Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Novels in Verse - December 2012

Selected and annotated by Melissa Lowe

Bingham, Kelly. Shark Girl. Candlewick, 2007. 276p. Gr. 7-10.
In a departure from many stories of physical tragedy, the story of Jane features a girl who resists the “Inspiration Girl” transformation after the loss of her arm to a shark attack. Jane retains her normalcy while trying to reinstate herself into the familiar life of high school and art that she occupied before the accident. A believable, fast-paced read.

Elliot, Zetta. Bird. Lee & Low, 2008. 40p. Gr. 4-6.
Bird, the nickname of Elliot’s young narrator, chronicles the birds outside his window in a mixture of poems and sketches. Additionally, he addresses both the loss of his grandfather and the slow decline of his older brother in an accessible, matter-of-fact tone. The result is a compelling story of one younger sibling’s desire to cling to his admiration of his older brother while his family is slowly torn apart by the young man’s destructive actions.

Frost, Helen. Crossing Stones. Foster/Farrar, 2009. 184p. Gr. 7-10.
Once again reaching into the past, Helen Frost brings out out the truthful and touching stories of young people during and following World War I. Careful consideration has been placed not only on the content but the construction of these poems giving them the substance to hold up to multiple readings.

Herrick, Steven.  Cold Skin. Front Street, 2009. 279p. Gr. 10 and up.
Cold Skin follows the personal and social struggles of the residents of a small town in Australia following the return of many townsmen from World War II. Their personal readjustment dominates the story until Colleen, a young woman, is found dead and an investigation begins. The mystery unfolds through many poems told from a multitude of perspectives, leading to the discovery of the murderer and a final revelation about the consequences of one’s actions.

Herrick, Steven. Kissing Annabel: Love, Ghosts, & Facial Hair and a Place Like This. Simon Pulse, 2009. 137p. Gr. 7-10.
Originally published separately, these two stories by Herrick have been brought together to lean against each other and create a cohesive story about Jack and Annabel as they help each other recover from grief and begin the often-difficult road of self-discovery. The free-verse poems that make up this combined book are longer than some in other verse novels, but the rich language will keep the reader engaged.

Herrick, Steven. Naked Bunyip Dancing. Front Street, 2008. 201p. Gr. 5-8.
Herrick once again situates his story in his native Australia, this time chronicling the excitement of a middle school class as they meet a new, and surprisingly hip, teacher. Mr. Carey, while a bit of narrative cliché, opens the class to the intrigue of poetry and creative expression. An upbeat and lighthearted story told in a multitude of young voices that will speak to young readers themselves.

Koertge, Ron. Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs. Candlewick, 2010. 176p. Gr. 6-9.
A follow up to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, Kevin returns to his poetically structured introspection on teen love and is struggling to deal with his dad’s recent foray into dating. A self-identified athlete, Kevin takes the time to offer some explanation of the different forms he explores. An excellent intro to poetry for teen readers or a teaching access point for educators.

McVoy, Terra Elan. After the Kiss. Simon Pulse, 2010. 400p. Gr, 9-12.
While the premise of After the Kiss offers the dramatic appeal of young love wronged and the intrigue of unraveling the consequences, McVoy treats her characters, Becca and Camille, with the opportunity to express their hurt through introspective and mature truthful reflection. Each girl explores how the weight of grief, combined with the challenges of high school and moving across the country, forms them into a more mature and rounded person.

Ostlere, Cathy. Karma. Razorbill, 2011. 500p. Gr. 8-12.
Ostlere has taken on the somber subject of recurring loss and situated it in the heinous riots and massacre of 1984 in India. One of two speakers, teenaged Maya moved from Canada to an unfamiliar India upon her mother’s death, only to lose her father to the riots. Amidst emotional and political turmoil, Maya loses her voice until she can be drawn from her devastation by the friendship of Sandeep, the son of the doctor who takes her in.

Russell, Ching Yeung. Tofu Quilt. Lee & Low, 2009. 136p. Gr. 4-6.
Set in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s, Tofu Quilt brings to life Russell’s struggle to acquire an education and career in a culture that promoted only a domestic life for young women. Through the frank and forward free verse of the book, Russell reveals the initial impetus for wanting to learn: dessert. Russell was lucky to have a hard-headed mother who insisted on education in spite of gender, and this story proves the worth of that investment.

Sandell, Lisa Ann.  Song of the Sparrow. Scholastic, 2007. 416p. Gr. 7-9
Sandell brings Arthurian legend alive again in this free-verse story of two young women, Elaine and Gwynivere, vying for the attention of the attractive Lancelot amidst a camp nearly exclusively composed of men. While the story is moved by the romantic tangles created by feminine jealousy and potential betrayal, there is plenty of war imagery to keep readers of any gender captivated. 

Tregay, Sarah. Love & Leftovers. Tegen/HarperCollins, 2011. 432p. Gr. 7-10.
Love & Leftovers challenges its readers, and its narrator, Marcie, to understand a multitude of human romantic relationships. Marcie’s father has left the family to pursue a relationship with another man, and her mother’s response in escaping to the other side of the country for the summer leaves Marcie liking two boys in two different social worlds and wondering about the parallels she sees to her mother’s own failed relationship. 

Yeomans, Ellen. Rubber Houses. Little, 2007. 160p. Gr. 6-9.
Yeomans’ accessible, poignant free verse illustrates the way a family falls away from itself and—hopefully—back together when rattled by the death of a child. Kit, the older sister to her late brother, Buddy, struggles to maintain the same friendships that once sustained her before Buddy was lost to cancer. The story uses the siblings’ shared love of baseball as a running theme, enriching the verses with baseball imagery.

Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 42 Miles. Clarion, 2008. 80p. Gr. 5-8.
JoEllen struggles to maintain a cohesive sense of self when her parents’ divorce requires her to switch between two identities: Joey in the country and Ellen in the city. Readers will sympathize with JoEllen’s struggle to fuse the two disparate facets of her life and assert a single identity.