Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
By Laura Shovan
Published April 12, 2016 by Wendy Lamb Books
Reviewed from e-ARC

Ms. Hill's class has just learned that their school will be torn down in order to build a grocery store. Not willing to sit idly by while the adults decide what's best, they take to their poetry journals and eventually find a way to make their voices heard.

Well, I am apparently the only person on Goodreads who was not completely enamored by this book. I wanted to like it but, really, I feel ambivalent. Maybe the only saving thought is that my ambivalence has more to do with reading this in ARC form rather than reading the final version. I can't say for certain, though.

As I said, I really wanted, and expected, to like this book. Novels in verse are my jam - no joke, I'll read about pretty much anything if you tell it to me in verse form. Additionally, I really liked the idea of hearing from so many different voices and seeing them develop over the course of a year. But here is where I think the ARC format steered me wrong - almost none of the formatting was correct. Where I expected poetry, I got big chunks of text. And this really messed with my reading of the book. I presume - but, again, don't know for certain since I haven't seen a finished copy of the book - that the formatting is slightly altered for each character; that is, each character is writing a different form of poetry. If the formatting had been correct in my ARC, I might have had an easier time keeping the characters straight (there are 18 of them, after all). Additionally, I felt the ending to be extremely anti-climactic.

What I liked about the book: the number of different voices allowed Shovan to explore a greater variety of characters and, when I could keep them straight, I liked reading about their differences. Also, I appreciated Shovan acknowledging poverty and economic differences, though I would have liked an even more in-depth exploration of food deserts and the disparities surrounding them.

Overall, an interesting read, but one that will not be particularly memorable for me. Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.


  1. My rule of thumb for novels in verse (which I generally dislike, since the poetry is often... not) is that if I increase the font size on my e reader and can't tell it's poetry because there are no line divisions, it's not really verse. You write out some Timothy Steele sonnets in paragraph form, and they are still going to sound like poetry. Also, people become overwrought about school closings as it is-- why fuel their fire? Gave this one a rare two stars, but aybe just because it wasn't middle school and wasn't Helen Frost!

    1. I love novels in verse, so I expected I'd like this one, but when the formatting was off, it had an awkward rhythm to reading. I guess that can't all be my favorites!