Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems






Swimming Upstream:
Middle School Poems
by Kristine O'Connell George
Illustrations by Debbie Tilley
CLARION BOOKS  A Houghton Mifflin Imprint
Ages 9 to 11

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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 Illustrator Debbie Tilley's Great Illustration Adventure
...funny, creative, wonderful!


Award-winning poet Kristine O’Connell George, author of several successful picture books, now turns her attention to the middle school experience. The first year brings an array of challenges: making new friends, moving from class to class, tests and homework, changing for PE, gossip, school dances, and, of course, budding romance. Short, accessible poems in a variety of forms, but all in a single voice—that of a new middle schooler—evoke the memorable moments of the school year, exploring situations and emotions that will resonate with preteens. Lively illustrations complement this perceptive, humorous, poignant record of an important transitional year.


Swimming Upstream
     in the Classroom

   Teacher guides for Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems


     Companion Guide                  Discussion Guide

Listen to a few the sixty-five poems that tell the story of a girl's first year of middle school. See Poetry Aloud! to listen to more poetry.

NOTE: Your audio will play once the white ring circles the player.

The Amazing Middle School Poetry Quest Winning students' poems from one of my Internet contests.
Middle School Musings  Students from 24 states and Great Britain offered sage advice to new middle schoolers in this Internet project
Use the video on Poetry is a Moment in Time as inspiration along with Tips for Poets: Observation too help your students write about their own middle school experiences.




Honors & Reviews

World Book Encyclopedia Outstanding Collection
IRA/CBC Children's Choice
Rose Diaz Pinon Collection
Nominated for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Master List,
South Carolina Book Award, William Allen White,
Louisiana Young Reader's Choice

"Readers facing this upstream swim can get their feet wet here, and those toweling themselves off afterwards will find much they can relate to in this engaging volume." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Sweet and on key." Booklist

"Poems capture the myriad worries, minicatastrophes, and highs and lows of the first year of middle school." World Book Encyclopedia - Outstanding Poetry Collection 2002

Gr 4-7 "...a sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous, and always engaging journey of self-discovery, illustrated with amusing artwork." School Library Journal Curriculum Connections

"From humorous to angst-ridden, this collection offers verses that will captivate your pre-teen." Scholastic.com

"This luminous voice is a real winner..." Adventures for Kids

"Grade 4-7 "Middle school, with all its trials, tribulations, and triumphs, is portrayed humorously and poignantly through the eyes of one girl...from making new friends and a first crush to teasing, gossip, and a bully who may not be so tough after all...Students will relate to this voice navigating "upstream," while they try to find their own place in the middle-school wilderness." School Library Journal

"The language is brisk and witty, highlighting many questions important to middle graders: Where do I fit in? Am I up to the challenge? How can I make it through the whole year?" Instructor Magazine

"Kristine O'Connell George recalls middle school with bittersweet clarity. Using a variety of verse styles the poems reveal a range of topics... This collection speaks of small moments (hall passes) and large moments (discovering other students' problems) and all the moments in between. The truthful simplicity of the poetry, illustrated by Debbie Tilley, will resonate with anyone who has experienced middle school or junior high." Reading Teacher

"[George] writes of lockers and lunches, new friends and typical experiences, as she tracks a child's first year of middle school. She invites readers stepping across that (or any) threshold to embrace change: "Where do I fit? / Nothing is clear. / Can already tell / this will be / a jigsaw year" becomes, in "Long Jump," "I can do anything. / All I need / is a running start," and by "Last Day of School," "I am shining / from the inside out." [A] growing sense of self-confidence, a promise of good things to come calculated, and apt, to buoy up young grammar school graduates." Kirkus

"George's pithy free verse is a pass in and out of the hallways of a tricky 'tween year... this book of poems reads more like finding a secret insider's binder full of small distractions and successes. Any middle-schooler reading this will feel less alone, and any adult reading this will remember the days. A graceful gathering of thoughts, and booklovers, don't miss the tiny treasure of a poem "School Librarian" tucked inside!
Esmé Raji Codell Planet Esmé

"George's poems take the reader smack into the anxiety of a sixth-grade school student ... Amusing black-and-white illustrations by Debbie Tilley ... capture the real look of a middle school and its students wonderfully." Post-Gazette

"This collection of poems, affirms the status, albeit sometimes shaky, of the middle school student: worried about new friends, homework, the combination lock; giddy and silly, but with an awakening concern not only about self but also for others—the slow student, the stutterer, friends, snobs, and did her report on the teen-aged martyr, Joan of Arc, do her justice. George captures the humorous, the humdrum, and poignant events in the lives of ordinary middle school youngsters."
Mary Hurlburt Cordier, Associate Professor Emerita, College of Education, Western Michigan University.

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