Explore Gravity! With 25 Great Projects

Written by Cindy Blobaum

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Packed with kid-friendly information and complemented with hands-on, minds-on projects, Explore Gravity! With 25 Great Projects is sure to cause young readers on the fourth grade level to stop, think, and experiment with a concept that is so universal it is often ignored.

Play is one of the most powerful teachers, and Explore Gravity! encourages scientific play. The suggested activities are simple (dropping items from different heights) yet fun (creating a marshmallow launcher). The book will inspire children to fiddle with physics, all in the name of fun.

In addition to the emphasis on data collection, inquiry and scientific process skills, teachers will appreciate the wide array of concepts addressed including life science (the impacts of gravity on sprouting plants and the anatomy of the inner ear), space science (black holes and orbits), health (exercises and survival in an avalanche), and of course physical science (simple machines and centripetal force). Those who are working to add informational text to their reading lists may want to consider this book. Parents will like that the activities require only household items, and can be accomplished with minimal adult support. Kids will like the jokes, fun facts (like how many Gs a person experiences in a roller coaster, Formula One Race Car or space ship), and the knowledge which they can apply in everyday life.

Explore Gravity! is listed as appropriate for grades 1-4. While many of the activities in the book are most appropriate for students on the lower end of that range, the reading level is more appropriate for readers on the upper end and beyond that range. Explore Gravity!  includes black and white illustrations which either clarify the instructions (for example a labeled diagram of the inner ear) or add humor. Many spreads include a “Words To Know” sidebar with bolded words and definitions. The back matter contains a glossary and index.

  •  Explore GravityTITLE: Explore Gravity! With 25 Great Projects
  • AUTHOR: Cindy Blobaum
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Bryan Stone
  • PUBLISHER: Nomad Press
  • REVIEWER: Heather L. Montgomery
  • EDITION: Paperback: 96 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1619302075
  • GENRE: Nonfiction, Science

Sugar and Ice

Written by Kate Messner

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In this heartwarming tale, twelve-year-old Claire Boucher has a pretty good life in Vermont. Her parents gather maple sap from over 500 trees each year. She does well in school, she has a solid best friend in Natalie, and she loves skating. When a high-profile Russian skating coach spots her at the Maple Show, he offers her a scholarship for training in Lake Placid, an hour-and-a-half drive from Mojimuk Falls. How can she say no to such a magnificent opportunity? At the same time, how can she expect her parents to drive her to Lake Placid several times a week? She accepts the scholarship and is thrown into to a whirlwind of excitement, self-doubt, exhilaration, no time for Natalie, new friends, cutthroat competition, and intangible rewards. After a lot of heartache and missteps, her skating improves but she still misses the other things in her life. And the training atmosphere is not quite what she expected, either.

Fourth graders and older, especially girls, will love the idea that anyone can be discovered. Readers will learn a lot about competitive sports, and specifically skating terms. Claire’s math project about Fibonacci numbers is a strong theme that should interest even haters of math. Both of these themes provide ample room for reading activities. Ultimately, Claire learns a lot about herself and about what’s important in her life. She learns to stand up for herself and that it’s okay to say no.

Learn about the author and her other books at her website: www.katemessner.com.

  • Sugar and IceTitle: Sugar and Ice
  • Author: Kate Messner
  • Publisher: Walker & Company/Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 288 pages
  • Genre: Contemporary middle grade fiction, figure skating, math, friendship
  • ISBN: 978-0-8027-2330-7

Year of the Jungle: Memories from the Home Front

Written by Suzanne Collins
Illustrated by James Proimos

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Suzanne Collins knows of what she writes in this story of a little girl whose beloved Daddy is sent away to war for a whole year. It happened to her in 1968 when he was sent to Vietnam.

James Proimos’ illustrations show the wonder and confusion of a small girl and her understanding of the war. All she knows is that daddy is going to a jungle and it is okay because she knows jungles from cartoons. At night she dreams of flying to the jungle with her cat to see daddy.

But how long is a year, really? For a child, it lasts forever. All the holidays come and go, but still daddy is not back. He sends postcards, sometimes. Then he sends a birthday card to the wrong child. The main character begins to understand how bad things must be at a war for a daddy to make such a huge mistake as getting the kids’ birthdays mixed up.

Suzanne shows clearly how the words a neighbor or news broadcaster say can change the child’s view of circumstances. The child becomes scared only when told to by what others around her say and do even when all of Daddy’s post cards are desperately trying to keep her days normal. When he comes home and she is still afraid, he tells that most soldiers do come home and Mommy is always with her. Her cat is a wonderfully stabilizing presence in the book and gives daddy a safe thing to write to her about.

While this is supposedly a storybook for four year olds and older, it is also a story for grown- ups. It will help them to relate to children in clear and helpful ways. Maybe it is mostly for grown-ups to share with children who have a parent, grandparent or other close friend off at war.

The most beautiful line in the book is on the first page and repeated on the last. It also exemplifies the main character. “Even though he always feels afraid, he is really the bravest of all. And that’s what makes him special.”

An important literacy skill that this book would help teach is the difference between reality and fantasy. How is a real jungle different from a cartoon jungle?

It also illustrates the passage of time by using symbols of holidays. “Shamrocks, but no postcards. Colored eggs, no postcards.” Students could think of other symbols that represent particular times of the year.  Also, the picture clues in this story are very relevant. Proimos uses the cat illustrations to help delineate the sizes of souvenirs that daddy sends. How big is the doll? Well, in the picture she stands eye to eye with the cat.

The book could be used by middle school teachers and librarians as an introduction or example of writing an autobiography based on an early memory.

This is a very moving and important book on many levels all about waiting and wondering and being okay.

  • Year of the JungleTitle: Year of the Jungle: Memories from the Home Front
  • Author:  Suzanne Collins
  • Illustrator: James Proimos
  • Publisher: New York: Scholastic Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-42516-2
  • Genre: realistic fiction/ autobiographical fiction/war fiction

Touch Blue

Written by Cynthia Lord

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Eleven-year-old Tess Brooks is looking forward to meeting her new foster brother, Aaron. Will she be able to handle all the baggage that he arrives with? Tess is a happy, well-adjusted girl who knows her own mind. She also knows the tiny Maine island on which she lives. The island is so small that the state is threatening to close the one-room school she and the other island children attend. Her mother is the teacher, which means her family would need to relocate if they lose her mother’s income. Partly as a response to the school situation, several families accept foster children to have more students. Tess’s family adds a thirteen-year-old boy whose mother struggles with drugs. The reader is invited aboard a lobster boat and also gets a big dose of life in a small town. Tess is a quirky mix of superstitious eleven-year-old and caring sister. Aaron has a chip on his shoulder, but he’s ultimately pragmatic, loving, and talented. Other wonderful characters include little sister Libby, irritating neighbor and nemesis Eben, and nosy neighbor Mrs. Coombs.

Lord deals with all the issues facing Tess with her usual compassion and tenderness, but these are large issues. Fourth grade readers will find a lot of information about how an uncertain future, a shaky past, and a sometimes-painful present can affect people. We can’t always control the situation, but we’re stronger than we think. Touch Blue has won numerous awards and appears on many reading lists, including Book Page Best Children’s Books of 2010. Learn about this and more titles from Lord’s website: www.cynthialord.com.

  • Touch BlueTitle: Touch Blue
  • Author: Cynthia Lord
  • Publisher: Scholastic, 2010
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 186 pages
  • Genre: Middle grade, Coming of age, Maine, Foster children
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-03532-3

The Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot

Written by Caroline Carlson
Illustrated by Dave Phillips

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This first book of a new series about pirates is absolutely charming. While the pirates consider themselves very seriously they are far from fearsome.

The story has everything a good pirate tale is expected to contain: grog, swords, treasures, ships, peg legs and eye patches. It even has more than normal with the inclusion of magic, a boarding school and a girl who will only ever and always become a pirate.

Fourth grade readers, fifth grade readers and beyond will enjoy reading this independently while third graders will enjoy hearing it as a read aloud. Many literacy skills can be reinforced in large or small group settings while reading this book, including but not limited to: cause and effect, inference, following clues, use of humor and letter writing skills.

For a more informal enjoyable experience, it would be a great book club choice for friends to share and discuss.

Interspersed in the story are letters of surprising formality and comic use of everyday phrases between pirates, the head mistress of a girls’ finishing school and the main character. There are also supposed clips from the Pirates Guide Book, local newspapers and want ads.

It is a completely enjoyable book. Readers will be looking for the sequel even before they finish this one.

  • Magic Marks the SpotTitle:  The Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot
  • Author: Caroline Carlson
  • Illustrator: Dave Phillips
  • Publisher: Harper, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/344 pgs.
  • ISBN:  978-0-06-219434-3
  • Genre: Fantasy

Darling: Mercy Dog of World War I

Written by Alison Hart
Illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery

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In this exciting story, written from the dog’s point of view, the fourth grade reader will learn about the life of a canine working at the war’s front line.

Darling lives the good life in England with his human family until World War I interferes. She is an escape artist who spends time digging under fences and worrying the local sheep along with her stray rat terrier friend, Rags. After the man of the house goes to war, the mother is about to send her away as too much trouble and too expensive. The government appeals for dogs to help in the war effort, so she is recruited as a messenger dog. Darling is nearly destroyed when the army discovers she’s not suited to be a messenger. Luckily, her sergeant believes in her and gets her a job as a mercy dog, a job to which she is well-suited. Mercy dogs, sometimes called Red Cross dogs, were sent into the no man’s land of a battlefield to locate wounded soldiers. When she is severely wounded, Darling once again needs a reprieve, as all useless animals were destroyed. And, once again, her sergeant comes to her rescue and gets her declared a war hero. Will she see her family again?

This tale of redemption and loyalty contains a lot of information about how animals are used in war and what the rigors of war are like for soldiers. The reader will also learn a little about World War I and the Belgian campaign. Part of the “Dog Chronicles” series, this volume combines history and love of animals in a unique way. It will hold kids’ attention and increase their reading comprehension. The content is well-researched and contains a table of contents, further facts, map, bibliography, for further reading section, and websites. The author’s website (http://www.alisonhartbooks.com/) and the illustrator’s (http://www.michaelgmontgomery.com/) provide more information about the creative team.

 

  • DarlingTitle: Darling: Mercy Dog of World War I
  • Author: Alison Hart
  • Illustrator: Michael G. Montgomery
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 163 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-705-2
  • Genre: Fiction, Middle Reader, History, Animals

The Enchanted Attic: Wrestling with Tom Sawyer

Written by L.L. Samson

Illustrated by Kris Nelson, Ben Fetterly, and Antonio Caparo

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We have learned not to judge a book by its cover.  Now we will learn not to judge a book by it style.  When I began reading this book it was difficult to “get into”.  The word choices and usage were odd.  No, they were just different.  I was ready to write it off as something that could not be used in a typical fourth grade classroom until I realized the brain pathway building potential of this little gem.  While the above average reader may find this book intriguing, even an average student might struggle with comprehension without some scaffolding.  But with any reader, new ideas and thought patterns will be created.

The storyline is actually quite interesting.  Walter has recently moved from London to the United States where he now attends a boarding school for “the once well-heeled (wealthy) who’d fallen on harder times, or for those who had recently accumulated their wealth and were snubbed by the well-heeled.  Walter and his friends have an amazing adventure with Tom Sawyer after Walter and his friends conjure up Tom in the enchanted circle in the “not so secret attic”.  It was an amazing adventure sprinkled with a mad scientist, a hidden tunnel and plenty of mystery and drama.

Because the word style/choices are different, this book would make an excellent choice as a read aloud.  Being able to hear the words should help students read them more easily as well as increase comprehension.  One of my favorite things about the book is the generous sprinkling of vocabulary words throughout.  After each potentially new word there is an easy to understand definition.  Ascertain (figure out).  There are also explanations about things such as a land grant (“A royal land grant is a big deal and normally includes more acreage than even the wealthiest of people own nowadays.”)

This book might possibly make an interesting choice for a literature circle choice.  Even if the typical structure has to be modified to account for the more difficult comprehension issues, this book lends itself to discussion and out of the box thinking.

  •  Enchanted AtticTitle:  The Enchanted Attic: Wrestling with Tom Sawyer
  • Author:  L.L. Samson
  • Illustrators:  Kris Nelson, Ben Fetterly, and Antonio Caparo
  • Publisher:  Zonderkidz
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Format: Paperback, 180 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-310-74057-5
  • Genre:  Contemporary fiction (historical context)
  • Lexile score:  NA

Choosing a Hamster, Gerbil, Guinea Pig, Rabbit, Ferret, Mouse, or Rat: How to Choose and Care for a Small Mammal

Written by Laura S. Jeffrey

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Which pet is right for you? Choosing a pet can be tricky, especially when there are so many choices. With help from the American Humane Association, this book guides young readers through what small mammals are like and what they can expect from them as pets. It’s a straightforward overview, easy for elementary comprehension.

Did you know that rabbits are third in popularity behind dogs and cats? Within the last 75 years, small mammals have become a common pet choice in the U.S. because they are low maintenance and can thrive in any sized home. The author methodically reviews the characteristics of each animal listed in the title. Mice and rats are very smart; rabbits are playful; gerbils are gentle, but don’t like living alone; hamsters are odorless, but could nip if upset; guinea pigs can be noisy; and ferrets need a lot of attention. The most in-depth section, Taking Care of Your New Pet, offers tips for housing and diet and touches upon small mammal health, veterinary care, and the proper way to hold and handle the animals.

Designed for third and fourth grade readers, basic information gets jazzed up with colorful fonts, text boxes, and fun facts. But the part young readers will like best is the photographs – plenty of awww factor here, as little furry creatures with their twitchy noses, alert ears, and tiny paws appear on every page. As part of a pet care series, parents and children may want to visit the publisher’s website to browse other titles: www.enslow.com. They can also learn more about the American Humane Association by visiting www.americanhumane.org.

  • Choosing a HamsterTITLE: Choosing a Hamster, Gerbil, Guinea Pig, Rabbit, Ferret, Mouse, or Rat: How to Choose and Care for a Small Mammal
  • AUTHOR: Laura S. Jeffrey
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow Elementary / Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • REVIEWER: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • FORMAT: Paperback, 48 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4644-0217-3
  • GENRE: Nonfiction, Science, Nature
  • LEXILE: 850

July Titles

Pdf: July Titles 4th Grade

 

Boxcar Children: The Boardwalk Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner, ISBN 978-0-8075-0802-2

Another lively mystery with the Alden family.  The Alden children, Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, could have still been living in their boxcar but long ago Grandfather took them in. …

 

Candy Experiments by Loralee Leavitt, ISBN 978-1449418366

Explosions, lightning, secrets… what reader … could resist a book that gives recipes for causing, creating, or discovering all that? Top that fun with a bunch of candy – literally …

 

David Karp: The Mastermind behind Tumblr by Karen Latchana Kenney, ISBN 978-1-4677-1285-9

In an age when everyone has at least five email addresses and many people have a personal blogs, some applications and websites continue to outshine all the others. Tumblr is right up there …

 

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng, ISBN 978-1-58469-137-2

The story of Dave is both inspirational and tragic, set in a period of time that no one should be allowed to forget.  Through Etched in Clay, Andrea Cheng masterfully presents a piece of this history to readers at the fourth grade level and above. …

 

In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus, ISBN 978-0-8075-2990-4

What would it be like to talk to insects? In this Victorian-era tale, we meet ten-year-old Henri Bell, a British boy who discovers this special ability while spending the summer with his great aunt in America. …

 

Jemmy Button by Alix Barzelay

Jemmy Button is a delightful picture book based on the stories of Jemmy Button, a native boy from Tierra del Fuego. The story depicts the life of the young boy …

 

Otter Lee Brave by Rena Cherry Brown, ISBN 0764341553

… Upon reading the story, it becomes very evident that Otter Lee Brave is so much more than just a sweet story about cute creatures. …

 

Native Americans: A Visual Exploration by S.N. Paleja, ISBN 978-1-55451-485-4

Despite some effort to provide culturally diverse education for students, information on Native Americans is largely ignored or just plain nonexistent. …

 

Pip and the Twilight Seekers – Spindlewood Tales by Chris Mould, ISBN 978-0-8075-6553-7

If your students like dark and scary, there is plenty in this one to creep them out. In the walled city of Hangman’s Hollow, Jarvis, the evil city warden, looks for children. …

 

Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight by Marthe Jocelyn, ISBN 978-0-7636-5648-5

… like Random Acts of Kindness meet Street Art.  The sneaky part is to surprise people, either family or friends even strangers, with a bit of art to make them smile. …

 

SPI : The Case of the Dark Shadow by T.J. Bonham, ISBN 978-0-7643-4132-8

SPI The Case of the Dark Shadow is an intriguing story for 4th through 6th graders interested in mystery. The book offers the 4th grade reader some challenging language and an unusual plot …

 

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross by Darcy Pattison, ISBN 978-0-9798621-7-5

Wisdom’s life is a remarkable story, at times touching and suspenseful, but ultimately inspiring.  Survival is hard enough for a Laysan Albatross. …

Otter Lee Brave

Written by Rena Cherry Brown

Illustrated by Mikaila Maidment

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Otter Lee Brave. My first thought was, “This is such an adorable cover. The otters are just the sweetest little fellows. I’m sure this will be an cute story about otters.” Then, I said the title again – Otter Lee Brave, Utter Lee Brave, Utterly Brave. Odd, yet interesting. I am hooked, and I have to read this book, and I feel sure 4th graders will as well.

Upon reading the story, it becomes very evident that Otter Lee Brave is so much more than just a sweet story about cute creatures. Rena Cherry Brown creates several plot points that will teach the reader many lessons. Throughout the story, Lee learns to be brave in all circumstances. First, he tries diving to the bottom of the bay for the first time, with his mom gently encouraging him. Next, Lee learns how to comfort himself in times of trouble. When Lee is picked up and taken to an aquarium, he learns to adapt to the situation. While Lee is bullied by a large otter in the aquarium, he is also adopted by an older female, learning the good and bad of characters in life. An earthquake causes the aquarium to bust open and all the otters are swept into the bay. While they are not equipped with open water survival skills, Lee teaches them how to hold on to kelp to prevent them from floating away. There he learns to be a leader. Even when the bully is in trouble, and Lee is the only one who knows and can save him, Lee considers the actions he could take and ultimately decides to save the bully otter learning bravery. And, like all good otter stories, Lee stays in the bay and makes a connection with a female otter – and they live happily every after I assume. He is Otter Lee Brave.

The story is interesting, but the illustrations are fabulous. Mikaila Maidment uses each page to bring life to the book. You feel the tenderness of motherly love. You feel the security a kelp bed can give and the sadness of the loss of a loved one. You feel the anxiousness of a new environment. You feel the weakness of being bullied. You feel the fear of the unknown. You feel the hope for a future. You feel young love at the end. All of these feelings come from the amazing artwork of Maidment.

Within the story line, readers gain small facts about the otter world, such as what their environment is like, what their diet consists of, and what obstacles and predators they must avoid. The last page contains a list of “Otter Facts.” The story, lessons learned, facts and illustrations all combine for an increased level of reading comprehension for readers of all ages.

  • Otter Lee BraveTitle: Otter Lee Brave
  • Author: Rena Cherry Brown
  • Illustrator: Mikaila Maidment
  • Publisher: Shiffer Publishing
  • Reviewer: Ann H. Norris
  • ISBN:0764341553
  • Hardback, 48 pages
  • Genre: Nature, Animals
  • Lexile: 870
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