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

Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.

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

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