Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wonder Wednesday #276 (Summer Video #FOUR)

Wonder Wednesday - What I'm Reading 

*On Wednesdays, I usually post "WONDERS" about what my fourth grade readers are up to and experiencing in our classroom community.

*Now that it is summer vacation, I don't have as many "EVENTS" to post and share.  But summer is the BEST time of the year to get some serious reading done.

*June flew by and I was thinking about what I can post on each Wednesday during July and August.  I know many bloggers post videos about their reading lives.

*I thought I would give "VLOGGING" a try.  I'm not promising they will be any good, but I plan on sharing what I'm currently reading and/or novels that I highly recommend.

*These books will include middle-grade and young-adult books, along with novels published for adults.

*Here is the FOURTH video in the Wednesday summer series I plan on posting...

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

How I Heard About It:  I was able to get this novel while at #NerdCampMI.  Penguin Publishers had a table set up, and attendees were able to choose a novel to take with them.  I asked the representative which story she would pick, and she handed this one to me.  I read the entire book today.  That right there probably tells you something.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Zenobia July is a new person.  At least she hopes to be.  

2.  *After heartache and loss in Arizona, Zen relocates across the country to live with her two aunts, who have been married for many years.  

3.  *While trying to adjust to her new surroundings, and new self, Zenobia finds the courage to begin a new school with a group of students she isn't quite sure will accept her for her.  

4.  *As Zen gets to know a small group of kids, she realizes she may not be all that different.  

5.  *When someone "hacks" into the school computer system targeting different groups of students, Zen finds herself trying to figure out who is responsible for this act.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *Had I known what a deeply powerful story this was, I would have started the minute I returned from #NerdCampMI.

2.  *The plot grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go of my mind and heart until the very last word.  

3.  *Zenobia is one of the most unique, strong, and "deep" characters I've ever had the pleasure of getting to know in a middle-grade novel.  

4.  *The journey of Zen is an important one for readers to experience.  There were several extremely important life issues presented within the pages and the author did a fantastic job of being authentic and sensitive.  

5.  *I not only enjoyed the character of Zenobia, but her two aunts brought such life, energy, and love to the story.  They would be so cool to meet in "real life".  

Who Should Read It:    In my opinion, I would recommend this book being used in grades six and above.  In some ways, it may be appropriate for a fifth grade reader as well.  As I mentioned, there are some mature topics and themes, and I think the middle-school reader would be suited for the story.  Again, this is just my opinion.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

How I Heard About It:  I was excited to receive a copy of this book from my Twitter #bookexpedition group.  This was definitely a story that has gotten a lot of "talk" over the last year or so.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *The main character Jingwen is not happy when he, along with his younger brother and mother, must relocate to Australia.  

2.  *Jingwen calls Australia, "Mars", because he doesn't understand English, he doesn't fit in with the other kids, and is quite lonely.  

3.  *One of the more difficult aspects of the move to Australia is that Jingwen must look after his younger "irritating" brother while their mother is at work.  

4.  *Jingwen and his brother miss their father who passed away before the big move.

5.  *Dealing with thier grief, the brothers decide to make all the cakes their father was going to feature at his "Pie in the Sky" bakery.  The only problem is they must keep this venture from their mother.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I enjoyed that this novel was illustrated.  It is not a graphic novel, but there are images on about every page.

2.  *The plot was unique in that the non-English speaking boys were immigrating to Australia.  

3.  *There were many hilarious and funny moments throughout the story.  It isn't everyday that two brothers are keeping their "baking" a secret from their mother.

4.  *I did think the story got a little long with the main focus being on the making of cakes in secret.

5.  *After reading the story, I'm excited to add the book to our classroom collection and share the story with my fourth graders.  I'm pretty sure they are going to "eat" up this story!  

Who Should Read It:    I would add this title to any classroom library in grades three, four, five, and six.  All of those readers would enjoy the adventures and "baking" of the two brothers.  This is the perfect book for those readers between graphic novels and full-blown novels without any images.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   3 STARS out of 5 Stars!

An Inside Look #96 (Author INTERVIEW)

Inside Look with Kim Ventrella
(Author of Bone Hollow)

*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.  

*Season #FIVE ran during the 2018/2019 school year.  I took a little break during June of 2019.

*I'm thrilled to be back with season #SIX featuring all new books, authors, and conversations.  

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

*This is the FIFTH interview of what I'm calling Season #SIX.

*Thank you to Kim Ventrella for being the Ninety-Sixth author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first Ninety-Five interviews…

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

Interview #81 with Tony Abbott (Author of The Great Jeff)

Interview #82 with Susan Ross (Author of Searching for Lottie)

Interview #83 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Caterpillar Summer)

Interview #84 with Rebecca Ansari (Author of The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly)

Interview #85 with Ali Standish (Author of August Isle)

Interview #86 with Shaun David Hutchinson (Author of The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried)

Interview #87 with Greg Howard (Author of The Whispers)

Interview #88 with Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Author of Shouting at the Rain)

Interview #89 with Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Author of One for the Murphys)

Interview #90 with Laurie Morrison (Author of Up for Air)

Interview #91 with Jody J. Little (Author of Mostly the Honest Truth)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

Interview #92 with John David Anderson (Author of Finding Orion)

Interview #93 with Lisa Thompson (Author of The Light Jar)

Interview #94 with Keith Calabrese (Author of A Drop of Hope)

Interview #95 with Alicia D. Williams (Author of Genesis Begins Again)

*Kim Ventrella 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 Kim for writing this incredible and thought-provoking book.

*Here is my book review...

Bone Hollow Book Review

Bone Hollow

by Kim Ventrella (February 26, 2019)

How did you come to know Gabe?

I usually get to know my characters as I write. I start with a story problem, and then let the specific character quirks and voice come through as I’m writing the first draft. The character then grows and evolves with each revision. For me, things like character worksheets or interviews don’t work. I have to discover the character little by little as the story unfolds.

What do you think is Gabe's most admirable quality?

I respect Gabe’s loyalty to his dog, Ollie, and his willingness to forgive and change his perspective based on new information. Throughout the story, he has a million reasons to resent both Miss Cleo and Wynne, but, in the end, he’s able to move past all that. He has a moment of understanding with Miss Cleo, his neglectful guardian, and he finds a way to see Wynne, i.e. Death, in a new light. In real life, not everyone is so open to change and growth.

Do you and Gabe share any similarities?  

Our loyalty to our dogs, definitely. Also, our familiarity with tornadoes. Although Gabe lives in a made-up town, I always pictured it being somewhere in Oklahoma or Texas. I live in Oklahoma, and we are no stranger to tornadoes in these parts. While I don’t have a southern accent or use quirky down-home sayings like Gabe, I do share his general sense of humor and fun.

What was the hardest scene to write about Gabe?

Probably the scenes in which Gabe thinks Ollie is in danger. As I mentioned, I’m a huge dog person, so any scene that puts a dog in danger is potentially cringe-worthy. Spoiler alert: Ollie is okay, so don’t worry too much on his account.

Who do you think was Gabe’s biggest supporter and why?

Definitely Gramps and Ollie. Gabe had a very special relationship with Gramps when he was alive, and even after he passed away. Then there’s Ollie. He may be a slobbery, wiggly, totally silly pup, but Ollie is the one constant in Gabe’s life (and death).

How do you think life & death should be explained to young children so they are truly able to understand both?  

I don’t think that anyone, adults included, can ever truly understand life and death. We can, however, use stories as a way to help us work through our thoughts about death within the safe confines of a book, and that’s what I try to do with both BONE HOLLOW and SKELETON TREE, my first book. Loss is one of those things that even very young children encounter, often with the loss of a pet or a grandparent. One of my goals is to help young readers develop a framework for processing their feelings surrounding death that acknowledges the sadness, but also opens the door to hope.

I also use fantasy elements to add distance and give readers a concrete way to visualize the main character’s emotional journey. For example, in SKELETON TREE, there’s a moment in which Stanly expresses his anger at Princy the skeleton, i.e. Death, by pushing him and breaking his ribs. In that moment, when Princy is cowering on the ground at Stanly’s feet, Stanly sees that Death isn’t a scary monster like he’d imagined, but actually kind of wimpy and vulnerable. Stanly must then decide whether to continue treating Princy like a monster, or help him glue his ribs back together. This scene serves as a concrete representation of Stanly’s inner struggle. Throughout the story, as Stanly’s relationship with Princy changes, so does his overall view of death.

In that way, fantasy can be a great tool to help introduce difficult topics to young readers, but, that being said, I don’t think there’s any one right way.

What do you think Gabe is doing at the present time?  

I think he’s living a life very similar to Princy from SKELETON TREE. He’s out there helping people deal with their grief, and hanging out with Ollie in his free time.

How can people follow you on social media?



KIM VENTRELLA is the author of the middle grade novels Skeleton Tree (2017) and Bone Hollow (2019, Scholastic Press), and she is a contributor to the upcoming New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark anthology (2020, HarperCollins). Her works explore difficult topics with big doses of humor, whimsy and hope. Kim has held a variety of interesting jobs, including children’s librarian, scare actor, Peace Corps volunteer, French instructor and overnight staff at a women’s shelter, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and co-writer, Hera. Find out more at or follow Kim on Twitter and Instagram: @KimVentrella.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (7/29/19)

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...

The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French

*Young-Adult Novel (3 STARS out of 5 Stars)

My Book Review

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

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

My Book Review

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

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

My Book Review

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

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

Give and Take by Elly Swartz

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

Pixie Pushes On by Tamara Bundy

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

My Book Review

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

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

My Book Review

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

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

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

 Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley

*My Young-Adult Novel

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

*My Novel Published for Adults