HAPPY POETRY FRIDAY
Today we’d like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Laura Shovan on the official release of her first middle grade verse novel on April 12! Hooray for Laura!!
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (Wendy Lamb Books, 2016) is a captivating story told entirely through a series of poems written by one fifth grade class over the course of a year. We meet 18 diverse, distinctive, quirky, totally believable kids navigating the changes that come with friendships old and new, first crushes, and other relatable challenges such as divorce and stepfamilies, death and illness of family members, being the new kid, homelessness, assimilation and identity.
Though each has his/her own hopes, dreams, and concerns, these students form a special bond over one big change that affects them all: their beloved school is facing closure at the end of the year. Inspired by their teacher’s political activism in the 60’s, they are determined to make their voices heard to help save Emerson.
Laura skillfully brings these fifth graders to life using a variety of poetic forms (sonnet, limerick, haiku, concrete, free verse, ode, fib). Her portrayals ring true and the mix of personality types makes for an interesting classroom dynamic. It all feels very familiar — either we see parts of ourselves in these characters, or we have friends just like them.
Readers will nod knowingly at the queen bee with workers in her orbit, the introvert with writer chops, the natural leaders who run for student council, the tomboy and fashion plate, the spiky-haired non-conformist, the high energy, expansive piece-of-work with a ready sense of humor. We instantly get caught up in their lives and empathize with situations happy, sad, funny, frustrating, surprising, and empowering. It’s wonderful to see how these kids grow and change as they stage a sit-in, circulate a petition, and get their first taste of democracy in action. Each individual voice counts for something, but collectively they can do more.
Today I’m happy to share a poem by Rachel Chieko Stein (smart, quiet, tries hard to fit in but gets teased by the popular kids). One classmate tells her she can’t be Jewish, to which she replies, “But I’ve never even been to Japan.” Way to shatter a stereotype! 🙂
This just happens to be a Passover poem, and yes, it’s about food! Who wouldn’t love a poem with both chocolate and soup in it? Thank you, Laura!
Passover is my favorite holiday.
I love matzo for lunch, spread thick
with cream cheese and strawberry jam.
I love how the matzo crunches
around the soft cream cheese
and gooey jelly.
I promised my dad I would eat
at the allergy-free table during Passover
even though people eat bread there,
because the janitors
keep that table really clean.
But when I sit at the allergy-free table,
my friends think I am mad at them.
“Why aren’t you sitting with us?”
“Why do Jewish people eat weird food?”
“You have to eat that for a whole week?”
“Don’t you miss bread?”
I told my dad I wanted a thermos of soup
instead of a delicious matzo, cream cheese,
and jam sandwich for lunch.
He took out a recipe
covered with chocolate streaks.
“Aunt Jennie’s Matzo Candy.”
We buttered the matzos, baked them
until they were hot, spread them
with chocolate and butterscotch chips.
Melting, crispy, buttery, sweet. Mmmm.
Dad said, “I think this is the right medicine.
See the bottom of Aunt Jennie’s recipe?
To stop teasing, administer
one dose to classmates.”
I didn’t see anything written on the recipe.
But when I shared Aunt Jennie’s candy at lunch,
no one said matzo was weird.
~ Posted by permission of the author, copyright © 2016 Laura Shovan. All rights reserved.
Mmmmm! If you’re not craving some matzo candy right this minute there’s something seriously wrong with you.
Thank goodness Laura’s friend Jennie Steinhauser agreed to share her matzo candy recipe with us! I imagine one can tweak this according to preference, using dark, milk, or semi-sweet chips, maybe a little chopped nuts, candied ginger, or coconut flakes sprinkled on top? All good. As Rachel’s father said, it’s just the right medicine.
“Aunt” Jennie Steinhauser’s Matzo Candy (Serves 1)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 6 oz. chocolate chips
- 6 oz. peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 450. Melt butter, add sugar, and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes. Stir. Pour over matzos on foil-covered cookie sheets. Bake 5-7 minutes. Take out matzos and pour peanut butter chips over them. Let set 30 seconds and spread with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Repeat with chocolate chips. Stick in the fridge for 30 minutes or more, then break into pieces. Eat a whole bunch. Lie on the couch. Eat some more.
Here in the Alphabet Soup kitchen we decided to whip up a batch using butterscotch chips just like in Rachel’s poem. I used about 3-1/2 sheets of matzo to fit my nonstick-foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet, but this amount of toffee could easily coat 5 sheets of matzo. I confess to increasing the chocolate chips to a full cup (8 oz.), which I layered over the melted butterscotch pieces. Also used brown sugar instead of white, and added chopped pecans. I think Rachel and I could become fast friends. 🙂
When you’re done licking your fingers, please leave your links with Mr. Linky below. Don’t forget to put the title of the poem or book you’re sharing in parentheses after your name. Enjoy the poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere and do make some marvelous matzo to share with family and friends this weekend. For those who celebrate, have a beautiful Passover!
THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY
written by Laura Shovan
published by Wendy Lamb Books/RandomHouse, April 2016
Middle Grade Verse Novel for ages 8-12, 256 pp.
*Back matter includes Descriptions of Poetic Forms, Model Poems + Poetry Prompts
♥ Enjoy this cool Playlist for the book at Fragments of Life.
♥ Don’t miss this interview with Laura at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors.
♥ There’s a nice audio clip from the book here.
THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS WONDERFUL BOOK, LAURA!
WE LOVE IT!
🎉 WILL’S WORDS BOOK GIVEAWAY WINNER! 🎉
The Flaming Youth had a merry time frolicking with M. Random Integer Generator, wizard with numbers and owner of 3,412 codpieces (he’s quite the fashion plate). After consuming approximately 492 rose cakes and 66 gallons of ale, M. Generator had the winner’s name (painted on a 16th century banqueting dish resting atop Juliet’s balcony in Verona) teleported to the Alphabet Soup kitchen.
We are pleased to announce
that the winner of a brand new copy of WILL’S WORDS
*trumpet, cornett and sackbut fanfare*
🌹🌹 MARIA GIANFERRARI!! 🌹🌹
Please send your snail mail address to receive your book.
A thousand thanks, one and all, for all your comments!
Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.