Fourth Grade Journey

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

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

How I Heard About It:  This novel came to me via the publisher.  I was excited to read because I had heard positive reviews of the story.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  

1.  *Ahmed is a refugee from Syria.  He and his father have made it to Brussels, Belgium only to become separated.  Ahmed is now alone and mourning the lose of his entire family.  

2.  Max is an American living in Brussels much to his dislike.  He wants to return home, hasn't made friends, and is just plain miserable.  

3.  Ahmed secretly makes his way through Brussels and ends up taking refuge in the basement of Max's home.  Ahmed can tell the family never ventures to the lowest level.  He is also a considerate "guest" and makes plans to repay the family for anything he takes or needs.

4.  When Max discovers Ahmed in the basement, Ahmed is afraid Max will tell his family and turn him into the authorities.  That doesn't happen and the two boys form a friendship that will change each of their lives forever.  

5.  Max, Ahmed, and several classmates take it upon themselves to ensure Ahmed's safety and create some sort of life that he deserves and is looking for.  

What I Thought Of It:  The journey of Ahmed and Max was a beautiful one.  This is a refugee type story, but one that is different from the stories I have recently read.  Each boy had a need to be fulfilled and by finding each other; they were able to do that.  The author did a tremendous job of describing a close, special, and tightly bound friendship.  There was lots of suspense.  There were twists and turns in the "action".  There were several warm and tender moments between all of the characters.  This story really had it all.  Each year I read at least one historical fiction novel with my class and this one just might be the one I pick for the 18/19 school year.  

Who Should Read It:  This refugee story would be perfect for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders.  It could also be used with middle-school readers.  Adult readers that read middle-grade novels need to put it on their to be read list.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

How I Heard About It:  If you haven't heard of Dan Gemeinhart, then you must not be a reader and/or living under a rock.  I have absolutely loved every novel he has released.  In my opinion, they just keep getting better and better.  It was an honor when Dan sent me an ARC to read and share with my #bookexpedition group on Twitter.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  

1.  *Coyote and Rodeo have been on the road for the last five years.  They have been on the open road, traveling, and living on an old school bus.  

2.  *Five years ago they left the state of Washington and vowed never to return.  It was too painful to remain there and think about the ones they had lost.  

3.  *When Coyote receives a phone call from her grandmother, she makes it her mission to return home.  She is on a tight timeline in order to retrieve an important item that was buried five years earlier.  

4.  *Knowing Rodeo won't be in favor of returning home, she lies to him creating a situation in which they must drive across the country in a record number of days.

5.  *Along the way, they welcome a variety of characters to join them on their journey.  Each of these passengers has their own story/history.  Coyote finds the courage to share her story with her new friends while rushing back to her past;  all the while hoping Rodeo won't find out the real reason they are heading "home".  

What I Thought Of It:  What a complete joy to read.  I had quite a pile of books I was working on, but when I started this one; all the others fell to the wayside.  I was hooked from page one.  I think this is by far the best novel Dan has written.  I was captured by the heart, soul, and imagination of Coyote.  She was such a heart warming girl with a pain that I can't quite imagine.  Reading about her and "Rodeo" was a joy and I was completely interested in the path they were on.  The addition of the other "passengers" added greatly to adventure.  I enjoyed reading about their pasts and what they were running to or away from.  As I read my way toward the end of the story, I felt like I was reading faster and my heart was racing.  I was so nervous about what Coyote and her crew would find there.  This will definitely be a novel that I share with my fourth grade students.  

Who Should Read It:  EVERYONE.  This is the perfect novel for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders.  I could also see middle-school and high-school readers enjoying.  Of course adult readers that enjoy middle-grade novels would also be completely satisfied with the story.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

How I Heard About It:  I can't remember exactly when I first heard of his novel and/or what source, but it was a title I added to my TBR list.  After first seeing a review, I then saw it mentioned in several different publications.  I bought the Audible version so I could listen to and from work.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *The "marsh girl", Kya Clark, grew up in a small town on the North Carolina coast.  She began with a family, but one by one, each family member either left her or disappeared.  

2.  *As a little girl she spent hours, days, and months alone out in the march country.  She would explore her surroundings and become one with nature.  

3.  *As a young teenager she meant Tate and let her heart open with feelings for him.  He too ended up leaving her alone.  Her heart became closed and hard again.  

4.  *The town "stud" shows an intense interest in Kya and she isn't sure how she should handle this.  They begin a secret relationship.  Chase keeps her at a distant from his family and friends.  

5.  *Years later when Chase ends up dead, Kya is the prime suspect.  She is thrown in jail and faces a jury of her peers to decide her fate.  

What I Thought Of It:  This was one of the best audio books I've listened to.  The narrator was top-notch and so easy to listen to.  I was captivated by Kya's story and what she had to endure.  My heart hurt on more than one occasion.  The format going back and forth between when Kya and Chase were young; and after he was killed, worked well for the plot.  Not only was this a mystery, but definitely a character study.  It is truly a well written piece of fiction.  

Who Should Read It:  I will be recommending this novel to all of my adult friend that read fictional literature.  I know they will not be disappointed.  The characters, plot, and setting will appeal to all readers.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

How I Heard About It:  One of my favorite young-adult authors is Jeff Zentner.  I was blown away when I read his first novel The Serpent King.  His second novel The Goodbye Days left me an emotional mess.  I was thrilled to receive an ARC of his upcoming third novel.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Delia and Josie are best friends.  They are each seniors, ready to graduate, and move toward their future.  

2.  *As the midnight hour approaches, the girls become Rayne and Delilah, hosts of a local "horror" television show.  Each girl has their own reason for focusing on the show and what it might bring them in their life.  

3.  *Josie has ambitions of heading off to college to pursue a career in broadcasting.  But after meeting Lawson, that decision begins more complicated and difficult.  

4.  *Delia lives with her mother, but has always had questions and wonderings about why her father left and where he might be.  

5.  *Each girl tries to keep the local show running, their dreams in the forefront, and the friendship they have created a priority.  Real life doesn't make it easy on either one of them.  

What I Thought Of It:  It was exciting to receive this book mail and I couldn't wait to dig in.  Unfortunately it arrived right at the start-up of the school year.  I didn't have the time I would have liked to dedicate to the novel.  As the month progressed, I finally found the time to get to know these two new characters and the life that surrounded them.  One element of Jeff's writing that I enjoy so much is how he creates characters that come to life and ones that the reader comes to know and love. This story was different from his first two books.  To me that is the sign of a truly gifted writer.  This time around, Jeff included more humor than ever before, and there were many "laugh out loud" moments.  Don't worry, there were still plenty of emotional "painful" moments that readers have come to expect from Jeff and his novels.  As a reader, I enjoyed how these two characters were not your typical high school students.  It was refreshing to read about "out of the box" type high school students and how they navigated their way through life.  I'm excited to send this book on to the next member of the #bookexpedition Twitter reading group.  

Who Should Read It:  Any fan of Jeff Zentner will definitely need to put this new title on their TBR list.  The story is perfect for the young-adult reader.  Of course adult readers that have read the first two books will also enjoy the newest fictional story.  It will arrive in bookstores on February 26th of 2019.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Wonder Wednesday #239 (Purpose for Reading)

Wonder Wednesday - Personal Reasons for Reading

*During our reading workshop this week, I looked out among the readers in my class and had a complete feeling of contentment and satisfaction.

*We are about sixteen or so days into the new school year and our reading routines and rituals are falling into place.

*What I noticed about the readers this week was how everyone seemed to be reading for very personal reasons.

*We have had mini lessons on why readers read, when readers read, how readers read, what readers read, and where readers read.  What I saw around the classroom answered all of these questions.

*Here are some images of the readers and a bit of information about the choices they were making during their independent reading time...

A Reader enjoying the "Tree House" series by Andy Griffiths

A reader continuing The Quirks series by Erin Soderberg 
(Breakfast with Books Book Club Selection)

A group of readers each reading personal choice books.  

A reader reading a version of The Quirks as a book club member.

Another reader finishing the Quirks in anticipation of our first book club.  
She will get her copy signed by Erin Soderberg.

This reader is plowing through as many graphic novels as he can get his hands on.

Another graphic novel enthusiastic reader.

These two readers are enjoying reading and drawing "Dog Man".

This reader is comfortable and engaged in our classroom library.  

A reader entertained by both the text and graphics.  

Not only friends, but reading buddies.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

How I Heard About It:  This novel came to me via the publisher.  I heard Meg Medina speak at #NerdCampMI so I was excited to read my first book written by this author.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Merci Suarez is starting sixth grade and isn't sure how she feels about it.

2.  *Merci and her older brother attend a private school, but are attending the school on a scholarship.  One of her classmates finds out about this and makes it her mission to make Merci's life miserable. 

3.  *Merci is assigned a new "buddy" who is new to the school.  She is thrilled about her pairing, but her arch enemy isn't, and sets out to make the buddy her own.  

4.  *As Merci struggles with changes and challenges at school, she also find life changing at home.  Her beloved grandfather is beginning to show memory issues and Merci doesn't want to see him change and/or suffer.  

5.  *As much as her family tries to protect Merci from her grandfather's health, she sets out to figure out what is truly going on.  Merci has a lot on her plate, both at home and school, but is determined to make the best of some difficult situations.  

What I Thought Of It:  The story was a great one.  The characters were incredible, unique, and interesting.  There were a few times when I thought the plot moved along at a slower pace than I would have liked.  Merci was a special young girl that had to deal with a lot.  I enjoyed how the author presented the challenges in her main character's life.  She didn't sugarcoat anything, but also didn't make the events too dark and/or disturbing.  The "voice" of Merci jumped off the page and right into my mind and heart.  As an adult "older" male, there were some sections of the story I couldn't relate to, but I just had to remind myself this story was written for young readers.  

Who Should Read It:   The best audience for this story would be a fifth and/or sixth female reader.  I think they would be able to relate to the story and Merci's experience the best.  A strong fourth grade reader would also be able to handle the text.  Middle-school readers may also enjoy the story.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

An Inside Look #62 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Erin Soderberg
(Author of the Daring Dreamers Club:  Milla in Charge)

*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 ELEVENTH interview of what I'm calling Season #FOUR.  

*Thank you to Erin Soderberg for being the Sixty-Second author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first Sixty-One 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)

Interview #58 with Jennifer A. Nielsen (Author of Resistance)

Interview 59 with Christina Collins (Author of After Zero)

Interview #60 with Eric Walters (Author of Elephant Secrets)

Interview #61 with Phil Bildner (Author of The Rip and Red Series)

*If I were to have a favorite author, and I don't, it would have to be Erin Soderberg.  I have enjoyed getting to know her over the last few years.  Each year she visits my classroom.  I'm so lucky that she is a local author and willing to share her talent with my readers.  I was thrilled to learn she had a new series coming out called Disney: The Daring Dreamers Club. Not only did I love the story, but my readers were drawn to the characters and adventures they had.  This is definitely a book and series all classrooms should have.  

*Erin 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 the book...

*Thank you Erin Soderberg for writing this book, and more to come.  

Disney Daring Dreamers Club: Milla Takes Charge
by Erin Soderberg (June 5, 2018)

How did you come to know Milla?
When I was creating this character - as well as all the other girls in the Daring Dreamers Club series - I used each character's favorite Disney Princess to help shape their personalities. Since Milla's fave is Belle, I knew she would be a big reader and would obviously love to explore and get lost in adventures. I also used my own daughter, Milla, as inspiration for the character (and stole her name!) - my Milla also loves to tell stories and dreams of traveling the world.

What do you think is Milla's most admirable quality?
She's a *great* friend. She's very nurturing and giving, and has a special skill for sensing when someone needs a hug or kind words...and she's also good at taking care of others, like Belle does with the Beast (Milla always watches out for her friends, and takes care of her naughty and lovable pet pig, Chocolate Chip!).

Is there anything you wish Milla would have changed or done differently in her story?
I wish she would have sat down with her parents and talked out some of her worries about the fifth grade overnight sooner than she did (it's always smart to communicate!) - but because it took her a while to talk things out with her moms in the story, I'm very glad she had her advisor and friends in the Daring Dreamers Club to support her and give her some good ideas!

What do you think Milla can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
I hope that Milla's story is a mirror for a lot of kids who are on the brink of independence, like Milla and her friends. Fifth grade is a big year for developing a lot of confidence to explore independently and start to venture out into the world to go after your own ideas and dreams. It's scary - and exciting! - to leave the comfort and protection of home and the safety of always having someone watching out for you, but it's also an important part of growing up. The fifth grade Adventure Camp overnight was a perfect chance for Milla to test out some of her leadership skills and prove to herself that she's capable of taking charge as a brave explorer!

How did you research Milla and the circumstances she found himself in?
As a parent, I chaperoned several overnight field trips with each of my kids. One was at an outdoor learning center in the spring, where we stayed in big log cabins and learned about canoe safety (just like they do in this book). The other was a winter overnight in Northern Minnesota, where we learned about outdoor survival skills, building fires and shelters, and orienteering (some of the other activities the Daring Dreamers Club got to participate in in Milla Takes Charge!). I learned about high-ropes courses on a family trip to Norway a few summers ago, and I've been waiting for the perfect story to include that adventure - I finally found it when I met Milla!

Do you and Milla share any similarities?
I love to read and write and explore and travel - just like Milla. My kids have always wanted a pet pig, which is why I included Chocolate Chip in this story. But after doing a whole bunch of research on pet pigs and the care they need, we all decided we're much better off as a dog family!

What was the hardest scene to write about Milla?
There is a scene where she hashes things out with her parents - she talks to them about trusting her and expresses her concerns about not being responsible enough to venture out on her own. It was hard for me to write that from the kid POV, since I have kids this age, and I struggled to not write the whole scene with a parent lens on!

Who do you think was Milla's biggest supporter and why?
Her parents are HUGE supporters of her adventures, and they obviously really believe in her - which I love. But the new friendships she forms with the Daring Dreamers Club are really special...and I've had a lot of fun exploring this bond in the other books in the series (I'm working on the fourth book - Mariana's story - right now!)

Why do you think some young people can see beyond their own world and dream bigger for themselves, while others can get a bit stuck and focus on what is right in front of them?
Every day is a huge new adventure when you're a kid, and things can shift so dramatically from day to day. It can be hard for *everyone* (not just kids!) to deal with the day-to-day ups and downs of friendship/emotions/family/confidence, which can make it really challenging to look at the big picture. We're all guilty of getting stuck in day-to-day drama - that's why it's so important to have groups like the Daring Dreamers Club. These fifth grade advisory meetings are such a wonderful chance for the five girls in this series to vent and unwind and talk things out, and Ms. Bancroft is so good about giving them the space and freedom and encouragement to think about their big dreams.

What do you think Milla is doing as the present time?
I bet she's reading or writing. (Just like me!)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/24/18)

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…

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

*Middle-Grade Novel (3 STARS out of 5 Stars)

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

*My Young-Adult Novel

The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

*My Novel Published for Adults

The Perfect Secret by Rob Buyea

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

*My Novel Published for Adults (Audio)

Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

*My Middle-Grade Novel

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wonder Wednesday #238 (International DOT Day)

Wonder Wednesday - Making our MARK

*International Dot Day is every September 15th.

*This day celebrates the picture book Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

*I love sharing his book with my students each year and exploring the topic of making our mark on the world.

*We enjoyed some good old fashion "dots" as we created our own DOT masterpieces.

*My learners enjoyed the celebration and were quite creative with their imaginations and creativity.

*Here is a look at the artists in action and the finished products...