novel in verse

Home of the Brave

You know a book is special when find yourself continually stopping to record the words you have just read so you can sit with them a little longer and read them again some day. While most kids won’t have that urge, I believe this is a book they will love and remember.

Written as a novel in verse, Home of the Brave is easy to start and easy to finish. Following along with Kek as he journeys to America for the first time is truly a great adventure. Whether it is running a washing machine or going to the grocery store, Kek’s wonder at all he encounters will give you a fresh perspective and remind you how lucky we are.

Books that Quietly Change Culture

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic in children’s literature. Written in 1962, it was well-received from the get-go and even won the Caldecott Medal that year. Who can’t relate to the wonder of a fresh blanket of snow? The Snowy Day was also one of the first picture books to feature an African American child as the main character. Written in the midst of the Civil Rights movement this book quietly made a very important statement.

I read an article that ran on NPR on January 28, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of The Snowy Day) that shared one of the ways this book made an impact:

Moo

Moo by Sharon Creech fell somewhere in between a novel and a novel in verse to me. Regardless of how you classify it, it is a sweet, well-told story about an unlikely friendship which just happens to be one of my favorite kinds. 

It is the story of a city girl who moves to the country and enters into two out of the ordinary friendships:  one with her eccentric old neighbor and one with a cow. Along with new friendships, this is a story of taking risks, getting out of your comfort zone, and learning new things no matter your age. 

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai is my favorite novel in verse to date. I am amazed at how every free-verse poem has the ability to stand alone as a work of art, and yet shared together they link to tell a beautiful, heart-filled, stick-with-you kind of story.

This is the story of a young girl and her family who flee wore-torn Vietnam. They leave on a boat and eventually make their way to America where a family in Arkansas takes them in. 

5 (or more) Novels in Verse that Will Make you Fall in Love with the Genre

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. 

Full Cicada Moon

Full Cicada Moon is a book that inspires courage. As astronauts take their first step on the moon, Mimi has her first day at an all new predominantly white school. The book follows Mimi’s first year in Vermont as she tries to make friends, fit in and find her place. 

This novel in verse is full of important themes and ideas I want my kids to think about:

  • What does courage look like?
  • How we treat people matters.
  • People are so much more than a “race” so take the time to get to know them. 

An Ode to the Novel in Verse

April is National Poetry month, and I plan to pay homage to this distinction on the blog over the next few weeks. There will be at least one poetry book list, and several novel in verse recommendations.

Novel in Verse has become one of my favorite genres over the past few years. When done well, and there are many that nail it, I am always amazed at how the author can drive the story with a few perfectly chosen words.

I am really excited to share a few of my favorites, but for now I thought I'd have a little fun and try a bit of poetry myself. Below then, is my very own Ode to the Novel in Verse. 

Quick Picks: What I've Been Reading

You know that feeling when you finish a good book and you just want to tell someone about it?  I've got that feeling! They are books that don't quite fit any of the upcoming book lists that will be appearing on the blog. But, I can't wait to share them... so I won't. 

Below are four books I read over the past month and had to share now.

Eleven-year-old Boy Seeking Page-Turning, True-to-Life Stories

Drew is a eleven-year-old boy who loves to be outdoors. Some of his favorite things include:  nerf wars, exploring, rip-sticking and jumping on the trampoline. Drew doesn’t love reading, but he doesn’t hate it either. As his mom says, “he is growing in his like of it.” A slower reader by nature, Drew’s favorite books draw him in right away with a strong hook. He leans towards nonfiction and historical fiction and if a book looks too big or has too small of print he has a hard time starting it. 

Drew’s mom asked me for a few personalized picks. To help me help him, I asked Drew to share three of his favorite books and one he was not so crazy about. Here are his favorites:

10 Books to Celebrate and Learn from Black History

February is Black History month, and in my mind there is no better way to learn about and from history than through the power of story. From slavery to the civil rights movement, African Americans in our country have walked a road marked with hate and injustice. That said, I am reminded of a quote by Fred Rogers:  When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.

It's true. In the midst of tough and scary things, there are always helpers; and in the darkest times of African American history in our country, there were bold and brave, multi-colored helpers. 

Obviously, racial issues are still a struggle today. Reading stories of others who stood up to hate or were the target of it builds compassion in our kids. It opens the door to conversations that need to happen in our homes and in the larger world abroad. I hope this list of books is one that will help all of us seek to understand, help us to remember the past, and inspire us to continue to work towards healing and compassion in the future.  

A Book List for Dog Lovers who want the Dog to Live On.

There is nothing quite like a good dog story. Dogs are loyal and love unconditionally. They help their owners through tough times. They follow their kids everywhere and love them well. The problem is, so many of these books end with a dead dog. I will freely admit that I love a good cry at the end of a well-told story, but sometimes you just want to read about a dog who survives to love on. You want to close the book with warm fuzzies instead of cold, wet tears.  If you or your child can identify with this sentiment, the following list of dog stories is for you. 

A Wonder-like Book List (AKA Books that Inspire Kindness and Looking Beyond the Outward Appearance)

Have you read Wonder? In my world, the book is showing up everywhere. My book club read it over the summer. Teachers have been reading it to my kids in school. I often see it displayed prominently in book stores and libraries. And while the extra attention might have something to do with the movie (starring Julie Roberts and Owen Wilson) that is set to release into theaters on November 17th, this book is making an impact for a much better reason:  It's a well told story that inspires kindness in it's readers. If you or your kids haven’t read it, grab yourselves a copy and dig in!