Library Recommends National Poetry Month Reads
When you think of poetry, you probably think of stanzas and verses; meter and rhyme; sonnets and ballads. But do you think of novels? Many authors have merged prose and poetry to produce novels in verse. The stories read like a novella or novel but instead of chapters, a series of poems propel the plot forward.
The standard for novels in verse is Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. This story follows the life of the titular Mr. Onegin — a wealthy young man in 1820’s St. Petersburg.
The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones is the story of middle-aged writer dealing with a college-bound daughter, an ailing mother, and a severe case of writer’s block. The book became a bestseller when published and is still considered one of the best in the genre.
Ellen Hopkins’ Collateral tells the tale of a young woman and a marine who fall in love. The action takes place both on the home front as Ashley finishes a post grad degree and on Middle Eastern battlefields during Cole’s five tours of duty.
The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth is the tale of people living near the Golden Gate Bridge in the late 1980’s. Inspired by Pushkin, the author uses the rhyme scheme that has become known as “Onegin stanzas.”
High school students who enjoyed The House on Mango Street, might like the “Lemonade” series by Virginia Euwer Wolff, Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene, American Ace by Marilyn Nelson, The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe, Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz, and National Book Award winner Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai — a story inspired by Lai’s experience settling in Alabama after fleeing Vietnam following the fall of Saigon.
Several novels in verse written for younger readers have also won coveted awards. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse is the story of a young girl’s experiences in 1920’s Oklahoma and won the Newberry Award in 1998. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander won both the Newberry and the Coretta Scott King Awards in 2015. Both The Crossover and the recently published prequel, Rebound ,follow the lives of Josh and Jorden Bell and their father Chuck both on and off the basketball court.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson was a Newberry honor selection and the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award and the National Book Award in 2014/2015. In the book Woodson, the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, tells her story about growing up in South Carolina during the 1960s and 1970s.
Other great choices for this age group include God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant and Marla Frazee, Love That Dog and the sequel Hate That Cat, by Sharon Creech, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry, To Stay Alive by Skila Brown, and House Arrest by K.A. Holt.
All of the titles mentioned are available at Hinsdale Public Library in either print, audio, or ebook formats.
–Lisa Knasiak is the Patron Services Manager and Assistant Director at the Hinsdale Public Library