backs throughout the story that give details to the events in Leonard's life that led him to the day he wants to die.  

What I Thought Of It:   Being that I finished this novel in one day should tell you what I thought of it.  The story grabs hold of you from page one and doesn't let go until the last word.  I know some of you might think it is the typical high-school student who wants to kill someone and then kill himself story, but it is far from that.  It is actually a beautiful novel about life, being ourselves, and standing up for what is right in the world.  There are some amazing characters in this book that became very special to me.  As much as I wanted to get to the end of the story, I was also sad when I finished because I became quite attached to Leonard and the people in his life.
Who Should Read It:  I love when I find a new book, read it, and becomes one that I know I will remember for a long time to come.  That is what this book did for me.  I know high school readers will find the story engaging, but I'm also going to recommend it to all of my reading friends.  The novel is powerful, important, disturbing, and one of the best fiction books I've read this year.  Happy Reading...

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Trailer Thursday #23… (Favorites from 2013 Edition)

We are Water by Wally Lamb
*My favorite adult novel from 2013

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
*My favorite middle-grade novel from 2013

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
*My favorite picture book from 2013

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller
*My favorite professional book from 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wonder Wednesday #23...

Wonder Wednesday - The Wonder of Christmas

*The Christmas holiday has always been one of my most favorite times of the year.

*I'm lucky that I married my wife who also loves the holiday as much as I do.

*Over the last three days, I've had so many WONDERS…

-  On the 23rd of December we hosted the 29th annual Christmas dinner for a group of high school friends.  My wife started the dinner in her mom's dining room when we were all in college.  It has become a tradition that we all hold dear to our hearts.

-  One aspect of Christmas that I enjoy is going out shopping on my own on the 23rd to just "poke" around and see what I can find.  I usually come home with an extra gift for the kids and/or my wife.  This year I even found a thing or two for myself.

-  Due to family illness and health issues we had to change our Christmas Eve tradition.  We picked up my mother-in-law and ventured north to a nursing home where my father-in-law is staying for some short-term care.  Everyone pitched in and made it the best Christmas Eve we could.

-  The Christmas Eve service at our church was beautiful and so special.  It is one of my favorite church services of the year.  The older I get, the more sentimental I seem to get.  I think I had tears in my eyes for most of the service.  The service tends to bring out the memories of Christmas past and all the wonders of the world.

-  As we were getting ready for bed last night my daughter, who is a freshman at UNL, asked if we wanted a slumber party.  She jumped in bed with us and actually slept with us the entire night.  Wasn't the most comfortable, but it was one of the best Christmas gifts I received this year.

-  The magic of Christmas morning appeared once again this morning.  As a child I remember the feeling and there are still moments when it returns at various moments.

-  We hosted my family today.  This is a different tradition for us, but because my parents are getting older and dealing with health issues, we offered.  It was such a fun family day.  My mother has Alzheimer's and use to love Christmas as much as I do.  For obvious reasons, she isn't the "same" mother I use to have on this day, but I still saw glimmers of her.  The gifts we gave her were things she can use on a daily basis, like Pepsi and Dove Chocolates, and she laughed and got a chuckle out of the gifts.  It was a beautiful thing to see!

-  Giving gifts is one of the things I love the most about Christmas.  There really is nothing like it.  This year I will be celebrating my 22nd wedding anniversary on the 28th of December.  I planned a family outing day and gave it to my wife for a gift.  We will be going to see the Wizard of Oz Broadway show and dinner afterwards.  With our daughter off to college this fall and our junior son who isn't around much, we don't get as many chances to be together as a family.  Let's just say there were tears all around when she opened this gift.  So looking forward to Saturday!

-  It is a silly and fun wonder, but one thing we always look forward to is giving our dog his gifts and he actually opens them.  It is a sight to behold!  I had to include it here…

-  The wonder of the birth of Jesus and his story needs to be remembered.  No matter what holiday you celebrate and honor, I want to wish you the very Merriest of Christmas'...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Treat Tuesday 23...

Treat Tuesday - 
Chocolate Lasagna

*I love chocolate.
*I love lasagna.
*Put them together for perfection!



-Begin by crushing 36 Oreo cookies. I used my food processor for this, but you could also place them in a large ziplock bag and crush them with a rolling pin. When the Oreos have turned into fine crumbs, you are done.

-Transfer the Oreo crumbs to a large bowl. Stir in 6 tablespoons melted butter and use a fork to incorporate the butter into the cookie crumbs. When the butter is distributed, transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator while you work on the additional layers.

-Mix the cream cheese with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add in 2 Tablespoons of milk, and sugar, and mix well. Stir in 1 and 1/4 cups Cool Whip. Spread this mixture over the crust.

-In a bowl, combine chocolate instant pudding with 3 and 1/4 cups cold milk. Whisk for several minutes until the pudding starts to thicken. Use a spatula to spread the mixture over the previous cream cheese layer. Allow the dessert to rest for about 5 minutes so that the pudding can firm up further.

-Spread the remaining Cool Whip over the top. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips evenly over the top. Place in the freezer for 1 hour, or the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving.

Treat Tuesday - Adult Novel

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

*Read this a few years back.

*Such a great little Christmas story!

Treat Tuesday - Middle Grade Novel

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

*I use to read this to my classes "back in the day."

*Such a fun and engaging story for children.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Music Monday (Holiday Edition)...

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Libera
*Beautiful - Just Beautiful

"O Holy Night" by Whitney Houston
*One of my favorite Christmas Carols sung by one of my favorite singers.  Enjoy!  

Music Monday Selections 2013-2014 (so far)...

Week Number One:  What I Am by
Week Number Two:  Proud by Heather Small
Week Number Three:  Roar by Katy Perry
Week Number Four:  Dreamer by Chris Brown 
Week Number Five:  What Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis 
Week Number Six:  The Rainbow Connection by The Muppets 
Week Number Seven:  Good Time by Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen 
Week Number Eight:  Thriller by Michael Jackson 
Week Number Nine:  Hall of Fame by The Script and 
Week Number Ten:  Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka & Glee 
Week Number Eleven:  One Day by Matisyahu
Week Number Twelve:  Count on Me by Bruno Mars
Week Number Thirteen:  Louder by Charice 
Week Number Fourteen:  Do They Know It's Christmas by Band Aid
Week Number Fifteen:  Do They Know It's Christmas by the cast of Glee

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (12/23/13)...

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

*Last week was so busy being the last week of the 2013 school year.  This weekend was crazy busy.  Doing my one-hour of reading, but hoping to get much more reading in after Christmas!  

Books I Read this Past Week...

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

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

*Heading into the home stretch with this "massive" novel.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friend Friday #22...

Hi!  I’m Vic and I’m reading the book called We are Water written by Wally Lamb.

This book is another hit by Wally Lamb.  I have been a fan of Wally Lamb since I first read I know This Much Is True fifteen years ago.  In We Are Water, Wally doesn’t let you down.  Once again Wally welcomes you into the hearts of his characters, lets you feel their struggles, and in the end, you are left once again feeling satisfied.

To pick one part of this book and claim it as my “favorite” is hard, but I am going with the ending.  This is a big step for me, because as Patrick knows, I am never satisfied with the ending of the books we read.  To many times I am left feeling let down or it seems that the ending is rushed, but in We Are Water, I was left with a sense of peace.  

Through his words, Wally introduces you to a family that struggles with hidden abuse, self-doubt, and failure.  For 555 pages he shares this tale of a broken family fighting to find out who they really and in the end he simply gives you “peace”.  

There you are standing on the beach with Orion and Andrew.  Andrew has just come out of the water and his dad, Orion, asks him about his tattoo. Andrew explains that he purchased it before he left the military.  It means ‘love wins”.  At that moment I, as a reader, felt “peace”.  From page one until the end you were pulled through this families struggles and hardship.  You along with them were fighting to find peace and as the sun starts to set and you watch father and son walk into the ocean one last time, you get the feeling that for the first time in a long time the Oh family are left with a sense of peace.

When asked why Wally Lamb wrote this book, I would have to say to help us realize the lasting effect of our actions.

I simply would recommend this to anyone that loves a great read!

*Vic is a colleague, a friend, and a member of the BBC (Boy's Book Club).
*We have spent years sharing book titles, book conversations, and a love for reading.
*Wally Lamb is a favorite for both of us so I was thrilled when Vic agreed to write for my Friend Friday post.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Trailer Thursday #22...

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner

Snowmen at Night

Snowmen at Work

Snowmen All Year

*These were our picture books that were shared this week during morning meeting.

Life Lesson #13...

Life Lessons in Room 113 - Writing

*Each Thursday we watch a short video clip that I title "Life Lesson".

*After the video we have a class discussion about the content.

*My students then spend time writing about the video which could include their reactions, thoughts, feelings, or connections.

Thursday Lesson #13 - Be Merry

Lesson Thursday Videos (So Far)...

Lesson #1 - Be Brave
Lesson #2 - Be Kind
Lesson #3 - Be Courageous
Lesson #4 - Be Motivated
Lesson #5 - Be a Buddy, Not a Bully
Lesson #6 - Be Inspired
Lesson #7 - Be Spooky
Lesson #8 - Be Kind (Part Two)
Lesson #9 - Be Happy
Lesson #10 - Be a Reader
Lesson #11 - Be Power
Lesson #12 - Be a Team

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wonder Wednesday #22...

Wonder Wednesday - Holiday Project

*The last few days have been the best.  We started my annual holiday project on Monday and my hope is that we all finish this Friday.

*Since my first year of teaching (1991) we have made these cute little frog ornaments.  

*Each year we spend about five days working on this project during our afternoon time together.  It is the perfect time of year to take a break from our "work" and spend it on a creative craft.

*Each student gets three plastic panels, a needle, some green and white yarn, and go to town on creating their frog "buddy".  Some of the kids will make it into an ornament for their tree, and other students will just create a little frog buddy to take home.

*As I was helping different students this afternoon, a student asked if we could play all of our music Monday selections while we worked.  I thought it was a great idea!

*I took a moment and looked around the room.  I saw students in small groups chatting together while they sewed, singing/humming along to our music, and just generally enjoying our time together.  It brought such a smile to my face.

*Another WONDER I witnessed was the students who really were grasping how the project worked and were helping other children in the room who were struggling.  Some of the interactions were between students who don't normally socialize with each other.  What a WONDER to see!

*This type of experience just reminded me that we need to take the time out of our busy days, reach into the "vault" of arts and crafts, and enjoy some quality time together.

*Today was truly a WONDER Wednesday...

*This isn't exactly like the ones I do, but will give you an idea of what we are creating...