by Trevor, Village Books bookseller
Today's children's literature often has books exceeding 400 or 500 pages. At times that's welcome; other times it can be fun to finish a book in just a day or two. Focusing on some of my favorites, here are some wonderful great quick reads for kids written in verse. These are all books that I've enjoyed and shown me poetry can be an effective way to tell a narrative. Beyond the story, opening up a page and seeing all that white space can be encouraging to reluctant readers. If you want a great story you can finish in an afternoon, or are trying to get a kid interested in reading more, give these a shot.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander tells the story of 12-year-old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother are stars on their basketball team, but Josh also has a gift with words. Through hip-hop influenced poems Josh tells of the story of him and his family throughout one season of basketball. Some poems capture the action of being on the court for an important game, while others capture specific feelings and emotions. The characters of Josh, his brother, mother, and father are all fully realized even with the short descriptions seen from Josh's perspective. Although this is shelved in our Young Adult section, it would be a perfect choice for almost any kid interested in sports and is appropriate for anyone in late elementary school and older. A great read; the ending really got to me. His follow-up Booked - also written in verse - is worth checking out, too.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a fascinating read of the experience of a family of Vietnamese refugees in 1975. The story takes place over the course of one year as Ha, her three older brothers, and mother are forced from their home in war-torn Vietnam and relocate to Alabama. Through Ha's eyes we learn the beauty of Southeast Asia, the struggles refugees faced, and the difficulty in adjusting to a new culture, while retaining their own as well. As the author, Lai, explains, poetry was an effective way to tell Ha's story because it allows for intense emotion from the narrator and the short phrases mirror the kind of phrases one uses when learning a new language. An informative read; great for young and old.
If you're familiar with kid's books then author Sharon Creech may already be familiar to you. Her book told in verse, Heartbeat, centers around Annie. Annie is a runner, but only for fun, and lately her running partner Max wants to be competitive. As she figures out how running and the outdoors are important to her, and what her friendship with Max means, she also is concerned for her family. Her grandfather is ailing and her mom is pregnant. This book highlights the circle of life; its fragility and importance in noticing the beauty around oneself.
All of these books use an unconventional style to construct a novel. They're a great option for reluctant readers, and show how language can be employed in different methods to tell a narrative.
Read more of Trevor's Picks here!
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