Fourth Grade Journey

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

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Blog BREAK Winter 2016/2017

Winter BLOG Break 2016/2017 

*Just a little heads-up that I'm heading on vacation from Monday, December 26th through Monday, January 2nd.

*My wife and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on December 28th.  We decided to do it up BIG this year.

*We are taking our two college-aged kids with us to the Dominican Republic.  The four of us will be staying at an all-inclusive resort.

*It has been a fun first half of the school year and keeping up on this blog.  As much as I LOVE it, I do find myself needed a break from it from time to time.

*So, I will be back with my daily posts on Monday, January 9th.  I'm going to use the days back from vacation to get back into the swing of things with school and all.

*I'm so looking forward to the family time, the sun, the water, and of course EXTRA time to read.  I have lots of new titles on my KINDLE.

*Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and as always HAPPY READING!

*See you in 2017…

Darling Days by iO Tillett Wright

How I Heard About It:  This title came to me via a review in a magazine.  I can't remember which magazine, but the review was quite positive.  That exact day we happened to visit a BN store, I saw the title, and bought it.  I don't normally read memoirs, but when I do I really enjoy them.  

What It Is About:  iO Tillett was born in downtown New York during the 1980's.  iO's mother Rhonna had quite a "colorful" life and brought iO into a world and culture that any child should not be exposed to.  iO was born a female, but identified with being a male.  She decided to make this change during her early years, and with that came many consequences.  Her mother defended her no matter the cost and the two of them set out to conquer their worlds.  There were times of love and support between the mother and daughter/son and there were also times when the two of them were unable to live together and/or even interact.  iO struggled to find an environment where she/he could be his self and find true happiness.  He travels the country, attends a variety of school, and lives with a variety of people that all have an impact on his journey through life.  

What I Thought Of It:  There were high points to the memoir and parts that I wasn't particularly interested in.  Overall, it was quite an intriguing life story and one that my heart hurt for the main character because she/he had to endure so much during their early lifetime.  The writing was quite different and took me awhile to get use to, but once I did I found a great reading flow.  I'm always interested in reading about the struggles and successes in people's life.  I'm glad I took the time to read this memoir and it added greatly to my understanding of the "transgender" community.  

Who Should Read It:  Memoir readers will truly enjoy this book because there is a little bit of everything included during the telling of "his" story.  It is definitely a read for high school and/or adult readers.  The story will expose her to a life you most likely haven't witnessed, but will help you appreciate what some children can overcome during their early years.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

How I Heard About It:  I remembering seeing this book cover both in the bookstore and on different online sites.  I found both the title and cover quite interesting.  While grabbing a bunch of different audio books from the public library I added this one to the pile.  I was ready for an adult novel for my commute to and from work.  

What It Is About:  Lakshmi is an Indian woman living in the United States after an arranged marriage to an American man.  Her life isn't what she thought it would become and finds herself in a desperate "life-altering" situation.  She finds herself in the hospital.  While in the hospital she meets Maggie a therapist.  The two of them form a "professional" relationship that consists of therapy sessions where Lakshmi shares stories from her childhood, her life in America in a "loveless" marriage, and the devastation of losing a friend that she really didn't know that well, but meant the world to her.  Maggie is also dealing with her own personal "demons".  She is in a great marriage, but finds herself looking for something "new" and "different".  When Lakshmi "stumbles" upon Maggie and "someone else", both these women's lives are turned upside down and changed forever.  

What I Thought Of It:  When I first started listening I wasn't quite sure how I felt about the story.  After a few "listens" in the car, I slowly became more and more invested and involved with the story.  I loved how it was about so many different things.  It focused on Lakshmi's story, Maggie's story, and the story of both woman intersecting each others lives.  I'm always a reader who loves reading about characters with many secrets and this certainly was a story with more than one secret.  The writing was incredible, the plot moved along at a reasonable pace, and the variety of characters introduced were top-notch.  I'm so glad I gave this book a chance, and got to experience the beauty of the narration.  

Who Should Read It:  In my opinion this is the perfect novel for readers who love novels published for adults.  It really has everything that adult readers look for in a work of fiction.  Readers who enjoy reading about different cultures and their people will also find this a wonderful read.  I highly recommend it.  Happy Reading…

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe

How I Heard About It:  I remember hearing all about this middle-grade novel long before its release last winter.  The rave reviews came from many.  I had the opportunity to meet Victoria both at #NerdCampMI and #NCTE16.  She was such a delightful person.  This particular title was added to a recent 

What It Is About:  Life for Fenway is perfect.  He lives in the city with "Food Lady", "Fetch Man", and his very best friend Hattie.  Hattie is his human counterpart and they do everything together.  Fenway is loving life until a sudden change in the "pack" throws his life off and he isn't quite sure how to handle these changes.  The family has moved to the "burbs" and Fenway isn't use to this type of living and wants everything to remain the same as it was while living the city life.  The dog-park is a  heaven, but the nasty squirrels just might drive him crazy.  His new dog friends tell him he better be ready for Hattie to leave him behind because they know how this goes.  Fenway tells them there is no way this will happen between himself and Hattie.  Soon Hattie meets a new friend, spends time with her, and seems to be forgetting her little "furry" friend.  Fenway sets out to prove everyone wrong and show them that Hattie will always be his best friend.  

What I Thought Of It:  Any story that is told from the point of view of a dog, has me from page #one.    This was such a delightful story and so perfect for young middle-grade readers.  The voice was Fenway was full of energy, life, and personality.  Everyone should have a little friend like Fenway.  The addition of the other dogs, neighborhood animals, and human friends made for action-packed story that had me turning page after page.  I found myself saying to myself over and over, that I bet this is totally how a dog would feel during the different situations.  I appreciated the text layout, the length of the chapters, and the total number of pages.  So often novels for middle-grade are too long for many of my readers.  I look forward to reading the net installment of the Fenway and Hattie adventure.  

Who Should Read It:  As I just mentioned this is the perfect book for readers in third, fourth, and fifth graders.  So many of my readers are looking for shorter works of writing, but want to be reading chapter books.  I also think the story could make for an excellent read aloud in grades two through five.  As with many middle-grade stories, I know that adult readers will find as much enjoyment from this novel as I did.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

How I Heard About It:  My local library doesn't have the best selection of novels published for adults on audio.  I often get frustrated when looking for a new story to listen to on my commute.  I came across this title, knew nothing about it, liked the cover and title, and decided to give it a try.  

What It Is About:  This story presents Tony Webster as the main character of his "life story".  When the story opens, Tony is in college and great friends with three other young men.  One of them is relativity new to the group, but shakes things up when they "take" him in.  Tony recalls the days of classes, friendship, and a relationship that wasn't good for him or the people who had to witness the relationship.  The next section of the novel follows Tony as he navigates his way through adulthood with a marriage, children, and a divorce. His college days seems to follow him throughout his life.  As Tony grows older, he learns the fate of one of his college buddies and it rocks him to his core.  The memories of is early years come flooding back and many questions that he had are answered while many new questions are presented to him.  

What I Thought Of It:  I'm surprised I enjoyed this story as much as I did.  Tony is the narrator and it was like he was talking me through his life story in a very quiet and subtle way.  There wasn't much action in the pages, but the story kept my interest the entire listen.  I'm thinking the audio was much better for me than if I would have read this on in print format.  I enjoyed the relationships between these four college friends and how Tony was so reflective on his life, his successes, and the mistakes he made along the way.  

Who Should Read It:  I would recommend that you listen to this story instead of reading it as I think the print version might be a bit slow and "boring".  The narrator had a such a beautiful voice to listen to that I felt like he was in the car with me sharing his life story.  The writing was excellent and I know readers who enjoy novels published for adults will find this a satisfying read.  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friend Friday #171 (One for the Murphy's by Lynda Mullaly Hunt)

Hi!  I'm Milana and I read the book called One for the Murphy's written by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

I thought this book was AWESOME because it was a great story with some funny and some sad parts.  I really liked Carley.  

My favorite part in the story was when Carley met the Murphy's because that was the most dramatic part of the story and they were going to take care of her.    

The character that I liked best was Carley because she was the most interesting character and I wanted her to find a family that was good to her.    

I think the author wrote this book because she wanted to teach a lesson to the readers that everyone can find a family and they don't need to be related.  

I would recommend this book to my friends because it was an awesome.  It is the perfect book for fourth graders, especially girls.  But they need to be ready to be sad and maybe even cry.  

Reading to me is great because I liked to read and I like to find different books that I wouldn't normally read.  I'm glad I found this book on Mr. Andrus' bookshelf.  

*Milana is one of my favorite readers to work with.
*She started the year picking out short novels and mostly graphic novels.
*As the year as progressed, she has ventured out and tried new types of stories.
*Milana loves to peruse my hard-cover book collection and has found many wonderful novels.  This one included.  
*I told her she should read Fish in a Tree next.  She smiled and said OK!  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb

How I Heard About It:  Wally Lamb is one of my favorite authors of novels published for adults.  Both I Know This Much Is True and The Hour I First Believed are two of my favorite stories of all time.  I was so excited to learn that Wally Lamb was coming out with a new book in November of 2016.  I learned this about a year earlier so I had to wait a long time to get my hands on the newest work from Mr. Lamb.  We actually picked it for our BBC (Boy's Book Club).  

What It Is About:  Felix runs an old movie theater and hosts a group of movie "buffs" for a class each Monday night.  As he is setting up for one such class, a "ghost"' appears in the theater.  Felix either thinks he is losing it or perhaps there is an actual person/ghost in his presence.  The ghost goes by Lois Weber who states she is a motion picture direction from years and years ago.  She shares with Felix that she is going to take him "back" to his earlier years so he can relive and revisit some important events from his life.  They "watch" these scenes via the big screen in Felix's theater.  During these ghostly visits, Felix is reminded of his daughter Aliza, his sister Francis, and Verna who was an over-the-top woman that had a major presence in Felix's life.  There are some happy moments that Felix gets to recall, but he also must deal with some difficult and sad moments that occurred during his lifetime.  

What I Thought Of It:  This was a novel that I was so looking forward to reading.  I waited an entire year for its release.  I couldn't wait to find out what Wally Lamb was going to write about this time around.  I bought the book the first day it came out.  Before reading, I did read some so-so reviews by people that read advanced copies.  This made me a bit nervous, but decided to read it on my own to make my own decision.  When I first started I noticed the writing style and "voice" was quite different from what I was use to reading my Lamb.  The more and more I got into the story, the more I realized this wasn't typical Wally Lamb style.  The character of Felix didn't grab me.  The concept of the "ghost" and watching past stories on the big screen didn't do it for me.  Overall, the story felt surface level and not as deep as his previous works.  It left me wanting more.  

Who Should Read It:  Even though this wasn't my favorite Wally Lamb novel, I would still recommend it to readers of his previous works.  If you have not read a Lamb story, don't start with this one, but pick one of his earlier works.  They are unbelievably great works of fiction.  Happy reading...

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

Trailer Thursday #171 (A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner)

A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner
(Trailer Created by Fourth Grade Readers Nick)

*Our third "Breakfast with Books" book club selection was A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner.  I love this book and am so excited about the series.

*We Skyped with Phil and had a great conversation about the novel.  The readers were enthusiastic about the story, the characters, and the action.

*Nick was excited to create a book trailer about the book and had so much fun adding all the images to represent the plot.  

*Our goal is to create a book trailer a week that we can share with our classmates.  

*We are collecting all the trailers we make and putting them into our Schoology Site.

*Each student will have their own album where they can keep all of their trailers.  Then the other readers will be able to browse those trailers and find a new book to read.   

*As the year progresses we will learn what should be included, and not included, in the trailer to make them the best they can be.

Here are Some Other Trailers that Promote the Novel

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wonder Wednesday #171 (Breakfast with Books #THREE)

*We had the novel, the readers, the "breakfast treats", and above all an incredible author via Skype.

*My fourth graders and I gathered on Friday, November 16th in our classroom space before the school day began.  

*This was our third book club of the 2016-2017 school year and what a book club it was.

*My students read A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner.  This is the first novel of his "Rip and Red" series.  There are two books out presently with the third story being released in the summer of 2017.  

*Each reader came up with some comments and questions to share with Phil during our Skype visit.

*The time we had with the author was fun, exciting, and full of energy.  My students couldn't get enough of him and so enjoyed his humor, warmth, and questions he had for them.  

*I've said it before, but these monthly events are my favorite times of the school year.

*Here is an inside look at the book club in action...