A Handful of Verse Novels

I love verse novels. Verse novels use poetry, rather than prose, to tell their stories, and like graphic novels (and plain old prose novels, for that matter) they can tell just about any story imaginable, crossing genres, styles, tones and levels. Here are just a few of my favourite verse novels, which might serve as a good starting point for readers that are new to the format.

Enjoy!

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Booked by Kwame Alexander

I’ve recently written a full review of this fantastic verse novel on my own blog so I’ll keep this brief – Kwame Alexander writes verse novels for readers who think that poetry is stuffy, boring, or, worst of all “girly”. His stories weave together rap, sports, urban settings and real, likeable characters to create verse novels that just might turn sceptics into believers.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

This beautiful, profound, deeply moving novel tells the story of a young girl Vietnamese girl as she adjusts to her new life after both a traumatic move to a new country, and the potential loss of a beloved family member. Inside Out & Back Again is the first verse novel I read, and I can thank it for providing such an elegant introduction to this versatile genre.

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brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This is another title that I’ve written about previously, but I simply couldn’t create a list of verse novels without including this breathtaking title. Woodson reflects on her childhood growing up first in the American South, and later in New York City, and presents a moving, inspiring account of strength, growth, identity and self-discovery. A must, must read.

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Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

Love That Dog is a perfect choice for young readers who think they hate poetry, because Jack, our young protagonist, hates poetry too! But when he’s forced by his teacher to write poetry, Jack realises that poetry might just help him express himself in an entirely new way. A sweet, gentle story that you just can’t help but love.

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Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins

Who knew that poetry and nonfiction could blend so beautifully together? This verse novel introduces Maria Merian, Mary Anning and Maria Mitchell, three women who broke with social norms and expectations and helped further scientific knowledge and understanding.

This is absolutely just the tip of the verse novel iceberg, and there is likely a perfect title out there for just about anyone! What are some of your favourite verse novels for young people?

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Dog-Eared: May 2017

Dog-Eared: May 2017

Roseanne Cash reads “Power” by Adrienne Rich at last month’s The Universe in Verse. With Check Please! creator Ngozi Ukazu’s official launch of Check Please! Year Two in print at TCAF this month (Toronto Comic Arts Festival), what could be more fitting than new interviews and podcast interviews? Plus, a new website, if tumblr isn’t your thing. On […]

What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned by Sherman Alexie

What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned by Sherman Alexie

Paperback, 156 pages Published November 12th 2013 by Hanging Loose Press Source: Library Sherman Alexie is better known for his amazing novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian but just as popular among the older set are his poems. I managed to hunt down and read What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned and […]

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Paperback, 169 pages Published October 7th 2014 by Graywolf Press Source: Raincoast Books “because white men can’t police their imagination black men are dying” I don’t quite know how to talk about Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. The collection of short pieces that focus prominently on racism (both systemic and explicit) and the fight against it feels blisteringly angry, […]