Springtime is coming. Spring means April and April means National Poetry Month! However, if you (or your children) are anything like me, you hear “poetry” and immediately think of vague metaphors and imagery you think you understand but aren’t quite sure. I have flashbacks to English literature courses, having to explain the significance of poems and having no idea what Keats, Dickinson, or Frost actually meant. Well, I have discovered the best way to cure my poetry anxiety! Novels in verse are absolutely wonderful. They are separate poems that come together to tell one cohesive story. Even if you do not quite understand one of the poems, the rest are there to fill in the gaps so you know the whole story.
Novels in verse are perfect for middle grade readers (and adults who love reading children’s literature like myself!). This is the age where poetry starts getting introduced in schools, and for some it can seem scary and hard. These novels can make verse seem less alien and provide a love of poetry in young readers, encouraging them to read and write their own. I, personally, have found that reading multiple novels in verse has helped me not be so afraid of reading poetry and find that I can understand what the author is talking about and get drawn into the story, just like with a regular novel.
There are some excellent novels in verse out there, and quite a few have won the Newbery Medal, or received an Honor. A few of these include last year’s (2015) Newbery Medal winner, “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander, “The One and Only Ivan” (Newbery Medal winner 2013) by Katherine Applegate, “Inside Out and Back Again” (Newbery Honor winner 2012) by Thanhha Lai, “Brown Girl Dreaming” (Newbery Honor winner 2015) by Jacqueline Woodson and (one of my personal favorites) “Out of the Dust” (Newbery Medal winner 1998) by Karen Hesse.
In addition to these award winners, there are many other great middle grade novels in verse out there! Check out this list for some more titles in the library’s collection!
Jill Frasher, Children’s Librarian—Erlanger