4-6th Grade Virtual Book Discussion: Journey of the Pale Bear w/ Paper Horse

Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher is a juvenile fiction book best for 4-7th grade.

When a great white bear is to be a gift from the King of Norway to the King of England, she is called a royal bear. When Arthur, a twelve-year-old runaway, first comes in contact with this bear, he is terrified. Miraculously, the bear doesn’t harm him, instead she lets him near and when no one else but Arthur is able to calm the bear, he is recruited as her caretaker for the sea journey from Norway to London.

As he continues to care for the bear, Arthur realizes that there is some connection between them, an understanding he cannot name. But the journey is fraught with peril and when the bear has a chance at freedom, will she take it or choose to save this human boy she has come to care for.

Based on a true story of a great white bear who lived in the Tower of London, this book displays the bond between a boy and a bear.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?

2. Why is this book considered historical fiction? Do you know of any other books the fit in this genre? What historical events do they cover?

3. What are some of the reasons why Arthur runs away from home? Do you think he should have put so much faith into a letter he couldn’t even read?

4. Arthur and the bear seem to share an instant connection. Think about the bear’s experience in a cage and away from his natural habitat. Why do you think Arthur relates to the bear’s situation?

5. Arthur’s father died, leaving a large hole in Arthur’s life; Arthur imagines that the bear may also have been separated from her cubs. Why is family, or the lack of family, such an important part of this novel? How does it drive the characters’ actions?

6. When Arthur finally tells someone that Hauk took his letter, he leaves Ottar out of it, saying, “I knew what it was to be the weak one.” After they are bullied, people often go on to be bullies themselves. Why do you think that Arthur wants to protect Ottar instead of getting revenge? How is Arthur’s kindness rewarded later in the book?

7. Did you already know about the King of England’s menagerie? What animals do you think the king might have?

8. Freedom is an important theme in this book. When the keeper explains that some animals “languish” in captivity, what is he saying? Can you name some of the different types of cages, real or figurative, portrayed in this book?

9. Are there potential downsides to being free, both for people and for bears? Explain?

10. What did you think of the ending? Were you surprised by how the story ended? Think back to the prologue.

DYI Paper Boat and Moving Horse

Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures. Paper was first invented in China around 105 A.D., and was brought to Japan by monks in the sixth century. It was original used for ceremonial purposes and has flourished since. Today origami can employee the use of mathematics and engineering and even computer science to create these intricate designs.

Supplies needed: Several sheets of paper, scissors, a ruler and a pencil. If you have origami paper that will work too.

First, I am going to show the kids how to make an easy origami boat. The reason we are going to do this one first is because I want us to truly be successful at one of our paper crafts. The walking paper horse can be a bit difficult to get right the first or second time and I think we’ll have time to do both. So the boat is going to be a warm up.

PS. check the sources, there’s a link for the origami bear, that I would have loved to use, but it was really hard!

This is the site I am going to go off of for the folding:

Next, we will try the walking paper horse. This one takes some precise measurements and some trial an error with the surface and incline the horse walks on. But I think it’ll be a lot of fun if we can get it to work.

This is the site I am going to reference:




How’d it go:

Oh man, I don’t know why but I could not recreate my paper boat! I gave the kids the link to try from home. But our paper horse worked out pretty well and I think the kids are going to keep trying to perfect it. They did walk at least a little bit by the end.

That’s all for now!


The Memory Collectors

The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville is a standalone magical realism novel.

Ever since she was a little girl, Ev has been able to sense the emotions of objects around her–intense emotions left by behind by their owns. She believes she must distance herself from these emotions, protect herself from their influence. Ev destroys the harmful objects and sells the harmless ones at Vancouver’s Chinatown Night Market.

 In another part of town, Harriet hoards these special objects but the number of heightened emotions mixed in one place is beginning to take its toll on her neighbors and eviction is on the horizon.

When Ev and Harriet cross paths, Harriet knows that Ev is the only one who can help her make something more of her collection but Ev only feels fear and wants nothing to do with such an immense collection of “stains.”

Together Ev and Harriet must learn to harness their powers and overcome their past. But, when emotions are involved anything can happen.

This was actually a really good book. I enjoyed this idea of object being infused with the emotions of their owners and those objects passing those feelings on. It’s a very ghost/haunting-like concept but without the “spooky” factor.

One of the things I liked about this book was how Ev’s growth paralleled Harriet’s decline. There was this role reversal that really worked for me. And the scene’s in Harriet’s house towards the end of the novel, were really well done.

The only thing that really bugged me about this book, is how annoying I found it that I could not place Owen’s age. I know it is a little think but it really bothered me.

Overall, this one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten is an adult/YA fiction novel about teens who are dealing with obsessive-compulsive order.

Adam Spencer Ross is almost fifteen and dealing with your typical teen problems–friends, girls, school, divorced parents, a step mom and brother–add to that an obsessive-compulsive disorder that is ramping up and disaster seems inevitable.

But Adam is determined to turn everything around from the moment he meets Robyn Plummer. Adam is convinced that Robyn is his one true love and that he is going to save her. But to save Robyn, Adam will have to save him self first.

This was a recommendation from one of my book club members and I really enjoyed it. The audio is definitely worth a listen–the narrator does a fantastic job and I just couldn’t help laugh at his vocal interpretation of the humorous bits the author injects into the novel.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is a serious, emotional novel with some really unexpected humor thrown in. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as some of Adam’s internal and, often untimed, external dialogue.

The group itself is full of diverse and dynamic characters, each struggling in their own way. And the adoption of superhero alter egos/pseudonyms, was a really an inventive way bring another dynamic to the story.

Adam’s journey throughout this book is both emotional and encouraging. As a reader, you almost can feel the frustration in the escalation of Adam’s cleansing rituals. And, looking back now, I think the story begins to ramp up as his compulsions do–the pace feels quicker, like the story is coming to a head just as Adam’s problems begin to spill over.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Some will relate strongly, others will not. And some will find themselves empathizing, while others just won’t get it. This one gets a solid 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


The Smartest Kid in the Universe

The Smartest Kid in the Universe by Chris Grabenstein is a juvenile fiction book for 4-6th graders.

Twelve-year-old, Jake McQuade, is perfectly content with living a mediocre life. He’s happy living an easy-breezy life, putting in minimal effort and his only goal is to be a likeable guy. That is, until he eats a handful of jelly beans and suddenly becomes the smartest kid in the universe!

Suddenly, Jake is in high demand. Even the government wants his help cracking codes and catching bad guys. But will Jake have enough smarts when his friends and his school need him?

This was a fun read. An easy and fairly light book, with a couple of laughs and lots of, mostly interesting, facts.

My favorite characters in this book were Kojo and Haazim Farooqi. Kojo is your typical good natured, jokester. But he is also smart and sincere in his own way. And Haazim, just had this kooky scientist vibe going on. I just loved his forgetfulness and almost cavalier approach to science.

One thing I did not like about this book, was that the topic of the morality of Jake’s new found ingestible knowledge. Only once, was it really mentioned that Jake’s smarts were akin to cheating and even then, it was only glossed over. This is something we will definitely discuss in my book club. Was it really right for Jake to be on the quiz bowl team?

Overall, I think kids will really enjoy this novel. It’s part trivia quest, part treasure hunt and part middle school fiction. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


Show Me a Sign

Show Me a Sign is a juvenile fiction book by deaf author and librarian Ann Clare LeZotte. It is inspired by the true history of a deaf community on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 19th century.

Mary Lambert has grown up safe and sheltered on her little island  Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-grandfather was one of the first English settlers on the island and the first deaf settler. Now, it is more than a hundred years later and the island is the home of many deaf and hearing people, all of whom sign to communicate.

Mary has never felt a loss or lesser for being deaf, that is, until a young scientist arrives from the mainland, determined to uncover the source of the “rampant” deafness on the island. Still struggling with the recent death of her brother, the rising unrest between the settlers and the Wampanoag people, Mary feels unmoored. And when the unthinkable happens, will Mary perceiver through trial and scorn?

The audio version of this book came up first on my holds and, usually, I am a hard core audio fan. There wasn’t anything wrong with this audio book, but I think this book was made for print. It still get’s 4 stars from me, but I wonder if it might have eked out 5 in print.

That being said, this was a fascinating history to read about and one I was totally unaware of. It was so neat to learn about the history of the island and see how the farmers communicated through sign via spy glass. The author naturally injects sign etiquette and culture into the story, which serves to inform as well as serve the story.

The way the island works together and sees no difference between the hearing and not hearing is really very beautiful. It also serves to highlight the prejudices against the Wampanoag people and makes Mary’s shock at the treatment of deaf people outside of Martha’s Vineyard, even more powerful.

This is a book I would highly recommend for 4-7th graders.

That’s all for now!