Posts Tagged ‘verse novels’

Poetry Friday posts are all gathered by Bridget at wee words for wee ones.

Last weekend at NCTE I had a conversation with Laura Shovan and Chris Barton about novels-in-verse. We discussed briefly how novels-in-verse should be poetry rather than prose written to look like poetry. 

On my long travel day to NCTE, I read Margarita Engle’s novel-in-verse Soaring Earth. Margarita is a poet. Her novel reads like poems with the backdrop of her life experiences from late teen years to adulthood. In each verse, she was processing who she was and who she wanted to be. She rejects then embraces the culture of her life. She has to leave herself to find herself, and it’s all written in beautiful language of poetry. 

Margarita Engle, Soaring Earth

Currently I am reading White Rose by Kip Wilson. Once again, I put on the lens of a poet finding the elements of poetry as well as compelling story. Kip Wilson has successfully drawn me into the story of Sophie, a young adult resistor to Hitler’s Germany. The story takes me to the horrors of the early 40’s. I place myself into the shoes of a girl who knows it’s wrong to kill for any reason. She is keenly aware of what is happening in her country. She finds small joys, so we are not bombarded with terror. I am more than halfway through. I know what eventually happens, yet I keep reading. The lyrical rhythm of verse makes this incredible story a beautiful one.

February 20, 1943
A Golden Bridge

I have nothing
more to say,
Herr Mohr has nothing
more to ask,
and yet the next
time he summons
me, he throws
me a lifeline.

You can still save
yourself, Fraulein

A sliver of light enters
the room, and I’m certain
the entire world can hear
the pounding in my chest.

Tell me you were only
following your older

and I’ll recommend
setting you free.

My heart, beating
so confidently moments ago,
whimpers, withers, dies
but my voice gathers

Kip Wilson, White Rose

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Poetry Friday is hosted today by Carol at Carol's Corner.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Carol at Carol’s Corner.

Last week for Poetry Friday, Mary Lee had a feast of verse novels. These have attracted my interest lately. While I read Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse years ago and have shared Love that Dog, Love that Cat, and Heartbeat by Sharon Creech with my students, the genre feels new.

This week I read Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. The book is based on her own life story of coming to America from Vietnam. The verse was simple, yet moving. In a verse novel, each chapter/verse/poem should stand alone yet hold the whole together. Lai does this. The novel made me think about 1975 when refugees were coming in to my own city. I don’t remember how I reacted. I hope I was kind. Not everyone in Lai’s book is kind. Our students can learn from Lai that not everyone looks the same or speaks the same, but everyone should be kind.


Wet and Crying

My biggest papaya
is light yellow,
still flecked with green.

Brother Vu wants
to cut it down,
saying it’s better than
letting the Communists have it.

Mother says yellow papaya
tastes lovely
dipped in chili salt.
You children should eat
fresh fruit
while you can.

Brother Vu chops;
the head falls;
a silver blade slices.

Black seeds spill
like clusters of eyes,
wet and crying.

–Thanhha Lai from Inside Out & Back Again

Last year during Teachers Write camp (which, by the way, begins Monday), Gae Polisner had Caroline Starr Rose, author of May B, as a guest on her Friday Feedback blog post. I was turned on to writing in verse. I have a WIP (Work in Progress) that hasn’t gone anywhere in years, and by turning to verse, I was able to revive it. I am attracted to this genre because it’s a way to combine my love of poetry and writing for children. Here’s a sample verse from my WIP Dear God:

Dear God,
Winter can be so boring,
short days, long nights.
But today, snow fell
for hours.
No school.
I watched the snow from the window,
picture perfect,
piling onto the bare tree branches,
sparkling, gleaming.
Benjie and I bundled up,
headed over to the hill by the park.
Neighborhood kids were there with sleds
and makeshift sleds of cardboard.
I helped Benjie climb onto the sled and pushed him off,
down the hill, twenty times at least.
When we finally headed home,
my nose and fingertips were frozen solid.
Mom made us hot chocolate and vegetable soup.
Simone could not play in the snow.
When we passed by, she waved at us from her window seat.
She wore a knit cap and a scarf around her neck,
looking like a snowman herself, pale and hairless.
She wasn’t sad, though.
Her smile was big and sparkled like the snow.

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