Hi guys! Today, we're featuring a debut that is both MG and written in verse. It's an interesting mix and I'm excited for you to try it out. If you're looking for a short read, a one-sitting read, this is probably it. Laura made a playlist for her novel and I hope you like it. ;)
1. “If I Had a Hammer” – Peter, Paul and Mary
Poem: “Questions” by Katie McCain
Even though the fifth grade teacher, Ms. Hill, never appears in THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, she’s an important character. Early on in the story, we learn that Ms. Hill has her fifth graders listen to old folk songs and write poems every morning. Katie’s attitude about poetry isn’t the greatest. She says, “Writing is hard enough without ‘If I Had a Hammer’/ pounding my head.
2. “Shake’s Mood” – Shakespeare in Jazz
Poem: “Ping Pong Riff” by Jason Chen
The poem “Ping Pong Riff” introduces one of my favorite characters, Jason Chen. He’s the kind of kid whose brain moves along at a wild pace, skipping from one subject to the next. Jason loves Shakespeare and plays the saxophone. He’d rather listen to jazz than Ms. Hill’s folk music.
3. “El Palomito” – Los Cadetes de Linares
Poem: “El Palomito” and “El Dueto” by Gaby Vargas
I first heard about this Latin American folk song on National Public Radio. The tune stuck with me. The character of Gaby needed a song to play with her crush, Mark, at the school talent show. Since both characters speak Spanish, I chose this song for them to perform.
4. “Big Yellow Taxi” – Joni Mitchell
Poem: “Big Yellow Dozer” by Jason Chen
One of the best things about Jason’s character is that he loves to write parodies. In this scene, Jason has taken one of Ms. Hill’s folk songs and updated it. Jason’s version is a protest against plans to demolish their school, Emerson Elementary.
5. “Belle (Little Town)” – Beauty and the Beast
Poem: “Tryouts” by Tyler LaRoche
Tyler is the only new kid in Ms. Hill’s class. In this poem, he decides to try out for the school play. The story of “Beauty and the Beast” has so many parallels to Tyler’s life. He says, “Making friends is hard. / At least Belle had all that singing silverware.”
6. “You’ve Got a Friend” – James Taylor
Poem: “You’ve Got a Friend” by Tyler LaRoche
Tyler writes this poem when Ms. Hill and her class are feeling pretty low. None of the things they have done to save their schools are working. This poem describes the way music can help turn your mood around. This is such a simple, upbeat song. Tyler writes, “That song was the helping hand/ our class needed/ to get us smiling again.”
7. “Blowing in the Wind” – Bob Dylan
Poem: “How Many Hours” by Rajesh Rao
I don’t want to give away any spoilers! Let’s just say that all of the folk and protest songs Ms. Hill has taught her students over the course of the book come in handy during a long, long Board of Education meeting.
8. “Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince, Covered by Incubus
Poem: “Moving Up Speech” by Jason Chen
I had so much fun writing this poem for Jason. I’m a HUGE Prince fan, and so is Jason. Of course, he had to work some of the Purple One’s lyrics into his speech at the fifth grade Moving Up ceremony.
Link to YouTube Playlist.
Thank you for sharing, Laura!
Laura is poetry editor for the literary journal Little Patuxent Review. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. She edited the Maryland Writers’ Association anthology Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems and co-edited Voices Fly: An Anthology of Exercises and Poems from the Maryland State Arts Council Artists-in-Residence Program, for which she teaches.
Laura is a Rita Dove Poetry Award finalist and won a Gettysburg Review Conference for Writers scholarship. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, her novel-in-verse for children, will be published by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House in 2016.
Find Laura: Website | Goodreads | Twitter
Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: April 12th 2016 by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House
one year of poems,
one school set to close.
Two yellow bulldozers
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 Shovan's engaging novel is a time capsule of one class's poems during a transformative school year. The students grow up and move on in this big-hearted debut about finding your voice and making sure others hear it.
Thanks to Laura for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Signed Finished Copy of The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan + swag
Scope: US and CA
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!