Fourth Grade Journey

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

An Inside Look #107 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Barbara Dee
(Author of Maybe He Just Likes You

*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 at the start of June 2019.  

*During my summer 2019 vacation I continued a series of interviews in which I put under the heading of Season #SIX.

*To kick off my 29th year of teaching, I'm adding Season #SEVEN with a whole new season of authors, books, and interviews.  

*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 in which I'm calling Season #SEASON.  

*Thank you to Barbara Dee for being the One-Hundred Seventh author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first One Hundred Six 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)

Interview #96 with Kim Ventrella (Author of Bone Hollow)

Interview #97 with Natalie Lloyd (Author of Over the Moon)

Interview #98 with Cynthia Lord (Author of Because of the Rabbit)

Interview #99 with Tina Athaide (Author of Orange for the Sunsets)

Interview #100 with Elly Swartz (Author of Give and Take)

Interview #101 with Amy Rebecca Tan (Author of A Kind of Paradise)

Interview #102 with Varsha Bajaj (Author of Count Me In)

Interview #103 with Laura Resau (Author of Tree of Dreams)

SEASON #SEVEN (2019/2020)

Interview #104 with Laurel Snyder (Author of My Jasper June)

Interview #105 with Lisa Bunker (Author of Zenobia July)

Interview #106 with Jasmine Warga (Author of Other Words for Home)

*Barbara Dee 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 Barbara for writing this incredible and thought-provoking book.

*Here is my book review...

Maybe He Just Likes You

by Barbara Dee (October 1, 2019)

How did you come to know Mila?
In the spring and summer of 2018, I followed all the #MeToo stories in the news. When I watched the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, I couldn't stop wondering: Where does this behavior come from? When does it start?

So I did some research. Education experts say it starts in seventh grade, but many teachers I spoke to say they see it earlier, in fourth and fifth. (One teacher told me she sees it in second!)

I began thinking about my own middle school experience, and my daughter's. I heard stories from moms of current middle schoolers, how their daughters dreaded the school bus. I watched kids in my town interacting after school let out on Friday afternoons. I had a long conversation with a middle school psychologist.

All of this, plus a healthy dose of imagination, led me to Mila.

What do you think is her most admirable quality?
I have to say it's two qualities--her empathy and her resilience.  Mila is a strong kid with a big heart.

Is there anything you wish Mila would have changed or done differently in her story?
Yes! Mila isn't perfect, and she makes a lot of mistakes. I wish she'd spoken to Ms. Fender earlier. I wish she hadn't felt as if she needed to protect her mom from her problems at school. I wish she hadn't pushed Max away, and also that she'd distanced herself from Zara sooner.  And of course I wish she hadn't reacted physically, but I understand why she did.

What do you think she can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?
First and foremost, kids should follow their gut. If a social interaction feels wrong, it probably is. And sometimes the best way to address a problem is by sharing it with trusted adults. Middle school kids never want to be labeled as "tattlers"--but certain types of conflicts do need adult intervention.

I also think Mila 's decision to distance herself from Zara--while still remaining friendly--was an excellent coping strategy.  Kids need to learn who they can trust with personal information. And they need to be open to making new friends, the way Mila makes friends with Samira.

How did you research Mila and the circumstances she found herself in?
In addition to reading several articles by education experts about the prevalence of sexual harassment in middle school, I interviewed a wonderful middle school psychologist, who told me that the behavior is common, but often "under the radar" and under-reported to school adults. I also interviewed a karate teacher who coaches girls in self-defense.

Do you and Mila share any similarities?
Many! We both over-think. We're both aware of our strengths and self-conscious about our weaknesses. We both use humor to deflect. We're both loyal friends, but we have our boundaries.  

What was the hardest scene to write about Mila?
Several were extremely tricky, because I always had to keep in mind that this was a #MeToo story for middle grade readers. One of the hardest was the scene with Tobias at the lockers. I had a lot of emotion to get across in a very short chapter-- Tobias's nervousness along with Mila's shock, indignation and fear.

Who do you think was her biggest supporter and why?
I'd say Samira, who encouraged Mila to study self-defense, and never let her off the hook. Sometimes your best supporters are those who challenge you to find your strength.

Why do you think young people, like Mila, and actually some adults; have such a difficult time standing up for what they know is right and putting their needs first and foremost?
Because we're all connected to other people, and some of us (like Mila) feel those connections very strongly.  Mostly that awareness of others is a positive trait, allowing Mila to empathize-- with her mom and her friends, with Liana, even with Callum and Tobias. But the flipside of that empathy is that you put yourself second, avoid conflict, don't make waves. By the end of the book, though, I think Mila has found a healthy balance between empathy and self-advocacy.

What do you think Mila is doing as this present time?
With her empathy and compassion, Mila is probably a teacher, health professional or therapist--and also a black belt in karate.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (9/30/19)

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...

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

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

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James 
by Ashley Herring Blake

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

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

*My Novel Published for Adults

The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins 
by Gail Shepherd

*My Middle-Grade Novel (Audio)

Allies by Alan Gratz 

*My Middle-Grade Novel 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

How I Heard About It:  My "friends" at Penguin Random House sent me an ARC of this upcoming novel as a favor to me.  I was thrilled to receive it and dug in as soon as it arrived in the mail.  What a read it was!  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Lily and her older sister aren't thrilled when their mother announces they will be moving in with their "Halmoni" (grandmother).

2.  *Lily decides to make the best of it, while her older sister isn't as easy to make the transition.  

3.  *Upon their arrival, the family realizes their Halmoni is ill and they must take action to ensure her health.  

4.  Lily is surprised when she "sees" a tiger and learns the tiger has come straight from many of the stories that her grandmother has told her.  

5.  The tiger makes her a deal.  If Lily returns the stories, the tiger will heal her grandmother.  Lily doesn't everything she can to make this deal come to "life".  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *The writing was beautiful.  Tae Keller certainly has a way with words.  

2.  *I was fascinated with the story because of the combination of realistic fiction and magical realism.

3.  *The relationship between Lily and her grandmother was such a special interaction and love.  

4.  *As the reader, I was drawn into the story by the mystery and intrigue of the tiger.  I wanted to k now what was going to happen.  

5.  *The life-lessons of love, relationship, and beliefs were developed with ease, grace, and sensitivity from page one to the very last word.  

Who Should Read It:
This story is going on my list for the 2019/2020 class read alouds.  I can't wait to share with my fourth graders and dig into some deep and meaningful conversations.  The book could be used in any fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classroom.  Middle-school readers would also be perfect for the novel.  I would also say that adult readers who love middle-grade stories, MUST read this one.  The book will be out in the world in January 2020.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake

How I Heard About It:  This novel has been on my radar for quite some time.  When I returned to work this fall, it was one of the first stories I listened to via my Audible app.  I must say the narration was quite good.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *The story begins with Sunny St. James receiving a new heart which brings a whole new start to life.  

2.  *Sunny has spent most of her life with Kate, the only mother she has never known.  

3. *Sunny is quite surprised when Lena, her biological mother, shows up post-surgery.  The two of them try to get to know each other and move on from the past.  

4.  *After her heart surgery, Sunny can't quite forgive a friend who treated her with disrespect and disregard.  She moves on while getting to know a new girl in town.  

5.  *Sunny has a "to-do" list and believes the items on the list are truly what she wants.  The further she gets from her surgery, the more she learns what she truly wants on her list.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *As I mentioned above, the narration of the story was outstanding.  

2.  *I enjoyed the transformation of Sunny St. James.  She was a young girl who changed in more ways than one.  

3.  *While listening, I could feel the torment and heart-ache that Sunny St. James felt while trying to figure out "life".  

4.  *The dynamics between Kate, Lena, and Sunny were real, raw, and true to what I imagine would happen with two women caring deeply for their daughter.  

5.  *The inter-weavings of a new heart, a "bucket list", and coming to terms with her "TRUE" self; lead Sunny on a beautiful and enlightening journey.  

Who Should Read It:
I never know quite how to answer this when I come across a story like this one.  Unfortunately I teach in a very conservative district which makes me nervous about certain stories.  Because of this story line I would recommend the novel to readers in grades six and middle-school.  This is just my opinion because of where I teach.  Depending on the district, the family, and the reader; the book would be just fine for readers in grades four and five.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars

The LIght in the Lake by Sarah R. Baughman

How I Heard About It:  I was lucky to receive a copy of this novel directly from the publisher Little Brown.  The cover was captivating and I couldn't wait to open the book and begin reading.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Can the "magic" and mystery of a one lake bring answers and closure to a young girl who has lost an incredibly close family member?

2.  *Addie is dealing with the loss of her twin brother to a water accident.  

3.  *She is left with her grief, but also a notebook her brother left behind with all of his science notes, observations, and questions.  

4.  *When Addie gains a summer opportunity to work with scientists out on the "lake", she can resist and hopes it brings the answers she is looking for.  

5.  *Addie and a new friend begin to investigate the lake, the mystery, and the loss of a young boy only to find more questions, more mysteries, and more people involved in the "lake" than they thought.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *This story had a bit of everything;  realistic fiction, mystery, and a bit of magic.  

2.  *Addie was an authentic, relatable, and heart-warming character.  I was so happy when Tai came into her life.  The two of them were unstoppable.  

3.  *As I was reading, I could feel the emotion of Addie, her family, and the loss of her brother.  

4.  *I enjoyed how Sarah Baughman wove together the mystery and magic of the lake and brought it all together with a most satisfying conclusion.  

5.  *The Light in the Lake was a beautiful and compelling story that both young and adult readers will enjoy.

Who Should Read It:  Now that I have finished the novel, I would recommend the story for readers in grades five, six, and of course middle-school.  A strong reader in fourth grader could also be considered when thinking of readers this book may fit.  I would use it as a class read aloud because the events in the story would lead to such rich and deep discussions.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wonder Wednesday #284 (Author LOVE)

Wonder Wednesday - 
Independent Book Store & Local Authors

*I feel so fortunate to live in the Twin Cities area.

*Between St. Paul and Minneapolis we have many independent bookstores.

*Most of these bookstores host author events on a regular basis.

*This past Sunday, September 22nd Magers & Quinn hosted an educator's night for local teachers.

*They hosted authors Erin Soderberg and Rebecca K.S. Ansari.  Erin has written many middle-grade novels and series.  My readers are currently reading The Quirks as our first "Breakfast with Books" book club selection.

*This past summer I read The Missing Piece of Charlie O'Reilly and absolutely loved it.  During my visit to the bookstore I had the honor of meeting Rebecca for the first time.  She and I are going to work together and bring her novel and my readers together for a future book club.

*During the evening, the authors asked each other questions about their novels and writing process.  They also shared some of their favorite middle-grade books that they have recently read.

*Here are some images from my "field trip" to Minneapolis...