Tuesday, April 2, 2013

National Poetry Month: Verse Novels

April is National Poetry Month (also, according to one of my favorite poems, the cruelest month.) We'll be celebrating all month long, but to start with, here's a list of verse novels!


Street Love by Walter Dean Myers. In this one, we get to hear the voices of many characters. Damien has a house on Sugar Hill and a scholarship to Brown. Junice's mother has just been arrested and she's doing everything she can to keep her family together. We don't just see their relationship through their eyes, but also through the voices of their friends and family, neighbors, and even Junice's social worker.

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost. Frost's verse novels show the most craft and she uses form to an advantage. Crossing Stones is my favorite. Muriel graduates from high school in 1917. She has strong opinions and is caught between what she feels and wants, and what others expect her to be. Across the creek live her family's best friends. All members of the family are constantly traveling over the stones in the water, running back and forth between the houses. But when each family sends a son to the war, some things will never be the same. Once you finish it, read the author's note and she'll show you all the clues she buried in the form to tell you have the relationships between characters.

Orchards by Holly Thompson. After a classmate's suicide, bi-racial Kana Goldberg (half-Japanese, half-Jewish) is sent to Japan to spend the summer helping in her grandparents' orchards. There she must struggle to fit into a new culture and a family that doesn't understand her (or the size of her Russian-Jewish butt.)


Sold by Patricia McCormick. With the promise of a good job in the city, as a maid, Lakshmi's step-father sells her from their small Nepalese village. Only, they don't go to the city, but rather across the border into India, where she is sold two more times, ending up in a brothel as a child prostitute, where she will never be able to escape.

Under the Mesquite by by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Freshman year, Lupita's mother gets uterine cancer. Despite the fact that she's the oldest of eight, Lupita and her mother have a close relationship and it grieves her to see her vibrant and wonderful mother struggle with the disease. This verse novel follows Lupita through high school and beyond, and we see her and her family deal with her mother's illness

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff. Published in 1993 this is probably the first of the modern verse novel, but it doesn't seem dated at all. LeVaughn's entire life has been about keeping up the grades she'll need to get to college and trying to make the money for tuition. She gets a job baby-sitting for Jolly, a 17-year-old dropout with two kids.


The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle. Starting in 1850, when Rosa, a slave girl with healing knowledge, is lent out to the slave hunter and his son, this books follows her, the son (Lieutenant Death), and a complete cast of characters throughout the next 50 years as Cuba fights multiple wars in an attempt to win independence from Spain.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder. Ava's boyfriend Jackson is dead and Ava feels responsible, she's haunted by his death. Then, she's haunted by his ghost. It's hard to move on when he's right there, just out of sight, but leaving messages on the bathroom mirror and turning on the radio to your song.

What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones. Sophie isn't sure what she wants from a boy, but her thoughts trace her relationship with Dyland... and Chazz... and a mysterious boy who came to the Halloween dance dressed as Robin. Sophie has many of the hilarious and confusing emotions that come with being a teenager in loooooooooove.

We'll have lots more poetry through the month-- what are your favorite verse novels?

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