To celebrate National Poetry Month this year, I decided to turn my reading list into a verse novel-a-thon, and I can happily report that it was an even more amazing experience than I had hoped. What stories! What voices! What magnificent, gorgeous writing!
As a Rilke scholar and Poetry Editor at YARN, I of course love poetry. I’ve read and loved some fantastic verse novels in the past, among them BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson, THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander, and AND WE STAY by Jenny Hubbard, to name a few.
At YARN this month, we chatted with two verse novelists, Leza Lowitz and Dana Walrath, who also shared some of their beautiful work. Reading their novels definitely inspired me to read more novels in verse, so you can find more about them in my recommended reading list below. This is by no means a complete list! But if you’ve never read a verse novel before, one of these might be a good start.
UP FROM THE SEA by Leza Lowitz is a haunting tale about the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan told from a teen boy’s perspective.
LIKE WATER ON STONE by Dana Walrath uses multiple points of view to share a family’s heartbreaking journey during the Armenian genocide.
AUDACITY by Melanie Crowder pulls the reader deep in the head of a striking factory worker at the turn of the 20th century with amazingly visceral details.
SKYSCRAPING by Cordelia Jensen is a gorgeous near-historical set in NYC about AIDS, guilt, love, and family.
WITNESS by Karen Hesse is another multi-POV story for middle-grade readers that takes a serious look at the KKK in a small Vermont town in 1924.
MAY B by Caroline Starr Rose is a beautifully-written middle-grade historical that appeals to Little House fans (with a bit of Home Alone mixed in).
CAMINAR by Skila Brown tells the heart-wrenching story of a boy who survives an attack on his village in war-torn Guatemala.
ORCHARDS by Holly Thompson sends the reader on a journey with a teenage girl to her family’s orchard in Japan after a bullied girl in her class kills herself.
A TIME TO DANCE by Padma Venkatraman is a beautiful story about a bharatanatyam dancer’s healing process when she loses her leg in a tragic accident.
Having read all these fantastic novels has not dampened my enthusiasm in the slightest for verse, as is probably evident by my current TBR stack. Can’t wait to make my way through these ones next!
Please feel free to add any other must-reads in the comments!
7 thoughts on “Verse Novel-a-thon”
After reading the interview on YARN, I added LIKE WATER ON STONE to my pile — looking forward to it! I also have SKYSCRAPING in my pile (still! I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while).
Five verse novels I recommend are in this post on Clear Eyes Full Shelves — http://cleareyesfullshelves.com/blog/five-recommended-verse-novels. For sure check out PAPER HEARTS if you haven’t read it yet. 🙂 Also, not in that post but also among my faves, OCTOBER MOURNING and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN.
Oooh, thanks for that link. I loved PAPER HEARTS and ENCHANTED AIR but haven’t read the others on that list!
Thanks for sharing. I’m not familiar with some of these.
Thanks for the recommendations! I love Karen Hesse and WITNESS was my first KH book. Sharon Creech’s HEARTBEAT is my top novel-in-verse.
Oooh, haven’t read HEARTBEAT! I’ll have to pick that up. Thanks for the rec!
Hi — I love your reading list! I love Terry Farish’s The Good Braider on your pile, and was going to suggest adding Home of the Brave, which also deals with Sudanese immigrants for a somewhat younger audience — interesting to compare. I see Shari, above, mentions Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, which is not always categorized as verse, but is certainly spare, so might be. She also mentions October Mourning — Leslea’s book is interesting (beside of course being sad) in that she plays with a lot of verse forms, and talks about these in notes at the back, so that’s a plus for writers. Enjoy!