Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wonder Wednesday #235 (BACK to School)

Wonder Wednesday - Room Set Up

*To me there is nothing quite like starting a new school year.  I still get so excited each fall as I set up my classroom.  This is year #28 for me and I'm looking forward to another Andrus Adventure.

*Each year I try to switch things up a bit in the learning space I create for my students.  I think I'm getting closer and closer to the ideal setting, but I'm sure there is always room for improvement and enhancement.

*Here is a photo "look" of room 113 from start to finish.  I can't wait for the fourth graders to arrive so we can start our journey together...

The room I came back to in the middle of August.  

Decided to reorganize the classroom library.  Now, that was an undertaking!  

My #Classroombookaday bulletin board and circular bookcase to highlight special books

 The fiction/Nonfiction section of our classroom library

The graphic novel bookcase and more fiction books

 Class calendar and the place where we vote for #classroombookaday

The picture book section and half of our individual book bins

Our "Book Talks" bulletin board, featured picture books, and morning meeting materials

Poem of the week charts and "Super Reader" bulletin board

Our community meeting area, favorite poster, and picture book for week #1 art project

Yoga Calm posters and view of classroom

View from my desk (front and behind)

Monday, August 27, 2018

An Inside Look #58 (Author Interview)

An Inside Look with Jennifer A. Nielsen
(Author of Resistance)

*During the summer of 2016, I added this feature to my blog which was called "Season #ONE".  This first season ran from June of 2016 to March of 2017.  

*I started up the interviews again in June of 2017.  It was great to get back to Season #TWO.  This season ran throughout the summer.  

*Season #THREE ran during the school year of 2017/2018.  

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

*This is the SEVENTH interview of what I'm calling Season #FOUR.  

*Thank you to Jennifer Nielsen for being the Fifty-Eighth author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first Fifty-Seven interviews…



Interview #53 with Preston Norton (Author of Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe)

Interview #54 with Jonathan Auxier (Author of Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster)

Interview #55 with Sharon Creech (Author of Saving Winslow)

Interview #56 with Stacy McAnulty (Author of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl)

Interview #57 with Kelly Yang (Author of Front Desk)

*I picked up this novel at the Scholastic Reading Summit in Chicago at the beginning of the summer.  I've loved everything Jennifer has written and couldn't wait to dig in and see what she had in store for the reading this time around.  The story was incredible, the characters were unbelievable, and I couldn't stop reading once I started.  This is historical fiction at its best.  

*Jennifer was kind, gracious, and giving with her answers to the questions.  It is an honor to post her responses here on the blog.  

*Here is a link to my review of Resistance...

*Thank you Jennifer Nielsen for writing this story for readers and taking the time to share your thoughts with us here...

by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Released August 28, 2018)

Research Board that Jennifer A. Nielsen used for this Novel

How did you come to know Chaya?
Chaya is largely inspired by the actual Jewish couriers who were caught up in a situation more terrible than most of us can possibly imagine. These young girls had to be so tough and focused and driven, and so I think Chaya’s voice emerged as exactly who she would have had to be to survive. But getting to know Chaya was a profound experience for me. The better I understood who she had been before the war, and how certain events impacted her, the easier it became to write from her perspective.

What do you think is Chaya's most admirable quality?
Everything that Chaya does is driven by the intensity of her love: of her family and of her people, and the love of life. She feels this so deeply that when those she loves are threatened or outright taken from her, she reacts with equal passion against the Nazi armies. This love fuels Chaya’s ability to do things that might otherwise be out of reach for many people, giving her courage and passion and a commitment to keep going despite the odds being very much against her.

Is there anything you wish Chaya would have changed or done differently in her story?
Chaya’s story unfolded exactly as I hoped it would, and I don’t think there is a single scene I would change.

What do you think Chaya can offer to other children that are experiencing difficult situations?
Although we hope the most horrible periods of history will never repeat themselves, certainly we know that this is a troubled world and that children, even in the most protected places, will still go through difficult times. This is one of the remarkable ways in which the power of books can be demonstrated. Children tend to read themselves into stories, to experience the story from within the pages and through the eyes of a beloved character. So in the moments when a child is experiencing a particularly difficult time, I hope they will remember Chaya’s strength and courage and use her example to draw their own courage, whatever the scale of their challenge.

How did you research Chaya and the circumstances she found herself in?
I always begin research with the widest scope of the topic and then gradually narrow in to the details. So I started by gaining an overall perspective of World War 2 as it impacted Poland, then moved from there into studying the ghettos, death camps, the various resistance movements, and the individuals who joined them. When my typed notes on the research topped 60 pages (plus all the printed material and books), I created a timeline that spreads over six poster boards in my office. And finally, I created a separate poster with the pictures and brief bios of many actual resistance fighters, to constantly remind myself that I was writing of real events and people, and that I owed it to them to get this story correct.

Do you and Chaya share any similarities?
This is a tricky question because although Chaya is a fictional character I created, she is based heavily on the actual Jewish couriers, who became who they had to be in order to do their jobs and to survive. Having never experienced anything even remotely as horrific as what these couriers went through, I would never presume to compare myself to Chaya, or to any of the real-life heroes of the Jewish resistance movement. If we share any similarities at all, I would consider that a huge honor.

What was the hardest scene to write about Chaya?
The most difficult scenes came early in the book as Chaya is making that transition from innocence into the girl she will have to be in order to survive. There is a definite break into her new self during a visit with her parents when she attempts to give them forged papers to escape the ghetto. It was heart-wrenching to write because there is so much love in the scene, but Chaya has to accept that love is not enough to save them. She cannot change her parents’ minds, nor can she change who she is, and she will just have to carry on alone.

Who do you think was Chaya's biggest supporter and why?Although Chaya doesn’t recognize this for most of the story, I believe Chaya’s biggest supporter is Ester, her companion in her travels. The two girls are very different and don’t always agree, but I think Chaya gradually begins to understand how much Ester admires her and wants to be like her, and that Ester will do all she can to help Chaya succeed.

Why do you think some young people (Chaya) have the strength and determination to accomplish things that sometimes adults cant?
I find it fascinating to watch toddlers learn to walk. They stand, take a step and fall and get back up again, then inevitably fall, and sometimes they fall hard. Yet still they get up again because something inside them knows they are meant to walk. I think that same concept applies to all young people in their strength and determination. They try and try, even if the odds are stacked against them because something in them believes they will succeed. Imagine our world if we adults approached our challenges with equal grit as so many young people.

What do you think Chaya is doing as the present time?
In my imagination, Chaya did survive the war, though she would have rarely spoken of her actions as a Jewish courier and ghetto resistance fighter. Instead, she would have tried to pass those honors and respects to those who sacrificed their lives for the defense of others. As practical as Chaya became, she would have also determined to move on and rebuild her life in the best way she could, continuing to move forward with honor and love.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (8/27/18)

Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this idea on their site.  Here is a link to the site...
Books I Read this Past Week…

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

*Novel Published for Adults (4 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Kids 1st From Day 1 by Christine Hertz and Kristine Mraz

*Professional Resource (4 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millweed Hargrave

*Middle-Grade Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic by David Arnold

*My Young-Adult Novel (Audio)

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

*My Young-Adult Novel

Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School
by Carla Shelby

*My Professional Reading

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

How I Heard About It:  The wonderful Nancy Paulsen sent me this ARC.  The novel will be released February 5, 2019.  I read the book while on vacation in Oregon/Washington.  It was a complete pleasure to read.  Nancy sure does have a knack for presenting the best of the best.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Viji and Ruku are sisters that have endured quite a bit in their life.  They have been witness to their father's abuse toward their mother.  When his abuse moves closer to the children, Viji takes herself and sister out of the house.

2.  *The two sisters find themselves alone on the streets of their village.  They are scared, hungry, and not quite sure what their next step will be.

3.  *The girls come across two young boys who are also homeless.  Muthi and Arul have been homeless for quite some time and know the "rules" of the street.  The four of them bond and form a new type of family.  The boys show Viji how to survive and make money.  

4.  *Viji's main goal is to keep her younger sister Ruku safe, happy, and free.  Ruku isn't like other children and can't survive on her own.  

5.  *When illness strikes this new "family", Viji is torn between doing the right thing for the four of them and keeping them safe from the rest of the world; including her parents.  

What I Thought Of It:  The journey these four young people took was one of the most heartfelt stories I've read in a long time.  This was one of those books that once you start, you just keep reading until you get to the last page.  The writing was beautiful.  The emotions that each of these four characters had jumped right off the page and into my heart and mind.  The author did a tremendous job of describing what life was like on the street in this village.  I enjoyed how each of the children relied on each other for support, survival, and love.  This will definitely be a novel that I'll be sharing with my class during the 18/19 school year.  

Who Should Read It:   I can't decide whether I want to use this novel as a read aloud, a book club selection, or put into as many hands of individual readers.  It would work for any of these situations.  Readers in grades four, five, and six will be able to read the book with ease and enjoyment.  I would also recommend the story to adult readers who love to read strong middle-grade novels.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods

How I Heard About It:  This ARC was sent to me by the wonderful Nancy Paulsen.  I took the novel with me on summer vacation.  It was my read while flying back home from Seattle.  The novel will be out January 8, 2019.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *The story takes place right after WWII in the southern town of Birdsong.  The main character Gabriel has just turned twelve and received a bicycle for his birthday.

2.  *On his inaugural bike ride, he ends up almost getting hit by a car driven by a "spacey" Birdsong resident.  Fortunately, Meriwether, saves Gabriel from getting hit.  The bike is damaged and his parents are not happy; but at least he isn't hurt.  

3.  *Gabriel's parents ground him from his new birthday present for two weeks.  During this time, Gabriel gets Meriwether a job in his father's auto shop.  This is to repay him for saving his life.

4.  *While Meriwether works in the shop, Gabriel learns about this man's past, his time in the war, and the reception he got when he returned to the United States.  

5.  *The other employee of the auto shop is a while man who has no time or tolerance for Meriwether.  The tension between these two men causes drama and unrest for Gabriel and his family.  

What I Thought Of It:  Once I started this story on the plane, I could not stop reading.  I immediately  liked Gabriel and found him such an endearing character.  The other character that worked his way into my heart was Meriwether.  The author did such a tremendous job of developing the friendship between these two characters.  This historical fiction had an excellent setting, lots of fascinating characters,  and a story-line that had such important and necessary life-lessons and themes.  I know this will be a story that I share with my students during the coming school year.  

Who Should Read It:   After reading the novel, I'm thinking it would make an excellent read aloud.  There would be so many important discussions that could come from the story.  Individual readers in grades four, five, and six would be able to handle the book with ease.  Of course middle-school readers should also be introduced to the upcoming novel.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

How I Heard About It:  The novel came to via the publisher.  I absolutely loved the title and cover.  I knew very little about the story so I was excited to read the story and see what was within the pages.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Ami and her mother live on an island.  This isn't an ordinary island.  The residents of this island have leprosy and/or have a family member that does.  

2.  *She and her mother have been a home on this island and are quite content.

3.  *This contentment comes to an end when a government leader arrives on the island and changes their lives forever.  He wants to separate those that have leprosy and those that don't.  

4.  *Ami, along with other children, are sent to a neighboring island where they will reside in an orphanage.  While on this island they must follow the new rules/laws.  Ami isn't happy to be here and  away from her mother.  

5.  *When Ami finds out that her mother needs her and needs her quickly; she does everything in her power to get off the new island and back to her mother's side.  

What I Thought Of It:  The writing was beautiful.  The words just flowed from page to page.  I was intrigued by the plot and don't recall reading any other fiction that dealt with leprosy.  The author handled the subject matter with honesty, sensitivity, and emotion.  The balance between the characters that I had empathy for and the ones that were easily "disliked", was on point and added greatly to the overall story.  The imaginary, symbolism, and visuals the author provided create a deeply moving and emotional read.  

Who Should Read It:   I'm thinking this novel would be best suited for readers in grades five and/or six.  I would also add it to all middle-school libraries.  The plot can move a bit slow at times, so readers that are use to that type of format would be the perfect audience for the story.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand by Kat Shepherd

How I Heard About It:  I had the honor of meeting Kat Shepherd at #NerdCampMI this past July.  It was a pleasure talking with her and wonderful to learn that she lives right here in the Twin Cities where I live.  We are hoping to connect my fourth grade class with her at some point during the 18/19 school year.  Kat Shepherd was kind, fun, and so giving with her time.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Rebecca loves to babysit and is good at it.  During one "job", there is a storm and something bizarre, strange, and scary occurs.

2.  *The baby, Kyle, that Rebecca was babysitting, begins to act strangely and she learns that the storm only happened at the house she was babysitting.  There are also a variety of strange happenings going on inside the house.

3.  *Rebecca wants to get to the bottom of what is going on and enlists the help of her friends Tanya, Maggie, and Clio.  Each friend brings a special talent/gift in solving the "mystery".  

4.  *Every strong middle-grade novel needs a villain, and this particular story has a "top-notch" villain that readers won't soon forget.  Nor will the group of babysitters!  

5.  *The group of girls realize they must travel to another world in order to rescue the real and true baby Kyle.    

What I Thought Of It:  As I was reading the novel, I kept thinking how much my fourth graders would enjoy the story.  I'm thinking of choosing it for a "Breakfast with Books" book club selection in October of 2018.  I so appreciate when authors create a book that is absolutely perfect for middle-grade readers.  The chapters were short.  The plot was fast-paced.  The characters were full of life.  The action was nonstop.  I have an ARC of book number two and can't wait to see what Kat Shepherd has in store for the reader.  

Who Should Read It:   I already mentioned it, but this is the perfect novel for the middle-grade reader.  I know that third, fourth, and fifth readers will find great satisfaction reading about the adventures of these four girls.  Your female readers may enjoy the story a bit more, but I know I'm going to use the book with all of my readers.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars!