So... is it okay to read verse novels as a way of celebrating National Poetry Month? After all, if we want to get really technical, they aren't *truly* poetry, are they? I would say no, they're not.
But they are definitely poetic (or at least, they should be). And so, I say, verse novels are a fantastic way to celebrate National Poetry Month. And here begins my once-a-year appeal to everyone to give verse novels a try if you've never tried one before.
Some people are scared of verse novels. They worry they'll be hard to understand; that they'll be too poetic. Let me assure you, there is nothing to be afraid of. Now, I can't guarantee you'll like verse novels. Some people don't. They are indeed different. But hard to understand? Not generally.
To prove my point, here is part of a note I received (and I get many like this one each year):
"Today my daughter, who is 14 years old, read your entire novel, I Heart You, You Haunt Me from cover to cover. She could not put it down and even read it through dinner. While this may not seem like a big deal, this was in fact, somewhat of a miracle to me. You see, she does not enjoy reading. She's been dealing with dyslexia from the 2nd grade on. Reading comes with difficulty and takes up a tremendous amount of energy for her. We've tried several styles, different genres, but nothing really lit her fire. Today was the first time she actually told me she was really enjoying reading. We've now ordered more of your books. From our little family on the east coast, I wanted you to know of the miracle that occurred in my living room today. God bless you and thank you."
My wish for National Poetry Month is that more teachers and librarians will realize what a gift verse novels can be for some readers. Please, make a point to read some and know the ones that are appropriate for the age group you're involved with, and don't be afraid to share them with students.
If you need a place to start for title suggestions, here is a list of verse novels, voted on by readers.
To give you a taste of what you might find inside a verse novel, I'll share a couple of excerpts from my own books.
from FAR FROM YOU:
the air was cool
the way you want your sheets
when it's blistering
We walked to the park
and ran through the leaves,
picking them up
and throwing them at each other,
as if they were snowballs.
Instead of loud splats,
we got quiet flutters
of crimson and amber.
from THE DAY BEFORE
at the edge
of a cliff
and look out
at the endless supply
It takes my breath away.
and the sky
and the sea.
It's like a dream.
The kind of dream
you wish for again and again,
night after night,
because it was so good
the first time.
There are plenty of ways to use verse novels in classrooms, too. Verse novels are full of imagery, similes, metaphors, alliteration, and more, so there is much to be discussed in the way of poetic devices. Because they're novels too, you can also talk about plot and theme and have some great discussions around the story as well.
As the author of four verse novels, here is what I've learned over the years, through my interactions with probably thousands of students via e-mail, regular mail, author visits, and Skype visits.
* students DO notice and appreciate the poetic devices found in verse novels.
* students love it when a book makes them FEEL something, and verse novels are great at that.
* reluctant readers appreciate the white space on each page, and that there are no hefty chapters to wade through.
* many kids have told me they never read an entire novel by themselves until they read one of my books, and that feeling of success is such a powerful one!
* for many readers, a verse novel can be just the gateway they need to become lifetime readers.
A special thanks to all of my readers, and especially to the teachers and librarians who have shared my verse novels with middle school and high school students over the years!