Book review: “The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary” ARC Tour concludes here!

Last 5th Grade coverJust 2 months ago, on April 12, author and poet Laura Shovan celebrated a book birthday: her debut middle grade novel in verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Random House Children’s Books) was officially released, and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.

In advance of the release, Laura began a blog tour of her ARC (Advance Review Copy), in which children’s lit bloggers across the country could read the book, share their thoughts on it, and pass it along to the next blogger.

Well, it all wraps up today, as I’m the final blogger on the tour – and I’m so happy for Laura!

It’s an engrossing book, detailing the lives of 18 students in Ms. Hill’s class and their personal struggles and joys with themselves, each other, and the fact that the school board has announced that the school will be closing at the end of the year to be turned into a mall.

Each poem is told from a particular student’s point of view, which allows the reader to get to know the characters intimately well. George Furst, for example (whose middle name is Washington thanks to his history-loving parents), is running for class president but wishes his mother and father had not divorced.

Hannah Wiles is the Type-A, in-charge, know-it-all who, aside from also running for class president, is also struggling with parental issues. Brianna Holmes, meanwhile, is creative and proud – and homeless. Newt Matthews has Asperger’s.

Last 5th grade poem

Through each of their poems, the individual students’ personalities develop over the course of the book, and it’s nice to see their progress and level of maturity by the time the last poem ends. Both funny and poignant in turn, The Last Fifth Grade is a touching book that is as easy to read as it is as easy to get lost in. I do have to admit, the students seem far more worldly and mature than my fifth grade class!

In fairness and honesty, the only disappointment I have to note (and I hate to even mention this, as we’re talking about my friend, Laura’s, book!) is that three of the eighteen students are dealing with the lack of a father in their lives: George Furst, whose dad left the family earlier in his life; Hannah Wiles, who has to live with her dad while her mom is stationed overseas, and Mark Fernandez, whose father passed away.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a stay-at-home dad who works out of the house – hence, I’m a bit touchy on this subject – but no one seems to bemoan living with their mother. Yes, there are some very commendable dads in the book, and I appreciate Laura’s implication of the importance of fathers; I just think it would have been more balanced had there been at least one home that was happy with their dad, even though mom was absent.

But that’s a minor quibble. The importance, of course, is the interaction of the students and their growth throughout this transformative year. Through rich yet kid-friendly language, well-crafted characters, and a wide array of poetic forms (from free verse and haiku to sonnets and limericks), Laura tells a tale that kids will want to follow from first page to last!

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Poetry Friday: “Stumpfield Pond, 1975”

Last 5th Grade coverI mentioned last week that poet and blogger Laura Shovan is celebrating the release of her debut middle grade novel-in-verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Wendy Lamb Books), which was just released a couple of weeks ago. I did NOT mention how excited I am to be a part of her celebration!

I just received my ARC (Advance Review Copy) of the book yesterday and am looking forward to reading it and providing a review here in the next couple weeks…but that’s not all Laura had in store for those of us taking part in her “ARC Blog Tour.”

Laura also included vintage postcards to each blogger who received the book, to provide some writing inspiration – and inspiration is exactly what hit me last night, as I was looking through the postcards. I came across one in particular that immediately reminded me of my early-morning fishing excursions with my father when I was a child:

(click to enlarge)

Growing up here in New Hampshire, a great fishing spot was never more than 10 or 15 minutes away, so dad & I would get up early, early on a Saturday morning and make our way to a number of different places; this is one of them.

Stumpfield Pond, 1975

His son at his side, Dad slips
the old pea-green fiberglass boat into mirror water,
skillfully slicing the sleeping surface;
ripples race from either side of the bow,
curling and folding upon themselves.
Sand-worn hull grinds on gravel
like thunder in sunshine, unexpected
and startling,
before it finds its buoyancy
10 feet out from shore.
Titmouse, thrush, persistent phoebe sing
from treetops;
the air smells of lilies and dew,
wild iris and fog.
I clamber into the boat first, staking
claim to my usual post
near the bow, small hands
holding gently-rocking sides.
Dad climbs in once I am seated, and grabbing
one wooden oar, pushes hard
against the sand and silt beneath,
heaving the weight of the boat
and himself
and me
into the cool, wet, morning.

– © 2016 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

poetryfridaybutton-fulllBe sure to watch for my review of Laura’s book in the next few weeks, and for all of today’s Poetry Friday fun, please visit Violet Nesdoly’s blog for the complete roundup!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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Poetry Friday: #My5thGradeAsHaiku

national-poetry-month 2016

Hi! I’m not really here right now. I know, it seems like I’m talking to you…but I’ve pre-recorded this message because I’m actually on my way to Springfield, MA this morning for the local NESCBWI conference! (That’s why I’m posting this Thursday night instead of Friday – ssh, don’t tell anyone.)

I’m very excited about this year’s conference – not only because the conference is a wealth of information and networking possibilities, but because I’ll be presenting my first conference workshop this Sunday: “Free Yourself with Free-Verse Poetry.” And the timing couldn’t be better, as I just learned a few days ago that a free verse poem of mine was a runner-up in a national contest sponsored by the Young Adult Review Network!

Now, on to today’s post…

Last 5th Grade coverPoet, educator, and blogger Laura Shovan is celebrating a monumental accomplishment this month:  the release of her debut middle grade novel-in-verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Wendy Lamb Books), which was just released a couple of weeks ago. Congratulations, Laura!

Part of Laura’s celebration has included a fun little poetry challenge she created for Twitter, called  #My5thGradeAsHaiku. Anyone who wanted to share their memories of 5th grade was invited to write a haiku (well, technically, a senryu, but we won’t split hairs) and post it on Twitter with the #My5thGradeAsHaiku hashtag. And she got a BUNCH of responses!

I wrote one within the first few days of her announcing the challenge – a list poem, of sorts – but I kept thinking about my elementary days and ended up writing a couple more. So here are all three…hope you like them:
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#My5thGradeAsHaiku

Star Wars, soccer games,
Mrs. Day, Mr. Lemire, and…
Tracy in English.
.

new thick-rimmed glasses
one more reason to hate me
like they needed one
.

another morning
I dread the bus; forced to lie,
I’m too sick to go
.

– all poems © 2016 Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Poetry_Friday logoAs I look back on it, 5th grade really wasn’t much of a hoot for me – but neither was 4th or 6th, for that matter. Ah, well. For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head on over to Buffy’s Blog, where Buffy Silverman is hosting the festivities!

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2016 Kidlit Progressive PoemIrene Latham‘s annual Progressive Poem is almost ready to wrap up! A different writer adds a line each day – and we’ll see how it all turns out tomorrow, with Donna from Mainely Write! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; today, Sheila Renfro is adding her line…be sure to visit and see how the Progressive poem has…progressed!

You can follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following blog spots:

April

1 Laura at Writing the World for Kids

2 Joy at Joy Acey

3 Doraine at Dori Reads

4 Diane at Random Noodling

5 Penny at A Penny and Her Jots

6 Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

7 Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass

8 Janet F. at Live Your Poem

9 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

10 Pat at Writer on a Horse

11 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog

12 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

13 Linda at TeacherDance

14 Jone at Deo Writer

15 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

16 Violet at Violet Nesdoly

17 Kim at Flukeprints

18 Irene at Live Your Poem

19 Charles at Charles Waters Poetry

20 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

21 Jan at Bookseedstudio

22 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

23 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page

24 Amy at The Poem Farm

25 Mark at Jackett Writes

26 Renee at No Water River

27 Mary Lee at Poetrepository

28 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

29 Sheila at Sheila Renfro

30 Donna at Mainely Write

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “January Thaw”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllBefore I get to today’s poem, I want to remind you that if you hadn’t had a chance to check out my interview with Irene Latham this past Tuesday – and my review of her new book, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica: And Other Poems from the Frozen Continent (Millbrook Press) – make sure you CLICK HERE to read it and enter to win your very own signed copy of the book!

So here we are, almost 3 weeks past January, and I just remembered I’d wanted to share this…but better late than never, right? I wrote this a few years ago, when the typical New England “January Thaw” lasted a few days – usually around the latter half of the month.  This year, the January Thaw was the entire month of January!

January Thaw

It happens every year.
Long before the robins sing,
when sky is bright and clear
one can catch a glimpse of spring.

Grass peeks through melting snow
as the air begins to warm.
We smile – and yet we know
pretty soon, another storm!

– © 2012, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

But wait – there’s still plenty more poetry around! You can visit Laura Shovan’s blog for the latest in her February prompt series, the Found Object Poem Project – see the projects, see what folks are writing, and then join in yourself!

And of course, be sure to stop by Donna Smith’s Mainely Write for the complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
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To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: The Found Object Poem Project, Day 5!

Poetry_Friday logoPoet and blogger Laura Shovan is once again inspiring writers with her annual February poetry prompt, and this year she’s using “found objects” – random, unusual, or even everyday items that various friends and fellow bloggers have come across and shared.

You can see all of this week’s objects (and the poems written so far) HERE at her blog, and today, I’m pleased to host Day 5 of the series!

Now, normally I’d share the photo of the object with my poem, along with all the poems that readers have contributed – and please DO contribute, in the comments section! – but I feel a need to do things just slightly differently, for good reason.

This time around, I need to share the poem first…and I’ll explain why after you read it.

Heirloom Moon

On sun-toughened vines
they hang, young
and glowing beneath
dark August sky;
midnight shines
against dewy skin, smooth
and glossy as Brandywines
while flesh swells
with thirst
and yearning.

– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

The reason I wanted to share the poem first is because of the ridiculous nature of the photo. Once you see it, you’ll sense a huge disconnect between the object and the poem. Ready?

Here it is:

Tomato-Moon
(click to enlarge)

When I first shared this online, I stated that I’d never been mooned by a vegetable before!

I’m not sure if this tomato was one big one that split into two, or started off as two little baby tomatoes that fused into one – but at a good pound or so in weight, it was one of the strangest-looking tomatoes I’d ever seen.

Two days ago when I started thinking about a poem to write, my mind kept wandering back to a tomato ‘mooning’ me – but I wanted something more serious. Once the title of the poem, “Heirloom Moon,” hit me, the poem wrote itself.

I was concerned that by seeing the photo, then reading the poem, there might be a bit of a disconnect. Switching from a goofy picture to mature free verse – and switching from very different definitions of ‘moon’ – was a challenge!

Now then, without any further ado, allow me to present YOUR poems…all the responses to this photo that are being sent in. And please, if you’d like to contribute, just post your poem in the comments below and I’ll add it here as soon as I can!

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We’ll begin with something from the Haiku Queen, Diane Mayr, who said, “When I gave up the idea of writing a tomato haiku, this one appeared!” Some great imagery here, too – skin stretching, mouths waiting – so enjoy:

Listen to a Tomato

Not even a whisper
accompanies the splitting
of its seed coat when
touched by the warmth
of a sunny April day.

Nor is there a sound
when a seedling snakes
upward shaking off
humus and loam as
its true leaves unfurl.

You won’t hear skin
stretching to its limits
as the fruit imbibes
summer rains, growing
round and pendant.

The only sound you can
hear, is the POP of a ripe
tomato and the EXPLOSION
of juice as it’s delivered
to your waiting mouth.

– © 2016, Diane Mayr

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Next up is a delicious poem from Jessica Bigi…you’ll be ready for dinner with these warm, homey images:

Garden Tomatoes Memories

Salt
Black pepper
Tangy vinaigrette
Drizzling oil
Beefsteak tomatoes
Our garden’s prize
Halves in a bowl
They’re best as
Dad told his story
Mouth-watering
Tomato juice smile
Italian bread baking
In grandmother’s oven
Slices of garden tomatoes
Thick slices of onions
Water my eyes
How the hobos left the Trains
knocking on her door
For homemade bread and
Tomato sandwiches
Dad’s mouth watered he
Loved his with onions
How I long to hear his voice
Whistle his story to me
How I love my dad and a bowl
Of garden tomatoes

– Jessica Bigi

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Margaret Simon says she was attracted not to the tomato but to the quilted cloth beneath, which was reminiscent of her grandmother’s quilts. This touching poem is proof that inspiration can come from anywhere!

Grandmother’s Quilt

Grandmother
quilted for hours
taking tiny stitches in and out
while gossiping
with the girls.

“Jesse harvested tomatoes today.
The largest we’ve had in years.”

“Whatcha’gonna make, Mary Glo?
Tomato soup or corn maque choux?”

Around that circle of friends,
patches from Granddad’s ties,
a piece of Margaret’s Sunday dress,
stories were told
and sewn into time,
feathered with fingers of love.

Margaret Simon

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Although summer won’t be here for another 5 months, Molly Hogan brightens up our winter with thoughts of sunshine and dirt and summertime smells:

One Plump Tomato

In the midst of winter
one plump tomato
stirs memories of
the sun’s caressing warmth
on berry-brown bare arms
and flush freckle-dusted cheeks
of toes dipping into rich earth
and of the enticing tangled scent
of robust green vines
and sweet spicy basil

In the midst of winter
one plump tomato
sings a silent song
of summer

– Molly Hogan

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Linda Baie is feeling the love – with an early-morning rendezvous:

Early Valentine’s Day

I rose early to go to the garden
for a breakfast harvest,
without the distraction of the kids.
Pants quickly wet from the dew,
I leaned into ripening tomatoes,
inhaling that tangy, piney scent,
the only one they know. Perhaps
it protects their sweeter taste?
They were falling over,
heavy red-ripened jewels.

There, among that rich roundness, this love apple.
The mist had blown off with the sun,
and I returned to the house,
lay my heart upon the bed,
pursed my lips for a kiss.

Linda Baie ©All Rights Reserved

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Laura Shovan herself stopped by to share her contribution – a fun little ode to my tasty monstrosity:
.
Big Boy
.
Hello, tomato!
You’re the Wonder Twins
of the vegetable garden,
Miracle-Gro… activate!
Hello, tomato!
The slugs came out
last night and slathered you
in lip plumper.
Hello, tomato!
I love you best
cut into chunks
and served with salt.
Goodbye, tomato!
.
– © 2016, Laura Shovan
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Carol Varsalona jumped into the fray with the following poem that she titled after my picture!

Tomato Moon

Not two peas in a pod.
Not two beans on a pad
but
two simple valentines
linked
creating
one tomato moon,
filling the spaces of
my February heart-
peacefully co-joined,
artfully sculptured,
waiting for a receiver.

– ©CVarsalona, 2016

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Next, Mary Lee Hahn brings us a short but sweet love poem!

Double Tomato

We budded together and together we bloomed;
it just seemed natural that together we grew.
Together we look…unusual,
but together we’re unified — one outranks two!

– © Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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Donna Smith is “tasting the rainbow” – and a very delicious-sounding one it is!

One Slice of Rainbow

I’ll take a slice of rainbow, please
The red part
tender, curved, ripe –
So warm, sweet
and bursting
Rain down to my elbows.

– © 2016, Donna JT Smith, all rights reserved
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And finally, Charles Waters brings us back to my initial impression of the “moon” as the subject, as opposed to a tomato. The personification in this is intriguing!

What’s in a Blood Moon?
.
When sun and earth are spiritually aligned enough
to get together for a natter, then include the moon
on this get together by complimenting him on his
evening wear, he starts blushing with pride.

– © Charles Waters, 2016

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NEXT UP, DAY 6!

Wondering what’s in store for tomorrow? Here’s the found object poem prompt for Sat., Feb. 6, courtesy of Laura, herself!

Many thanks again to Laura Shovan for the series of prompts this month, and for all of today’s poetry fun and links, please visit Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect for the Poetry Friday roundup!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)
To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-Sm
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!