#993 – The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

last-5th-grade-emerson-elementary The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
Written by Laura Shovan
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
Wendy Lamb Books   4/2/2016
978-0-553-52137-5
248 pages    Ages 8—12

 

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“Eighteen kids,
one year of poems,
one school set to close.
Two yellow bulldozers
crouched outside,
ready to eat the building
in one greedy gulp.

“But look out, bulldozers.
Ms. Hill’s fifth-grade class
has plans for you.
They’re going to speak up
and work together
to save their school.

“Laura’s Shovan’s engaging novel is a time capsule of one class’s poems during a transformative school year. Families change and new friendships form as eighteen terrific kids grow up and move on in this whimsical, big-hearted debut about finding your voice and making sure others hear it.” [INSIDE JACKET]

“Is the pen mightier than a bulldozer? Fifth grade poets stand up to save their school in this delightful debut novel. This year, Ms. Hill’s fifth graders are writing poems to put into a time capsule. This year, the school board plans to tear down their school to build a supermarket. They might be the last fifth grade class of Emerson Elementary. No way!

“Inspired by Ms. Hill’s 1960’s political activism, the students decide to save their beloved school. As they circulate petitions, stage sit-in, and test the waters of democratic action, personal questions, triumphs, and sorrows find their way into their poems.” [PUBLISHER]

Review
This is the last year Emerson Elementary School will hold students and the teachers that teach them. Bulldozers are set to knock the building and everything on the ground down to make room for a supermarket. Newt Matthews, one of the eighteen kids in Ms. Hill’s fifth grade class—The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary—wonders, “If bulldozers demolish it, / how will everyone at my new school know who I am?” Most of the eighteen students want to save their school. They set out to do just that, with words and peaceful actions based on their teacher’s activism (which surely happened hundreds of years ago).
atthemovies-shoshanna-bergA time capsule, buried at the end of the school year, will include the students’ poetry. axzIt will not help save the school—the time capsule—and not all are thrilled about writing a poem each day (especially with Ms. Hill’s records singing to them in the background). “Ms. Hill, do we have to start every morning / listening to folk music while we write poetry? / Writing is hard enough without “If I Had a Hammer” / pounding my head. In twenty-five years, / when some kid opens the time capsule / from our school, he’s not going to care about me / or my poems.” (Katie McClain)
gaby-vegas-translated-mark-fernandezver2As these eighteen kids write, we learn about their desires, their dislikes, their family and friends, and their days. Falling for these kids becomes easy, and though it may take a while to learn all of their individual voices, it happens. Readers learn the hierarchy of this class just as easily as if the story were in prose. Matching each student to their picture on the book cover is possible after reading their poems for a couple of quarters (there are four quarters, which divide up this book as if chapters). Little portraits at the top of each page, along with the date, poem title, and student name also keep readers grounded.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary contains humor, as each student shows his or her heart in ways in which other kids reading this debut will understand. Readers will find themselves in the personality of one or more of these eighteen students. Reading a novel in verse is a fast proposition. Reluctant readers will like seeing the story broken up into one poem/one student per page. Soon those little portraits are not needed, as the kids’ voices shine, letting readers know who is writing and when. Do the kids save their beloved school . . .
selfportrait-jason-chenBack matter for The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary will make every teacher’s day. First, Shovan writes about reading poetry, which leads into an explanation of each type of poem the kids in room 5-H used this last year. Acrostic, Concrete, Diamante, Epistolary (yes, she has listed the poem types alphabetically), Fib . . . Senryu, Sonnet, and Tanka. Each contains the what, the how-to, and a suggestion or two. Shovan (a former teacher) did not stop there. She also includes some of the prompts her fictional students used when stuck, and a Glossary.

For her debut, Laura Shovan’s The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary is brilliant. Highly Recommended.

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY. Text copyright © 2016 by Laura Shovan. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Abigail Halpin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Wendy Lamb Books, New York, NY.

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Add The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary to Your Goodreads Shelf HERE.
Educators’ Guide is HERE.
Read a Q&A with Debut Autor Laura Shovan HERE.

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Reprinted with permission from THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY © 2016 by Laura Shovan, Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, Illustrations © 2016 by Abigail Halpin.
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Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
Written by Laura Shovan
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
Wendy Lamb Books 4/2/2016
9780553521375

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