I am afraid I can’t remember who in the Slice of Life community wrote about this book of poems, but I am thankful. Swimming Upstream by Kristine O’Connell George was the perfect way to end our recent poetry unit. My sixth graders are in the final days of their elementary school lives, soon to shift to the huge regional middle and high school building.
They have a lot of anxiety about friendships, lockers, finding classrooms, new teachers, and the social pressures that come from being a middle school student. This book of poems – small verses for the most part — was a perfect way to address some of those anxieties and also, provide a way to talk about what comes next for them. With themes built around the narrator’s own navigation of middle school, George’s poems felt authentic in feeling and emotion.
The book does what good poetry should do: it brought to the surface much of what goes unsaid in the mind of the reader. I read this book out loud, letting the words and stanzas sink in, and the classes were quiet and thoughtful.
Swimming Upstream was a nice bookend text, too, as we began our poetry unit with a Poem for Four Voices by Paul Fleischman (from the book Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices) entitled Seventh Grade Soap Opera, which has a neat twist to its weaving voices, and brought to the surface some of the same social navigation waters as does George’s book.
Perhaps poems will help get them ready.
Peace (the next step forward),