Monday, March 23, 2015

Aww, Books in Verse, Really? (Really!)

Being an inveterate laugher-at-rip-roaring-burps-and-other-bodily-noises, poetry elicits a certain je ne sais quoi for me, an existential analysis, a shall we say ...


I mean, there's neither rhyme nor reason to poetry! Okay, I guess there's rhyme. Fine, there's reason too! And it turns out that there are some spectacular MG books written in verse. Here are three I (picked up begrudgingly but) really enjoyed:


Man oh man was I worried as I started this. I love shooting hoops, watching games, following the NBA draft, and playing fantasy basketball. Don't mess up one of my sources of joy, Mr. Alexander and the Newbery Committee!

Thankfully, they didn't. Boys get their fair share of smack talking, ballers breaking ankles with killer crossovers, all the while secretly getting a dose of poetry. Sneaky!

A well-told story, interesting characters, and the format actually makes it even more appealing because of the efficient selection of words. Took very little time to get through.


You know when you start up a movie and SUBTITLES pop up? And you smile at your wife and pretend how nice it is to have a cultured evening in, all the while wishing something on the screen would explode already?

You don't? Er, never mind.

Anyway, the language Lai uses is so pretty, it flows like water through a curving maze of tubes, all joining at the last page. I was hooked from page one. Well, maybe page two.

There are many stories about immigrants moving to America, focusing on their struggles, but this one stands out head and shoulders above.


This one took me a few tries to get into, as not only did it have the poetry strike against it, but it had the potential to be about ISSUES! The only thing I want less from an MG book than being talked to about "something important" is to have poetry give me a talking to. Boo! Adieu!

Really glad I stuck with it, as FREAKBOY opened my eyes to a world I knew little to nothing about, a guy struggling with gender identification issues. Perhaps if all kids read more books like this, there would be a lot more compassion in the world.

Not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination, but SO well worth it.

Curious. Perhaps deep down inside I'm a poet but don't know that.


  1. Most importantly, most readers in the target demographic don't like novels in verse! Why, why, why do people keep writing them? The Crossover is an exception, certainly. It made sense to have the story told in verse. Most novels in verse are just chopped up prose. I'm glad you found some that you liked.

  2. Reading a book in verse gives me such a different experience with the words. The way the verse builds and falls is like riding on waves! My favorite verse read lately is BLUE BIRDS by Caroline Starr Rose, the story of two girls at the time of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

  3. Thanks for this excellent blog post on verse novels. In addition to the 3 you mention, I love CAMINAR by Skila Brown. It's an amazing MG set in 1981 during the Guatemalan Civil War. The free verse helps readers experience the main character's haunting, emotional trauma without overwhelming them.

  4. Novels in verse are awesome! I've used Inside Out and Back Again with my students.


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