Novels in Verse for Poetry Month
National Poetry Month is coming up fast.
I never used to appreciate poetry. I blame it on the fact that very little poetry was in the curriculum at school—and that includes all the years from kindergarten through high school. I remember reading part of “The Courtship of Miles Standish” and we were required to memorize part of “Paul Revere’s Ride” (and overachiever that I was, I learned the whole thing—but I can only recite the first three verses now).
When studying for my master’s degree in library science, I focused on children’s and YA literature; that and my work in collection development at Mackin have exposed me to many new genres and formats. Giving the lie to the old adage about tricks and old dogs, I now enjoy poetry very much, including everything from picture books to novels in verse.
This year I’ve searched for novels in verse published in the last couple years, and here are a few of my favorites. If you don’t see your favorite, let me know in the comments. And check out my Connext post for a more comprehensive list of K-12 titles.
Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose. 9780399168109. 2015. Gr 4-7.
In 1587, Alis and her parents have journeyed from England to the New World near Roanoke Island, where tensions are high between the Roanoke Indians and the English colonists. Alis meets and becomes friends with Kimi, a Roanoke girl, despite their different languages. When blood is shed, Alis’s family decides to leave the area; but can Alis leave her friend?
Little Cat’s Luck by Marion Dane Bauer. 9781481424882. 2016. Gr 4-6.
As a gust of wind blows the fallen leaves, Patches the cat watches through the window. Noticing that the screen is loose, she climbs through and makes her way outside, wandering through the neighborhood, meeting other animals, and searching for a special place of her own. But this is not just a simple stroll: Patches is on a quest and there are dangers in the way.
Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen. 9781481411097. 2015. Gr 4-7.
After the only mother she ever knew is deported from China to Montana, Kara is sent to an orphanage for disabled children, because of her deformed hand. Her “mother,” a Caucasian, had found Kara abandoned and had stayed illegally in China to raise her. Kara’s future is in limbo; her Montana family desperately hopes to adopt her, but another family is trying to adopt her as well.
Free Verse by Sarah Dooley. 9780399165030. 2016. Gr 5-7.
Sasha is mourning the loss of almost everyone she loves: her mother, who walked out on the family; her father, who died in an accident in the coal mine; her brother, who was killed while fighting a fire. Now in a foster home, Sasha has shut out everyone. But two things—finding out that the neighbor boy is a distant cousin and joining a poetry club—help her to work through her feelings of grief and anger.
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton. 9780525428756. 2015. Gr 4-7.
As the Apollo 11 mission goes to the Moon, Mimi Yoshiko Oliver moves to Vermont. Half-black and half-Asian, Mimi feels out of place in this mostly Caucasian state. Mimi wants to follow her dreams, taking shop class instead of Home Ec in school and entering science competitions. She ultimately wants to become an astronaut, but how can she do that when she can’t even figure out what to answer on a form that asks for her race?
House Arrest by K.A. Holt. 9781452134772. 2015. Gr 6-9.
Sentenced to house arrest after impulsively stealing a wallet, Timothy is forced to keep a journal for the next year…and must stay out of trouble. Timothy had stolen the wallet to help his struggling family, and as he writes in his journal, he tries to work through his feelings.
You Can Fly : The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford. 9781481449380. 2016. Gr 5-8.
Follow the story of the young African American men who joined the U.S. Air Force during World War II only to be told that they would not be taught to fly planes. When the military wouldn’t train them, they learned aviation anyway through a civilian program at the Tuskegee Institute. Despite their skill and bravery in combat, these heroes still were the targets of racism after the war.
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger. 9780385391542. 2015. Gr 7-12.
In India in the future, parents have been able to select the gender of their children, resulting in a ratio of five boys for every girl. As a result, boys must vie for the hand of each eligible girl. Sudasa must watch eight boys compete in the trials and then choose which one she will marry. But Sudasa is not sure she wants to marry, and one of the contenders, a boy named Kiran, wishes only to escape the tests and his country’s oppression.
American Ace by Marilyn Nelson. 9780803733053. 2016. Gr 9-12.
After Connor’s grandmother died, Connor’s father discovered that he was not the biological son of her husband. Instead, his father was an American soldier who died during World War II. Connor’s father has become seriously depressed, but Connor is interested in the man who was his real grandfather. When he discovers that the soldier was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, Connor decides to research the Airmen for his history honors thesis. In free verse, Nelson describes Connor’s struggles with identity and family.
Audacity by Melanie Crowder. 9780399168994. 2015. Gr 9-12.
This novel in verse is based on the life of Clara Lemlich Shavelson, a Russian Jew who immigrated to New York. Fighting against anti-Semitism and gender discrimination, she fought for equal rights for women in the shirtwaist factories and in 1909 led the largest strike by women in American history, the Uprising of the 20,000.
Up from the Sea by Leza Lowitz. 9780553534757. 2016. Gr 9-12.
A biracial teen, Kai lost almost everything and everyone on the day the tsunami devastated Japan in March 2011. With his village all but destroyed, Kai is given the opportunity to travel to New York for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He meets other kids who experienced loss on that day and learns how they were able to keep going despite their grief. Kai also uses this trip to look for his estranged American father.
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