April is also National Poetry Month

Could you recommend a SHORT book?

As a librarian for tweens and teens, I am always on the quest for extraordinary, shorter novels to offer my patrons. Unfortunately, books now compete with schoolwork, video games, and social media. One of my favorite formats for shorter books is the novel in verse.

As we celebrate National Poetry Month, these poetic novels make delightful displays. Students are entering exam season, and many may need a study break. A novel in verse often captures a story in 200-300 pages or less. Most are about two hours of reading time. These books are typically both powerful and concise.

Spoken Verse

Jason Reynolds specifically wanted to narrate the book Long Way Down to make sure the interpretation of the poetry was as he intended. He compares this need for a personal voice to how the poem looks on a print page and how this conveys meaning.

Here is a quote from an Audible interview with Jason Reynolds.
A: Why did you decide to do this novel in verse rather than prose?
JR:  —  For a story like this [Long Way Down] that takes place over the course of one minute of a young person’s life, I think the functionality of poetry works in this way, right? He’s trapped in an elevator, which means he has constraints; he’s in a tight space. Poetry can mimic that. His brain is working a mile a minute, and poetry has a way of being immediate and being urgent.

Crafting a Novel in Verse

The latest novel in verse that I finished is the Newbery Honor book by Rajani LaRocca, Red, White, and Whole. This novel is about an Indian American eighth-grader and is set in 1983. LaRocca, a medical doctor, uses a metaphor of blood cells even in the book’s title.

Suma Subramaniam interviewed LaRocca about her use of poetry in the novel.

Suma: Could you elaborate on poetic devices that helped build tension?

Rajani: One effective tension-building device is to add a couplet at the end of a poem that is a twist that changes the poem’s meaning.   … The other technique I use is that of repetition — of words and phrases

Verse novels are a growing medium; in fact, LaRocca will release another book, Switch, in 2023. For more ideas using novels in verse, check out the following resources.

National Poetry Month

2022 National Poetry Month theme

Verse Novels display

2021 National Poetry Month display


Author: Hannah Byrd Little

I’m a dedicated Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle, leveraging my background in higher education libraries to guide students through the crucial transition from school to college and beyond.

I am honored to have served as the AASL Chair for the Independent School Section in 2023 and am excited to begin my upcoming role as Director-At-Large for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) later this year, following my previous experience as a Member Guide in the AASL Emerging Leaders program. These appointments reflect my commitment to advancing library education and professional development on a national scale.

With experience in state-level leadership through the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL), including serving as TASL President in 2012, I bring a wealth of knowledge to my role. My educational background includes certifications as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, a Bachelor of Science in Communications (Advertising & Public Relations), a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies (Education & Information Systems), and a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Categories: Collection Development, Literacy, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Uncategorized

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