Friday, July 8, 2016

Join up for Poetry Friday! Novels in Verse


It's been exactly a year since I first hosted the Poetry Friday Roundup, and I am so thrilled to be a part of this great community! (For the curious, click here to see last year's linkup.)

Quick introduction: My name is Katie, and I am a language arts and social studies teacher in Wisconsin. I have taught third and fourth grade for many years and am making the big jump up to middle school this fall (yikes!). I have been holding weekly Poetry Friday time with my students for several years now, and it is one of my favorite things about teaching. I am very much looking forward to exploring weekly poetry with my middle schoolers as well. (Tips and leads much appreciated!) You can read more on my thoughts about The Power of Poetry Friday here.

The Novel as Poetry


The novel-as-poetry has a long, long history that predates written books, back when stories and tales were meant to be sung or whispered around the fire. Poetry, rhyme, and meter aided in the memorization of such stories, as they spread through repetition.

Nowadays there seems to be a renaissance of the idea of the poem as novel, but rather than the epic poems of great battles and heroes, many of today's novels in verse for children feature a range of free-verse expressions and imaginative use of words and imagery.

As part of my preparation for teaching middle school next year, I am working to familiarize myself with the literature of Latin America and East Asia (the Social Studies regions of focus for the year). One of my most recent reads along these lines is The Poet Slave of Cuba: a biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Sean Qualls [winner of the Pura Belpré and Américas Awards].


Poetry is the perfect vessel to convey the early life of Juan Francisco Marzano, born into slavery in Cuba, who overcame his lack of education and many hardships to become an admired poet.

Right from the beginning, this novel surrounds you with the power of poetry:

"Poetry cools me, syllables calm me
I read the verses of others
the free men
and know
that I'm never alone

Poetry sets me aflame
I grow furious
dangerous, a blaze
of soul and heart, a fiery tongue
a lantern at midnight" (page 4).

The story is told through poems in Juan's voice as well as those of other characters around him, providing addition insights and perspectives. There are many disturbing events related to slavery and the treatment of slaves in this story, making it suitable for older readers. The back matter includes more historical information about Juan, as well as selections of his actual poetry (both in the original Spanish and translated into English by the author).

Other Novels in Verse

  • May B. a Novel by Caroline Starr Rose is a novel-in-verse set during pioneer times in the US featuring a character with struggles with dyslexia.
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse is set during the Dust Bowl in the southern/western US and portrays the hardships of the time period.
  • Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton is a novel-in-verse set during all of 1969, following Mimi Yoshiko Oliver who had just moved to Vermont with her black father and Japanese -American mother.
  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhhà Lại shares the story of a young girl who must leave her home in Vietnam during the war and emigrates to America [Newbery Honor Book, National Book Award Winner].
  • Caminar by Skila Brown. This historical fiction novel in verse tells the story of young Carlos, living in 1981 in Guatemala. 
  • Heartbeat by Sharon Creech is the story of a 12-year old girl named Annie who loves to run but does not understand the appeal of a track team and who is working through her feelings about her grandfather's growing dementia and her mother's impending pregnancy. 
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a contemporary story that features the inside perspective of eighth grade Josh Bell. Josh and his twin brother are basketball stars and take after their father [Newbery Award Winner].
  • Booked by Kwame Alexander is a contemporary story told from the perspective of twelve-year old Nick Hall, an up-and-coming soccer star, plagued by his wordsmith father's book, Weird and Wonderful Words.
  • The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan is told through the collected poems of a class of students facing the imminent closure of their elementary school, as they learn about the power of the written and spoken word.

Memoirs in Verse

  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is an incredible memoir told in vivid poems that are rich with history and imagery [Newbery Honor, National Book Award Winner, Coretta Scott King Award Winner].
Do you have a favorite novels in verse?




Poetry Friday Linkup


Please keep checking back during the day for more poetry goodness - or get started now by jumping into the links and comments! (Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

I look forward to getting around and reading all your amazing poems and contributions. (Those sharing after Friday, it may take me some time, as I am off for #nErDcampMI shortly, whoo-hoo!)

Happy Poetry Friday!

** Apologies to participants from Australia: if you are having problems leaving a link in the linkup, please leave it in the comments, and I will be sure it gets added. **



42 comments:

  1. Have fun at #nErDcampMI, Katie, and thanks for hosting! Those are a great selection of Novels in Verse. The memoir, Enchanted Air, is one of my favorite books. So exciting to be switching to middle school, the birthplace of angst and snark. :-)

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    1. Ha ha, thanks Brenda. "Birthplace of angst and snark" love it!

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  2. Thank you so much for hosting this week and for sharing those wonderful verses from The Poet Slave of Cuba! I'm switching to teaching fourth grade after eight years in first and second and I have been contemplating how best to continue using poetry weekly in my classroom. I was delighted to dive into your past posts about your use of Poetry Friday! I'm sure I will come back to those and to your rich list of novels in verse again and again in the coming year. Thanks so much! Your enthusiasm was contagious and now rather than feeling daunted, I'm energized and excited!

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    1. Glad to share the enthusiasm, Molly! I loved teaching third and fourth grade, and I think fourth is a great year for being able to delve deeper into poetry and really have kids start expressing themselves. Good luck!

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  3. I'm sorry I'll miss you at this year's nErDCAMP -- I just couldn't make it happen (again) this year. Surely next year I'll be back!

    Your list of verse novels has LOTS of my favorites. A new one I just read is Falling Into the Dragon's Mouth by Holly Thompson. It is the story of an American boy in a Japanese school, and the bullying he encounters. It would be a powerful way to talk about being/treating a newcomer who is a second language learner and who doesn't know all the intricacies of a culture. I love Helen Frost's books. Salt, set in 1812, is a favorite, as is Crossing Stones, set in WWI. I love Gone Fishing by Tamara Will Wissinger because, like Laura Shovan's, she uses lots of poetry forms and then explains them in the back matter.

    Have fun in Middle School! I look forward to hearing how you stay true to your beliefs in the power of Poetry Friday!!

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    1. PS -- Thanks for hosting! A point of consideration for the future and for other upcoming hosts: it has come to my attention that the Australian members of our group can't see or join Inlinkz but they CAN do Mr. Linky. Maybe we could agree to use Mr. Linky so all can participate? They can find our posts with a google search, but it's not the same as being part of the roundup.

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    2. Thanks for the great suggestions, Mary Lee! I will definitely followup on those.

      I'm sorry for the confusion about inLinkz. I did a little looking on Google but couldn't find any information about an Australian issue. Hmm. I've added a note in-text above.

      Sorry to miss you at #nerdcampMI this year!

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    3. Thank-you for looking after us. For some reason, this week it worked. I'm glad to be back 'in' with the PoetryFriday crew. :)

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  4. Thank you for hosting, Katie!

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  5. Thanks for hosting, Katie, and for the wonderful list of books! Cross Over is on deck to be read this summer.

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    1. I LOVED Crossover! Hope you enjoy it, Keri!

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  6. Thanks so much for including THE LAST FIFTH GRADE with this list of verse novels, Katie. Other favorite verse novelists are Helen Frost and Ron Koertge.

    I'm interviewing Washington, DC based author Deborah Kalb today. She has a new middle grade novel about a boy who travels through time and visits George Washington. A George Washington poem from Justine Rowden's PAINT ME POEM would make a wonderful pairing with Deborah's book.

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    1. How fun, thanks for linking up! I really enjoyed The Last Fifth Grade and appreciated how you brought individuality to so many different voices!

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  7. I want to recommend Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott. World War II setting and definitely for an older audience, but very good.

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    1. Thanks, Diane! Will check that one out.

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  8. Thank-you for hosting, Katie. And thank-you Mary for spotlighting our issue with InLinkz. Tabatha was so lovely, emailing the links through last week. Much appreciated.

    This nErdCAMP (that I hear lots about on twitter) sounds very intriguing... Enjoy!

    I’m going to add to your list by sharing some of our fabulous Australian verse novelist. (We were just saying on twitter recently that we really need to collate a list of Australian verse novels – but here’s a start point for you. I won’t even try to tag the awards they’ve each won.)
    Sheryl Clark’s ‘Sixth Grade Style Queen NOT!’ was the first verse novel I read – that got me into reading – and then writing – verse novels.
    Sally Murphy (in the Poetry Friday crew) is a beautiful verse novelist, perhaps best known for 'Pearl Verses the World' – though her verse novels are all warm and beautiful.
    Steven Herrick has written lots (middle grade and YA) - most recently 'Pookie Aleera is not my Boyfriend'.
    Lorraine Marwood's verse novel 'Star Jumps' won the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award – Children’s Fiction.
    My own verse novels were inspired by these wonderful mentors.

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    1. Wow, a plethora of riches! Thanks for getting this list started, Katswhiskers, and I look forward to seeing which of these I can find here!

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  9. Those verse novels shared, plus the ones in the comments make a marvelous list of verse novels, Katie. Thanks very much for it and for hosting. There are some favorites listed. nErDcamp sounds awesome this year! Have a great time.

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    1. Thanks, Linda! It's my first time, and I'm very excited.

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  10. What a rich post, stuffed full of recommendations! Thanks for that, and thanks for hosting! I've got links today to Anne Porter.

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  11. Katie,

    Thanks for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week! Good luck teaching at your middle school.

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    1. Thanks so much, Elaine! The beginning of school is sneaking up on me!

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  12. Thanks for hosting today, Katie, and for sharing Engle's book - it's on my summer TBR list!

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    1. One great upside of verse novels is that they are easy ones to check off your list!

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  13. Thanks for hosting! Happy Friday, everyone!

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  14. I really like The Language Inside, by Holly Thompson. Thanks for hosting!

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    1. I will have to look into that one, thanks Ruth!

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    2. Oh, and resources for poetry in middle school: do you have the Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School? That one is good and I also love Nancie Atwell's book Naming the World. I teach seventh and eighth graders, and I do a poem with each of my classes four days a week - then on Friday we listen to a song and talk about the lyrics. (They pick the songs -- subject to my approval.)

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    3. http://www.heinemann.com/namingtheworld/

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    4. Thanks, Ruth! I've been reading In the Middle this week, and she referenced Naming the World. Will definitely check it out!

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  15. Thanks for hosting, Katie! Your list of titles is such a resource. I've read many of these books, but not all. Will be checking back to make sure I don't miss any. =)

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    1. Hopefully you'll find some new favorites!

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  16. Thank you for this wonderful list...and for hosting! My son and I also really liked COALTOWN JESUS by Ron Koertge. And about every other page in my copy of BROWN GIRL DREAMING is folded over! Happy new grade level! Wonderful teacher @KDoele is also moving to middle school from elementary and would be a great connection for you on Twitter. Happy Poetry Friday! xo

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    1. Thanks for the connection, Amy! And my copy of Brown Girl Dreaming is stuffed with notations too!

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  17. Katie, you have a very comprehensive list of books in verse for us. Thank you for that and hosting Poetry Friday. I arrived in Boston today for ILA 16 and presented immediately at #edcampliteracy. Tomorrow, I am presenting with our poet friend, Laura Purdie Salas and a college Dr. Michele Haiken. I may not be able to get my PF post right away but I am ready to release my spring gallery, Spring's Seeds this weekend.

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    1. How exciting, Carol! The linkup will stay open for the next week, so drop in anytime.

      I shared a table with Laura at one of the breakfasts at NCTE back in Nov, how fun!

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  18. Thanks for hosting and your post on verse Novels. Quite by chance, yesterday (which was Friday my time) I presented a conference session about narratives in verse and what they have to offer.

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    1. How cool! I'd love to hear more about your thoughts about them.

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  19. Katie, I finally unveiled the gallery in time for the end of the day on Poetry Friday and in the nick of time for my presentation at ILA 16 tomorrow.

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  20. Katie,
    I thought I had posted a comment and was waiting on approval before seeing it. But, maybe I didn't.

    I've really been enjoying Poetry Friday and thank you for hosting!

    There are some fantastic novels-in-verse. I really love them.
    I recently read Full Cicada Moon. It's lovely.

    A couple of great lists of novels in verse are:

    Book Lists Novels in Verse: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/2212.YA_Novels_in_Verse
    Even though the list is titled YA I have many in my MS library. I also work closely with 7th graders!

    Another list is Memoirs in Verse:
    http://www.booklistonline.com/Classroom-Connections-Memoirs-in-Verse-Sylvia-M-Vardell/pid=7378013


    And yet another:
    http://sarahtregay.com/novelsinverse.html

    Have fun. Happy Reading. Are you part of Teachers Write?

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    1. Wonderful, thanks for these lists, Linda! Yes, I am a "lurker" for Teachers Write. You?

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