The first time I pulled a novel in verse off the shelf, I opened it, saw that it looked like one long poem and quickly put it back. A year later I decided to give one a try and checked out a copy of Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. I quickly learned I had made a mistake by putting that book back on the shelf so long ago. After that, it did not take long for me to fall in love with the genre.
Most novels in verse contain well-crafted stories told through carefully chosen words. I am often amazed at how different authors utilize poetry, some through free verse and others through more structured forms of poetry to tell their stories. The novel in verse is also accessible to a wide variety of readers. Because of the large amount of white space on the page, they are relatively quick reads making them a good pick for avid and reluctant readers alike.
Below are five-is to get you started. Please add to the list in the comments. I am always on the look out for more.
A creative and fun-to-read story (with equally fun illustrations) about a boy who can’t wait to go fishing with his dad, that is, until his little sister invites herself along. So many different types of poetry are used to tell this story, and tell it well. This is a great book for younger readers, although older ones will enjoy it too. And if you close the book and wish there was more, Gone Camping by the same author would be a great next pick. My son loved these books!
Readers 6 and up
This story is told through the eyes of young Vietnam boy adopted by an American family. Veterans of the war play a roll in this story as well as baseball. Well told and poignant, as an adoptive parent this book was especially tender and meaningful. The author wrote this story with the purpose of providing a character boys can relate to and I think she did that well. One of my older boys read this book and would echo my recommendation. He said at times he thought it was a little hard to follow, but when he finished the book, he liked it.
Readers 12 and up
Crossover is about two brothers who play basketball. It is a well-told story with a beat that makes it hard to put down. I listened to the audible version and it was a gem. I’ve also read Booked by Alexander, a soccer story told in verse. Crossover is my favorite of the two, but both have merit. The main characters these books are of the junior high persuasion and I would tend to recommend them to readers who fall within that age group.
(Spoiler alert: Crossover ends with a sad twist so if you have sensitive readers you might want to take that into consideration.)
Bonus: the author just released his newest novel in verse entitled Rebound that goes back in time to tell the story of the boys' (from Crossover) father Chuck "Da Man" Bell. I haven't read it yet, but I can't wait to pick it up.
Readers 10 and up
Historical fiction about a young slave girl and her family who run away to live deep in the swamp. Although there has been much written on slave history, this was a small part that I had never heard before. This is a unique and beautifully told story that I would highly recommend. A great book for mid-upper elementary readers and beyond.
Readers 9 and up
Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiographical account of the author’s growing up years in both the North and South during the 50s and 60s. It is a coming-of-age and a coming-of-author story that resonated with me and was hard to put down. This is one of those books that allows you to walk a bit in another's shoes, and it is a journey worth taking.
Readers 10 and up
And because there are just so many good titles to pick from in this genre, here are a few more quick picks that you can read more about on Amazon by following the links below:
What would you add to the list? I'd love to hear about your favorite novels in verse in the comments!
(PS Reader age recommendations are just that, recommendations. I list them, oftentimes pulled right off of Amazon, to give you a general guide.)
(PPS All links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you like what you read here, using these links is a small way you can support the blog. Thank you!)