Novels in Verse! The Why, Which and How

By Kasey Short

Books in verse have actually always been a class favorite for me and my trainees. Surprised?

Numerous middle school readers think a book composed completely in poetry will be boring or hard or both. But I have the ability to quickly counter that misunderstanding by reading the very first poem or more out loud and then (throughout a quick book talk) showing them how few words are on each page.

I recommend novels in verse throughout the year and after that ask all trainees to select a novel in verse for their independent reading throughout our spring poetry unit. Throughout these weeks, I check out a poem every day with the trainees, and the majority of often I select a poem from a novel in verse to expose them to various choices for their independent reading.

My students and I value that novels in verse deal chances for quicker reads, almost quickly draw the reader into the heart of the characters, invoke psychological reactions, have vivid images, dig deeply into intricate problems, and tell motivating stories.

Verse novels are excellent read-alouds

This year I check out aloud Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac to my English classes. Joseph Bruchac is visiting my school in the spring, and sharing this book with them has gotten students very delighted about this check out.

Books in verse are my preferred kind of book to read aloud due to the fact that the nature of poetry allows me to give it as much or as little time as I have within a class duration with many natural stopping points to pick from.

During the year I also checked out aloud one novel in verse cover to cover. I spend around five minutes of class every day reading from the book, and they look forward to it.

Suggested questions for novels in verse

✻ Why do you believe the author pick to compose this story in verse? ✻ How would composing this story in a different format– prose or graphic novel– alter the story? ✻ While reading, mark poems that stick out to you. Pick one to show the class. ✻ Which was your favorite poem from the book? Why? ✻ Choose a time in the story where you wish there were additional information. Compose a poem of your own that provides those information. ✻ Choose a poem that stimulates strong feelings and explain how it made you feel. Usage particular lines from the poem in your explanation. ✻ After reading the novel in verse, what do you still question? ✻ Would you want to be pals with the main character in the book? Explain why or why not. ✻ Choose a poem that catches the essence of the main characters character. Usage specific lines from the poem to explain why. ✻ What does the author teach you about mankind through the novel? Give particular examples from the text to support your answer.

Writing poetry with novels in verse

My Edutopia article, Every Student Can Be a Poet, provides more specific details about writing some of the kinds of poems noted here:

✻ Write a “Word-Scramble” poem utilizing different words within a few poems in the book. ✻ Make a copy of one or two poems from the book and then create a “Black Out” poem from the words in the poem. ✻ Write a “My Life in __ Words” poem from the point of view of one of the characters in the book.

Middle Grade/YA Novel in Verse Suggestions

Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar. The story follows the experiences of a young Latinx woman whose father is deported by ICE and after that she is sent out to a detention center with her mom who is pregnant. She uses poetry to assist her link and cope with others in the detention center


Alone by Megan E. Freeman. This story of survival mesmerizes the reader through the experiences of a 12-year-old girl who gets up to discover herself totally alone in her town without electricity or a way to interact with the outside world. She struggles to meet her standard requirements, befriends a pet dog, stresses over the fate of her family, and attempts to figure out how to live without any contact with other human beings.

✻ How would composing this story in a different format– prose or graphic novel– alter the story? ✻ Write a “Word-Scramble” poem using different words within a few poems in the book. ✻ Make a copy of one or 2 poems from the book and then produce a “Black Out” poem from the words in the poem. These wholehearted poems inform the story of an Indian American lady who feels pulled between desiring to be like the other students at her school and appreciating her household. These deeply moving poems inform the story of two young individuals and a dog living in Cuba in the early 1990s throughout a time of cravings and humanitarian crisis.

This funny and genuine story shows the experience of a 7th grade bully who composes discovered poetry and showcases the power of words. It likewise consists of appealing discovered poetry throughout the book.



All Over Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz. This novel informs the story of a 12-year-old girl whose sibling has disappeared from college and the destructive impact his disappearance has on her and her family. The book skillfully resolves the climate crisis, psychological health, friendship, and a household in crisis

Moo: A Novel by Sharon Creech. This book informs the amusing story of a girl who moves from the city to a rural community in Maine where her parents volunteer her to work on an eccentric farm nearby. Through this experience she learns and befriends an obstinate cow about relationship and compassion

The Lost Language by Claudia Mills. This sincere story reveals the viewpoint of a 6th grader who is having a hard time to maintain boundaries with her friend, attempting to develop her own identity, and then is suddenly confronted with the hard fact that her mom attempted suicide

The Canyons Edge by Dusti Bowling. This effective novel tells the story of a girl who is handling loss after her mom was killed and then discovers herself alone and with no supplies in the desert. This is a story of emotional and physical survival and will captivate readers as they follow her journey of genuine and imagined headaches


Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough. This story is based upon the experiences of Artemisia Gentileschi, a female artist in the early 1600s, and weaves in the scriptural stories of Judith and Susanna. The book is filled with raw feelings and reveals Artemisias battles and injury as she works to become a painter and find her voice in a society constructed to reject her those chances.


Agitated by Reem Faruqi. This coming of age story brings the reader into the heart and mind of a girl who moves from Pakistan to Georgia. The book is engaging and expores complex family characteristics, immigration, belonging, assimilation, bullying, and identity


Rebound, Crossover and Booked by Kwame Alexander. Each of these books in the Crossover Series draws readers in with present, engaging stories about sports, household, friendship, and adolescent experiences. The books can be read independently, but the majority of trainees look for all 3 books after checking out among them.




She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and made a bachelor of arts in middle school education with a concentration in English and history. She is currently a 8th grade ELA teacher and English Department chair at Charlotte (NC) Country Day School.

Starfish by Lisa Fipps. This story shows the reader the raw feelings of a teen girl who is bullied and embarrassed by her peers and her household due to the fact that of her weight, as she finds out how to stand up for herself and believe in her own self-worth

Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac. This prompt story reveals the reader the experience of a Wabanaki girl who is staying with her grandparents on their native booking throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The poetry takes the reader through her experiences making pals with a regional pet dog, missing her parents, struggling to participate in school remotely, and gaining important experiences hanging out with her grandparents

When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, Clap. This book alternates in between the viewpoint of 2 ladies who lose their daddy in a plane crash and then discover they are sisters. Their lives very various with one growing up in Puerto Rico and the other in New York City, but they come together to grieve, browse household secrets, and find connections



The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. This informative coming-of-age story shows how Michael finds belonging at the Drag Society after navigating his identity as a mixed-race, gay teenager growing up in London. This young person book sends readers messages of self-love, empowerment, and the value of being true to yourself


Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson. This book utilizes poetry to inform the story of a young kid whose daddy was as soon as a successful professional football gamer and is now dealing with severe negative effects of concussions such as amnesia and personality modifications

Love That Dog: A Novel and Hate That Cat: A Novel by Sharon Creech. These books are an ideal introduction to novels in verse. They engage readers with humor, animals, and relatable stories about a middle school kid who is browsing school and learning how to express himself through poetry.

Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger by Margarita Engle. These deeply moving poems tell the story of two young individuals and a pet living in Cuba in the early 1990s during a time of appetite and humanitarian crisis. The poems highlight their love, bravery, hope, worry, and the effect of hunger

Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe. This profound historical fiction novel is written totally in Haiku poems. It tells the story of a teen in 1968 who is navigating his pro-war daddy and anti-war mother as he experiences the tense political environment, falls in love, and is forced to make challenging choices

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman. This deeply moving story was written in remembrance of Matthew Shepard, a gay teen who was murdered in 1998. The poems are composed from various perspectives consisting of things, animals, and relative and reveal insight into this horrific tragedy




Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca. These wholehearted poems inform the story of an Indian American lady who feels pulled between wishing to be like the other trainees at her school and appreciating her family. Her life becomes even more intricate when she discovers out her mom has leukemia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *