Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge (sequel to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup) is a novel in verse form. Eighth grader Kevin Boland has a lot going on: he's got a beautiful and popular girlfriend named Mira, he's the first baseman on his playoff-bound baseball team, and he writes poetry. Things get complicated when he becomes "poetry friends" with Amy, a fellow poet he met at a bookstore reading. He tells his story in his diary, using poetry to express his thoughts and feelings.
This book is a terrific mentor text for aspiring poets. Kevin's diary is written in verse, but then we also get to read the imbedded poetry that he and Amy share with each other. The reader also gets a primer on various poetic forms: free verse, couplets, haiku, pantoums, villanelles, sestinas, limericks and ghazals.
Kevin's poetry captures a lot of the complicated feelings of being an adolescent. His mother has passed away before the book's opening and his father is ready to begin seeing other women. Obviously Kevin feels very conflicted about that. Here are a few good examples of his poetic instinct:
"I'm basically a good kid. But imperfect
enough to be interesting.
Like a good poem."
"Sadness is a big dark bus
with a schedule of its own.
But when it pulls up and the door
opens with a hiss, you pretty much
have to get on."
I'm going to be interested to see which of my fifth grade students will choose this book and if it will be helpful for writing. I'm planning on Book Talking it, to generate interest. I'm very happy to have this book as part of my classroom library.