Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #359 (Favorites of 2020)

 Wonder Wednesday - Year in Review

*Oh what a year it has been.  

*I can't say I'm sorry to see 2020 go by the wayside and welcome a new beginning with 2021.

*With all the time at home this past year, one would think I would have read more than ever.  Like many other readers, my reading life suffered a bit and I actually read less than in other years.

*The reading I did do was enjoyable, meaningful, and at times emotional.  

*At the end of each year, I post my favorites on the blog.  Here are my favorite reads from 2020 from a variety of categories.

Favorite Picture Book of 2020

Favorite Middle-Grade Novel of 2020

Favorite Young-Adult Novel of 2020

*This novel will actually be released in 2021, but I read an ARC of it and it was my favorite.

Favorite Novel Published for Adults of 2020

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The House That Wasn't There by Elana K. Arnold

How I Heard About It:
*This title came to me during my virtual visit to #NCTE.  While visiting the publisher booth of Walden Pond Press, I was able to download an E-Galley of this upcoming middle-grade novel.  I was excited to read as I had seen a few online friends commenting on how much they enjoyed the story.

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
*Alder is a young boy living with his mother in a small Californian home.

*Oak is a young girl who has just moved into her small Californian home.  

*Alder and Oak couldn't be much different, but after time realize they may have more in common than they ever imagined.  

*Alder has always been somewhat of a loner at school.  Oak is the new girl who would love to "fit in" with the other kids.

*After a large walnut tree between their homes is cut down, and two cats come into their lives, Oak and Alder bond over the differences and similarities between them.

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
*Oh my gosh, how I loved this story.  

*I can't explain how different, fresh, and unique this middle-grade story is.  Such a treat to read!

*Alder and Oak are two amazing, thoughtful, and special characters.  With each page, I came to love them more and more.

*The story contains some realistic fiction, a bit of fantasy, and a dash of mystery.  Everything this reader loves and enjoys in a middle-grade novel.

*There are portions of the plot that will definitely get readers thinking, discussing, and asking lots of questions.

Who Should Read It:
*I would most definitely put the book in all fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classroom libraries.  The middle-school reader would also be ideal for the unfolding mystery of Alder and Oak.  In my opinion, the story could be used for a class read aloud and/or to give to an individual student.  Happy Reading!

STARS out of 5 Stars

Wonder Wednesday #358 (Breakfast with Books #THREE)

 Wonder Wednesday - The WONDER of Book Club

*We had our THIRD "Breakfast with Books" book club on Friday, December 18th.

*Our first selection was The Quirks by Erin Soderberg

*The next month we read Enginerds/Revenge of the Enginerds by Jarrett Lerner.

*Our third selection was a beautiful story written by Anna Staniszewski.  

*The readers spent several weeks reading The Wonder of Wildflowers.

*We were so fortunate to have Anna join us during our book club ZOOM.  

*The fourth graders had the chance to share comments and ask questions about the story, Anna, and her writing life.  

*Anna was kind, thoughtful, and quite engaging.  

*Here is a peek into our time together...

Monday, December 21, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (12/21/20)


Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this idea on their site.  Here is a link to the site...

Books I Will (continue to) Read this Week...

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

*My Novel Published for Adults (Audio)

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

*My Novel Published for Adults (BBC Selection - Boy's Book Club)

Books I Read this Past Week...

The House That Wasn't There by Elana K. Arnold

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

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan

How I Heard About It:
*This was the first middle-grade novel I read after finishing up my three-year commitment on the Charlotte Huck Book Awards Committee.  I downloaded the novel onto my Kindle during virtual #NCTE20.  I had loved everything that Holly Goldberg Sloan had written so I was excited to read her newest novel.

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
*Sila's mother had to return to Turkey to obtain the correct papers in order to continue living in the United States. 

*While she thought it would be a quick trip, it turned into an over one-year long separation.  

*Sila and her father try to make the best of life, but it isn't easy.  

*When they meet an elderly man who owns an expanse of land in which he isn't sure what to do with.

*After an elephant named Veda, enters their lives, everyone will be changed in major ways.

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
*The story was beautiful, thoughtful, and engaging.

*I absolutely loved the character of Sila.  She drew me in from the first page.

*Actually all of the characters were authentic, unique, and heart-warming.

*The plot moved a slow and even pace, but kept my attention the entire reading experience.  

*Holly Goldberg Sloan interwove several important life-lessons into one gorgeous story for young people.

Who Should Read It:
*I'm looking forward to sharing the story with my fourth graders in 2021.  I believe the novel will be released in March.  In my opinion, the book would be perfect for readers in grades four through six.  Readers in middle-school would also be a target audience.  Happy Reading!

STARS out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #357 (My Debut Appearance)

 Wonder Wednesday - I'm a CHARACTER

*You know I'm a fan of reading and books. 

*They are my life, my passion, and calling.

*Over the years, I've had the pleasure and honor of meeting many authors.  

*I can tell you I've never had the opportunity to be a "character" in a novel.  That is until now! 

*While Skyping with Chris Grabenstein last fall about his novel Shine, he informed both myself and my class that I would be appearing in an upcoming novel of his.  

*I was stunned, thrilled, and amazed.  

*Chris' newest work of fiction entered the world at the beginning of December.  

*It was exciting to get the book in the mail and search for my name in the story.  

*Turns out I'm an FBI agent in the story.  So fun!!!

*This novel is our current class read aloud.  All my listeners know is that there is a surprise in the story.  They keep waiting day in and day out for the big "surprise".  

*I can't wait to get to the section of the story where "I" appear.  

*Thanks so much to Chris for including me in this awesome story.  I'm truly honored.  

Monday, December 14, 2020

An Inside Look #157 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Ernesto Cisneros
(Author of Efren Divided)

*Welcome to my favorite feature of my blog.  

*Season #ONE (June of 2016 to March of 2017)

*Season #TWO (Summer of 2017)

*Season #THREE (School Year 2017/2018)

Season #FOUR
ummer/fall of 2018)

*Season #FIVE (School Year 2018/2019)

*Season #SIX (Summer 2019) 

*Season #SEVEN (Fall 2019) 

*Season #EIGHT (Winter/Spring 2020)

*I'm excited to be back for season #NINE with brand new interviews/authors.  

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

*This is the FIFTEENTH and final interview in which I'm calling Season #NINE.  

*Thank you to Ernesto Cisneros for being the One-Hundred Fifty-Seventh author I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.

*Here is my Review of the Novel..

Efren Divided 

by Ernesto Cisneros

(March 31, 2020)

How did you come to know Efrén?
The character of Efrén was based on my son. Since he was little, he’s always been the first person to get up and offer his seat to an adult in a full bus. It’s also commonplace for him to hold doors (and wait until every last person clears) for complete strangers at restaurants, shopping malls, schools. I can’t tell you how many times complete strangers have stopped me simply to tell me how amazing he is.

What do you think is his most admirable quality?
For sure it is his heart. Efrén is the kind of person who will put his life on hold to help someone else in need. In the story, Efrén does everything in his power to keep his mother’s deportation a secret from his siblings, and in the process becomes a segregate mother of sorts.

Is there anything you wish he would have changed or done differently in his story?
I wish Efrén had trusted a few people a bit sooner and taken a bit of the burden off his shoulders. He definitely took on way too much responsibility for someone his age. Part of what Efrén learns throughout the book is that he has allies to help him out.

What do you think Efrén can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?
I’m hoping that Efrén can help other kids like himself to understand they are not alone. They have allies who are willing to help out. Additionally, I’d like today’s youth to recognize the power that they possess. I hope Efrén motivates and encourages today’s youth to help create change in their community.

In addition, I would hope that children and their parents alike will leave with a sense of appreciation for everything they have been able to accomplish in this great nation of ours.

How did you research Efrén and the circumstances he found himself in?

A lot of what Efrén experiences comes from my own growing up in the same neighborhood where the story takes place. I did take a few trips to Tijuana, Mexico and visit Friendship Park to make sure I captured the setting accurately.

Do you and Efrén share any similarities?

You could say we share the same family. I pretty much based his family on mine own. Like Efrén, I too was forced to grow up well before my time. My parents also worked long hours and were not able to be home as much as they would have preferred.

What was the hardest scene to write about him?
The toughest scene was placing the character in harms way when he embarks on a solo journey across the border. As an author, it is up to us to add obstacles and tension to our work, but as a parent, it is difficult to even imagine anyone going through that trauma.

Who do you think was his biggest supporter and why?
Actually, I’d say he had an entire community of people watching over him. Lalo, the father living alone in Tijuana, Ms. Solomon, Mr. Garret, even Jennifer all provided Efren the help he needed to reach his journey.

Why do you think some young people, like Efrén, take on the responsibility of saving and/or fixing their family during difficult situations?
I believe that it is a simple matter of necessity. Throughout my teaching career, I’ve seen plenty of cases where fourth and fifth grade students were left in charge of younger siblings. In most of these cases, the parents are out working and don’t have any other options other than placing that burden on older siblings. I remember being in middle school and having to pick up my brothers from kindergarten and first grade on my bike. It was normal and commonplace, so I never thought it was unusual. I knew my parents were at work, provided for the family… the least I could do was my small part.

What do you think Efrén is doing as the present time?
I’d like to imagine Efrén in the reading a book in the bathtub, while enjoying a bag of Cheetos. However, knowing him, he’s probably helping to educate his community on their rights and helping to campaign for the upcoming presidential election.

*Here are links to the One Hundred Fifty-Six interviews...

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

SEASON #SEVEN (Fall 2019)

SEASON #EIGHT (Winter/Spring 2020)

Interview #121 with Melissa Savage (Author of Nessie Quest)

Interview #122 with Tamara Bundy (Author of Pixie Pushes On)

Interview #123 with Lindsay Lackey (Author of All the Impossible Things)

Interview #124 with Tae Keller (Author of When You Trap a Tiger)

Interview #125 with Jamie Sumner (Author of Roll With It)

Interview #126 with Hena Khan (Author of More to the Story)

Interview #127 with Phil Bildner (Author of A High-Five for Glenn Burke)

Interview #128 with Leslie Connor (Author of A Home for Goddesses and Dogs)

Interview#129 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Queen Bee and Me)

Interview #130 with Jody J. Little (Author of Worse Than Weird)

Interview #131 with Jenn Bishop (Author of Things You Can't Say)

Interview #132 with Kaela Noel (Author of Coo)

Interview #133 with Rebecca Stead (Author of The List of Things That Will Not Change)

Interview #134 with Gae Polisner (Author of Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me)

Interview #135 with Emily Blejwas (Author of Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened)

Interview #136 with Joy McCullough (Author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost)

Interview #137 with Kim Baker (Author of the Water Bears)

Interview #138 with Erin Entrada Kelly (Author of We Dream of Space)

Interview #139 with Jess Redman (Author of Quintessence)

Interview #140 with Melanie Conklin (Author of Every Missing Piece)

Interview #141 with Lindsey Stoddard (Author of Brave Like That)

SEASON #NINE (Fall 2020)