Thursday, 18 August 2016
PF tag

Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads is our Poetry Friday host today. Stop by her blog for all of this week’s poetry links.

Happy Poetry Friday, writerly friends! It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post. Let’s catch up on news.

First, I finished drafting my next middle grade novel (my excuse for not blogging). More info on that to come.

Second, I have a few articles to share. Check out educator David Ruby’s post about how Sharon Creech’s verse novel LOVE THAT DOG changed him from a poetry hater to a poetry lover, and transformed his teaching. The post is here. And there’s this essay, about the importance of creative writing in the classroom.

Third, it’s a big week in the Shovan family. Pass the tissues… our eldest is leaving for his second year of college. A few days after the great departure, my husband and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

Last bit of news: Extra copies of THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY audiobook are in my hot little hands. I’m giving away two of the cast recording (9 amazing actors — thanks, Recorded Books!) on Goodreads. This is where you can enter.


Find it at Indiebound.

I’ve been reading a lot this summer, but we haven’t visited my bookshelf since June. Let’s check out a book and see if we can figure out a poem to pair with it.

I admit to being a scaredy cat when it comes to books with tough themes. It took me forever to open up the pages of THE HUNGER GAMES (loved it). I was reluctant to read Madeleine Kuderick’s YA verse novel KISS OF BROKEN GLASS because deals with teenage self-harm (loved this book too). So I had to work up my courage to read debut YA author Marisa Reichardt’s novel UNDERWATER.

It’s about Morgan, a former competitive swimmer who has become agoraphobic, never leaving her family’s apartment. What changed for this high schooler? She is a school shooting survivor.

Do not fear, fellow softies. UNDERWATER focuses on how Morgan goes from being disabled by her anxiety and PTSD, through her first baby steps into recovery, to a place where she begins to integrate her old self and the person she has become. And Morgan is funny. Her voice is self-deprecating and awkward, full of pain and guilt, but also capable of love for her younger sibling and her mother. She forms a new friendship with the boy who moves in next door, who has secrets of his own. What makes this book such a powerful read is the way Morgan’s voice changes gradually from hopeless to hopeful.

I have been wanting to post about this book for a long time, in part because I have the *perfect* thing to pair with it. Not a poem this time, but song lyrics. (High-five to my musical theater lovers.) You’ll find a clip at the at the end of this post.

UNDERWATER published in January, 2016. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

“Forgiving you will allow me to forgive myself.”

Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Recommended for seventh grade and up.

Who will like it?

  • Anyone who likes realistic YA novels with a compelling first-person voice.
  • Teens who are interested in how people cope with trauma.
  • Kids who are dealing with anxiety.

What will readers learn about?

  • What it’s like to experience agoraphobia and how it might be treated.
  • How a traumatic event might affect a teenager.
  • Anxiety may fade, but it doesn’t always go away. People can learn coping mechanisms, but may experience flare-ups over time.

The song I’m pairing with UNDERWATER is “What Would I Do If I Could Feel?” from The Wiz. Ne-yo’s amazing performance of this song on “The Wiz Live!,” is so expressive. As the Tin Man, he tells us how he longs to experience human emotions, something that Marisa’s character Morgan feels is beyond her reach in UNDERWATER. (I need to continue researching, but I believe Charles Smalls wrote the lyrics.)

If you’d like to read the lyrics, you’ll find them here. I ended up buying The Wiz Live cast recording — highly recommended.

What else is on Laura’s Bookshelf?
THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH’S, by Lee Gjertsen Malone (6/16/16)
SWORD AND VERSE, by Kathy MacMillan (5/22/16)
GENESIS GIRL, by Jennifer Bardsley (4/13/16)

TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, by Shari Schwarz (3/31/16)

THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY, by Janet Sumner Johnson (3/25/16)

THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, by Heidi Heilig (3/10/16)

THE DISTANCE FROM A TO Z, by Natalie Blitt (1/19/16)

COUNTING THYME, by Melanie Conklin (12/31/15)

FENWAY AND HATTIE, by Victoria J. Coe (12/24/15)


PAPER WISHES, by Lois Sepahban (11/19/15)

THE GIRL WHO FELL, by S. M. Parker (11/5/15)

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN, by Jeff Garvin (10/29/15)

SHALLOW GRAVES, by Kali Wallace (10/1/15)

MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, by Brooks Benjamin (7/22/15)

17 responses to “Laura’s Bookshelf: Underwater”

  1. Tabatha says:

    Hi Laura! I am also a scaredy cat, so I appreciate hearing that it’s “safe” to read 🙂 I will definitely get my hands on it. Thanks!

  2. Liz says:

    I think I might be brave and give it a try. I need to get lost somewhere else. We’re sending our oldest to his first year of college. : ) I have a poem about it over on my blog. So great, as always, to visit with you.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Liz. I’m about to send my 19-year-old back for year two. I am with you in spirit. From this point on, every hello is temporary, every goodbye is a challenge.

  3. What great books. I have to work myself up to the hard issues in books, too.

  4. Linda Baie says:

    This was already on my wish list, perhaps from you earlier? It does sound good, & you’re right about the song, matches well. How hard it is to move forward from a tragedy! I have a few others from your list, too, will note the others, Laura. Thanks!

  5. Tara says:

    Big days at the Shovan house, Laura! And good for you about finishing that draft…bravo and hoorays!

  6. I love knowing there’s full-cast audio of Last Fifth! We listened to The War That Saved My Life last spring, while reading it on the SmartBoard via Kindle. I think I’ll wrap that practice around to the first read aloud of this year! We’re starting on Monday! YAY!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      I listened to THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE in the car. I absolutely loved it! Can’t wait to share it with my mom, who was born at the end of the war in England.

      Looking forward to hearing from you and your students about your LAST FIFTH GRADE real aloud, Mary Lee.

  7. How nice to visit here this weekend, Laura. It feels like it’s been not just too long, but entirely too long.

    I also loved Madeleine’s KISS OF BROKEN GLASS, though I’ve chosen to pass on HUNGER GAMES. (I decided the first movie was enough after my son filled me in on what happens in subsequent books.) I do look forward to reading UNDERWATER, though, and I’m sure your bookshelf could satisfy my reading needs for some time!

  8. Doraine says:

    Happy anniversary! Enjoy your day. Celebrate that son being on his way! I am much like you on hard books, but this one sounds like it’s worth working up to.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      It is definitely worth it, Dori. I wouldn’t call SPEAK a comparable title as far as plot and themes go, but it is comparable in the way the author handles a traumatic situation with humor, grace, and hope.

  9. Welcome back, Laura! Such a long list TBR…I’m thinking I need to read at least just ONE more book this summer…but what? What’s your favorite read-aloud for beginning second-graders? I know many that I want to return to this year, but still looking for the perfect first chapter book for new 2nds. Can’t wait to hear about your new project!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Heidi, I love Mary Amato’s younger middle grade books. THE RIOT BROTHERS is a gentler and just as funny option for those who are a little squeamish about the Captain Underpants book. And her PLEASE WRITE IN THIS BOOK is a wonderful early MG about a class learning to get along through a shared notebook. One of my favorites.

  10. Working up my courage to read several of the titles you highlighted (the self harm one especially due to recent family events). I’ve put Underwater on my TBR list as well. *deep breaths*
    Congrats to your son as he embarks on year 2 at college and congrats on you and your husband’s anniversary. =)

  11. […] Brooks Benjamin (7/22/15) *** YA Novels THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES, by Rebecca Podos (8/25/16) UNDERWATER, by Marisa Reichardt (8/18/16) SWORD AND VERSE, by Kathy MacMillan (5/22/16) GENESIS GIRL, by […]

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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