Written by Laura Shovan
The accolades just keep coming for Shovan’s debut novel, and it’s easy to see why. She combines a compelling story with the novel-in-verse form skillfully and with a lot of feeling. Each of the eighteen classmates tells a view of the impending school closing and what the school means to them. They do this through assigned poems written during the fictional school year. From the boy suffering with the looming loss of his beloved grandfather to the girl who prefers to write in Spanish, each kid has a personal story to tell. Katie likes green toenails. Norah likes her blue hijab. But not all of the kids want the school to stay open. And all express themselves eloquently in their poems.
As an educator, Shovan outlines all the poetic forms used by the students and gives a brief look at how to use poetry. She also gives lots of advice on how to write your own poetry. A valuable resource for exploring the forms, this book should have an honored place in classrooms. While this is certainly not the first novel-in-verse, it does a lot to promote the form and show its flexibility. Kids will want to see how the story plays out and whether they can save the school.
- Title: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
- Author: Laura Shovan
- Published: Wendy Lamb Books, 2016
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
- Grade Level: 3 to 7
- Genre: Middle grade, Fiction, Poetry
- ISBN: 978-0-553-52137-5
- Extras: A Closer Look at the Poems in this Book, From the Fifth Grade Prompt Jar, Glossary