Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wonder Wednesday #251 (Breakfast with Books)

Wonder Wednesday - Abby Cooper Visit

*With all the requirements, mandates, and "testing"we have to do as educators; I hold on closely to some of the "stuff" that creates memories and authentic learning for my students.

*My most favorite activity with my students is our "Breakfast with Books" book club.  The book club brings me pure joy and I love seeing my students interacting with authors.  

*So far this year we have enjoyed the following books/authors...

The Quirks by Erin Soderberg

The Shadow Hand by Kat Shepherd

Lemons by Melissa Savage

*The readers in the book club were excited to host Abby Cooper to discuss her novels Sticks and Stones along with Bubbles.  Some of the children read one of her novels while others had the time to read both books.  

*On Thursday, January 24th we welcomed Abby to our classroom where we enjoyed some breakfast treats, shared our comments, and ask questions.  

*What a joy it is to be able to host talented authors and watch them interact.  

*Thank you to Abby for your time, your talent, and your incredible stories!  

Monday, January 28, 2019

An Inside Look #75 (Author Interview)

Inside Look with Abby Cooper
(Author of Friend or Fiction)

*During the summer of 2016, I added this feature to the 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.  

*The next season (season #FOUR) of interviews took place during the summer and fall of 2018.  With each interview I became more and more impressed with the authors I was having interactions with.  

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

*This is the FOURTH interview of what I'm calling Season #FIVE.

*Thank you to Abby Cooper for being the Seventy-Fifth author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first Seventy-Four 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)

Interview #62 with Erin Soderberg (Author of Milla in Charge)

Interview #63 with Laura Shovan (Author of Take Down)

Interview #64 with Donna Gephart (Author of In Your Shoes)

Interview #65 with Alan Gratz (Author of Grenade)

Interview #66 with Barbara O'Connor (Author of Wonderland)

Interview #67 with Lindsey Stoddard (Author of Just Like Jackie)

Interview #68 with Katherine Marsh (Author of Nowhere Boy)

Interview #69 with Dusti Bowling (Author of 24 Hours in Nowhere)

Interview #70 with Christina Uss (Author of The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle)

Interview #71 with Adam P. Schmitt (Author of Speechless)


Interview #72 with Dan Gemeinhart (Author of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise)

Interview #73 with Abby Cooper (Author of Sticks and Stones)

Interview #74 with Abby Cooper (Author of Bubbles)

*I'm so lucky to have gotten to know so many authors.  I'm even luckier to have gotten to know some wonderful authors that live right here in the Twin Cities.  Abby Cooper is one of those authors.  She has been kind enough to visit my classroom on multiple occasions.  Her first visits were about her first novel Sticks and Stones.  Then she started to visit about her second book called Bubbles.  I recently read an ARC of her upcoming story called Friend or Fiction.

*I'm going to be running a three-part series with Abby Cooper.  Each interview will be about one of the three books.  The last two weeks we did interviews about Sticks and Stones and Bubbles.  This week it is all about Abby's upcoming novel called Friend or Fiction.  

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

*Thank you Abby Cooper for writing this book...

Friend or Fiction
by Abby Cooper (October 8, 2019)

How did you come to know Jade?
I've known a lot of "Jades" over the years - the quiet, thoughtful students who are always writing or doodling in a notebook. In large classes often filled with louder, more outgoing personalities, these students can sometimes be overlooked. As a teacher, it was always important to me to let them know they were seen. As a writer, I really wanted to bring a character like this to life.

What do you think is Jade's most admirable quality?
Jade is very thoughtful and observant. She takes the time to notice the little things, to ask questions, to wonder why things are the way they are. I think those are great qualities for aspiring writers (or anybody!) to have.

Is there anything you wish Jade would have changed or done differently in her story?
Nope! My characters always make mistakes, but that's life. I want my characters to be relatable, and to show that mistakes, while tough at the time, ultimately help us learn and grow.

What do you think Jade can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
I hope that Jade will be a comfort to readers who are experiencing any of her same circumstances. Hopefully Jade can show readers that they're not alone and inspire them to find a creative outlet to help them deal with tough times.

How did you research Jade and the circumstances she found herself in?
While I've never had a story character come to life (that I know of!), I know what it's like to become so focused on someone or something that it's hard to notice what else is going on around you. A lot of my book research is simply reflecting on my own experiences and thinking deeply about how my characters would internalize similar feelings or events.

Do you and Jade share any similarities?
We both love to write, and we get very absorbed in our stories!

What was the hardest scene to write about Jade?
It's hard to answer this without spoiling anything, but it's always hard to write scenes where something bad happens in your main character's life. I never like breaking my character's hearts! On the flip side, I love writing the scenes where they find their power and rise to the challenges they face.

Who do you think was Jade's biggest supporter and why?
Jade is lucky because she has a lot of supporters, but due to various tough circumstances, she struggles to see that support. Part of Jade's journey is learning to recognize and appreciate the great support system that she has.

Why do you think children sometimes want to be friends with the popular or in” crowd, while the real deal friend might be standing right in front of them?
I wish I knew! I'm no psychologist, but I think it probably has something to do with the validation that being "cool" provides - having the approval of the in-crowd maybe makes kids feel better about themselves. Ultimately the validation from a real friend (and from ourselves) is much more authentic/meaningful, but that's something people often need to learn for themselves.

What do you think Jade is doing as the present time?
Jade is probably spending time with family and friends, or working on her latest story.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (1/28/19)

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…

Emily out of Focus by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

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

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

*Young-Adult Novel (4 STARS out of 5 Stars!)

Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

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

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

*Novel Published for Adults

Atomic Habits by James Clear

*My professional read (Teacher Book Club on FaceBook)

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

*My Young-Adult Novel

Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

How I Heard About It:   While attending a Little Brown dinner during #NCTE18 in Houston, Texas; I had the honor of author Jay Coles speak about his novel and personal experience.  Each guest was given a copy of his novel. I was excited to read the story, especially after hearing Jay speak.  

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

1.  *Marvin and Tyler are high-school twins.  They have grown up almost as one.  Both are protective of their mother and miss their father who is in prison.

2.  *As they navigate their way through their senior year, Tyler begins to "drift" away from Marvin and his friends.  Marvin begins to worry about some of the choices Tyler is making.  

3.  *The boys and their friends are realizing how much tension there is between the "neighbors" and law enforcement.  Marvin wants to stay clear of the "encounters", but gets nervous when it appears his brother Tyler is heading straight toward it.  

4.  *When Marvin, Tyler, and their friends head to a party; they find nothing but trouble.  

5.  *Tyler disappears while Marvin does everything in his power to find out what happened at the party.  He is beginning to find it difficult to balance both his life at home and the life he would like to move toward.  

What I Thought Of It:  An excellent read.  The story was raw, real, and relevant.  It certainly was a timely read due to the conflicts between law enforcement and certain groups of people in our country.  As frustrated as I was with some of Tyler's decisions, I could understand why he was making them.  Jay Coles did a phenomenal job of writing about Marvin's situation and the choices he made.  I could tell how torn he was between the cards he was dealt and the possibility of a productive and successful future.  The entire story brought me great satisfaction and there were times when I couldn't turn the page fast enough.  

Who Should Read It:   The novel is intended for the young-adult reader.  Because of the content, language, and situations; I would recommend the book for readers in high-school and above.  I do think that adult readers would enjoy the story just as much as the young-adult reader.  Jay Coles has written a story not to be missed.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

How I Heard About It:   The cover of this novel due out on 4/2/19, drew me in and lead to a conversation with a representative at Bloomsbury during #NCTE in Houston, Texas.  I was lucky to receive an ARC and added the title to my TBR list.  

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

1.  *Caterpillar (Cat) and her younger brother Chicken spend a lot of time together due to their mother working so much and the loss of their father.

2.  *After a summer vacation plan goes by the wayside, Cat and Chicken end up at their grandparent's home.  They don't really know their grandmother or grandfather and aren't quite why their mother would leave them here while she spends their vacation time working.  

3.  Caterpillar has spent her life watching and taking care of Chicken.  He has special needs and she wants to make sure he is always safe.  While getting use to living with her grandparents, Cat isn't sure she can let them help her care for her younger brother.  

4.  As their time on the island ticks by, Caterpillar creates new friendships, meets a boy that isn't so kind, and enters an important fishing contest that she hopes will please both her grandfather and mother.  

5.  Not only does Caterpillar change while on the island; but her relationships with Chicken, her mother, her grandparents, and even the mean kid change in a multiple array of ways.  

What I Thought Of It:  After finishing the story I felt such a sense of contentment.  I enjoy the story of Cat, Chicken, and the family that surrounded them.  Cat was such a special and dear young girl.  I loved the way she took care of Chicken and could feel how much she felt responsible for him.  The relationship between the two children and their grandparents was amazingly told.  I could feel the "conflicting" feelings that were being exchanged between the four of them.  Gillian's writing was insightful, precise, and put the reader smack dab in the middle of Cat's summer.  

Who Should Read It:   When the book comes out at the beginning of April, I would put it in the hands of fifth and sixth grade readers.  At almost 300 pages, I think this age group could handle the book the best.  Of course strong readers in grade four and/or three would also be appropriate for the story.  Adult readers that are fans of middle-grade stories definitely need to be this title on their TBR list.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Emily Out of Focus by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

How I Heard About It:   The community of readers is one of my favorite groups of people.  While picking up the ARC of Friend or Fiction by Abby Cooper, she also handed me this ARC.  I read it and now will pass on to another reader.  The "pay it forward" movement with ARCS is a wonderful thing.  

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

1.  *Emily is an only child until her parents inform her they will all be traveling to China to adopt a baby girl.  

2.  *She has anticipation about the trip, but also has some concerns.  Emily makes a list of her "fears" and hopes she can overcome them while traveling abroad.  

3.  *Once Emily and her family arrive in China, Emily meets another young girl whose family is also adopting a baby.  Katherine, herself, was also adopted and is using this journey to find her birth mother.  

4.  *Emily and Katherine becomes friends as Katherine creates a plan to find her mother.  Emily agrees to help her, but has concerns about the lies she has to tell her parents.  

5.  *Emily has her own secrets from Katherine about one of the reasons she is in China and the project she is working on with the help of her grandmother's camera.  

What I Thought Of It:  Abby Cooper told me she enjoyed this story and I would agree with her.  The story was thoughtful, meaningful, and touching.  I enjoyed the character of Emily.  She was multifaceted and I could empathize with her on several occasions.  As a reader, I enjoy it when an author creates a character that has a goal in mind and everything they do throughout the story is a step toward achieving that goal.  Emily was determined to create a project for the contest and the reading was satisfying to "see" how would accomplish this both positive and negative consequences.  

Who Should Read It:   Being a fourth grade teacher, I would say this is the perfect middle-grade story for the age group.  The book could also be handled by a strong third grade reader.  Of course readers in grade five and/or six would be appropriate also.  If you have students that have been adopted themselves, especially from China, then this would be a great novel to put in their hands.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wonder Wednesday #250 (Celebrating an ARC)

Wonder Wednesday - Friend or Fiction by Abby Cooper

*I was thrilled when author Abby Cooper offered to share an ARC with me before it went off on an author "tour".

*I read it in a couple of sittings and absolutely LOVED it!

*Checking in with Abby, I was able to take some extra time and share her third novel with my class.  It was perfect timing because we were also reading Sticks and Stones along with Bubbles for our "Breakfast with Books" book club.

*A few years ago my group of fourth graders were the first class that had the opportunity to hear the story Bubbles.  The same wonderful opportunity occurred with this upcoming story.

*We have been reading a lot each and every day in order to get as much read before Abby's visit on Thursday, January 24th.

*Abby Cooper has written a terrific story and my listeners have been spellbound with the story of Jade, Zoe, and of course Clue.

*Here are some thoughts from the listeners themselves...