Fourth Grade Journey

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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Counting by 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan...

How I Heard About It:  I believe I first heard about this book from Colby Sharp via Twitter.  If you don't follow him, you need to.  I then would see a person Tweet about this book and the ARC they received.  While at a workshop earlier in August, Donalyn Miller mentioned the book.  I couldn't wait for the release date.  On August 29th, I check all the book stores in town and none of them had a copy yet.  I ordered a copy from two different online sources.  I wanted to be sure to get it as soon as possible.  I then downloaded a sample of the book to my Kindle.  Well, after reading that sample, I had to buy the whole book and I'm extremely pleased that I did.  

What It Is About:  Willow Chance is a one-of-a-kind character that I don't think I will ever forget.  She is twelve, she is a genius, and she is an individual.  After being adopted, she has had an incredible life with her parents.  She is a loner but fills her days with many diverse and unique interests.  These interests tend to make her stand-out among her peers, but Willow isn't going to compromise for anyone.  After a tragedy, Willow has to learn some hard life lessons.  She will learn these lessons with the help of the best cast of characters I have experienced in a novel in quite some time.  There is Dell Duke, her middle-school counselor.  There is Mai, her new high school friend and mentor.  There is Quang-ha, Mai's brother.  There is Jairo, a taxi cab driver.  Finally there is Pattie, the strong mother of Mai and Quang-ha.  All of these people will be affected by Willow in ways they could never imagine and she in return will be changed forever because of them. 

What I Thought Of It:  I'm sure you can tell by now that I LOVED this book.  I spent today reading the entire book.  I could not put it down and thought the writing was top-notch.  As I Tweeted today, I took in every page, every sentence, and every word.  It has been a long time since I have read a book that in my opinion is "pitch perfect."  Willow will be in my heart for a long time to come.  As I'm typing this I find myself missing her like I would miss a real friend.  To me the most profound aspect of these book is the unique and special cast of characters and how they came to rely and depend on each other.  This has become a book that will definitely be in my top five middle-grade novels. 
Who Should Read It:  I put on my Facebook page today that all middle-grade readers (4-6) need to read this book, but I also put that ALL adults should read it as well.  This is going to be my new book that I recommend to everyone.  It is my plan to share this novel as a read aloud with my fourth grade class at some point during the upcoming school year.  Please do yourself a favor, get a copy of this book, and get to know one of the most amazing girls you will ever read about!  Happy Reading...

Rating:  5 Stars out of 5 Stars!!! 


Friday, August 30, 2013

Friend Friday #6...

Hi!  I’m Nina and I’m reading the book called Wonkenstein:  The Creature from My Closet #1 written by Obert Skye.

I think this book is hilarious because it is so funny and pretty creepy at the same time.

My favorite part in the story is when Wonkenstein comes out half Willy Wonka and half Frankenstein because then Robert gets real freaky.  

The character that I liked best is Robert because he is the main character and was interesting to read about.  

I think the author wrote this book because he wanted to entertain the reader and write a funny story.  

I would recommend this book to my friends because I think most kids like funny books and this is a funny book. 

Reading to me is great because I love to read and I really like funny books. 

*Nina was in my fourth grade class last year and I also had her in summer school.  She loved to read and was excited to find this new series.  I hope she reads the other books in the series.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Trailer Thursday #6...

Counting by 7's by Holly Goldberg

*I was so excited to pick up this book today, but there wasn't a book store in town that had a copy.

*I have ordered a copy online and will wait anxiously until its arrival.

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

*As I prepare for the first day, I took out my first day of school picture book.

*This is a great story to share with children on the first day.  

*Here is a little tease of this awesome story!  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wonder Wednesday #6...

I always love setting up my classroom each fall.  It is such a fresh start and filled with such WONDER.

My favorite aspect of my room is the focus of books in each and every corner of the room.  It is just a WONDERFUL site and just makes me smile day in and day out. 

Tonight is our open house for our new students.  I will be welcoming my 28 new fourth graders.  It is my hope and wish that they find room 113 just as WONDERFUL as I do. 

As much as my room is a WONDER to me, it is truly the students that make this environment even more of a WONDER.

Enjoy a sneak peek of the classroom before the excitement of 2013-2014 begins...

Comprehension Connection Sheets

 Cafe Model Sheets - Note and Notice Strategies

Kids love reading in this chair.  One part of classroom library.

The revolving library, reading chairs, and a fun bulletin board.

My new favorite reading chair.  The start of picture-book bins.

Our writing bulletin board, bins of books, and a favorite poster.

Genre Posters, another classroom library, and conference table.

 All of my favorite books surround my desk.


 Lots of books and our club sheets to join after reading a book.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Treat Tuesday #6...

Treat Tuesday - Cowboy Caviar

*We had a gathering at our house this past Sunday.

*This was an appetizer brought and it was delicious!

*1 (15 ounce) can seasoned black-eyed peas - drained
*1 (15 ounce) can seasoned or plain black beans - drained
*3/4 cup frozen sweet corn - thawed
*3 green onions - chopped
*1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
*2 or 3 tomatoes - diced
*10 jarred jalapeño pepper slices - diced (mild or hot)
*1/2 cup cilantro - chopped
*1 ripe avocado - chopped
*Tortilla chips

*1 tablespoon olive oil
*1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
*1/2 lime - juiced
*1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
*Salt and pepper to taste

-Combine black eyed peas, beans, corn, green onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro in a medium bowl.
-In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, Dijon Mustard, and salt/pepper.
-Pour over bean mixture.
-Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
-Just before serving, add avocado and gently stir to combine.
-Serve with tortilla chips.

Treat Tuesday - Middle Grade Novel

It's the First Day of School Forever
 by R.L. Stine

Treat Tuesday - Adult Novel

Eddie's Bastard by Wiliam Kowaski

Monday, August 26, 2013

Earthling by Mark Fearing...

How I Heard About It: While attending a workshop by Donalyn Miller I saw this book for sale.  I am always drawn to graphic novels as I know my students will enjoy them.  I thought the title was cool and the cover and illustrations drew me to the book.  I added it to my pile of books to be purchased and looked forward to reading this graphic novel. 

What It Is About:  Bud is moving to a new house with his dad.  His dad is a scientist.  Bud isn't excited about starting a new school feeling like an outcast.  On the morning of the first day of school, Bud gets on the wrong bus.  The bus he does board, takes him to outer space and lands on a new and strange planet.  Bud meets a bunch of strange and unusual characters that reside on the planet.  His goal is to get back to planet Earth, but of course faces many obstacles along the way. 

What I Thought Of It:  This was an entertaining and enjoyable graphic novel.  It was almost like an old fashion comic book.  The color used in the graphics was incredible and so vibrant.  I thought the story was really strong at the beginning, a little weak in the middle, and then strong again at the end.  I liked the book was broken down into chapters, but made it feel more like a novel instead of a continuous graphic novel story. 
Who Should Read It:  I can see young readers really enjoying this book.  The space theme will pull children into the story.  They will enjoy the strange and crazy characters that are presented in the story.  There are also some crazy athletic games/competitions throughout the book which will be a hit with kids.  This is definitely a stand-alone book and children in grades 3-6 will eat it up.  Happy Reading! 

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 STARS

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (8/26/13)...

*My last week of summer didn't allow too much reading, but the reading I did, was excellent!

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

Books I Read this Past Week...

A Valiant Quest for the Misfit Menagerie by Jacqueline Resnick

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

*This is a must-read for this second book in the series.

*I can't wait to introduce this book (and series) to my class.

Earthling by Mark Fearing

*4 STARS out of 5 Stars! 

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

Aces Wild by Erica S. Perl

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Valiant Quest for The Misfit Menagerie by Jacqueline Resnick...

How I Heard About It:  My fourth grade book club called "Breakfast with Books" read The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie by Jacqueline Resnick this past school year.  That was the first book in this series.  The readers loved it and we also enjoyed Skyping with the author.  I was lucky enough that the author send me the ARC of the second book in this series.  The book comes out in September.  I've had the book since this past spring and I finally got to it before heading back to school tomorrow.  It was a wonderful book to end the summer with.    

What It Is About:  The story of the "misfit menagerie" started right up where the first book left off.  Bertie and Susan continue their adventure with their four animal friends (Smalls the sun bear, Rigby the dog, Wombat the wombat, and Tilda the Angora Rabbit.)  They are on a mission to find their friend Tilda who was taken from the circus to live with Chrysanthemum and her parents the Toddle's.  During their mission Bertie ends up with two of the animals and Susan ends up with one, as they are separated.  Their goal is to make it to Toodle's Toy Emporium to rescue Tilda and reunite the menagerie.

What I Thought Of It:  I absolutely loved this second book in the series.  I can't believe I waited so long to read it.  But on the other hand, it was an excellent novel to end the summer with.  I'm actually thinking this continuation of the story of the misfit menagerie was even better than the first one.  I enjoyed reading about the developing friendship between Bertie, Susan, and the animals.  I liked that the story took place away from the circus and the Toy Emporium was such a creative setting.  Adding new characters to this story, added even more excitement.

Who Should Read It:  Now that I have read this second installment, I can't wait to introduce the series to my students joining me this fall.  I believe it would make an excellent read aloud.  At this point, it is going to be my second read aloud.  It is then my hope that the kids will want to read the second book on their own.  Both books are on the longer side, so the student would need to be a strong reader in fourth grade or above.  In my opinion, it would make an awesome read aloud because it is such a super story with lots of suspense, action, and intrigue.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

*A book trailer for The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie (The first book in series)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friend Friday #5...

Hi!  I’m Vic and I’m reading the book called Me Before You written by JoJo Moyes.

I think this book is both heartbreaking and encouraging because you have this young lady Lou, who leads a very ordinary life, until she loses her job and ends up taking a new job.  The new job is taking care of a wealthy man her same age that is paralyzed.  Lou really has no idea what’s she is doing, but through the weeks, she develops a confidence and determination to make her patient a better person.  As she stumbles across a secret, Lou develops a plan to change the life of Will only to find her getting closer to him.  Will brings out a side of Lou she didn’t know she had and when you think things are going to work out tragedy strikes and Lou is left deciding how to move on.

My favorite part in the story is when they go on their first outing because Lou feels she has the perfect day planned.  She has researched and made the proper precautions for someone in a wheelchair.  Only to get there and it has rained and the parking lot is muddy.  The wheelchair gets stuck, they get kicked out of the restaurant their eating in, and they lose money on the horses they bet on.  Even though all things look bad, on the way home Lou finds Will with a small smile on his face.  Something that hasn’t been there in years.

The character that I liked best is the main character, Lou.  Lou comes from a very ordinary family with really no expectations for Lou, other than help provide money for the family.  Lou is happy with this life until she takes a job helping Will.  Will exposes her to a side she didn’t know she had.  She becomes strong, determined, and willing to go that extra step to make someone else happy.  She even finds true love, which is more painful that she would ever think it could be.

I think the author wrote this book because she wanted to provide the reader with an acceptance of self.  This book ends in tragedy, but throughout the author provides the reader with characters that have to except who they are, make the right choice, and then grow within themselves.

I would recommend this book to my friends because it pulls at your heartstrings but also shows you the true meaning of change.

Reading to me is an adventure because every time I read a book I become that character, live in that setting, and feel their emotions.  

*Vic is a great friend and a colleague at my school.  We have taught together for many years.  We are also both members of the BBC (Boy's Book Club).  The two of us spend hours talking books for kids and adults.  I was thrilled that he was willing to post a book he read this summer.  It is a stellar read so be sure to read it if you haven't.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trailer Thursday #5...

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
*One of my favorite Newbery Award Winning books. 

The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
*This was our final "Breakfast with Books" selection for 2012-2013.
*We loved it and so enjoyed the games at Gollywhopper.


*As part of our "Breakfast with Books" book club, we Skyped with the author.
*Jody was awesome to talk to and the kids enjoyed every minute of it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wonder Wednesday #5...

Wonder Wednesday:  I-Learn Training

Today was truly a WONDERful Wednesday.  We had district training.  Our district is rolling out a system called "I-Learn."

We are bringing in Apple products and giving our students in grades 4-6 an Ipad to use during the school year.  As the teacher, I received a new MacBook Air and an Ipad.

I will use these two pieces of equipment both in the classroom and at home to enhance my teaching and instruction with my students.

It was a great day of new learning and really was quite a WONDER.  It got me so excited about the upcoming school year and the possibilities before me.

I've included a couple of videos that the trainers shared with us today, that I thought were quite powerful and WONDERful.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Above and Beyond 

The Voice of an Active Learner

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin...

How I Heard About It:  While attending a workshop by Donalyn Miller earlier in August, she pointed this book out to me.  Well, if she is going to recommend a book, then I'm going to buy it and read it!  

What It Is About:  Oona and her brother Fred are the best of friends and surviving life after the death of their father.  They rely on their cat Zook for support, love, and friendship.  They also have a secret on how they came to acquire the cat, which they don't want anyone to find out.  After Zook has to spend time at the Veterinarian because of an illness and Oona's mother brings a new friend into the family;  life begins to get complicated for these two young siblings.  

What I Thought Of It:  This book was an enjoyable read.  I liked how Oona would tell stories (whoppers as she calls them) to her little brother Fred.  She learned these stories from her father who has died.  I thought it was touching that she wanted to continue the art of story telling that she learned from her dad.  I'm not a cat-lover (more of a dog lover), but I found myself caring about Zook and his "many lives."  There was a lot brought into this story and was deeper than one might think based on the cover and/or the title of the book.  

Who Should Read It:  In my opinion this would make for an excellent read aloud.  I'm even thinking of sharing the book with my class this upcoming school year.  There is great suspense which I know would draw the listeners into the story.  The novel is long at about 220 pages.  In order to read this book on their own, I think the reader would need to be a strong fourth grade reader or above.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars 

Treat Tuesday #5...

Treat Tuesday - Baked Spaghetti

**One of our family favorite dinners.

**It is great for a family of four or a larger group.

-1 pound box Vermicelli
-2 eggs
-1 cup milk
-1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
-1/4 cup Romano cheese
-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
-1 pound Italian sausage (Also could use ground beef, pepperoni, green pepper, mushrooms, etc.)
-27 ounce jar of spaghetti sauce

*Cook vermicelli according to package directions.
* Drain and set aside.
*In large bowl beat eggs.
*Add milk and Parmesan/Romano cheese.
*Mix well.
*Add cooked vermicelli and toss until pasta is well covered in egg mixture.
*Pour into a well buttered 9 x 13 baking dish.
*Top with mozzarella cheese.
*Mix the spaghetti sauce (and the toppings of our choice) together and pour on top.
*Bake for 45 minutes at 350.  
*Serves 8-10 

Treat Tuesday - Middle Grade Novel

 The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane

Treat Tuesday - Adult Novel

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (8/19/13)...

*It was a fun week of reading and enjoying these last few weeks of extra reading time.  

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

Books I Read this Past Week...

Note and Notice by Kylene Beers & Robert E. Probst

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

*Can't wait to try these strategies this fall.


We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

*4 STARS out of 5 Stars! 

Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel

*4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Squish #5:  Game On by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars! 


The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet by Tom Angleberger 

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars!  

 The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by JoAnne Rocklin

*4 STARS out of 5 Stars!   

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

A Valiant Quest for the Misfit Menagerie by Jacqueline Resnick

*I'm excited to read this sequel that my class read this past school year.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Notice & Note by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst...

How I Heard About It:  As I started to follow more and more people on Twitter, I kept seeing this book being mentioned over and over.  Being a teacher that thrives on making my practice of teaching reader better and better, I ordered the book and couldn't wait to see what everyone was talking about. 

What It Is About:  This book presents six reading strategies that will help our young readers become better and more engaged readers.  These strategies foster how to read more closely and gain more from the text.  The strategies are as follows...

                                                 1st:     Contrasts and Contradictions
                                                 2nd:    Aha Moments

                                                 3rd:    Tough Questions
                                                 4th:    Words of the Wiser

                                                 5th:    Again and Again
                                                 6th:    Memory Moment 

What I Thought Of It:  This was by far my favorite professional read of the summer.  I'm looking forward to teaching my fourth graders these six strategies.  They make such sense and I can see how they would assist readers in becoming better and "close" readers.  The text was easy to read, follow, and understand how the strategies can be taught.  I have found myself using the strategies as I do my own reading of middle-grade books and adult books.    

Who Should Read It:  Any teacher that works with children and their reading comprehension, needs to add this professional resource to their collection.  I can see it working with elementary, middle-school, and high school readers.  The teacher would just need to adapt it to their particular audience.  Do yourself a favor and read it.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver...

How I Heard About It:  I read the book Big Brother by Lionel Shriver earlier this summer.  It was her new book and I had read great things about it.  After reading it and talking with other readers, they would mention this book (Kevin) as one of her best.  I downloaded it to my e-reader thinking I would read it on my vacation in July.  I didn't get to it then, but just finished it last night.  Or should I say early this morning (2:00 AM). 

What It Is About:  This is a series of letters from a woman to her former husband about their son Kevin.  Kevin is in prison serving time for killing eleven people at his high school.  The letters go back to when Kevin was born and retell his life through the eyes of his mother.  There were difficulties in the relationship between Eva (the mother) and Kevin from his first day of birth.  Kevin never quite established the "normal" relationship between himself and his parents and/or other people for that matter.  Eva wonders if all of these issues led up to the killings.  She visits Kevin in prison each Saturday and tried to get at the heart of what really happened on that day she calls "Thursday."

What I Thought Of It:  To be honest, I'm not quite sure what I think of this book.  It was gut-wrenching, intense, and disturbing.  It was one of those books that is like passing a car accident.  You don't want to look, but you just have to.  I was intrigued by the story line from page one.  Shriver is an excellent writer and brings you into the story with all of your heart and soul.  It was such a sad read, but I'm glad that I spent time with this family and learned many new things. 

Who Should Read It:  If you have read anything else by Lionel Shriver, then you should read this book.  If you like fiction about families dealing with tragedy, then you should read this book.  If you like stories with quite a bit of dysfunction, then you should read this book.  As disturbing and sad as this story is, I do think it is a must read.  Happy reading! 

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friend Friday #4...

Hi!  I’m Shannon and I’m reading the book called, The Kitchen House written by Kathleen Grissom.

I think this book is intense, intimate and interesting because of the tie it makes to history and a deep story line that captures you from the very beginning.    

My favorite part in the story is the relationship between Lavinia and her “adopted” family and how it ebbs and flows throughout the book!  It made me feel as if I were right there with her experiencing the love and the loss, the ups and the downs, and the joys and sorrows. 

The character that I liked best was Mama because I really felt like she held the family together with her determination and love.  I respected her for her values and worth ethic and her ability to inspire others. 

I think the author wrote this book because she was interested in the history of the use of slaves on farms and plantations in the late 1700’s.  I think she wanted to write a novel that depicted the emotions around the history. 

I would recommend this book to my friends because it’s captivating, emotional and thought provoking. 

Reading to me is a way to unwind and relax.  I love the feeling of being lost in a book and unable to put it down.  I’m almost always disappointed when a book ends because I have immersed myself so deeply in the plot!  

*Shannon is a dear friend.  She and I taught together for many years.  Her family has since moved to Colorado.  It has been so satisfying to share book titles with her, have her read them, and love them as much as I do.  She is my first "adult" friend to post on my ReadWonder Blog.    


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel...

How I Heard About It:  I read Cardboard last summer and loved it.  The book became a big hit in my fourth grade classroom this past year.  Many students would ask me to get Doug TenNapel's other books for our classroom collection.  When I saw this new release a few weeks ago, I knew I had to buy it! 

What It Is About:   Ely and his wonderful dog Tommy have an incredible relationship.  Unfortunately Tommy is hit and killed by a car.  Ely of course is devastated.  His parents decide to send him to his grandfather's farm to help him get over the loss.  Once at the farm, Ely encounters some bullies that live near the farm.  He also discovers a truly large animal; a dinosaur.  Ely feels like his beloved Tommy is inside this dinosaur and decides to "adopt" him as his new pet.  What follows is quite an adventure for Ely, his grandfather, and many members of the community.  

What I Thought Of It:  This graphic novel was completely enjoyable.  I thought the story line was engaging and entertaining.  There were also some valuable life lessons woven throughout the story.  Just as in Cardboard, the illustrations in this book are top-notch, colorful, and so vivid.  I know that my students are going to enjoy this story just as much as they do with Cardboard.  I'm hoping to add Ghostopolis and BadIsland to round out this graphic novel collection.  

Who Should Read It:  Being a fourth grade teacher, I thought this book was geared toward middle-grade readers.  I saw the other day on Twitter that a high-school teacher was using this book with his students.  It occurred to me that this graphic novel will appeal to a wide variety of readers.  I know my new fourth graders will eat up this book, just as my former students did this past school year. 

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Trailer Thursday #4...

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson
*When we voted for our favorite read aloud from 2012-2013, this was my 4th graders top choice.

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielson
*We were lucky enough to get an ARC from Donalyn Miller this past school year.  
*The class thought that was pretty cool that we got to start it before it actually went on sale.   

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
 *This is one of my favorite picture books which is why I posted it on #pb10for10.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet by Tom Angleberger...

How I Heard About It:  Another book from a favorite series that I have been looking forward to reading.  The three books preceding this book are never on my classroom shelf.  It will be great to add this fourth installment to the Origami Yoda Saga. 

What It Is About:  This story follows the same format as the first three books which I think is genius and awesome.  The story takes up where book #3 left off.  This time the kids are faced with state-wide testing.  Many of their elective classes and activities are being taken away and replaced with a "program" to help raise test scores.  The students are outraged and decide that something must be done.  With the help of their "puppets", they decide to stage a rebellion to bring about change to their school.  They go up against their principal and it is a battle until the end.  

What I Thought Of It:  I think this series just gets better and better.  The books are a complete joy to read.  This time around the author takes on a current issue in education.  It was interesting to read about the students going against administration to protest the testing.  I believe many of our students who read this book will be able to relate to this.  The story, the puppets, the illustrations all contributed to a 5 star book!  

Who Should Read It:  For those students who have read the first three books, they of course need to read this book.  In my opinion independents readers in fourth and fifth grade would be able to handle this book easily.  Advanced readers in third grade would also be fine.  There might also be readers in sixth grade who would still enjoy this story, especially if they started the series years before.  Happy Reading!

Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars