Fourth Grade Journey

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

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Bloom (Overthrow Book #1) by Kenneth Oppel

How I Heard About It:
*This novel came to via the publisher and I was excited to receive it because I had read many positive reviews.  I also saw many of my reader friends describe it as a "must read". 


What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *The rain has come and is like no rain anyone has ever seen.

2.  *The rain brings seeds, the seeds bring sprouts, and the sprouts bring growth the world has never seen before. 


3.  *When these plants "bloom" they release a poisonous pollen which in return create pods which swallow both animals and humans. 

4.  *Everyone in the world, and especially an island, are in danger of these plants.  That is except three young people:  Anaya, Petra, and Seth.

5.  *At first the three kids don't want anything to do with each other, but when they find out they have something in common; they join forces to stop the deadly growth. 


What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I listened to the story via Audible and I'm glad I did because it was an exciting and fast faced listen. 

2.  *The plot of Bloom had some eerie similarities to what is actually going on in our world right now. 

3.  *The characters of Anaya, Petra, and Seth were thoughtful, authentic, and I rooted for them the entire listening experience. 

4.  *There was non-stop action and I found myself extending my daily walk because I wanted to listen more to find out what was going to happen. 

5.  *The only thing I didn't like was the conclusion.  The last event left on a complete cliffhanger and I was left with my jaw dropped open.  Thank goodness the sequel is out in the world. 


Who Should Read It:
*Not only would Bloom make for an excellent class read aloud, but I know when it is put in the individual hands of readers, they will eat up the story.  Readers in grades five and above would be the most appropriate audience for the first book in the series.  Happy Reading. 


Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars






Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #338 (Writer Check-In #FOUR)

Wonder Wednesday - My Fourth Week

*The writing continues.

*The routines are becoming grounded and smooth.

*During the last week of writing, I've spent between one and two hours writing.

*I typically still head out to the front porch, plug in the air pods, hit play on the playlist, and begin typing.  

*The more I've gotten comfortable with just letting the words spill out onto the page, the more I'm able to write.  

*I have not gone back and reread anything I've written.  My goal is to write the entire novel before I go back and see what I have written.  I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not, but the process I'm choosing to use.  

*While getting further into the book, I am forgetting some of the "events" I've created, and I may have taken better notes on what each chapter contains.  For now, I'm going with it and trying not to worry about the details.

*There are times I would like to reach out to author friends to ask questions or get feedback, but for now I'm keeping the writing to myself.  

*I'm learning there is no right or wrong way to construct a novel.  For the first draft, I'm letting go, letting the words spill from my mind, and letting what happens, happen!  

*For the most part, I would say I'm enjoying the writing, but to be honest there are some moments when I dread it and have to force myself to sit down with the laptop.  


*Here is a breakdown of what I've worked on the last week...

Wednesday, July 15, 2020:  Chapter 15 (Summer 1994 - Summer 1996)

Thursday,  July 16, 2020:  Chapter 16 (Friday, July 15, 2011)

Friday, July 17, 2020:  Chapter 17 (Friday, August 19, 2011)

Monday, July 20, 2020:  Chapter 18 (Spring 1986)

Tuesday, July 21, 2020:  Chapter 19 (Winter 1997)

Wednesday, July 22, 2020:  Chapter 20 (Monday, July 18 2011)






Blog Post from Wednesday, July 15, 2020

*Another Wednesday, another "wonder" post, and another week of writing.  

*I was on vacation last week so I didn't get any writing done.

*I was going to bring the laptop and try to continue to write a chapter a week, but decided to give myself a break, and leave the laptop and writing at home.

*My wife and I had a wonderful time on the beach, visiting friends, and reading.  I did find myself thinking about the book, the writing, and where the story was going to go next.  

*After a relaxing week away from home, I was ready to get back to the daily writing and see where that writing was going to take me this week.

*Each day, I find myself getting nervous about sitting down and composing the next chapter.  I'm not sure why this is, if it is a normal reaction, or if I'm putting too much pressure on myself.

*Once I sit down, plug in the air-pods, open the laptop, the words seem to spill out with the ideas coming from somewhere deep inside of me.

*I've often heard writers say, they aren't in control of the story, characters, or events which unfold on the page.  I'm finding that statement to be true.

*Yesterday, while writing on the front porch, I wrote a chapter that became quite difficult for me to compose.  I found myself with tears in my eyes and emotional.  This reaction surprised me and I wasn't ready for the response.

*I have no idea what I'm doing, if I'm doing it right, or where this journey will lead me.  I'm writing, trying not to worry about the details, and not spending too much time thinking whether the story is any good or not.  There will be plenty of time for that later.

*For now, I'm enjoying my summer, the time on my front porch, and the process of composing a story that hopefully will lead me in new directions that I've always dreamed of.

*Here is a breakdown of what I've worked on the last week...

Wednesday, July 1, 2020:  Chapter 10 (Fall 1980)

Thursday,  July 2, 2020:  Chapter 11 (Spring 1994)

Friday, July 3, 2020:  Chapter 12 (Thursday, July 14, 2011)

Summer Vacation (Monday, July 6 - Friday, July 10) = No Writing

Monday, July 13, 2020:  Chapter 13 (Thursday, July 14, 2011)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020:   Chapter 14 (Fall, 1983)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020:  Chapter 15 (Summer 1994 - Summer 1996)



Blog Post from Wednesday, July 1, 2020

*Two Wednesdays ago, I took a BIG leap in my life and decided to try my "hand" at writing.

*The last two weeks have been pretty cool as far as my new writing life goes.  I don't know if I'm doing it right, but I don't think there is a right or wrong way to write.  

*I've continued the structure I set up two weeks ago.  I'm writing Monday through Friday and writing a chapter, or what I think will be a chapter, a day.  

*One of the most frustrating aspects has been trying to get it "perfect" the first time through.  When this happens, I just think back to all the authors I've heard speak, and remember how they have shared that writers write and there will be many, many, many revisions along the way.

*Some days I enjoy the writing process more than others.  On the harder days, I give myself permission to write as badly and quickly as I need to in order to get a chapter written.  I know I don't have to write a chapter each and every day, but for me, this set-up WORKS.

*I'm still using the iPods and playing what I would consider "emotional" music which helps me put myself in a space to write the story; which overall is an emotional and tragic story.  

*Most days I write on the front porch where I can be alone, yet still see the world go by.  Some days when it is too hot and I need to be in the shade, I move to the backyard to the deck.  

*I have tried writing while watching television, but that hasn't worked out real well.  It takes me much longer to compose the story and I know the writing isn't as good.  

*Here is a breakdown of what I've worked on the last week...

Wednesday, June 24, 2020:  Chapter 5 (Friday, July 29, 2011)

Thursday, June 25, 2020:  Chapter 6 (Spring 1976)

Friday, June 26, 2020:  Chapter 7 (Fall/Winter 1993)

Monday, June 29, 2020:  Chapter 8 (Thursday, July 14, 2011)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020:   Chapter 9 (Friday, August 5, 2011)

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 (Today):  Chapter 10 (Fall 1980)


Blog Post from Wednesday, June 24, 2020

*If you read last week's post, which I have included down below, you know I've had the desire and the "idea" for a book for quite some time.  I'm not sure why now seems like the perfect time, but I'm more motivated now to do the writing more than I ever have.  

*This past week, I actually sat down and began writing/typing.  I was scared, nervous, and also excited.  

*After listening to many authors discuss their writing habits and techniques, I decided I needed to create some structure for myself to create a writing space and time that worked for me.

*I decided to write five out of seven days during the week.  At first, I was going to write for an hour a day, but then found myself creating a chapter a day so I'm going to stick with that plan; for now!

*Here is what my writing schedule looked like for the last six days...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020:  I wrote the prologue (I love a great prologue) = the year 2011

Thursday, June 18, 2020:  I wrote chapter 1, which actually became chapter 2 the next day =  the year 1973

Friday, June 19, 2020:  I wrote chapter 2, which turned into chapter 1 = the year 2011

Monday, June 22, 2020:  I wrote chapter 3 = the year 1993

Tuesday, June 23, 2020:   I wrote chapter 4 = the year 2011

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 (Today):  I still need to write the next chapter

*So far, I have been writing on my front porch with my laptop on my lap.  Go figure!

*I also put my iPods into my ears and have been playing around with some "writing music".  

*The music seems to put me in a space where I can create the story I'm trying to write.  I haven't found the perfect playlist yet, but still working on that each time I sit down and write.

*The book idea probably won't go anywhere, but I must say I'm enjoying the process and find myself thinking about the fictional story quite a bit.  

*Thanks for keeping me accountable and I'll check in next week.

*Happy Writing!!!!




 Blog Post from Wednesday, June 17, 2020

*If you follow this blog, you know I'm a READER.

*I pride myself on being an avid reader and sharing that love of books and reading with all those around me, especially my students.

*Over the years, I've had the honor and privilege of meeting and getting to know many authors from many walks of life.  To me, they are ROCK stars.

*During many conversations with students, fellow readers, teachers, and authors I get asked the question; "When are you going to write a book?"

*I started one story years ago and never got back to the writing.  To be honest, I have a couple ideas for both a middle-grade story and a story for adults.  I've just been too scared and intimidated to begin the actual process.

*Part of my problem, is I think I need to start, continue, and finish within a finite amount of time.  I should have known better since all the writers I've talked with have told me how long it took them to create their novel.

*I've decided to take the leap this summer and dip my toe in the waters of writing.  I have a general idea of a story I would like to create, but we shall see where the days take me.

*To start with, I'm going to dedicate an hour a day to the writing.  The structure will help me get started and get into a routine.

*Who knows, I may just stare at the blank screen, but the "ideas" will be swirling around my brain.

*I'm going to use my "Wonder Wednesday" posts to record the progress, or lack of progress.  Tracking my ideas here may keep me more accountable.

*I'm scared.  I'm nervous.  I'm excited.  I'm looking forward to this new "CHAPTER" in my life.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Kinston and the Magician's Lost and Found by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

How I Heard About It:
*During #ALAvirtual2020, I was able to obtain quite a few electronic ARC's.  This was one of them.  I was a little unsure of the story based on the cover, but then I went back to the old saying "Don't judge a book by its cover!"  So, in I went with an open mind.


What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *The story begins with young Kingston and his mother moving back to Brooklyn where they used to live with Kingston's father.

2.  *They moved after Kingston's father disappeared, through a mirror, during one of his biggest magic shows he had ever performed in.

3.  *Once Kingston is back in Echo City, he is determined to find out what happened on the night his father vanished from the stage.

4.  *He also learns that all of the "real magic" left the city the same day his father did.  He knows there is a connection.

5.  *With the help of a friend and some family members, he sets out to finally solve the mystery of his father's disappearance and if there truly is such a thing as "real magic".


What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I was touched by the bond and relationship in which Kingston had with his father.

2.  *The world of magic, tricks, and magicians was also fascinating and interesting to read about.

3.  *During some of the scenes when Kingston was in other "realms" I was a bit confused on what was going on.

4.  *I'm not a huge fan of fantasy or magical plots so I did lose a bit of interest as I read.

5.  *After finishing, I did think young readers who enjoy magic and magicians will definitely enjoy the adventure Kingston goes on in search of his father.


Who Should Read It:
*Because of the subject matter, pacing, and character ages, I would recommend the novel for readers in grades five and above.  I think the middle-school reader would be the best audience for the story.  Happy Reading!


Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (7/20/20)



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...


Orphan Eleven by Gennifer Choldenko

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









Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found 
by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

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






The End of the Day by Bill Clegg

*Novel Published for Adults (Abandoned)





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


Thirteens by Kate Alice Marshall

*My Middle-Grade Novel 








Bloom (The Overthrow Book #1) by Kenneth Oppel

*My Middle-Grade Novel (Audio)








The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

*My Novel Published for Adults

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Bright Lands by John Fram

How I Heard About It:
*I follow avid reader and blogger @the.bookishworld.of.yrralh on Instagram.  He often has incredible and solid book recommendations.  What I appreciate most is they are titles I'm not normally familiar with.  After seeing his review of this story, I ordered the book, and read it in two days.  I could NOT put it down.


What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Joel Whitley has made a life for himself in New York City after fleeing the small Texas town of Bentley ten years earlier.



2.  *After a series of texts from his younger brother, Dylan, Joel decides it is time for him to return to the town he grew up in, the town he was humiliated in, and the town which drove him away.

3.  *Once in town, Joel is reunited with his former girlfriend, Clark, whose brother disappeared, but ten years earlier.

4.  *The two of them form a united front when Dylan disappears in a similar way to Clark's brother.

5.  *Many community members will go to great lengths to keep the secrets of their town and football program where they belong; out of sight and in the privacy of "the bright lands".


What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *One of my favorite things in life is starting a novel and knowing in my heart and mind I'm in for a wonderful and memorable read.  That is exactly what happened with this novel.

2.  *This was one of the most intense, shocking, disturbing, and raw adult stories I've read in a long time.

3.  *I was captivated by the current disappearance of Dylan and the past disappearance of Clark's brother.  The connection between the two was intriguing.

4.  *As I progressed through the pages, I enjoyed the multiple perspectives of the variety of characters and what they knew and didn't know.

5.  *The revelation of the mystery was difficult to read, but I also couldn't read fast enough to get through the conclusion.


Who Should Read It:
*I would recommend this novel published for adults for all readers with the stipulation there are some disturbing events and characters contained within the story.  I personally don't have a problem with this, but I know some readers don't like to read about dysfunctional subject matter.  Happy Reading!


Rating:  5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Wonder Wednesday #337 (Writer Check-In #THREE)

Wonder Wednesday - My Third Week

*Another Wednesday, another "wonder" post, and another week of writing.  

*I was on vacation last week so I didn't get any writing done.



*I was going to bring the laptop and try to continue to write a chapter a week, but decided to give myself a break, and leave the laptop and writing at home.

*My wife and I had a wonderful time on the beach, visiting friends, and reading.  I did find myself thinking about the book, the writing, and where the story was going to go next.  

*After a relaxing week away from home, I was ready to get back to the daily writing and see where that writing was going to take me this week.

*Each day, I find myself getting nervous about sitting down and composing the next chapter.  I'm not sure why this is, if it is a normal reaction, or if I'm putting too much pressure on myself.

*Once I sit down, plug in the air-pods, open the laptop, the words seem to spill out with the ideas coming from somewhere deep inside of me.

*I've often heard writers say, they aren't in control of the story, characters, or events which unfold on the page.  I'm finding that statement to be true.

*Yesterday, while writing on the front porch, I wrote a chapter that became quite difficult for me to compose.  I found myself with tears in my eyes and emotional.  This reaction surprised me and I wasn't ready for the response. 

*I have no idea what I'm doing, if I'm doing it right, or where this journey will lead me.  I'm writing, trying not to worry about the details, and not spending too much time thinking whether the story is any good or not.  There will be plenty of time for that later.

*For now, I'm enjoying my summer, the time on my front porch, and the process of composing a story that hopefully will lead me in new directions that I've always dreamed of.

*Here is a breakdown of what I've worked on the last week...

Wednesday, July 1, 2020:  Chapter 10 (Fall 1980)

Thursday,  July 2, 2020:  Chapter 11 (Spring 1994)

Friday, July 3, 2020:  Chapter 12 (Thursday, July 14, 2011)

Summer Vacation (Monday, July 6 - Friday, July 10) = No Writing

Monday, July 13, 2020:  Chapter 13 (Thursday, July 14, 2011)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020:   Chapter 14 (Fall, 1983)


Wednesday, July 15, 2020:  Chapter 15 (Summer 1994 - Summer 1996)




Blog Post from Wednesday, July 1, 2020

*Two Wednesdays ago, I took a BIG leap in my life and decided to try my "hand" at writing.

*The last two weeks have been pretty cool as far as my new writing life goes.  I don't know if I'm doing it right, but I don't think there is a right or wrong way to write.  

*I've continued the structure I set up two weeks ago.  I'm writing Monday through Friday and writing a chapter, or what I think will be a chapter, a day.  

*One of the most frustrating aspects has been trying to get it "perfect" the first time through.  When this happens, I just think back to all the authors I've heard speak, and remember how they have shared that writers write and there will be many, many, many revisions along the way.

*Some days I enjoy the writing process more than others.  On the harder days, I give myself permission to write as badly and quickly as I need to in order to get a chapter written.  I know I don't have to write a chapter each and every day, but for me, this set-up WORKS.

*I'm still using the iPods and playing what I would consider "emotional" music which helps me put myself in a space to write the story; which overall is an emotional and tragic story.  

*Most days I write on the front porch where I can be alone, yet still see the world go by.  Some days when it is too hot and I need to be in the shade, I move to the backyard to the deck.  

*I have tried writing while watching television, but that hasn't worked out real well.  It takes me much longer to compose the story and I know the writing isn't as good.  

*Here is a breakdown of what I've worked on the last week...

Wednesday, June 24, 2020:  Chapter 5 (Friday, July 29, 2011)

Thursday, June 25, 2020:  Chapter 6 (Spring 1976)

Friday, June 26, 2020:  Chapter 7 (Fall/Winter 1993)

Monday, June 29, 2020:  Chapter 8 (Thursday, July 14, 2011)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020:   Chapter 9 (Friday, August 5, 2011)

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 (Today):  Chapter 10 (Fall 1980)


Blog Post from Wednesday, June 24, 2020

*If you read last week's post, which I have included down below, you know I've had the desire and the "idea" for a book for quite some time.  I'm not sure why now seems like the perfect time, but I'm more motivated now to do the writing more than I ever have.  

*This past week, I actually sat down and began writing/typing.  I was scared, nervous, and also excited.  

*After listening to many authors discuss their writing habits and techniques, I decided I needed to create some structure for myself to create a writing space and time that worked for me.

*I decided to write five out of seven days during the week.  At first, I was going to write for an hour a day, but then found myself creating a chapter a day so I'm going to stick with that plan; for now!

*Here is what my writing schedule looked like for the last six days...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020:  I wrote the prologue (I love a great prologue) = the year 2011

Thursday, June 18, 2020:  I wrote chapter 1, which actually became chapter 2 the next day =  the year 1973

Friday, June 19, 2020:  I wrote chapter 2, which turned into chapter 1 = the year 2011

Monday, June 22, 2020:  I wrote chapter 3 = the year 1993

Tuesday, June 23, 2020:   I wrote chapter 4 = the year 2011

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 (Today):  I still need to write the next chapter

*So far, I have been writing on my front porch with my laptop on my lap.  Go figure!

*I also put my iPods into my ears and have been playing around with some "writing music".  

*The music seems to put me in a space where I can create the story I'm trying to write.  I haven't found the perfect playlist yet, but still working on that each time I sit down and write.

*The book idea probably won't go anywhere, but I must say I'm enjoying the process and find myself thinking about the fictional story quite a bit.  

*Thanks for keeping me accountable and I'll check in next week.

*Happy Writing!!!!


 Blog Post from Wednesday, June 17, 2020

*If you follow this blog, you know I'm a READER.

*I pride myself on being an avid reader and sharing that love of books and reading with all those around me, especially my students.

*Over the years, I've had the honor and privilege of meeting and getting to know many authors from many walks of life.  To me, they are ROCK stars.

*During many conversations with students, fellow readers, teachers, and authors I get asked the question; "When are you going to write a book?"

*I started one story years ago and never got back to the writing.  To be honest, I have a couple ideas for both a middle-grade story and a story for adults.  I've just been too scared and intimidated to begin the actual process.

*Part of my problem, is I think I need to start, continue, and finish within a finite amount of time.  I should have known better since all the writers I've talked with have told me how long it took them to create their novel.

*I've decided to take the leap this summer and dip my toe in the waters of writing.  I have a general idea of a story I would like to create, but we shall see where the days take me.

*To start with, I'm going to dedicate an hour a day to the writing.  The structure will help me get started and get into a routine.

*Who knows, I may just stare at the blank screen, but the "ideas" will be swirling around my brain.

*I'm going to use my "Wonder Wednesday" posts to record the progress, or lack of progress.  Tracking my ideas here may keep me more accountable.

*I'm scared.  I'm nervous.  I'm excited.  I'm looking forward to this new "CHAPTER" in my life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Orphan Eleven by Gennifer Choldenko

How I Heard About It:
*After finishing my last audio book, I was ready for the next listen to accompany me on my summer daily walks.  I came across this cover, stopped, did a bit of probing, and decided to download it.  I've been listening the last few weeks. 


What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *The one place you don't want to end up in 1939 is the Home for Friendless Children. 

2.  *It is here that four orphans escape searching for a better life. 


3.  *Lucy is one of the children. She doesn't speak anymore and no one knows why. 

4.  *Maybe it is because she has been separated from her older sister and wants nothing more than to be reunited with her. 

5.  *While on the run, Lucy and her friends, find themselves becoming part of a circus and learning not only about the family of circus performers, but themselves as orphans. 


What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *When I first started, I was a bit confused on what was going on.  Maybe I was focusing more on my current walk.

2.  *Once the children left the Home for Friendless Children, the story became more interesting.

3.  *I enjoyed the letters Lucy's sister sent to both Lucy and the lady in charge at the orphanage. 

4.  *I also love a story about the circus, and found the characters under the tent were fascinating and unique. 

5.  *The conclusion of the story was satisfying and one I know young readers will enjoy. 


Who Should Read It:
*The story is a bit long at just over 300 pages.  The plot can be a bit slow and detailed.  For these reasons, I would recommend the book for the fifth and sixth grade reader.  Middle-school readers might even be a better audience than upper elementary.  If you know of young readers would have a circus fascination, this would definitely be the story for them.  Happy Reading! 


Rating:  3 STARS out of 5 Stars

Monday, July 13, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (7/13/20)



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...


Deacon King Kong by James McBride

*Novel Published for Adults (3 STARS out of 5 Stars)









A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

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








One Time by Sharon Creech

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









Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins
*Middle-Grade Novel (5 STARS out of 5 Stars)







Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

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









The Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn

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







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


Orphan Eleven by Gennifer Choldenko

*My Middle-Grade Novel (Audio)








Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

*My Middle-Grade Novel

The End of the Day by Bill Clegg
*My Novel Published for Adults

Sunday, July 12, 2020

One Time by Sharon Creech

How I Heard About It:
*While looking at upcoming titles on NetGalley, I saw that one of my favorite middle-grade authors had a new novel coming out and an E-ARC was available for request.  I requested and was granted a copy.  I spent my Sunday afternoon reading the new story from the one and only Sharon Creech.


What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Gina stands out, both in her family and at home.  She loves her Italian  heritage and "displays" it for all to see.



2.  *Gina didn't enjoy her previous school year because of a strict teacher who didn't appreciate her creative writing and ideas.

3.  *She is hoping the new school year will be refreshing changes.  Gina is surprised with a new teacher and a new neighbor boy.

4.  *As the teacher challenges her students to stretch their thinking and ideas, Gina is pushed to new levels and a new world.

5.  *The neighbor boy, Antonio, also helps Gina realize she can be more than she ever thought.


What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *Sharon Creech's newest work of fiction, brought me an afternoon of complete enjoyment.

2.  *I so enjoyed immersing myself in the world of Gina, her family, and her Italian culture.

3.  *The best character in the story had to be the new teacher Miss Lightstone who brought such life, energy, and excellent teaching ideas.  I'm going to use some of them in the coming school year.

4.  *I enjoyed the format of short chapters, creative chapter titles, and the journey that Gina and Antonio took together.

5.  *My most favorite chapter was the final chapter where Sharon worked her magic and brought everything together to warm this reader's heart.


Who Should Read It:
*As with all of Sharon's books, this one could be used in third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classrooms.  If you know of readers who are fans of Sharon Creech, then you must tell them about her upcoming story.  Happy Reading!


Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars

The Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn

How I Heard About It:
*This was another middle-grade title that I obtained during the #alavirutal2020 event.  Penguin Random House has a list of books readers could download from their virtual exhibit.  I knew nothing of the title or author so was excited going into the reading experience. 


What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Andrea and her parents haven't been the same for the last three years.

2.  *That was when her younger brother, Francis, disappeared and was never heard from again. 


3.  *When Andrea finds out her parents are ready to get rid of Francis' things, she freaks out, and flees from their home. 

4.  *While she is on her own thinking, Andrea stumbles across a "circus" called Reverie. 

5.  *It is here she meets several other children, a mysterious leader called "The Sandman", and learns her brother may actually be inside the circus. 


What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *As I've stated before in other posts, magical realism, isn't my favorite genre, but I certainly did enjoy the story. 

2.  *Andrea was a thoughtful, sensitive, and realistic character I enjoyed getting to know through the pages of the story.

3.  *The author did a tremendous job of slowly revealing what happened the night Francis disappeared. 

4.  *I found the world under the circus tents to be full of imagination, suspense, and mystery.

5.  *On the surface, the reader may not recognized the depth of important themes and life-lessons, but there is a lot to think about and discuss. 


Who Should Read It:
*The novel is just over 300 pages, the story line is a bit complex, and the pacing can be a bit slow and detailed during certain sections.  For these reasons, I would recommend the book for readers in grades five and six along with the middle-school reader.  The novel will be released in September of 2020.  Happy Reading! 


Rating:  4 STARS out of 5 Stars



Saturday, July 11, 2020

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

How I Heard About It:
*During #ALAVirtual2020, I requested and E-ARC on the Penguin Random House site.  I was excited when I received a great BIG yes.  I downloaded the book right away, and read the entire story during an airline flight I took last week.


What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *ZJ's life consists of his loving parents, and his three best buddies.

2.  *His father has been a professional football player for years which brings a lot of attention to both ZJ's father and even himself.


3.  *ZJ begins to notice a change in his father's behavior.  At first he shrugs it off, but after awhile the behaviors get worse and worse.

4.  *He turns to both his best friends and his mother for support during the uncertain times.

5.  *ZJ must navigate a new "play" while trying to hang on to the "pass" of family he once knew.


What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *Once I started the story, I could not stop reading; good thing I was on an airplane for three hours.

2.  *As one would expect with Jacqueline Woodson's writing, this story flowed from word to word, paragraph to paragraph, and page to page.

3.  *I could feel the heart and emotion within ZJ.  He was truly an amazing character that came to life with the pages of the story.

4.  *I was thinking the memory issues were going to go in one direction, but was surprised when the author took it in another direction.

5.  *I'm so happy the talented and inspiring Jacqueline Woodson has written a beautiful and memorable middle-grade novel for many young readers to enjoy.


Who Should Read It:
*Everyone should read this book when it comes out in September 2020.  Readers in grades three through six would be perfect for the story.  I can't wait to share the book with my fourth grade class during the upcoming school year.  Happy Reading!


Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

How I Heard About It:
*A story I've been hearing a lot about in the last couple of months.  I requested an E-ARC via NetGalley and was thrilled when I was approved for a copy.  I read the story while on summer vacation.


What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *Hannah appears to have it all.  A loving family, a talent at sports, and friends at school.

2.  *Her cousin Cal, doesn't have it all and he knows it.  His mother has died, his father is missing, and he isn't accepted by the kids at school.


3.  *After the death of his mother, Cal moves in with Hannah and her family.  This is the last thing Hannah wants and isn't sure how she is going to deal with it.

4.  *As Hannah's family adjust to having Cal in their home, Hannah realizes her parents are having issues of their own.

5.  *Cal tries his hardest to fit into Hannah's family, life, and school, but can't seem to leave his past where it belongs; in the past.


What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I loved this story.  I loved the characters.  I loved the feelings.  I loved the themes.

2.   *The story was told in verse which I normally don't enjoy, but the format worked so well with Hannah and Cal's story.

3.  *The plot unfolded by alternating viewpoints of the two main characters which created one strong middle-grade tale.

4.  *The themes of family, friendship, addiction, acceptance, and abandonment were written about with grace, sensitivity, and authenticity. 

5.  *The only element in the story I was unsure about was an incident that occurred at the school toward the end of the story.  I'm not sure it was needed and may have been a bit too much.  Just my opinion.


Who Should Read It:
*This is an important story and one that should be in all classroom libraries from grades four and above.  Middle-school readers will definitely be able to relate to both Hannah and Cal's stories.  The story would be an excellent class read aloud and/or used as a book club selection.  Happy Reading!


Rating:   5 STARS out of 5 Stars


Friday, July 10, 2020

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

How I Heard About It:
*An Instagram blogger I follow chose this novel as his book club pick.  I did a bit of research and was intrigued by the story.  Then Oprah announced the novel as her book club selection.  I decided to order a copy and see what all the buzz was about. 


What It Is About - FIVE Things You Need to Know:
1.  *The author takes the reader back during the year 1969 and focuses on a group of people living in a "project" in the New York area.

2.   *Deacon, "Sportscoat", walks out into the middle of the Cause House and shoots the local drug dealer.

3.  *"Sportscoat" has had a slew of health issues over the years, including alcoholism. 

4.  *As the residents come to terms with the shooting incident, their stories are told and unfold throughout the pages. 

5.  *The lives of the shooter and the drug dealer are changed forever based on one single event. 


What I Thought Of It - Five Observations/Reflections:
1.  *I was extremely excited going into the story.  Based on the last couple of Oprah picks, I was thinking I was going to love her newest selection.

2.  *The start of the story was interesting and I was curious as to where "events" were going to go.

3.  *As the narrative introduced the neighborhood characters, my interest began to wane.

4.  *The plot was a bit slow and after the initial incident, not a whole lot happened.

5.  *The writing was beautiful, detailed, and quite descriptive.  


Who Should Read It:
*Since so many readers are giving the book 4 and 5 stars, I know there are definitely a lot of readers out there who have and would enjoy the novel.  For the reader who gravitates toward the richly written with a slow and deliberate plot, this is the novel for them.  Happy Reading! 


Rating:   3 STARS out of 5 Stars