April is National Poetry Month! Poetry is awesome for so many reasons, and it’s great to have a month dedicated to celebrating it. Recent award-winning titles, including Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover about basketball loving twin brothers and Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir Brown Girl Dreaming have brought the book in verse format into the spotlight. Rest assured there are plenty more books in verse that are widely available, with something to suit every reader. In that spirit, TSU brings you 8 Books in Verse:
Audacity by Melanie Crowder (2015)
As a child, Clara Lemlich dreamed of becoming a doctor, but her religious father thought it improper for her to read books or receive an education. When her family emigrates to America in the early 20th century, fleeing the building anti-Semitism in Russia she finds herself as the family breadwinner. Work in the New York City garment factory means poor working conditions, little pay and long hours, but she finds time to sneak away to English classes. With her new-found language skills audacious spirit, she begins to advocate for workers rights and before too long finds herself on the frontlines of the labor movement, leading the Uprising of 1909. Based on a true story.
Crank by Ellen Hopkins (2004)
Inspired by Hopkins’ daughter’s battle with drug addiction, Crank tells the story of model student, daughter and friend Kristina whose life begins to unravel after she “meets the monster”: meth. As she falls deeper and deeper into addiction, becoming unrecognizable to her family and former friends, the verse poetry perfectly captures the physical, emotional and mental toll. Teens can’t get enough of Ellen Hopkins’ signature edgy verse style and Crank is the book that started it all.
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle (2015)
Award-winning verse novelist and biographer Margarita Engle turns her focus to her own childhood in the 1950s, growing up caught between the American culture of her father’s family and the Cuban culture of her mother’s family. At school in America, she finds herself alone and longing for the summer days when she can be surrounded by Cuba’s tropical paradise and the freedoms and joys it brings. As the Cold War begins and relations between the countries sour, she fears losing the place her heart knows as home. Spare, evocative and lyrical verse takes the reader on a journey between two worlds through the eyes of a young girl, trying to figure out her identity.
Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (2013)
Three voices. Three teens coming to terms with their gender identity. Brendan is a popular wrestler with a beautiful girlfriend he adores but also envies. As a girl, Vanessa has the best of both worlds: she embraces her strength and skill as a wrestler; as a woman, she has long hair, soft skin and a feminine form. Their relationship is straining, and when Brendan meets Angel, a biological male who identifies as a woman, he begins to understand his confusing desires. Each voice is instantly recognizable and Clark’s depiction of the character’s exploration of gender identity is honest, moving and makes excellent use of the verse format.
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatramen (2014)
Ever since she learned to walk, Veda was dancing. Now a teen, she is winning bharatanatyam dance competitions and seeing her hard work pay off, but she’s lost the passion that brought her to dance. On the way home from her latest competition, she is in an accident and loses one of her legs below the knee. Struggling with the pain of recovery and adjustment to a prosthesis, she isn’t sure she’ll ever dance again, let alone feel the desire. Infused with the rhythms and scents of India, the verse poetry style captures the setting and characters – particularly Veda – perfectly.
Booked by Kwame Alexander (2016)
Alexander’s follow-up to his Newbery Award winning The Crossover, Booked follows middle schooler and soccer fanatic Nick Hall as he deals with his parents separation, a crush, competition against his best friend in a huge tournament and bullies. Fast-paced and varied verse footnoted with fun vocabulary make for a winning combination.
To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on An Untrue Story by Sonya Sones (2013)
Collette is a compulsive liar. You can never trust anything that she says to be true. Except when it is. Which it might not be. The daughter of a famous movie star (so she says), dragged to the middle of nowhere, she meets an irresistible older guy. He doesn’t need to know how young she is or who her mother is though, right? Of course, everything Collette says is a lie anyway. Twisting, turning verse leads readers to believe one thing, but an unreliable narrator means that all bets are off on what’s true, and what’s another tall tale.
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill (2007)
Mimicking the style, structure, language and tone of Plath’s own poetry, Hemphill creates a chronology of poet Sylvia Plath’s life that captures both the woman and her art in fine detail. Poems are written from a variety of perspectives, including family and friends of the poet written using extensive documented biographical research, Your Own, Sylvia comes as close to a biography as a work of fiction can. Moving and tragic, it is a fitting tribute to a poet whose own life story was as riveting as her poetry.