cover image The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

Laura Shovan. Random/Lamb, $15.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-553-52137-5

This entertaining debut novel in verse follows the fifth graders at Emerson Elementary as they attempt to save their “run-down” school, which is danger of closing. In an ethnically diverse class featuring familiar rivalries and crushes, each student has an opportunity to be his or herself in journal entries destined for a time capsule, which are seen only by their teacher, Ms. Hill. In page-long entries, Shovan skillfully employ different poetic forms and styles—haikus, rhymes, acrostics, free verse, limericks, and more (all discussed in an endnote)—to express the students’ personalities, though 18 distinct voices are a lot to track. Characters like Norah from Jerusalem; George, whose father recently left home; Shoshanna, dealing with a demanding friend (“When Hannah wins/ class president/ I’ll finally be free./ If she is boss/ of our whole grade/ she won’t be bossing me”); and Brianna, whose mother struggles to make ends meet, will inspire readers as they find the courage to save their school and make their voices heard, both as a united front and as capable, valuable individuals. Ages 8–12. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management. (Apr.)