April 23, 2017


We cannot end the month of April without celebrating Poetry Month in the library. This week we will focus on different forms and structural elements of poetry. In this Book Bites post I would like to highlight a genre close to my heart – novels in verse.

This 2015 Newbery and Coretta Scott King Award winner has been added to our fifth grade Battle of the Books list. One fifth grader told me he thought the book was “So good!”


The Crossover, (2014)

by Kwame Alexander


Goodreads summary: “With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

Watch Kwame Alexander read an excerpt from The Crossover.

Some other books to read by the amazing Kwame Alexander:

Booked, (2016)
The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life, (2017)
Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures, (2017)

As a former fourth grade teacher, I read this book aloud to kick off our poetry writing unit. I would make copies of all the famous poems referenced in the book and read them with the students before starting this read aloud to give students a deeper understanding and appreciation of Jack’s school experience.


Love That Dog, (2001)

by Sharon Creech


Goodreads summary: 

“I guess it does
look like a poem
when you see it
typed up
like that.”

Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won’t stop giving her class poetry assignments — and Jack can’t avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say.

Watch a book trailer for Love That Dog.

Some other novels in verse by my beloved Sharon Creech:

Hate That Cat, (2008) The follow-up to Love That Dog
Heartbeat, (2004)


Moo, (2016)

This next book won a National Book Award, Newbery Honor, and Coretta Scott King Award in 2015. When you read it, you’ll understand why. It is an incredible memoir written in verse.


Brown Girl Dreaming, (2014)

by Jacqueline Woodson


Goodreads summary: Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Hear Jacqueline Woodson read from Brown Girl Dreaming.

Some other books by the incredible Jacqueline Woodson:

Locomotion, (2004)
Each Kindness, (2012)
Show Way, (2005)

This next book is the first in a series that our readers will enjoy.


Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, (2011)


likepicklejuicewords by Julie Sternberg and pictures by Matthew Cordell


Goodreads summary: 

I had a bad August.

A very bad August.

As bad as pickle juice on a cookie.

As bad as a spider web on your leg.

As bad as the black parts on a banana.
I hope your August was better.

I really do.

When Eleanor’s beloved babysitter, Bibi, has to move away to take care of her ailing father, Eleanor must try to bear the summer without Bibi and prepare for the upcoming school year. Her new, less-than-perfect babysitter just isn’t up to snuff, and she doesn’t take care of things like Bibi used to. But as the school year looms, it’s time for new beginnings. Eleanor soon realizes that she will always have Bibi, no matter how far away she is.

Written in a lyrical style with thoughtful and charming illustrations throughout, this remarkable debut novel tells a poignant story of friendship and the bittersweet feelings of growing up.

Watch a book trailer for Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie.

Other books in this delightful series:

Like Bug Juice on a Burger, (2013)
Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake, (2014)

This last novel in verse is one I hope everyone gets the chance to read. You gain empathy for an immigrant’s experience and remember to savor the small things in life which are really the big things.


Home of the Brave, (2007)

by Katherine Applegate


Goodreads summary: Kek comes from Africa. In America he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He’s never walked on ice, and he falls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter – cold and unkind.

In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she’s missing. Kek is on his own. Slowly, he makes friends: a girl who is in foster care; an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and a cow whose name means “family” in Kek’s native language. As Kek awaits word of his mother’s fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.

Bestselling author Katherine Applegate presents a beautifully wrought novel about an immigrant’s journey from hardship to hope.

Hear Katherine Applegate talk about Home of the Brave.

Two other chapter books you may enjoy by the talented Katherine Applegate:

The One and Only Ivan, (2012)
Crenshaw, (2015)

And a sneak peek at Katherine Applegate’s next book due out in September, 2017:

Wishtree, (expected publication date September 26, 2017)

Read Katherine Applegate’s cover reveal here.

Although I’m only highlighting five novels in verse in this post, there are so many more to discover. Come take a peek at our Novels in Verse display in the library this week!



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