Tag Archives: Verse novels

Poetry & History

5 Jan

I have always enjoyed novels in verse and I think, if I ever write a work of fiction, that might be the form it takes. I have fantasies about books I’d like to write, and I am a better nonfiction writer so I think this might be a good form for me to attempt fiction. I don’t say that because I think it is easy. In fact, I think it is quite hard to capture the details of the story you want to tell and capture the voice of the person telling that story.

School Library Journal has a great article about novels in verse from November 2013 that you can read Here.

I read two really great novels in verse this week. The first was  A Time to Dance  by Padma Venkatraman.

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Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes the ancient bharatanatyam dance form. When an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. Adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling, but Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers from a young man named Govinda. He approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit, and as their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.

This book reminded me a lot of  The Running Dream  by Wendelin van Drannen, in which a runner becomes a below the knee amputee and who, with the help of a special prosthetic, returns to running. I liked the Indian setting and I think verse worked really well for A Time to Dance  because of the music and rhythm of dance. This was a really interesting and enjoyable read.

Like Water on Stone,  by Dana Walrath, tells the story of a family’s experience during the Armenian genocide.

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As the Ottoman empire crumbles,  Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister,hopes to stay and marry a boy she has fallen in love with. Their father  counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, but this is not enough to save the family when the Ottoman empire set in motion their plans to eliminate all Armenians. After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, they flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. But the children are watched over by an eagle  as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers in their search for safety.

A verse novel really let each of the characters’ voices come through clearly. It also let the author convey the horror of the massacre without begin graphic.

 

Novels in Verse Featuring Resilient Girls

19 Dec

I have been known to encourage kids to read novels in verse by promoting the fact that they look like a lot of reading, but really aren’t. It is true, but that’s not really why I want kids to read them. I just simply love language and story. Verse novels indulge both of these loves.

Here are two new ones, worthy of your time.

Margarita Engle has made a career writing novels in verse. A few weeks ago I wrote about Mountain Dog. In The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, Engle returns to writing historical novels in verse that are set in Cuba.

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Banned books and rebel poets. That alone could interest me, but Engle’s verse is beautiful and quotable in places. She opens the book with

Books are door-shaped

portals

carrying me

across oceans

and centuries,

helping me feel

less alone.

Oh, my bookish friends, who has not felt this way? This is the story of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula, who opposed slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century by veiling her work in metaphor. A beautiful book about a stung female character.

Serafina’s Promise,  by Ann E. Burg, also features a female main character.

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Living in abject poverty in Haiti, 11 year old Serafina makes a secret promise to her deceased little brother Pierre that she will someday go to school and become a healer so that she can save little babies like him.But Serafina doesn’t go to school because it is too expensive.Challenged by poverty, flood, earthquake and Serafina remains undaunted.The details about life in Haiti create a clear picture of a world far removed from ours.

Both of these books feature resilient girls who set out to meet their goal in spite of the obstacles in their way.

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