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Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

You know what’s fun? Sharing something new. Today is especially new – a cover reveal for a debut author.

It’s a middle grade novel-in-verse about a group of kids on a Save Our School mission. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary arrives in spring of 2016.

Travis: How did this book come about?

Laura Shovan: I started working as a poet-in-the-schools in 2000, after teaching high school English. When I visit elementary schools, the more wildly enthusiastic I am about writing poetry with the kids, the more they fall in love with language. I turn into the prop-comic of poetry. During a writing residency, I have students take off their shoes and write odes to them, taste baby powder (it’s a sensory exercise), and engage in something called snakey reading.

With The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, I wanted to capture the joy I see when students are writing in a community. That’s when something really special happens. They tell stories about their lives, share family traditions, and write about the people and places they love. I wanted the book to reflect the discoveries children can make when they’re actively writing.

The classic verse novel Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters was a big inspiration. I love how layered the persona poems in that book are. They combine to tell the story of one community. I think the story of Ms. Hill’s fifth grade and their fight to save Emerson Elementary could only be told by the whole class. Just like a real classroom, everybody has something to contribute.

Here’s a first look at the cover, illustrated by Abigail Halpin:

(Click to enlarge)

Last Fifth Grade cover

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. What an awesome cover! I love the colors and the individual pictures of all of the students. I can’t wait for this book.

  2. Claire Fayers says:

    Great looking book. I love the idea of a story told through verse. I’m looking forward to reading this when it comes out.

  3. Wow! Fabulous cover and an even more fabulous-sounding book! How rich and exciting that the story is told through the whole community, a la Spoon River (I adored that back in high school, too!). On my TBR list for sure!

  4. Irene Latham says:

    SO EXCITED FOR THIS BOOK!! Great cover, and knowing Laura, the insides will be every bit as awesome.

  5. What a wonderful cover! I love that the illustrator portrayed them as individuals, making it the kind of book my daughter, for one, would definitely pick up!

  6. The cover gives a wonderful feeling of community, and that’s what writing together does, too. This is going to be a wonderful story! Beautiful to see the cover, Laura, & thanks for sharing, Travis!

  7. I am so excited for this book. Laura is a wise soul, and funny too…what a great day! Congratulations!

  8. LOOKS FANTASTIC!! Very excited to read it!!

  9. Great cover and sounds like a wonderful story! Congrats, Laura! :)

  10. This book! This cover! This incredible author! It’s like a trifecta of incredible. An incredifecta. :D

  11. This is a great cover! I love the emphasis on individual students. Congratulations, Laura. I’m sure the book is just as good.

  12. Wonderful cover–can’t wait to read the book!

  13. Love the cover! I’m so happy to see it, and I can’t wait to read the book!

  14. I love this cover! And I love how the book came about. Tasting baby powder! I may have to go do that. Or write an ode to my shoes. ;)