Posts Tagged ‘Verse novels’

Rebound

By Kwame Alexander

ISBN 9780544868137

HMH Books for Young Readers

 

 

I love verse novels but I’m not particularly a fan of sports so I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself totally absorbed with this book. Rebound is a coming-of-age story where Charlie/Chuck learns to deal with his grief over the loss of his father and to deal with the consequences of his own actions. Unless something changes, Charlie could very well find himself in a heap of trouble, from which there is not always a way back. And yes; there is a girl in there. I loved reading his gradual realisation that she might just be more than his best friend.

Grief does hang heavy for Charlie and he spends his summer with his grandparents, giving him and his mother some time apart. Relationships is a strong theme throughout the book; the good and the bad. Communication is also a strong theme. On and off the court, Charlie learns to deal with life.

The writing is full of energy and keeps you turning those pages. I was so caught up in Charlie’s life that suddenly I was wiping away a few tears. It was one of those moments that sort of just creep up behind you and take you by surprise. And as for the basketball, I was very much on his side, fingers crossed as he played.

Try it but also look out for The Crossover to fully get the picture. Check out the book trailer too and for more info check out the author’s website.

Death coming up the hill

By Chris Crowe

ISBN 9780544302150

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

It’s summer break on this side of the world at the moment and I’m on a bit of a roll reading verse novels and this one is another one to shout out loud about.

Written in the form of haiku, each syllable in this young adult book represents each “soul”  of the 16,592 American soldiers who died in Vietnam in the year 1968. Apart from the absolute hard work to produce these haiku, and keep the story flowing, the research and historical background is very much evident.

It’s 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple—like the situation in Vietnam—has been engaged in a senseless war that could have been prevented.

We are caught up in Ashe’s life, his fears, the impact of the Vietnam War, his parents marriage breakdown, and a time of strong racist actions. Ashe is loyal to his parents but he is soon faced with choices; choices that will change his life forever.  There is much political unrest with the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Throughout it all, Ashe is worried he will be drafted to join the soldiers and fight.  Ashe and his girlfriend connect, both sharing the belief that peace is a far better option than war. A good insight to a different time with good solid characters with real flaws. I was completely drawn to Ashe and his situation. The format is easy to read and has a beauty with its mix of haiku and white space on the page. Very sobering numbers and facts. A powerful read.

We need books like this to remind us of the past and to keep moving forward towards peace, no matter who we are or where we live.

The language of fire: Joan of Arc reimagined

By Stephanie Hemphill

ISBN 9780062490117

Balzer + Bray

 

The Language of Fire is a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a teen girl in the fifteenth century commanded an army and helped crown a king of France.

Most of us are aware to some extent of the story of Joan of Arc, perhaps we’ve seen movies or were taught about her in school, but here in this novel from Stephanie Hemphill we are inside the head of Joan and are privy to her thoughts.

Joan, or Jehanne as she is known, hears the voice of God who tells her to build an army and lead France to victory. Told as a novel in verse form, it is easier to capture the moments of doubt, dismay, fear and loneliness, but also success, that Joan feels. We feel it all with her, every step of the way.

As a young, illiterate peasant girl Joan struggles at first with the idea that God has spoken to her and commanded her to do his will. In time, she understands it is her destiny, and with grit and determination as a teenage girl in a man’s world, Joan takes up the challenge, knowing the price she will eventually pay.

I don’t tend to read historical novels but this was a very good read and I was right into the story of Joan and loved seeing her mature into the brave leader she became.

We know how things ended for Joan but it still hits you as a reader when you get to there but Joan was very courageous right up until the end. However, her fight was more than physically brandishing a sword. It was a fight to be understood and to be treated with respect; for women back in the 1400’s were easy prey for men with horrid intentions. A great read, if somewhat dark at times, but that is the reality of the life of Joan of Arc.

“I am just a lowly peasant girl.

Who am I to be chosen

to save France?

The idea is surely folly

fueled by my longing

to be more than I am.”

Poet X

By Elizabeth Acevedo

ISBN 9781405291460

Egmont Books

I am and always will be a huge verse novel fan. My latest read is Poet X and it gets a five out of five from me.

Xiomara lives in Harlem where often it is easier to use her fists for talking. She longs to be understood and to understand the world around her. She has a twin brother and they are tight and always look out for each other. They understand each other far more than anyone else. Their Mami is incredibly strict, demanding and hugely religious and X, as she now calls herself, struggles with the whole concept of church, God and Holy Communion. Twin, as she calls her brother, is bright and seems to do everything right while X continually ends up in some sort of trouble.

X begins a relationship with a boy from school and the consequences, lies and secrets have a huge impact on X.

I love how X discovers poetry and then finds her voice and the strength to stand up and be heard. Her poetry is a powerful tool for self-discovery.

I love the language, the poetry, the cultural voices coming through and X. Her relationships are strained and difficult but they are real. I hear it in their voices; the things the characters say and do. I can hear X’s thoughts. X is both strong and vulnerable, feisty and afraid, but she is real and I wish I could meet her in person and tell her to believe in herself just a little more.

There are many links to hear the author read poems from this novel on her website and on Youtube. They sound even better read aloud which makes me think this would be perfect for high school English teachers to use on many levels.

Loved it.

Elizabeth Acevedo has another book coming out later this year, With the Fire on High and I will be hunting it down as soon as it is published.

Long way down

By Jason Reynolds

Illustrated by Chris Priestley

ISBN 9780571335114

Those who follow this blog probably know how much I love verse novels. I love everything about them, especailly the language and how it can pack a punch.  Long way down  knocked me sideways. William Holloman’s brother has just been murdered. He wishes he had laughed more at his brother’s dumb jokes because he won’t ever get the chance again. His brother is dead. Tragedy seeps through every page of this book. The language is real and gritty. It is powerful, beautiful and haunting.

After his brother’s death Will knows one thing for sure. He must follow the rules.

  1. Don’t cry
  2. Don’t snitch
  3.  Get revenge

It is raw and dark and I will think about Will for a long, long time. After reading this book I had to just sit awhile and reflect on the lives of the characters. The reality is that there are many William Hollomans in this world and we need to change this. How? I don’t know the answer but something has to change for people like William. They get caught up in the world of poverty, gangs, hardship and anger. This book takes us in to Will’s world, and his thoughts. It is a dark and scary world and as tough as he is trying to be, we see his vulnerability. We hear his thoughts and we find ourselves caring for him in a way only good writing can make us. An amazing insight into the sad and desparate life of a young man looking for revenge. Loved it so much. Need to read again.

Listen to the first few pages being read by the author. 

Saving Red

By Sonya Sones

ISBN 9780062370280

Epic Reads

 

bk_savingred

 

I love how verse novels have the ability to pack a punch using few words. Saving Red, Sonya Sones latest verse novel packs many punches. The old saying that less is more is never more true than in Sone’s novels.

Molly is almost 15 years old and filled with guilt as she begins suffocating in a family on a down-hill slide to nowhere. Molly’s guilt eats away at her and it is this guilt that compels her to help Red, a teenage runaway with problems of her own. The unlikely pair form a strong friendship.

Red is quirky yet delightful, brave yet fearful, alone, yet not alone, as she has the Duke and Lana for company. Molly soon realises the truth about Duke and Lana and so begins a gutsy, determined effort to help Red and return her home to her family for Christmas. And of course there is a boy in there too, for good measure. I must confess, if I was quite a bit younger, I too would be very keen on the cute Cristo.

The characters are real, their dilemmas are real, creating an honest and thought-provoking novel which I couldn’t put down. So caught up in their world, I just wanted to hug them both and make sure they were okay. 

 

One

By Sarah Crossan

ISBN 9781408872345

Bloomsbury Children’s

 

One

 

“Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change. 

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love? But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…”

I have always been a fan of verse novels. The power of a novel written in verse is magical. Words are sparse and carefully thought out and hit the reader with impact. This is no exception. One by Sarah Crossan creates a realism around Grace and Pippi. I was intrigued with the girl’s ability to deal with the issues of living everyday as conjoined twins.

“It really isn’t so bad.

It’s how it’s always been.

It’s all we know.

And actually,

     we’re usually

     quite happy

     together.”  (pg 12- 13)

 

Never having the ability to do things without each other must be the toughest things to deal with – or so I thought.

Having always had the protection of being home-schooled the girls have been sheltered but now with things changing they have to face the public eye, attend public school and learn to deal with what people think of them and their situation. Their transition to public life is unique but well written. We are given enough information to understand the girls plight but not enough to be intrusive or insensitive. The girl’s mother is trying to hold it all together while the father struggles with drink.  Part of their world is crumbling but the other part is beginning to taste the joys and trappings of teenage life. Younger sister Dragon has her own issues to deal with as well. Don’t let the fact that it is a verse novel put you off. It is a smooth, easy read with a powerful impact that will want you looking out for other verse novels and just as importantly, looking for other works by Sarah Crossan.

This book hits home with a punch. A good one for teens to sink their teeth into.

Roses are blue
By Sally Murphy
Illustrated by Gabriel Evans

Walker books Australia
ISBN 9781922244376

5

I have always been a huge fan of verse novels. I love the visual aspect of the text on the page and the brevity of words which creates more impact connecting emotionally with the reader. This is no exception. I loved Sally Murphy’s previous verse novels; Pearl verses the world and Toppling. And I love Roses are blue.
Amber Rose has a lovely happy family – before the accident that is. Since the accident things have changed. Amber still has a lovely family but her mother now sits in a wheelchair unable to walk, talk or even feed or toilet herself.
Amber has had to move from her much-loved home with the garden her mother tended to so happily. A new home, a new school and Amber is struggling to cope. She wants her old mother back!
Told in first person, Amber Rose narrates her own story; a story of growth and acceptance.

“And I am left sitting at my desk
with no heart,
no breath,
no words.”

And yes, for the record, I did cry over this heart-warming story of love and acceptance.
The book is just as beautifully illustrated in pen and ink. The cover is gorgeous.
Great for readers aged 7 up.