Fourth Grade Journey

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #331 (Never Before Ending)

Wonder Wednesday - Closing out the SPACE

*On Wednesday, May 27th I headed back to my classroom space.  

*I had not been there since Tuesday, March 17th.  

*It was a bit of a surreal moment.  Distance learning/teaching was nothing I had ever given a second of thought before that last day in my room in March.

*I still have eight days left with my students, but I'm done out at the building until, well until we don't know.  

*As I packed, cleaned, and sorted I was filled with such emotion.  

*For 29 years, I ended the year with my students.  Doing it without them didn't feel right.  It fact, it felt completely wrong.  

*I'm not sure I would classify this event as a wonder, but I am in WONDER of my students and how we have all worked together to make this "new normal" as positive as we could.  

*Here is my last "tour" of my 2019/2020 physical classroom...

Monday, May 25, 2020

After the Worst Thing Happens by Audrey Vernick

How I Heard About It:
*This upcoming middle-grade novel came to me via #bookexpedition.  The title will be released on July 7, 2020.  

What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1. *Army loves life and she especially loves her dog "Maybe".

2.  *Their life together is blissful until a terrible accident takes Maybe away from Army.

3.  *Army is left alone, heart-broken, and not sure how to move forward.

4.  *As her navigates her new normal, Army meets a new family that is also overwhelmed with life.

5.  *With the help of a new friend, Army sets out to help the new family, especially their daughter, and finds herself dealing with the emotions that come with a new dog.  

What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I know some readers shy away from "losing" a dog story, but this one is not to be missed.

2.  *As a reader, and dog owner, I appreciated how the author took a new approach to losing a dog.

3.  *Once the "accident" occurred, I wasn't sure where the story could go; but go it did. 

4.  *The journey Army took to help Madison's family was touching, sensitive, and emotional. 

5.  *I also enjoyed the dynamics between Army and her formal and new friends.  These relationships were portrayed quite realistically. 

Who Should Read It:
*I would put the novel in the hands of readers in grades four, five, and six.  Of course the middle school reader would also appreciate the story of Army and her dealings with life.  The story would also work for a class read aloud.  Happy Reading! 

Rating:   4 STARS out of 5 Stars

An Inside Look #140 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Melanie Conklin
(Author of Every Missing Piece

*The first season of interviews ran from June of 2016 to March of 2017.  

*Season #two ran during the summer of 2017.  

*Season #three ran during the school year of 2017-2018.  

*The fourth season ran during the summer/fall of 2018.

*Season #five ran during the 2018/2019 school year. 

*During summer 2019, the sixth season ran.  

*The seventh season of interviews ran during the fall of 2019.  

*I'm excited to be back for season #EIGHT 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 Nineteenth interview in which I'm calling Season #EIGHT.  

*Thank you to Melanie for being the One-Hundred Fortieth author I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.

*Here is my review of the Novel...

Every Missing Piece

by Melanie Conklin

(May 26, 2020)

How did you come to know Maddy?
Maddy’s story first came to me in a totally different form. A few years ago, I wrote what I lovingly call a “Frankenstein” draft, which is a manuscript draft with a whole bunch of stories all smashed together. These drafts are basically brain dumps of every plot idea I have at the time. They don’t work because they are too cluttered, but they offer a lot of fodder for future stories. Every Missing Piece was one of the threads I lifted from this Frankenstein draft. As I journaled about the idea of finding a missing child, Maddy’s back story and character details slowly revealed themselves, and now she is very dear to me.

What do you think is her most admirable quality?

Maddy is quite stubborn, which some people might think is a negative trait, but it’s a quality I admire. Her tenacity is part of what’s allowed her to grow and thrive in the face of adversity. Persistence can sometimes cross the line into being stubborn. That certainly happens with me. I was a stubborn child, and I’m often a stubborn adult! What I’ve learned is that my persistence shouldn’t come at a cost to anyone else. There are ways to succeed at your goals without hurting anyone else’s feelings.

Is there anything you wish she would have changed or done differently in her story?

Luckily I’m still in the honeymoon phase with Maddy’s story! Thanks to my amazing editor Tracey Keevan, there isn’t much I would change, although I’m sure I will still find edits on re-reads. That’s the challenge of being an author—your book is a moment captured in time. It is a brief encapsulation of your writing skills at the moment that you wrote it. You continue to improve your craft, but the book stays the same. I think every writer would keep revising indefinitely, and that’s why it’s best to move on to the next project as soon as possible!

What do you think Maddy can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what she went through?

I think Maddy is a model for learning how to love and forgive. While it can be easy to forgive others, it is the hardest thing to forgive yourself. Maddy struggles with conflicted feelings about her deceased father and her new stepfather, and my heart ached for her as I wrote those parts of the story. I am a very loyal person as well, and learning to let someone new into my heart takes a lot of trust and faith. I hope Maddy helps young readers see that there is a way to grow your family and your heart while honoring those you may have lost.

How did you research Maddy and the circumstances she found herself in?

My research for Every Missing Piece was intense! I conducted phone interviews with social workers, therapists, attorneys, and public school officials in North Carolina, where the book is set. Without spoiling the plot, I can say that I learned more about our court systems than I ever expected to know, but it is important to me to be as accurate as possible. Fiction is a reflection of real life. I always try my best to honor the people (and children) who are living the stories I write.

Do you and Maddy share any similarities?

Maddy is an anxious child, and I am an anxious grownup. Often, this means I have trouble falling asleep at night, as my brain likes to remind me of everything I ever did wrong since the second grade. There’s a scene where Maddy talks about having trouble falling asleep because her mind is spinning, and I relate to that feeling very much. As with Maddy, talking to my family and my therapist about the things that make me anxious helps relieve my anxiety.

What was the hardest scene to write about her?

The hardest scene for me to write in Every Missing Piece has to do with Maddy losing her father in a tragic accident. I knew all along what had happened, but writing the words and facing the reality of the moment broke my heart. Loss is not easy. Grieving is a complicated process, and it is different for everyone. For Maddy, facing the reality of what happened is an essential part of her grief process, and I felt those feelings right along with her.

Who do you think was her biggest supporter and why?

You know what’s interesting? I tend to write about young characters who have a somewhat contentious relationship with their mother. It was the same in Counting Thyme, wherein Thyme often resents her mother’s intense focus on Thyme’s brother’s illness and treatment. In Every Missing Piece, Maddy is a child who is trying to move forward and support her mother’s new relationship with Maddy’s stepfather, but it’s not going well. In both cases, my main characters feel at odds with their mothers, but the truth is that their mothers are their greatest supporters. I think that’s the reality of parenthood. We love our kids, but they often need to push us away in order to grow into the people they are meant to be.

Why do you think young people, like Maddy, are able to “piece” their life back together again better than adults can do during difficult life moments?

Children are resilient, and I think that’s because they are accepting of change. Their worlds, bodies, and minds are growing and changing so fast that they have to keep moving forward and growing up, even when they might not be ready for it. As an adult, it’s really easy to get set in my ways. I tend to resist change, when often, my resistance causes more pain rather than the change itself. I try to remember that change is normal and good, even when it seems bad. We can learn from our failures. We can make new choices. It is possible to move forward even in difficult times.

What do you think Maddy is doing as the present time?

When I think of Maddy now, I see her stepping toward seventh grade with her chin up and her family at her side. She is the kind of kid who would be sewing face masks at home to help others during COVID19, even if her sewing skills would leave something to be desired. Her mother and Stan would certainly help her with that. They would all be focused on keeping their community safe and caring for their friends and family during this difficult time. I’m sure they would struggle with isolation like the rest of us, but for Maddy, that’s nothing that a run in the woods or a swim in the pond couldn’t fix. She would look towards 2021 with hope and determination. So should we.

*Here are links to the One Hundred Thirty-Nine 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)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (5/25/20)

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...

After the Worst Thing Happens by Audrey Vernick

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

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

The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian

*My Novel Published for Adults

The Book of Fatal Errors by Dashka Slater

*My Middle-Grade Novel

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #320 (Quintessence by Jess Redman)

Wonder Wednesday - Class Read Aloud from a Distance

*When we left school on Friday, March 13th never in my wildest dreams did I think that would have been our last day together for the year.  

*Our class read aloud at the time was an ARC of Quintessence by Jess Redman.  We were enjoying the story and couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen with Alma and her new friends.  

*One of the first elements I knew I wanted to continue from a "distance" was the class read aloud.  I wasn't sure how to implement this, but knew I wanted to find out. 

*I began recording myself reading to the class.  They began listening from home.  We began to "chat" about the story even from a distance.

*The highlight of the experience was when Jess Redman joined us via Google Meet.  The kids in my class had the opportunity to share their comments and ask questions.

*As always, Jess was engaging, thought-provoking, and a complete join to talk to.  Thank you Jess Redman for being a positive influence on my fourth graders.

*Here is a small glimpse into our time with this amazing author...