The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shodd

Published by Wendy Lamb Books 

Summary:  Emerson Elementary School will be razed and replaced by a supermarket at the end of the year.  The eighteen fifth graders in Ms. Hill’s class have a range of emotions about this.  To express them, their teacher has them write poems which will be placed in a time capsule inside the wall of the new store.  The class is diverse in ethnic and family backgrounds, and their individual struggles at school and at home show up in their poetry.  Each one grows through the year, making and losing friends, accepting changing family situations, and learning about themselves.  By the end of the year, they are ready to accept the inevitable, and find their own ways into middle school.  End matter includes several pages about the different forms of poetry and the prompts the students had to work from, as well as a glossary.  256 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  This first-time author does an amazing job of creating 18 distinct, likeable characters.  Although this could be a quick read, it pays to take it slowly, going back to see other poems written by each student to really get to know them.  The extra information on different poetic forms would make this an excellent and accessible introduction to poetry.

Cons:  It’s pretty difficult at the beginning to keep track of who’s who in the class.

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