Shovan, Laura. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Wendy Lamb Books: New York, 2016. ISBN 9780553521382
This book explores the life of eighteen fifth graders. They are in for a rough year full of changes. Families change, friends change, and they’re going to demolish the school. They were given an assignment to write poems for a time capsule. They want to try to save the school, but they learn through the year, even if things don’t go the way you wanted, it’s what you learned that matters and that will stay with you.
I thought this was a very cleaver book. I loved seeing how she created all of these personalities. Each has their own voice, their own writing style, and collectively, they make a remarkable group of writers. This is very realistic. I teach writing to a group of Tweens, and they are remarkable writers themselves.
The most impressive aspect of this book is the varying types of poetry. At the very end of the book, there is a section called “A Closer Look at the Poems in this Book.” There are three different subsections: Favorite Forms From Room 5-H, From the Fifth Grade Poetry Prompt Jar, and Glossary. I love the “Favorite Forms From Room 5-H.” In this section, it explains several different forms of poetry that were used in this book, from the sonnet to found poetry.
The poems are wonderfully written. As there are different types of poems, they all have their own rhythm. Some follow rules concerning syllables, some follow rules concerning word limits, and some follow patterns (AA, BB, etc.) I love how this author used so many different types of poetry.
The flow is good. It’s fast paced, but not too fast. It’s the right speed for the type of book it is. You get lost in it, and you don’t really get jerked out.
The tone is that of any tween. Sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s sad. Most of the time, it’s confused. They have so many questions, so many things they don’t yet understand, but they go through the events nonetheless.
This book was fantastic. I could imagine their lives. I could see them and their experiences. I could feel their emotions. Their happiness, their sadness, their confusion, their hope. I highly recommend this, especially if you have or teach tweens.
“Brick wall, bright faces.
One girl in a blue hijab
smiles at her teacher.
Beside the children
a teacher stands tall, so proud.
Her scarf flutters, a flag.”
This poems is on page 220. It’s dated June 3 written by Norah Hassan and it’s titled Unveiling the Mural.
I chose this poem for several reasons.
First: this is a haiku poem. It follows a specific pattern. The poem consists of three lines. The first line has 5 syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five syllables.
Second: I love the connection between the hijab and the scarf. She says the scarf is a flag (metaphor). In essence, that the scarf symbolizes something that should be respected. I love how she compares this to the hijab, which is also a scarf that symbolizes something that should be respected.
Third: I love the cultural representation. Norah is a Muslim girl from Jerusalem. Her poems especially are moving and touching, and I love that Muslims are being represented in literature. That’s another thing this book did well. There is a ton of representation from different cultural and religious backgrounds.