Poetry Friday – A Handful of Verse Novels

poetry

Happy Friday, friends! This week I thought I’d share with you a short list of some of my favourite verse novels for young people. Verse novels use poetry, rather than prose, to tell their stories, and like graphic novels (and plain old prose novels, for that matter) can tell just about any story imaginable, crossing genres, styles, tones and levels. These graphic novels are by no means the only ones available, or even necessarily the best ones, they’re just a few of my favourites that might serve as a good starting point for readers that are new to the format.

Enjoy!

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Booked by Kwame Alexander

I’ve already written a full review of this fantastic verse novel, so I’ll keep this brief – Kwame Alexander writes verse novels for readers who think that poetry is stuffy, boring, or, worst of all “girly”. His stories weave together rap, sports, urban settings and real, likeable characters to create verse novels that just might turn sceptics into believers.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

This beautiful, deeply moving novel tells the story of a young girl Vietnamese girl as she adjusts to her new life after both a traumatic move to a new country, and the potential loss of a beloved family member. Inside Out & Back Again is the first verse novel I read, and I can thank it for providing such an elegant introduction to this versatile genre.

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brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This is another title that I’ve written about previously, but I simply couldn’t create a list of verse novels without including this breathtaking title. Woodson reflects on her childhood growing up first in the American South, and later in New York City, and presents a moving, inspiring account of strength, growth, identity and self-discovery. A must, must read.

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Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

Love That Dog is a perfect choice for young readers who think they hate poetry, because Jack, our young protagonist, hates poetry too! But when he’s forced by his teacher to write poetry, Jack realises that poetry might just help him express himself in an entirely new way. A sweet, gentle story that you just can’t help but love.

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Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins

Who knew that poetry and nonfiction could blend so beautifully together? This verse novel introduces Maria Merian, Mary Anning and Maria Mitchell, three women who broke with social norms and expectations and helped further scientific knowledge and understanding.

This is absolutely just the tip of the verse novel iceberg, and there is likely a perfect title out there for just about anyone! What are some of your favourite verse novels for young people?

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15 Comments

  • Reply maryleehahn

    The “tip of the verse novel iceberg,” indeed! These are favorites, but I’d have to include Gone Fishing, Gone Camping, and the three books in the Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie series. (I have a whole SHELF of verse novels in my classroom!!)

    June 9, 2017 at 10:33 am
  • Reply cvarsalona

    Jane, thank you for sharing the titles, some of which I own and other for the TBR list. Have a great day. (I know I asked before but do you have any photos of springtime in Japan to share on my gallery?)

    June 9, 2017 at 5:49 pm
  • Reply lindabaie

    I love each one of these, Jane, plus those that Mary Lee mentioned, and Laura Shovan’s The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Wow, recently there are so many wonderful ones. I’m glad you celebrated them today!

    June 9, 2017 at 7:30 pm
  • Reply Linda Mitchell

    Rockstar verse novels, all of them! Wonderful list. If anyone is just starting to read verse novels….start here!

    June 9, 2017 at 9:27 pm
  • Reply jama

    Wonderful list! Brown Girl Dreaming is sublime, as is Margarita Engle’s Enchanted Air (though both are considered memoirs in verse, rather than novels, I think).

    June 9, 2017 at 10:32 pm
  • Reply mbhmaine

    I love Gone Fishing and intend to get my hands on Gone Camping as soon as I can manage to do so. I’m going to have to check out Finding Wonders and the Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie series as well! I can’t wait to see what books others recommend.

    June 9, 2017 at 10:48 pm
  • Reply Violet N.

    At Poetry Camp in Bellingham last October, I heard Stephanie Hemphill talk about writing Your Own, Sylvia, her verse novel about Sylvia Plath. I read it. It’s amazing. My son’s girlfriend, who loves Plath’s poetry also enjoyed it immensely… good for YA and up. Another verse novel I enjoyed was Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones.

    June 10, 2017 at 1:42 am
  • Reply Kay McGriff (@kaymcgriff)

    Love the three of these that I’ve read, and I’m eager to read Brown Girl Dreaming and Finding Wonders. I also love the verse novels by Helen Frost–she has several excellent ones.

    June 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm
  • Reply haitiruth

    Well, I’ve read four of your five, so I’ll have to look for the fifth now! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    June 10, 2017 at 1:04 pm
  • Reply dmayr

    Love that Dog is a favorite with kids! As is the companion Hate that Cat.

    June 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm
  • Reply Brenda Davis Harsham

    Fabulous list. Such a delicious offering, like a plate of petit fours at tea.

    June 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm
  • Reply Robyn Hood Black

    A great collection here, Jane – and I love several mentioned in the comments, too. And anything by Helen Frost.

    June 10, 2017 at 4:16 pm
  • Reply Carmela Martino

    Well, I’ve read three of the five. The other two are on my TBR list, especially the J. Atkins book. Thanks for sharing!

    June 10, 2017 at 7:56 pm
  • Reply Tabatha

    Terrific list!! My kids were crazy about “Love That Dog.”

    June 11, 2017 at 10:42 pm
  • Reply Matt Forrest Esenwine

    You certainly picked some good ones to share, Jane! One of my favorites is Margarita Engle’s “Hurricane Dancers,” which was the first verse novel I ever read…it’s easy to read for those who are just getting into poetry or verse novels, but riveting!

    June 12, 2017 at 12:02 am
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