Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems, by Kristine O’Connell George

Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems. By Kristine O’Connell George.  Illustrated by Debbie Tilley.  Clarion Books, 2002.  80 pages. $14.00

Content: Poems in this book tell a story of a young girl’s first year of middle school, beginning with the angst-filled first day of 6th grade to the happy last day of school. Familiar topics for tweens abound: first crush, where to sit in the lunchroom, how to change for gym class without being seen, passing notes, science class, etc.  The poems take difference forms, some long and some short, haiku and some with a rhythm like a song.  Light and witty, real and expressive, these middle school poems will ring true for many.

Review: A cute selection of poems and black and white cartoon-like illustrations are a fun read for middle schoolers and their parents (who will remember many of the sentiments expressed).  Illustrations portray a multi-cultural student body; though there are no direct references to race or ethnicity in the poetry.  Sprinkled throughout the book are periodic short poems that speak to the protagonist’s attempts at flute playing out of which she is ultimately able to make a sound.  A progression of events, both happy and anxiety-filled, throughout the year make this book an enjoyable and honest read.

Genre(s): Poetry

Reading/Interest Level: 8-12 years

Available in: Hardcover

ISBN: 978-0618152506

Similar Books: Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou, Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost, Wachale!: Poetry and Prose about Growing Up Latino, Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People, Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes

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