Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie
Finalist blurb: Shovan, Laura. 2016. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. New York: Random House Books. A teacher and her students work together to try to save their school from demolition in this novel in verse snapshot of one fifth grade class across a whole school year. Ms. Hill’s class of 18 students includes a mix of boys and girls, twins, Spanish speakers, children from a variety of cultural backgrounds, shy kids, leaders, friends, “frenemies,” all trying to express themselves through poetry. Each poem reflects an individual point of view that changes and grows over the year contributing to a complete narrative detailing their classroom dynamics as well as their struggle to take an active stand for their school. Shovan effectively employs 17 different forms of poems throughout this novel in verse including acrostic, concrete, diamante, epistolary, fib, found, free verse, haiku, limerick, list, narrative, ode, rap, rhyming, senryu, sonnet and tanka poems. This is an engaging school-based story in poems that can inspire young readers to become activists in their communities and to consider writing poetry as a vehicle for achieving some of their goals.
— Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children