April is one of my favorite months because it finally starts to look like spring where I live and more importantly – it’s poetry month. If you’re interested in grabbing up some poetry for April, we had a post with suggestions back in October. In that post I included novels in verse, poetry collections and novels that focused on poetry in any way. Today I’d like to share a more thorough list of novels in verse. I’ve read some of them, but the others are on my list of books to be read. If you’ve read some of the titles, let us know what you thought of them. If you know of any others to add to list, please tell us in the comments.
Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle
Harcourt Children’s Books
Summary: Newbery Honor-winner Margarita Engle tells the story of Cuban folk hero, abolitionist, and women’s rights pioneer Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda in this powerful new YA historical novel in verse.
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Lee & Low Books
Summary: When Lupita discovers Mami has been diagnosed with cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of their close-knit Mexican American family.
In the midst of juggling high school classes, finding her voice as an actress, and dealing with friends who don’t always understand, Lupita desperately wants to support her mother by doing anything she can to help. While Papi is preoccupied with caring for Mami, Lupita takes charge of her seven younger siblings. Struggling in her new roles and overwhelmed by change, Lupita escapes the chaos of home by writing in the shade of a mesquite tree, seeking refuge in the healing power of words.
Told in evocative free verse, Lupita’s journey is both heart-wrenching and hopeful. Under the Mesquite is an empowering story about the testing of family bonds, the strength of a teenage girl navigating pain and hardship, and the kind of love that cannot be uprooted.
The Good Braider by Terry Farish
In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola’s strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family s journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Here, in the sometimes too close embrace of the local Southern Sudanese Community, she dreams of South Sudan while she tries to navigate the strange world of America a world where a girl can wear a short skirt, get a tattoo or even date a boy; a world that puts her into sharp conflict with her traditional mother who, like Viola, is struggling to braid together the strands of a displaced life.
Terry Farish s haunting novel is not only a riveting story of escape and survival, but the universal tale of a young immigrant s struggle to build a life on the cusp of two cultures.
The Language Inside by Holly Thompson
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Summary: A nuanced novel in verse that explores identity in a multicultural world.
Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma’s grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.
Emma feels out of place in the United States.She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.
Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck by Margarita Engle
Henry Holt and Co.
Summary: Quebrado has been traded from pirate ship to ship in the Caribbean Sea for as long as he can remember. The sailors he toils under call him el quebrado—half islander, half outsider, a broken one. Now the pirate captain Bernardino de Talavera uses Quebrado as a translator to help navigate the worlds and words between his mother’s Taíno Indian language and his father’s Spanish.
But when a hurricane sinks the ship and most of its crew, it is Quebrado who escapes to safety. He learns how to live on land again, among people who treat him well. And it is he who must decide the fate of his former captors.
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Henry Holt & Co.
Summary: Viginia Euwer Wolff’s groundbreaking novel, written in free verse, tells the story of fourteen-year-old LaVaughn, who is determined to go to college–she just needs the money to get there.
When she answers a babysitting ad, LaVaughn meets Jolly, a seventeen-year-old single mother with two kids by different fathers. As she helps Jolly make lemonade out of the lemons her life has given her, LaVaughn learns some lessons outside the classroom.
The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle
Henry Holt & Co.
Summary:The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika Bremer visits from Sweden in 1851 to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena, the wealthy daughter of the house, sneaks out to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.
In this quietly powerful new book, award-winning poet Margarita Engle paints a portrait of early women’s rights pioneer Fredrika Bremer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life.
Dark Sons by Nikki Grimes
Jump at the Sun
Summary: Sam can’t believe it when his father leaves the family to marry another woman–and a white woman, at that. The betrayal cuts deep–Sam had been so close to his dad, he idolized him. Now who can he turn to, who can he trust? Even God seems to have ditched him.
Ishmael is his father’s first son, the heir, his favorite. But when his father is visited by mysterious strangers who claim that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, will finally give birth to a legitimate son, Ishmael is worried. And when baby Isaac arrives, Ishmael becomes more isolated from his father. Could Abraham’s God, who had spoken to Ishmael’s mother, to whom he has made countless sacrifices, now betray him in favor of this new son?
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
Nancy Paulsen Books
Summary: Padma Venkatraman’s inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient bharatanatyam dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit.
Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her. (pub date May 1, 2014)
The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle
Henry Holt & Co.
Summary: Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama, even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education, young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world, but they also expose its hideous cruelty.
Powerful, haunting poems and breathtaking illustrations create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope.
Jimi & Me by Jaime Adoff
Jump at the Sun
Summary: After his father is murdered, Keith and his mother try desperately to pick up the pieces of their lives. But his father s death has left them devastated-both emotionally and financially. Forced to leave Brooklyn and move in with his aunt, Keith urgently clings to every last reminder of his dad, discovering comfort in his own music and that of the late legend-and his father s idol-Jimi Hendrix. In Jimi s music, Keith finds solace, and brief moments of reprieve from his chaotic new life. But just as he begins to get a handle on his father s death, he discovers the secrets of his father s life–secrets that threaten to tear apart what s left of his fragile family.
A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes
Summary: Mary Rudine, called Mister by almost everyone, has attended church and sung in the choir for as long as she can remember. But then she meets Trey. His long lashes and smooth words make her question what she knows is right, and one mistake leaves her hiding a growing secret.
Another Mary is preparing for her upcoming wedding and has done everything according to Jewish law. So when an angel appears one night and tells her that she—a virgin—will give birth, Mary can’t help but feel confused, and soon finds herself struggling with the greatest blessing the world will ever know.
Feeling abandoned, Mister is drawn to Mary’s story, and together both young women discover the depth of God’s love and the mysteries of his divine plan. — Cover images and summaries via Goodreads
10 Replies to “Novels in Verse”
I love the books by M. Engle and McCall. I’ll work my way through the rest of this great list.
Thank you for sharing such good info.
You’re welcome Mona!
Another novel in verse you should try to find is Skila Brown’s CAMINAR, published March 24, 2014, about a Guatemalan boy whose village is massacred by soldiers during the civil war of the 1980s and his journey through the jungle and mountains to warn the people of his grandmother’s village that they may be next.
Yes Lyn. Thanks. I saw Caminar reviewed over at Pirate Tree recently. I’m looking forward to reading it.
I love this list. I have to say these are some great titles but the covers are all so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
I would have to agree – there are some great covers here and I hope to finish reading the rest of the titles that I haven’t gotten to yet.
The entire Make Lemonade series is so good. I think the second book is the best.
I would have to agree. That is a great series and the second book is excellent.
Honored to see A TIME TO DANCE on this list! Thrilled to say it was just released last week to starred reviews in Kirkus, Booklist, VOYA and SLJ, plus an indiebound citation and rave review in the Denver post! Thanks so much for including it here!
You’re welcome. I’ve been looking forward to reading A Time to Dance ever since I heard about it.
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