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)