Fourth Grade Journey

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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos

How I Heard About It:  Another title that has been in my TBR pile for quite some time.  I'm not sure why I didn't read it earlier because it turned out to be one of my favorite stories in 2019.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Nova is twelve years old and doesn't speak.  

2.  *This hasn't been a problem in the past because she always had her older sister Bridget who was both a protector and support to Nova.

3.  *The two sisters shared a love of space exploration and were going to watch the launch of the Challenger together.  

4.  *When the two sisters are separated in the foster care system, Nova is still hopeful that she and her sister will be able to witness history together.  

5.  *As Nova settles in with a new foster family, new school, and new interactions; all she can really focus on is where her older sister is and when she will return.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *The story was told in two formats; one being in third person and the other being letters that Nova wrote to her sister as the days got closer to the launch of Challenger.  This worked beautifully.  

2.  *I had such empathy and hope for Nova.  She was such a special young girl that just wanted to share her gifts with the world.  

3.  *Of course I was curious about the whereabouts of Bridget and was quite shocked when I read the climax/conclusion of the story.  

4.  *Nova's foster parents were absolutely wonderful and I hope there are actual people out in the real world just like them.  

5.  *The themes of hope, dreams, and goals were written with care, grace, and sensitivity.  

Who Should Read It:
Readers in elementary school will fall in love with Nova, her passions, and her love for both life and space.  I would say that students in grades four, five, and six would be best for the novel.  Middle-school readers will also find the book a satisfying read.  I would also recommend this title to adult readers who enjoy strong middle-grade books with strong characters and a moving plot.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

More to the Story by Hena Khan

How I Heard About It:  After reading Amina's Voice, I waited patiently for what Hena Khan would release next.  When I heard about her new novel, I was excited to get my hands on a copy and get reading.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Jameela dreams of becoming an award winning author.  When she becomes one of the editors on the school paper, she is over the moon with happiness.  

2.  *When Jameela and her family are introduced to a young British boy, she sees an "interview" in her future.  

3.  *Her life is turned upside down when her father has to take a job back in his "home" country and one of her three sisters becomes extremely sick.  

4.  *Jameela tries to balance her desire to write a riveting piece for the school paper, a new friendship with Ali, and cooping with the illness of a family member.  

5.  *Each member of the family learns important life-lessons about family, friendship, and what is truly important in life.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *The story of Jameela and her family was one of heart, emotion, and love.  

2.  *Her quest to be a writer was awesome and important for young readers to read about.  

3.  *The illness of the sister was written about with grace, sensitivity, and authentic feelings.  

4.  *Even though most of the storyline dealt with some major life issues, there was always a sense of hope and fun "moments".  

5.  *I liked that Jameela's story took place both at school and at home.  I got a strong sense of who she was and what she stood for.  

Who Should Read It:
Readers in grades four, five, and six would be an excellent audience for this new novel.  Young girls may tend to gravitate toward the book because of the four sisters as the central characters.  Middle-school readers would also enjoy Jameela's story.  Happy Reading!

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Wonder Wednesday #290 (International DOT Day)

Wonder Wednesday - Making OUR Mark

*A bit overdue, but I wanted to share the fun we had during the middle of September.

*Each year, around September 15th, we celebrate International DOT Day.  

*I read the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds to my fourth graders.

*We then talk about the lesson, message, and theme of the story.  I want them to know how important it is to make their OWN mark on the world.  

*After the discussion, each student chooses a colored dot and glues it anywhere they want on a large sheet of paper.  

*Each student then creates some sort of picture, image, symbol, or design with the DOT included in that creation.  

*We had such a fun time with one of our first art projects of the year.  The artists were certainly creative and are definitely going to make THEIR own mark on the world around them.

*Here are the artists and their creations...

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Maybe a Mermaid by Josephine Cameron

How I Heard About It:  I've had this novel in my house for quite some time.  It seemed to get passed by when I was looking for the next middle-grade novel.  Before I headed to Maine for a mini-fall vacation, I grabbed it and put it in my backpack.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:  
1.  *Anthoni, a girl, isn't your typical eleven-year old girl.  

2.  *She and her mother have always had to work hard to make ends meet.

3.  *When her mother "lies" to her about why they will be spending the summer elsewhere, Anthoni isn't sure what to think.

4.  *Anthoni decides she is going to find a "true best friend" while spending the summer in a new town near a broken down resort.  

5.  *When she learns the truth about her mother, Anthoni is quite upset, but decides to channel her energy into friendship and the "rumors" of the local mermaid. 

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *This beautiful story matched the beautiful cover.

2.  *I enjoyed Anthoni's story and what she had to experience both with her mother and her friends.

3.  *The "mystery" of the mermaid was a driving force of the narrative but not the entire story and I appreciated that.  

4.  *The quest for a true friendship was both heart-warming and authentic.  

5.  *The writing was excellent and the characters shown bright through both their actions and words.  

Who Should Read It:
I would say this novel could be shared with readers in grades three and above.  If you know of a particular reader who has a "love" for mermaids, this may be the story for them.  I would also say the book could be used as a class red aloud.  There would be so much to discuss.  Happy Reading!  

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars

Monday, October 28, 2019

An Inside Look #112 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Karen Strong
(Author of Just South of Home)

*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 NINTH interview in which I'm calling Season #SEVEN.  

*Thank you to Karen Strong for being the One-Hundred Twelfth author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.  

*Here are links to the first One Hundred Eleven 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)

Interview #107 with Barbara Dee (Author of Maybe He Just Likes You)

Interview #108 with Graham Salisbury (Author of Banjo)

Interview #109 with Donna Gephart (Author of The Paris Project)

Interview #110 with Jake Burt (Author of The Tornado)

Interview #111 with Jess Redman (Author of The Miraculous)

*Karen Strong 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 Karen for writing this incredible and thought-provoking book.

*Here is my book review...

Just South of Home by Karen Strong

(May 7, 2019)

How did you come to know Sarah?
Sarah’s voice came to me many years ago when I first started to write fiction. She was sparked by a writing exercise in my very first writing class.

What do you think is Sarah’s most admirable quality?
I think one the qualities that I admire in Sarah is her dedication to her family. She may not have the best relationships with some of them at the beginning of the novel, but she knows the importance of family.

How did you research Sarah and the circumstances she found herself in?
I grew up in a small rural community in the South and so a lot of the experiences and circumstances were the inspiration for Sarah’s experience. For research, I talked to a lot of my older relatives who were Sarah’s age during Jim Crow. Those conversations sparked a lot of the themes in the novel including how a community deals with a traumatic past and the healing process.

Do you and Sarah share any similarities?
The biggest thing that Sarah and I have in common is our love for space and astronomy. When I was her age, I would venture out and marvel at the night sky. My father bought me a telescope and several books on the solar system. That’s when I officially became obsessed.

What was the hardest scene to write about Sarah?
One of the hardest scenes to write for Sarah was in the “Change of Heart” chapter where she must confront her grandmother, Mrs. Greene. It’s in this scene where we see Sarah witness the pain of her grandmother’s past and how it’s affected her over the years. This scene shows how Mrs. Greene, a young girl who lived during the Jim Crow era, felt powerless and how she was still dealing with those unresolved emotions.

Who do you think was Sarah's biggest supporter and why?
Maybe not at the beginning of the novel, but I think during the course of the summer, her cousin Janie became Sarah’s biggest supporter. They had grown closer together and Janie saw that Sarah also wanted to help free the spirits trapped at Creek Church. This was one thing they had in common and Janie did her best to support Sarah in their shared goal.

What do you think Sarah is doing at the present time?
As an aspiring astrobiologist, I think Sarah is probably deep into researching all of the new exoplanets that NASA has discovered. She would be wondering which ones are the best candidates for carbon-based lifeforms. 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (10/28/19)

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...

Maybe a Mermaid by Josephine Cameron

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

More to the Story by Hena Khan

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

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos

*My Middle-Grade Novel

The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic

*My Novel Published for Adults

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

*My Novel Published for Adults (Audio)