Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr...

How I Heard About It:  Last summer this book was starting to get some "buzz."  I downloaded it to my Kindle for our family cruise in July.  I started it while sailing the seas, but it didn't grab me so I went on to something else.  When a fellow book-clubber picked this novel for our BBC (Boy's Book Club), I was happy to give it another try.  

What It Is About:  A blind french girl.  A young german boy.  Both of these young people are growing up (or trying to) during the 1940's and WWII.  The blind girl lives with her father until they have to flee Paris to the safety of her uncle's home.  The boy is selected for a special school in Germany that will "train" the young men to protect their country.  After the girl's father has to return home and doesn't return, she remains with the uncle who hasn't left his home in years.  During this same time, the boy trains with the Germans and begins to cover as much land as they can.  The two young people struggle to survive and will eventually meet years after the war started.  

What I Thought Of It:  I have mixed feelings about this book.  It didn't hook me last summer and I didn't love the first half of it this second time around.  I don't think it is the fault of the novel, I think it is more me and not being "smart" enough to follow the beginning of the story and all of the WORDS.  I'm more of a reader who likes lots of dialogue and "action", and this wasn't that type of novel.  There was a lot of description, lots of complex vocabulary, and lots of imagery.  I made it a goal though to read the whole book (not skim and scan), and I'm glad I did.  There were parts throughout the novel, that I really enjoyed reading.  When I got about sixty percent through, I found myself in a groove and enjoyed the last one fourth of the book.

Who Should Read It:  This book was been on many "BEST OF" lists for 2014.  I'm glad I read it.  It was very well written, but just a little too hard for my taste.  If you are a fiction reader with lots of great description, but not a lot of dialogue, then this is the book for you.  I know I'm in the minority with my opinion of the book, so don't let that discourage you from reading this "buzzed" about book.  Happy Reading...

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, December 26, 2014

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake...

How I Heard About It:  While attending the Nonfiction workshop presented by Donalyn Miller here in the Twin Cities, she mentioned this book when talking about pairing a nonfiction text with a fiction novel.  I of course wrote down the title.  After the workshop I went to the Scholastic Warehouse sale and saw this book on the shelf.  It was meant to be!

What It Is About:  The year is 1871 and the setting is Palcid, Wisconsin.  Georgie is thirteen years old and her family received news that her older sister has been found dead.  Georgie isn't so sure that this news is correct, and decides to take matters into her own hands and find out the real truth.  With the help, and sometimes no help at all, of Billy (her sister's former boyfriend) they set off on a journey across Wisconsin to find out what really happened to her sister.  During the journey, Georgie finds out many things about her sister's life before she left town with both Billy and another older gentleman.  She wants to find her sister, the truth, and make sure that both she and Billy make it back home safe and sound.    

What I Thought Of It:  I was quite excited to read this novel both because Donalyn recommended it and I had seen the title mentioned once or twice on Twitter.  I enjoyed the novel.  The start up of the story was a bit slow for my taste, but picked up once Georgie began her journey.  She was a strong character and I was glad that story was told from her point of view.  I don't normally read historical fiction, but found this story to be quite interesting to enjoyable to read.  

Who Should Read It:  Even though this novel was written for readers in grades five and above, I'm not sure fifth or sixth graders would gravitate toward this story.  If you have a reader that is interested in historical events and/or historical fiction, then they may enjoy this book.  I think it is more geared toward middle-school readers, high school readers, or even adult readers.  Not only is the story great, but the historical events about "passenger pigeons" was fascinating to read about.  Happy Reading...

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng...

How I Heard About It:  One of my favorite things about the year-end is all the "Best of 2014" lists.  I especially love the best of fiction lists.  After seeing this title on several lists, I decided to give it a try.  This was the first book that I finished on my Christmas break 2014. Even though I'm technically on a "blog break" over the holidays, I'm going to post my review before I forget all the details.

What It Is About:  Lydia is the middle child of James and Marilyn Lee.  James is Chinese and Marilyn is American.  They have an older son Nath and a younger daughter Hannah.  James is a professor and Marilyn is a stay-at-home mom, but always wanted to be a doctor.  Her mother warned her that if she married James, she would never be able to fulfill her own dreams.  As the years went by, Marilyn began to see that this was true.  She decided to put all of her own dreams into her daughter Lydia's life.  Lydia didn't necessarily want those same things.  The pressure she got from her mother to be perfect academically and the pressure she got from her father to be perfect socially became too much for Lydia.  The family became more and more silent, dysfunctional, and separate.  At some point, something was going to have to change.  None of them though, thought it would be Lydia that brought this change to the family.

What I Thought Of It:  With a bit of a slow start, I truly enjoyed this story.  I liked how it went back and forth in time and told about the characters during different time periods in their lives.  The more I read, the more I wanted to keep reading to find out all of the family "secrets".  There were times when I felt like I knew the characters in the family, and then there were times when I thought I really didn't know them.  The writing was beautiful and the plot flowed quite smoothly.  Each family member made choices that I wasn't happy with, but isn't this why fiction is so fun to read.  I can see why this novel made many "best of" lists for 2014.

Who Should Read It:  Any reader of fiction will enjoy this story.  If you like family stories that look at each member carefully and with ease, you will also enjoy this story.  The novel isn't too long so it won't take much time to read it.  I also think the plot will appeal to many readers because you want to "KNOW" what happened and how it happened.  Happy Reading...

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Blog Break (Holidays 2014)...

Holiday Blog Break!

*After 73 weeks (wow) of blogging at least five days a week (Monday-Friday) with many other blog posts along the way, it is time for a short holiday blog break.

*The only break I have taken in the last 73 weeks was a week in July when I was on a cruise with the family.

*I love blogging, sharing my ideas, and my life as a both a reader and a teacher.

*This blog has been one of the best things I've done and has enriched my reading life.

*The first four months of teaching fourth grade this year have been crazy busy and such fun.

*Having two weeks off from school is one of the many perks of this profession.

*I decided to take a two-week break from my regular blog posts.

*My goal for the next two weeks is to enjoy my family, my friends, and all the holidays have to offer.

*Of course I will be reading as much as possible because my TBR pile is bigger than ever.

*I'm sure I will post book reviews during the next two weeks, but won't be posting my "regular" daily blogs.

*Thinking of days without teaching, correcting papers, and/or posting my reading thoughts is a cherished thought.  A definite needed break.

*I'll be back on Monday, January 5th with my Monday posts.

*Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and as always, Happy Reading...

The Andy Cohen Diaries (A Deep Look at a Shallow Year) by Andy Cohen...

How I Heard About It:  I recently started watching "Watch What Happens Live" with Andy Cohen on Bravo.  After a few episodes, I learned about Andy's latest books.  Having so many actual books that I was reading, I decided to give an audio book a try.  I have a thirty minute commute to and from work, and am surprised I've never tried an audio before.

What It Is About:  This was the perfect audio book to start with.  It was light-hearted and so easy to listen to.  My commutes became one of my favorite parts of the day.  Andy kept a diary for one year (September 2013-September 2014) documenting his daily adventures.  The book takes the reader on a wild ride following Andy to his job, on his trips, and on all the adventures he has with both his celebrity and non-celebrity friends.  Another major aspect of the book is Andy's decision to get a dog that will change his life for both the better and the "doggy" worse.

What I Thought Of It:  This was a refreshing change of pace.  There was nothing deep about this book, but it was just plain fun to listen to.  I laughed out loud many times through the story.  It was quite interesting to listen to the life that Andy has in New York, all the friends he hangs out with, and how often he comes in contact with celebrities.  His family life (especially his parents) was also interesting to hear about and I realized that no matter how famous a person is, or how many famous people they know, they are still some one's son, brother, and "real person."  I enjoyed this audio book so much that I have ordered his first book called Most Talkative that I look forward to listening to after the holiday break.  

Who Should Read It:  This probably isn't the book that most people who follow this blog will gravitate toward, but if you are looking for something different and just plain fun, then this is the book for you.  I can't compare it to the actual book, but the audio book is absolutely great, fun, and completely entertaining.  If you have a commute like I do, then this is the story for you.  Happy Reading...

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana...

How I Heard About It:  This was a title that I kept seeing mentioned on Twitter.  During one of my many online purchases, I added this title to the cart.  I was excited to read it and see what all the hype was about.  

What It Is About:  Armani is about to turn ten years old.  She is excited for the big celebration.  Armani lives in New Orleans with her parents and siblings.  The birthday celebration is interrupted when Hurricane Katrina hits.  The birthday party has to be cancelled and Armani's family must do everything they can to survive this storm.  The family ends up on the roof of their house and they become separated by the devastation.  Armani ends up with some of her younger siblings and has to take on the "mother" role.  They find a shelter where they spend several days after the hurricane and continue to find ways to survive.  Each member of the family must take on new responsibilities and not only take care of themselves, but each other.  

What I Thought Of It:  I completely enjoyed this novel and read it in a few sittings.  As I read the novel, I couldn't help but be transported back to that August when this terrible weather event hit New Orleans and other parts of the United States.  I enjoyed how this was a work of fiction, but included many real life events, facts, and information.  As devastating as this event was for Armani's family, I liked how each family member relied on each other and did their part to survive.  The plot was faced paced and I thought each of the charters were developed well.  

Who Should Read It:  After I finished this book, I began to think it would make for a great read aloud with my fourth graders.  Each chapter ends with a "cliff hanger" and would keep the listeners on the edge of their seats.  If a reader were to read this on their own, it is best suited for children in grades four through six.  This novel would also be enjoyed by any adult reader that enjoys middle-grade fiction.  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friend Friday #73...

Hi!  I’m Akos and I read the book called Mal and Chad - Food Fight written by Stephen McCranie.

I think this book was awesome because it has a lot of good parts in it.  

My favorite part in the story was when they go into Chad's dream because they are in a land made of food.  

The character that I liked best was Mal because he was an inventor.  

I think the author wrote this book because 
he thinks anything can happen and wanted to share that with kid readers.  

I would recommend this book to my friends because I think they would enjoy it as much as I did.

Reading to me is Fun because it is like you are in another world.  

*Akos is a very interesting reader to observe.
*He will love a book from a series and then I will suggest the next one, but he will pass.
*Eventually he will come back to that series, but doesn't seem to want to read them one after another.
*This was a series that he enjoyed, but read other things in-between the three books in the series.
*The Mal and Chad series has become very popular in my three reading classes and I can't keep them on the shelf.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Trailer Thursday #73...

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall (Adult Novel)

The Awesome, Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt & Craz

By Alan Silberberg (Middle-Grade Novel)

Mal and Chad Series by Stephen McCranie (Graphic Novel)

Life Lesson #14...

Be Merry!

*This is our last Thursday before our two-week holiday vacation.

*I just wanted to use something fun, merry, and holiday "ish".

*This fits the bill in my opinion.

*We will watch the short video clip as a class and discuss a bit.

*The writers then get busy recording their thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas, and reminders.

*Some of the writers will choose to write a short fiction story.  

*At the end of our writing time, a few will share and we might even watch the clip again.

*Be Merry and Happy Holidays!  

Life Lessons from this Year...
Life Lesson #1 - Be Brave
Life Lesson #2 - Be Kind
Life Lesson #3 - Be Courageous
Life Lesson #4 - Be Motivated
Life Lesson #5 - Be a Buddy, Not a Bully
Life Lesson #6 - Be Inspired: Never Give Up on Your Goals
Life Lesson #7 - Be SHOUTful (Shout Your Success)
Life Lesson #8 - Be Spooky (Halloween Week)
Life Lesson #9 - Be Kind (Part Two)
Life Lesson #10 - Be Happy
Life Lesson #11 - The Power of Literacy (Be a Reader)
Life Lesson #12 - Be POWERful
Life Lesson #13 - Be a Team

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Picture Wednesday #16...

Holiday Delivery

*I got the idea to use Norman Rockwell artwork from the Donalyn Miller workshop.

*We used a piece to infer and predict.  It was a great activity that I will use with my students.

*It got me to thinking about his other work and I found many "holiday" type paintings.

*I decided to  use this one for our picture Wednesday.

*The writers will write their thoughts, feelings, ideas, reminders, and/or connections to this photo.

*We will then talk about it at the end of our writing time.  

*It will be interesting to see what they come up with and if they write about this picture being from the "OLD DAYS"!  

Wonder Wednesday #73...

Wonder Wednesday - The Wonder of Nonfiction

*I had the WONDERful opportunity to attend another Donalyn Miller workshop this past Friday.  I think it is my 4th one.

*The topic was nonfiction.

*I'm an avid reader of fiction and promote fiction everywhere in my classroom and all day long.

*I know I need to branch out so this was just the workshop I needed.

*The day was absolutely the best and I took so much away from the topic of "nonfiction".

*I decided to dive into "nonfiction" right away.  As they say no time like the present.

*As soon as I arrived to school on Monday morning I filled two bins FULL of random nonfiction books.

*I actually enjoyed myself while looking at ALL the different titles, topics, and subjects.

*My three reading classes (which are really a focus on fiction reading) began reading from the books when they met with me on Monday.

*They are being required to read at least four nonfiction books during this week before our winter break.

*It has been so fun watching them pull the books out, preview them, read them, and above all talk with other readers about them.

*Many of the readers have asked if they can read more than the four required.

*The answer is of course YES!

*Here is a little peek at my "nonfiction" readers in action...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Treat Tuesday #73...

Treat Tuesday - Bacon Wrapped Mini Omelets

*So who doesn't like bacon?

*And who doesn't like a little bit of egg?

*Put them together and you have a tasty little breakfast meal...

*Put bacon strips in muffin tin.

*Then add whipped eggs with a little cheese about 3/4 full. 

*Bake @ 350 degrees for 30-35 min. 

Treat Tuesday:  Middle-Grade Novel

The Awesome Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt & Craz
by Alan Silberberg

Treat Tuesday:  Adult Novel

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (12/15/14)...

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…  

The Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen

*5 Stars out of 5 Stars

*I listened to this via audio and it made my comment quite enjoyable!

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

*5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week   

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

*My adult novel in hard cover

In a Vertigo of Silence by Miriam Polli

*My adult novel on my Kindle

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

*Another adult book that I have heard wonderful things about.

Music Monday #15...

Do They Know Its Christmas by BandAid (2014)

Do They Know Its Christmas by BandAid (1984)

Do They Know Its Christmas from Glee

*It is the last Music Monday Selection from the first part of our school year (2014).

*Even though this song centers around Christmas, I still use it because of message behind the song.

*We will talk about the original BandAid and what the cause was and where the money went.

*We will also discuss the "reboot" of the song thirty years later.  

*After watching the videos I have the students write in their notebooks.

*They can write their reactions, thoughts, feelings, reminders, or anything else they would like.

*I will play the music/video several times throughout the week.  

*This is a great song to end 2014 with.  Happy Holidays!  

Music Monday Selections for 2014-2015…

Week #1 = What I Am by and Sesame Street Characters
Week #2 = Proud by Heather Small
Week #3 = Dreamer by Chris Brown
Week #4 = Roar by Katy Perry
Week #5 = What Does the Fox Say by Ylvis
Week #6 = Rainbow Connection from the Muppets
Week #7 = Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson
Week #8 = Thriller by Michael Jackson
Week #9 = Hall of Fame by The Script and
Week #10 = Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka
Week #11 = Count on Me by Bruno Mars
Week #12 = Superheroes by The Script
Week #13 = Something New by Axwell Ingrosso
Week #14 = Clouds by Zach Sobiech

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friend Friday #72...

Hi!  I’m Matilde and I read the book called The Quirkalicious Birthday written by Erin Soderberg.

I think this book was great because it has a lot of details.    

My favorite part in the story was when they find the puppy because it took them such a long time to find the last present in the scavenger hunt.  

The character that I liked best was 
Penelope because she has a magical mind.  

I think the author wrote this book because she probably wanted something funny or something to laugh at.

I would recommend this book to my friends because it is great and once you read it you want another book from that author.  

Reading to me is great and amazing because it makes you feel better.  

*Matilde is a fourth grade reader in my class.
*She read the first book in this series because it was a "Breakfast with Books" selection.
*Erin (the author) was going to visit us for book club and Matilde read the 2nd book right away.
*After our book club discussion with Erin, Matilde got the third book from me and read that.
*She loves this series.  
*This third book in the series comes out in March of 2015, but we were lucky enough to get an ARC.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Trailer Thursday #72...

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob (Adult Novel)

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo (Adult Novel)

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana
(Middle-Grade Novel)

Pickle by Kim Baker (Middle-Grade Novel)

How Do Dinosaurs (Series) by Jane Yolen (Picture Book)

Life Lesson #13...

"Be a Team"

*Each Thursday I share a short video clip with my writers.

*This is one of my favorite videos because it is such a great life lesson.

*After viewing the clip once or twice, the writers get busy with their notebooks.

*They can write their reactions, thoughts, feelings, reminders, or anything else they would like.

*At the end of the writing we have a few volunteers share what they wrote.

Life Lessons from this Year...
Life Lesson #1 - Be Brave
Life Lesson #2 - Be Kind
Life Lesson #3 - Be Courageous
Life Lesson #4 - Be Motivated
Life Lesson #5 - Be a Buddy, Not a Bully
Life Lesson #6 - Be Inspired: Never Give Up on Your Goals
Life Lesson #7 - Be SHOUTful (Shout Your Success)
Life Lesson #8 - Be Spooky (Halloween Week)
Life Lesson #9 - Be Kind (Part Two)
Life Lesson #10 - Be Happy
Life Lesson #11 - The Power of Literacy (Be a Reader)
Life Lesson #12 - Be POWERful

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wonder Wednesday #72...

Wonder Wednesday - Wonder of Three

*This week it is all about the "little" wonders and "BIG" wonders in my reading life.  

*I love when I have a week full of wonders which bring me so much happiness.

*Here are some of those great wonders...

 Donalyn Miller Workshop

*I have been looking forward to this workshop for many weeks now.

*I've attended several workshops here in the Twin Cities presented by Donalyn Miller.

*The workshops are always incredible and I come away so much smarter.

*This Friday Donalyn will be conducting a "Nonfiction Workshop".

*It is the first time the subject matter will be nonfiction instead of mostly fiction.

*I can't wait for Friday, visiting with Donalyn again, and learning more than ever.  

Book Arrival
*I have been trying to get ahold of this novel for quite some time now.

*The novel first came to my attention many months ago via Twitter.

*There was no luck finding it at the local bookshops.  

*After awhile I put this title on the back burner.

*I kept thinking about the title and wanting to add it to my collection.

*There was an online book coupon and I used it to purchase this title.

*The best news was there was free shipping and the cost of the actual book was very low.

*The book arrived today (Tuesday) and put a great big smile on my face.

*I can't wait to read it!  

Mr. Andrus vs. Fire Breathing Dragon

*During a vocabulary lesson we were talking about the word "incorrigible."  

*I gave several examples with the word in a sentence.

*One of them was "Mr. Andrus was incorrigible when someone suggested he not like reading."

*As soon as I stated this, one of my students said out loud...

"That is like a dragon without any fire!"

*I laughed as did the class, and we all said that was a wonderful comparison.

*It pleases me that my students know me as a reader and that I'm in the process of sharing this passion with all of my readers in my three language arts classes.  

*This is certainly a little wonder in my week, but made me quite happy.  

Picture Wednesday #15...

"Mushroom Land"

*How cool is this photograph!

*Each Wednesday I share a different picture with my class and we write about it.

*This picture is very different from any of the other photos I've shared with them.

*The writers can write their reactions, thoughts, feelings, reminders, or create a fiction story.

*I'm thinking this particular will lead to lots of fiction writing!

*After our writing time, a few of the kids will share out what they wrote.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Treat Tuesday #72...

Treat Tuesday - 
Loaded Potato and Buffalo Chicken Casserole
*All I can say is that this dinner is absolutely delicious.
*Such a great meal to have on a cold December night.
*Give it a try and ENJOY...

2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cubed (1")
8-10 medium potatoes, cut in 1/2" cubes
1/3 cup olive oil
1&1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
6 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 cups fiesta blend cheese
1 cup crumbled bacon
1 cup diced green onion

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Spray a 9X13" baking dish with cooking spray.
In a large bowl mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and hot sauce. Add the cubed potatoes and stir to coat.
Carefully scoop the potatoes into the prepared baking dish, leaving behind as much of the olive oil/hot sauce mixture as possible. 
Bake the potatoes for 45-50 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until cooked through and crispy and browned on the outside. 
While the potatoes are cooking, add the cubed chicken to the bowl with the left over olive oil/hot sauce mixture and stir to coat. 
Once the potatoes are fully cooked, remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees. 
Top the cooked potatoes with the raw marinated chicken. 
In a bowl mix together the cheese, bacon and green onion and top the raw chicken with the cheese mixture. 
Return the casserole to the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the topping is bubbly delicious.
Serve with extra hot sauce and/or ranch dressing.

Treat Tuesday:  Middle-Grade Novel

Pickle by Kim Baker

Treat Tuesday:  Adult Novel

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

Monday, December 8, 2014

Music Monday #14...

"Clouds" by Zach Sobiech

Clouds Choir at the Mall of America

*This selection hits home for me both personally and location.

*Zach was from the Twin Cities and I'm from the Twin Cities.

*Zach had cancer and I had cancer.

*I fell in love with this song the moment I heard it.

*I've shared it with students before and I know it hits their hearts just as it does mine.

*The choir that gathered a year after Zach's death it absolutely amazing.  

*We will watch both videos and then write our responses in our writer's notebooks.

*This is a special one that I know will become a favorite of my young writers.

Music Monday Selections for 2014-2015…

Week #1 = What I Am by and Sesame Street Characters
Week #2 = Proud by Heather Small
Week #3 = Dreamer by Chris Brown
Week #4 = Roar by Katy Perry
Week #5 = What Does the Fox Say by Ylvis
Week #6 = Rainbow Connection from the Muppets
Week #7 = Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson
Week #8 = Thriller by Michael Jackson
Week #9 = Hall of Fame by The Script and
Week #10 = Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka
Week #11 = Count on Me by Bruno Mars
Week #12 = Superheroes by The Script
Week #13 = Something New by Axwell Ingrosso