Not usually the easiest sell in an elementary or high school setting.
A verse novel, however….
Thankfully there plenty of amazing verse novels that are likely turn even the most sceptical young readers into poetry lovers. Just don’t tell them it’s poetry. Verse novel sounds so much cooler.
Kwame Alexander knows how to to connect with young readers. His poetry is fast-paced and gripping, and his stories tackle real-world issue that kids can immediately recognize and relate to. In this follow-up to his award-winning basketball-themed verse novel The Crossover, Alexander turns his attention to soccer. His 12-year-old protagonist Nick faces challenges on and off the field, including bullying, first romances, and family pressures. Did I mention there’s a rapping librarian in there, too? There’s a rapping librarian. It’s pretty sweet.
Brown Girl Dreaming / Jacqueline Woodson
In this poetic memoir, award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson shares her experiences growing up African-American in the American south in the 1960s. Elegant, sparse, lyrical text tells a powerful, touching story. A captivating and deeply moving verse novel.
A book of poetry about a boy who thinks he hates poetry, perfect for boys and girls who think they hate poetry. Jack hates poetry, convinced it’s wussy and girly, but his determined English teacher won’t take no for an answer. Forced to come up with his own poetry, Jack realizes that poetry is about more than just finding words that rhyme. An accessible, engaging introduction to verse novels.
The One and Only Ivan / Katherine Applegate
Ivan the gorilla has spent the last 27 years of his life living within a glass enclosure in a shopping mall, about as far from his natural environment as he could be. His comfortable life is turned upside down when Ruby, a baby elephant captured from the wild, arrives as the newest addition to the shopping mall family. Told from Ivan’s perspective, this gentle, breathtakingly lovely little verse novel is a the perfect title to share with people who sneer as children’s books, or who roll their eyes at the thought of a verse novel.
Inside Out and Back Again / Thanhha Lai
So….I’m a big sap. I pretend to be a cynic, but let’s face it, I cry at schmultzy heart-warming credit card commercials.
I cried while reading brown girl dreaming, I cried while reading The One and Only Ivan, and yes, I cried while reading Inside Out and Back Again. A semi-autobiographical memoir about growing up as an immigrant following the Vietnam war, Inside Out and Back Again follows a young Vietnamese girl named Hà as she adapts to life without her a father in a strange new country. Again, Lai accomplishes so much with so little, using spare, perfectly-chosen text to convey so much emotion.
So, the next time you want to introduce your readers to something a bit outside the box, or encourage them to read outside of their comfort zones, why not consider a verse novel?
I can’t imagine reading a verse novel. It feels so disjointed to me. But these are tempting. And I have the one and only Ivan and might pick this up soon.
You know, I felt the same way too, but there’s quite a variety of verse novels out there right now, so there’s lots of different styles, formats and themes. Hopefully there’s one out there for you! :)
Maybe. I’ll try out Ivan first. Maybe I’ll like that. :)