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Monthly Archives: December 2015

“The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary” by Laura Shovan


This summer I had the opportunity to sneak a peak at an advanced copy of The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan. This is a delightful book about a classroom of fifth graders fighting to keep the school board from tearing down their alma mater to build a grocery store. What makes the novel unique, is that it is told entirely in poems.

Through poetry we meet Norah Hassan, the only student who wears a hijab. We meet New Mathews who has Asperger’s and an aide to help him out. Spunky Katie McCain steps forward, with a big secret. Gaby Vargas learns to write poems in English as well as Spanish.

When I was a third grade teacher in a Title 1 school I struggled to find books that were content appropriate but easy enough from my English Language Learners to read. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary perfectly fits the bill. Poems are short. Poems are manageable. Poems are fun! The way poems rest on the page also make them easier for kids who deal with visual processing issues, which makes this book inclusive in that respect too.

I think teachers will definitely appreciate all of the poetry writing prompts Shovan includes at the back of the book too. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary would work great in the classroom. My own fifth-grader enjoyed reading it as well.