Fourth Grade Journey

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

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Paris Project by Donna Gephart

How I Heard About It:  The other day I went to the mailbox to find a piece of wonderful book mail.  Donna was kind and thoughtful to send me an advanced copy of her upcoming novel that will enter the world in October of 2019.  I was thrilled and got reading that very night.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Cleveland Rosebud Potts is living her life in Sassafras, Florida.  She doesn't enjoy living here and has made a plan to leave and move to Paris.

2.  *Cleveland has even made a list of tasks she must accomplish in order to further her plan of getting to Paris.

3.  *While working on her list, she is dealing with quite a bit of "life".  She has a father that is incarcerated, a mother that has to work all the time, a sister that wants to break free also, a best friend who has a new friend, and an old best friend that is making life miserable for Cleveland.  

4.  *As Cleveland navigates her days of school and home, she comes to know who is truly there for her and who doesn't have her best interest at heart.  

5.  *Life may be difficult for Cleveland and her family, but in the end she learns all a person needs is their family and one or two really good friends.  Plus a dream of traveling to France doesn't hurt.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I have loved all of Donna's stories.  Each story brings something different and I learn something new.  That is exactly what happened with her newest work of fiction.  

2.  *Cleveland was wonderful, smart, and sensitive.  She had such heart and determination.  

3.  *I enjoyed reading about her relationships with her sister, her parents, her best friend, and even her "former" best friend.  

4.  *Donna included many important life-lessons that would lead to some wonderfully deep and meaningful conversations.  

5.  *I enjoy how Donna is not afraid to tackle real-life issues, incarceration, with honestly and sensitivity.  These are the types of stories our young readers need.  

Who Should Read It:   The story of Cleveland would resonate with readers in grades five and/or six.  Of course it definitely could be read by middle-school readers.  Female readers may enjoy the story a bit more because the main character is female and wanting to experience life in Paris.  This does not mean a male reader wouldn't enjoy the story especially since Cleveland's best friend is a boy.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Internment by Samira Ahmed

How I Heard About It:  You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard of this novel  I feel like I was late to the game in that I just finished this young-adult novel.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Layla is a high-school girl enjoying the school experience and her time with her boyfriend.  All of this changes overnight.  

2.  *The US government decides that all American Muslims must be "gathered" and brought to an internment camp.

3.  *Layla can't quite believe what is happening, but follows her parents to this "camp" where she finds a new and difficult life.  

4.  *Layla knows in her heart this isn't the place she or the other Muslims belong so she begins a "campaign" to set all of them free.

5.  *This plan involves her boyfriend on the "outside" and one of the guards on the "inside".  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I couldn't decide if I wanted to read the novel or listen to it via Audible.  I decided on the second option and I'm glad I did.  The narration was wonderful and I felt like I was listening to a play.  

2.  *Samira Ahmed's writing was incredible with such vivid descriptions and intriguing detail.

3.  *The character was Layla was one that I know will stick with me for quite some time.  She was strong, fierce, and independent.  I loved how she wasn't going to give up no matter what.  

4.  *As I listened, it was quite terrifying because some of the story is actually happening or definitely could happen right here in our country.  

5.  *This is an important novel for all readers to experience.  The message/theme is current, relevant  and one that needs to be addressed.  

Who Should Read It:   This story should be required reading for both the high-school and college aged readers.  I would also recommend it to all adult readers.  One of the best young-adult novels I've encountered.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wonder Wednesday #268 (Breakfast with Books)

Wonder Wednesday - Matylda, Bright & Tender

*As our year is coming to a close, some of my readers had their final "Breakfast with Books" on Friday, May 24th.

*Our final book club selection was Matylda, Bright & Tender by Holly McGhee.

*I have used this novel in the past and it has always been a huge hit with my fourth graders so I decided to choose it again.

*The Skype session with Holly was fun, delightful, and interesting.  She took the time to share her family's pet lizard and even did a feeding for us.

*The readers has the chance to share their comments, noticings, wonderings, and questions.  Holly was attentive, real, and personal in all of her responses.

*I absolutely adore this book club and it always provides me, and my students, with some of our greatest highlights of the year.

*Here are some images from our time with Holly McGhee...

Monday, May 27, 2019

An Inside Look #91 (Author INTERVIEW)

Inside Look with Jody J. Little
(Author of Mostly the Honest Truth)

*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 Twentieth interview of what I'm calling Season #FIVE.

*Thank you to Jody J. Little for being the Ninety-Firrst author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first Ninety interviews…

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

*Jody J. Little 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 Jody for writing this incredible and thought-provoking book.

*Here is my book review...

Book Review

Mostly the Honest Truth

by Jody J. Little (March 12, 2019)

How did you come to know Jane?
Jane came to me though a writing prompt from a critique partner. My prompt was to write a scene about a new girl in town with a scar and a skateboard. I wrote several scenes with this character, but it wasn’t until a very magical moment when I was with my son and his friends at a local arcade when Jane really began to speak to me. She shared details of her past with her father, including how she got the scar. She never stopped talking to me after that.

What do you think is Jane’s most admirable quality?
What I admire most in Jane is her resilience. She has endured moments that would break many of us, but she has an ability to lift herself up, remain positive, and move forward. It’s truly inspiring to me.

Is there anything you wish Jane would have changed or done differently in her story?
There are so many things I wish Jane would have done differently, but most importantly, I wish she would have asked for help when she suffered so much pain from her injury. Her stubborn silence on that issue was frustrating (and frightening), yet Jane had to grow and learn on her own time.

What do you think Jane can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
I believe Jane can offer hope. I want other children who live with an alcoholic parent to recognize that they are not alone, like Jane often felt. Often children of alcoholics feel a tremendous burden to help their parent. A child may also feel responsible for the drinking. But I hope that children will understand that if their parent drinks, it is never the child’s fault. Addiction isn’t incurable. Their parent can recover, even though here will always be good and bad days.

How did you research Jane and the circumstances she found himself in?
Initially I did not do much research for this book. I wrote several drafts of Jane’s story before I began to dig into the lives and traits of children of alcoholic parents. What I discovered in my research is that Jane was true to so many of those characteristics—the desire to help their parent, the need to lie, the need to cover up or diminish the seriousness of the problem, and the reluctance or lack of knowledge to ask for help.

Do you and Jane share any similarities?
I do think that Jane and I share some similarities. We can both hold in a lot of our thoughts and fears and put on brave faces when needed. Most importantly, though, Jane and I have overflowing sock drawers, filled with matching socks of all the people in our lives who stick with us, love us, and keep us happy. Jane and I have much to be grateful for.

What was the hardest scene to write about Jane?
Hands down, the hardest scene to write was the climax scene in which the honest truth comes out. I teared up on every revision and every reading of that scene. Perhaps even more difficult than Jane’s truth, was envisioning and writing the reactions of G, Officer D, and Old Red when they listened to her story.

Who do you think was Jane's biggest supporter and why?
Oh, no doubt this would be Officer D. Office D adored Jane from the moment she met her. I think Officer D saw a bit of herself in Jane. Officer D has stories and a past that do not come out in Mostly the Honest Truth. She has an intelligent, fierce external shell made up of her cop-uniform and weapons, but inside she carries a heart of gold and a desire to love. Jane feels Officer D’s fierceness from the get-go, but as each day goes by in Three Boulders, Jane warms to her and sees how much love is inside her foster-person.

Why do you think young people, like Jane, are willing to go to such great lengths in order to protect those loved ones that may be harming them and/or need help themselves?
This is a great question, and I’m not sure I know the answer to it. It could be a sense of isolation. If you truly believe your loved one is the only person in your life (as Jane did), perhaps there are no boundaries to what you might do. It’s a terribly sad thought, but it’s also a reality for many children. This is an area where schools can help. I am thankful that we are now looking long and hard at a child’s social-emotional development far more than we did ten years ago. As a teacher, I’m a huge advocate for this emphasis. Our students are so much more than their behaviors and their academic progress. We can be a matching sock for each of them in different ways.

What do you think Jane is doing as the present time?
As I write this, it is early afternoon. I picture Jane sitting on the Community Boulder with the other sunshine kids working on their school assignments while the sun beats down on the boulders, warming them, pulling them together, as friends…as a community. I think she is happy.