Readers may wonder if they really needed a poem for every day of the school year.

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY

This novel in verse is a remarkable feat of mimicry. The poems sound exactly like they were written by real fifth-graders.

Ms. Hill’s students, a diverse bunch judging by their names and their pictures, are required to write a poem every morning. (They listen to folk music while they’re writing, which says a lot about Ms. Hill.) One Seuss-inspired poem includes the stanza “Some kids are glad and some are sad. / You sit by Teacher. Were you bad?” That level of authenticity is hard to take unless it reveals something about the characters’ personalities. Happily, many of the students are worth getting to know, like Newt Mathews, a boy with Asperger’s who rescues the frogs hiding in the school’s back brick wall. Their story is compelling enough: as the title hints, the students are trying to prevent their school from being torn down. But too much of the plot feels conventional. When a student gets a crush on a girl who claims to hate him, some readers will pray that they don’t fall in love. The last section of the book is full of lovely, inventive moments. A set of instructions for making a flipbook somehow becomes a metaphor for loss. But too many poems—especially a bad parody of “Big Yellow Taxi”—simply don’t work.

Readers may wonder if they really needed a poem for every day of the school year. (glossary, guide to poetic forms) (Verse novel. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-52137-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.

JAKE THE FAKE KEEPS IT REAL

From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud.

THE NEWSPAPER CLUB

From the Newspaper Club series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Nellie’s investigative reporting leads her to solve a mystery, start a newspaper, and learn key lessons about growing up.

Nellie’s voice is frank and often funny—and always full of information about newspapers. She tells readers of the first meeting of her newspaper club and then says, “But maybe I’m burying the lede…what Dad calls it when a reporter puts the most interesting part…in the middle or toward the end.” (This and other journalism vocabulary is formally defined in a closing glossary.) She backtracks to earlier that summer, when she and her mother were newly moved into a house next to her mother’s best friend in rural Bear Creek, Maine. Nellie explains that the newspaper that employed both of her parents in “the city” had folded soon after her father left for business in Asia. When Bear Creek Park gets closed due to mysterious, petty crimes, Nellie feels compelled to investigate. She feels closest to her dad when on the park’s swings, and she is more comfortable interviewing adults than befriending peers. Getting to know a plethora of characters through Nellie’s eyes is as much fun as watching Nellie blossom. Although astute readers will have guessed the park’s vandalizers, they are rewarded by observing Nellie’s fact-checking process. A late revelation about Nellie’s father does not significantly detract from this fully realized story of a young girl adjusting admirably to new circumstances. Nellie and her mother present white; secondary characters are diverse.

Nellie Bly’s contemporary namesake does her proud. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9685-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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