Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spinning through the Universe by Helen Frost

This novel is a series of poems that link together since they are "written" by the fifth grade class of Room 214. The poems illustrate the lives of the multiple students. There is the initial introductions to see how some a struggling to fit in, to identify the queen bees, the students struggling in not only school but figuring out how to make it through life. In the second part of the novel, they are a little more settled and things are starting to fall into place. A few poems deal with the death of a student's father, poems about a student finally excelling in school and problems like abusive fathers and homelessness being faced.

There are a lot of students, so it is at times difficult to remember which story belongs to which student, but it's not too terrible. I think that there could have been one more section because some of the stories are really just starting. Like does the abusive father really change? Does the homeless family get a home? Will the two kids with a crush explore that relationship? The novel really could have used one more part. Another thing I noticed, or failed to notice, was that each poem in the first part was written in a different form, at least according to the author. I didn't notice that, although I didn't really read the novel in hopes of understanding the stylistic aspects of the poem; I read for the story. I didn't really feel like the poem form added anything to the novel, but it didn't exactly detract. I think that if this was more of a traditional story that the poem form might have bothered me, or detracted from the story, but since this is just snapshots of these students' lives, I think it works. You could easily see this as a poetry unit in the class and this was the end product.

This novel of poems isn't anything spectacular or mind blowing, but it's a nice and easy read. You feel for the students and almost wish it didn't end quite so soon. If you're looking for something light and quick to read, you could try this one.

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