Fourth Grade Journey

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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trailer Thursday #146 (Student Trailer #5)

The BFG by Roald Dahl

*Book Trailer Created by Megan (Fourth Grade Student)

*I thought this would be perfect timing to show the trailer for the novel The BFG.

*The movie version is being released on Friday, July 1st.

*Each student in my class created book trailers (using iTrailer).

*They could pick a book they read, I read to class, or a "Breakfast with Books" selection.

*This was their first attempt at creating book trailers.

**Here are some other trailers we found to promote this book...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods

How I Heard About It:  I was lucky enough to get an copy of Maxi's Secrets by Lynn Plourde via Nancy Paulsen.  When I got the book in the mail, Nancy had snuck in a couple of other ARC's for me.  What a thrill this was.  This particular novel was one of those extra books in the package.  I just finished it last night and so enjoyed it!  

What It Is About:  Do you ever feel like two people?  The person that the outside world sees and the person you see on the inside.  This is the world that Zoe lives in.  Zoe has a wonderful imagination, but it only remains in her own mind.  She thinks the rest of the world only sees a shy and "quirky" girl.  Zoe isn't like her older popular sister or her younger science-smart brother.  She is caught in the "middle".  Zoe spends most of her time in her father's "Wonderland" which is a greenhouse where he grows exotic plants.  After a visit with a "stranger" that stops by the Wonderland, Zoe and her best friend Quincy decide to order some seeds to grow a baobab tree.  This new "adventure" sends both Zoe and Quincy on a path of exploration, self-discovery, and learning that the world isn't always fair or kind.  Both of these children need to learn to deal with and accept big life issues and changes.    

What I Thought Of It:  Having a brand new book that I know nothing about land in my lap is one of my most favorite things to happen.  As soon as I finished Maxi's Secrets, I started this novel and loved it from the get-go.  I found the story line to be original, fresh, and full of life.  The character of Zoe was lovely and I found myself wanting to know her and find out more.  The characters of the neighbor lady and the "visiting" man from Madagascar added greatly to the story.  There were lots of great life lesson woven throughout the story which many young readers will be able to relate to.  What a great gift from Nancy Paulsen and I'm so happy that I had the opportunity to read this before it comes out in August.  

Who Should Read It:  This is the perfect middle-grade novel.  The length of the book is wonderful at 195 pages.  The chapters are relatively short which I think is appealing to young readers.  The plot moves along at a terrific pace which will keep the reader interested and involved throughout the entire story.  A strong reader in third grade would be able to handle the book.  In my opinion, it would be geared toward the reader in grades four though six.  It might appeal to a female reader a bit more, but I also think it could work for our male readers.  If you are looking for a class read aloud, this would be an awesome story to share with a group of listeners.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Wednesday Wonder #146 (Reader Response #5)

Wonder Wednesday - My Life as a Reader (Part Five)

*Today is the fifth post of a Wednesday summer feature I'm going to run through the summer months.

*I had each of my students respond to a series of "sentence frames" about their reading life this year.

*I will be posting their thoughts here on Wonder Wednesdays.

-Jessica was one of the most fun readers to interact with this year.  
-She came in as an avid reader and left as an even more avid reader.
-Jessica always had a novel in her hands and pretty much was reading ALL the time.
-The most fun thing for me was to give her a novel, have her take it home, and come back the next day and she was done.  
-We also shared the same taste in stories and were always talking books with each other.  

Jessica Wrote...

Before I was in fourth grade I thought that reading was amazing
because books are so fun to look at. 

Now that I'm almost done with fourth grade I think that reading is even more amazing
because I read so many new books that are so good!

This year I learned that as a reader I should always read
because that helps you. 

To me reading is everything 
because I wouldn't know what to do without books. 

As a reader I'm most proud of reading a lot
because some people don't even read. 

The best thing about reading is reading novels
because they have a meaning and it's realistic. 

To be a life-long reader means to keep on reading forever and read new books 
because you should keep on reading and try different books.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Treat Tuesday #146 (Book Release Day)

Treat Tuesday:  Ice Cream Banana Split Dessert

*This past weekend we had friends from Colorado staying with us.  We hosted a party on Saturday night for a group of mutual friends.

*My wife was trying to think of a dessert and I remembered this one.  It goes way back to my childhood and we would have it at our neighborhood 4th of July parties every year.

*We have made it (or she has) many times over the years.  It has become a family favorite.

*She granted my wish and whipped this up so it was ready to serve at our party.

*It did not disappoint and was a huge hit with all of our guests.

*This is the perfect summer time dessert.  Enjoy!

-2 Cups graham crackers, crushed
-2 to 3 bananas, sliced in circles
-1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
-1 cup chopped walnuts
-1 cup chocolate chips
-1/2 cup butter
-2 cups confectioners' sugar
-1 1/2 cup evaporated milk
-1 tsp. vanilla
-Cool Whip

1.  Cover bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan with 1 cup graham crackers
2.  Slice bananas and layer over crackers, covering crackers
3.  Slice ice cream and lay over bananas, smooth ice cream slices together with knife
4.  Sprinkle nuts over ice cream and freeze overnight
5.  Melt chocolate chips and butter
6.  Add sugar and evaporated milk
7.  Cook until thick, then add vanilla; cool
8.  Spoon chocolate over ice cream
9.  Freeze until firm
10.  Put Cool Whip over top and sprinkle with remaining one cup of graham cracker crumbs; freeze
11.  Take out of freezer a little before serving to thaw so it is easier to cut

Treat Tuesday:  Middle-Grade Novel

Treat Tuesday:  Young-Adult Novel

Treat Tuesday:  Adult Novel

Monday, June 27, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (6/27/16)

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… 

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

*Young-Adult Novel

*4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin

*Adult novel

*I abandoned this novel

Maxi's Secrets (or What You Can Learn from a Dog) 
by Lynn Plourde

*Middle-Grade Novel

*5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

 Bright Side by Kim Holden

*My young-adult novel

Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods

*My middle-grade novel

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

How I Heard About It:  A week or so ago I was browsing in the book store and came upon a display with the newest novel in this series.  It caught my attention and I browsed through the different books on the display case.  When I got home, I looked up the first book, Asylum, and decided to give it a try on my 3M Cloud Library app via the iPad.  

What It Is About:  Dan Crawford is sixteen years old and has been accepted into the New Hampshire College Prep (NHCP) program for the summer months.  He is beyond excited to attend this unique college "camp" experience.  When he arrives on campus, the dorm he and his fellow students were to stay in has been closed.  The school has moved the residents to Brookline which is a former Asylum for the criminally insane.  As the students move into this old building where they will live for the summer, they begin to mix and mingle.  Dan meets his roommate Felix, who is a bit different from Dan, but an alright guy.  The two people Dan really connects with are Abby and Jordan.  The three of them begin to spend a lot of time together and eventually venture off into different parts of the "dorm" where the secrets of the Asylum from years earlier are waiting for them to discover.  

What I Thought Of It:  I enjoyed the story.  I was in the mood for something different and this seemed to fit the bill.  I thoughts the actual "photographs" that were sprinkled throughout the book, added to the mystery and tone of the novel.  It was an easy read and kept me turning the pages to figure out what was going on.  I was never actually "scared", but there sure were some great descriptive scenes when the three characters were down in the "bowels" of the building.  Many twists and turns along the way and the biggest one of course comes at the end which I'm sure leads to book number two.  I'm not sure I will continue the series, but you never know.  

Who Should Read It:  If you are a reader that enjoys a good mystery with some scary/horror parts, then this is the book for you.  It is geared toward the young-adult reader and I can just picture those readers getting so caught up with Dan, Abby, and Jordan in their "adventures" at Brookline.  Now as I'm typing this I'm finding myself a bit curious as to what will happen to these three in the second book.  Maybe I will have to continue at some point?  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Sunday, June 26, 2016

An Inside Look #3 (Interview with Nora Raleigh Baskin)

An Inside Look - With Nora Raleigh Baskin 
Author of Nine, Ten a September 11 Story

*The "Inside Look" posts have become my new favorite aspect of the blog.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" with them about their novel, their characters, and their thoughts about the story.

*The more I interact with authors, the more I realize how giving, generous, and kind they are.  They give us, the reader, so much that adds to our lives.

*Here are the links to my first two interviews...

Interview #1 with Elly Swartz (Author of Finding Perfect)

Interview #2 with Jeff Zentner (Author of The Serpent King)

*Through some Twitter conversations with Nora Raleigh Baskin, I was fortunate to receive a copy of her upcoming novel.

*I was expecting to see an ARC in the mail, but was pleasantly surprised to find that Nora had actually sent a hard copy of the "real" book that would be in bookstores on June 28th.

*See what I mean about the generosity of authors.

*I sat down with this book and didn't get up until I was done reading.  It was absolutely a beautiful and important story.

*Here are Nora's responses to my "Inside Look" questions...

Nora Raleigh Baskin's novel will be released on Tuesday, June 28th

How did you come to “know” Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee? 

In any book I write, I not only have to “know” my characters utterly and completely (even the secondary ones,) but love them for their humanity and their flaws. Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee are all parts of me, or rather there are parts of me in all four of them.   

Sergio has my most direct backstory, living with neither my mother or father as a kid, (I wish I had lived with a loving grandmother, but I didn’t) living in Brooklyn (although a different time), and being angry at a world that seemed so totally unfair. Yup, that was me! 

Will was the hardest for me in many ways. I modeled him more on my own sons, and a sense of how they would behave if their father had died saving someone’s life. (something my husband/their father would certainly do, as well.) I modeled Will’s mother on my over-protective, dotting mother-self.

Naheed, although she is Muslim and I am Jewish, was actually the easiest character for me to “know.”  The traditions, rituals, and history of both religions are very similar, and once I discovered this, I was able to understand her family and their fierce connection to their heritage. Naheed, also, has the “personality” probably closest to mine.

Aimee, might seem on the surface, most familiar to me -white, Jewish, middle class- but my connection to Aimee comes more from knowing what it feels like to move to a new school (I had gone to five different schools by the time I started 6th grade,) separate and out of place. And Aimee’s ultimate decision to distance herself from the social scene of middle school politics, was a chose I made early on, and have not regretted to this day.

What do you think is each of these characters most admirable quality?


And their ability to look at themselves and learn from their mistakes. What more can you ask of any human being?  I tell my own children, there is nothing wrong with making mistakes (even huge ones) if you learn from them; if you gain something, grow, change, and become a better person.

Is there anything you wish any of these four young people would have changed or done differently in their story?
Ha! That’s a funny question, since I am the writer and I could have made them do anything I wished.  In fact, I had them doing and making several different choices in earlier drafts of the book. I had Naheed NOT wear her hijab because of social pressure. I had Aimee in a much more complicated plot involving a Burn Book.  Will was actually out deer hunting with this friends.  Only Sergio’s story remained the same as I originally wrote it.

What do you think Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee can offer to other children that have experienced similar situations as they did.  
Courage and the understanding that they are not alone.  The older I get the more I realize that everyone, EVERYONE, has some sensitive issue they are dealing with, but when you’re a kid you think you are the only one. When you read about someone who shares your insecurities, fears, flaws, situation, and yet, still has resilience and acts bravely in the face of those things. . .Well, you think, I can do that too!

How did you “research” these four characters and the circumstances they found themselves in?   

I did an enormous amount of research, as I’ve been doing recently with my later novels (my earlier books were mostly autobiographical) such as Anything But Typical, Summer Before Boys, Ruby on the Outside, and now Nine, Ten. 

I did personal interviews with the principal and several students who were in Shanksville in 2001, and with a first responder at ground zero.
I watched videos of CNN and local news footage from that day (which was disturbing well beyond my expectations. I cried quite a bit.) 
I also had several people read my manuscript, including two Islamic friends. 
 I looked at photographs, and I had to very carefully, study the 9/11 timeline.  You have to realize this is an event that has been analyzed and recorded down to the tenth of a second, and I was writing a countdown story where the timing was very exact. 

Do you and the four children share any similarities?  

They share their humanity, and all the things that human children share in this world; hope, innocence, and the ability to love. 

What was the hardest scene to write about in the novel?
The ending, when all four kids find themselves at ground zero for the first anniversary. But it was also the easiest.  I am being very truthful when I tell you I was crying as I wrote it (and I cry every time I read it) but not because I am remembering the event, or the trauma of it, but because I want so badly to believe in these children and what they represent: Goodness. Courage. Empathy. Understanding. Unity.

Who do you think was Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee's biggest supporter and why?
Well, for each of them it is someone else. (But for all of them, it is me!) Sergio has a wonderful grandmother, pretty terrific principal, and now a kind and inspiring mentor.  Will has a loving family and a supportive small-town community. Naheed also has a loving family, and in the end of the book we see, she lives in a country with brave and courageous strangers who do not stand by and witness injustice. Aimee has her family, as well as a new source of inner strength and wisdom that was derived directly from her near-death experience.

From tragedy can arise new strengths. 

How do you think the human population was able to get through this tragic event on 9/11?  

Exactly the way these four characters have gotten through their personal and individual experiences, by leaning on those around them and discovering their own intelligence and resilience.  And ultimately, by coming together as one powerful and courageous “One,” standing up to the “bad guy,” to prejudice, racism, and divisiveness.  

What do you think Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee are doing as this present time?  

Ha! Another funny question. I guess I don’t really think that way. If these characters exist for me, they exist in that time, in this book, in those moments that I wrote them alive. If they remain in the minds of my readers, then, you can decide and imagine what they are doing today.
I certainly hope they are doing well.
I hope their love and empathy and intelligence plays out in the children of today.
I dedicated Nine, Ten to “the children, our future” and I did not do that lightly. The children who will be reading my book are the future, and I pray that tomorrow brings more peace. Less violence. More acceptance. More courage and less fear. More love and less hate. More thoughtful discourse and less angry reactionaries.

Reading is one of the most powerful ways to create bridges of understanding. I hope I have added something to our world, toward making it a better place by writing this book.