Updated: Oct 9, 2021
by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
I don't know about you, but this is a VERY busy time for me! When things feel crazy, I am always on the lookout for quick reads that I'm going to love. This list features some of our favorite authors (both to read and for the classroom) including Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Elizabeth Acevedo. These novels in verse (along with one memoir in verse) are all middle-grade or YA lit books, but I believe they are all great reads for adults as well. Right now, Sara, Jen, and I are also thinking a lot about excellent books to do with students who are in virtual learning, and these books could all work well for that, too.
Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X - This amazing YA lit book is a quick and powerful read. In this story, Xiomara finds her way into slam poetry at her high school, which becomes an outlet for her powerful voice and helps her navigate her way in the world. Be sure to join our September buddy read on Instagram if you're interested! You can send us a DM, and we'll add you. There's still space in the chat, and the main discussions will be at 8 PM EST on September 14th and 28th (though you're welcome to discuss at other times if those times don't work for you).
Kwame Alexander's Solo - In this YA lit book, Blade Morrison is trying to find his own way in the world, which is made more challenging by his family ties. He struggles to figure out how to navigate life and how to cope with his famous, drug-addicted rockstar father. His father's reputation is a stain that impacts everything Blade tries to do. This one is a story of finding forgiveness, and it's a great read for young musicians.
K. A. Holt's House Arrest - We read this one, a middle-grade book, as a read aloud in our Foundations class with 10th graders, and it was a big success. It moves quickly and is such a powerful book. In it, the main character Timothy is on house arrest at twelve years old. He was caught stealing, which all happened because he was trying to get enough money for his very sickly baby brother Levi's medicine. It is a poignant, rich story about the bonds between us and how far we can go for those we love. We also read aloud Knock Out, which is Levi's story when he's older, and that one was great as well!
Thanhha Lai's Inside Out & Back Again - This one, which is a middle-grade read (but could likely be read by upper elementary students as well), is the account of Hà, the youngest child of four children, who is living in Vietnam with her family during the Vietnam war. She and her family must leave their home, and it is the story of their time in Vietnam and of their refugee experience as they journey to America. I loved this amazing, beautifully written story so much.
Jason Reynolds's Long Way Down - We read this one aloud, too, and it worked so well for that but would also be a great one to have students read independently because it is both powerful and fast moving. It is the story of Will Holloman, whose older brother has just been killed, and the entire novel takes place in the elevator on his way down to avenge his brother's death. Wow. This book is phenomenal. There's a new graphic novel version of this one with art by Danica Novgorodoff coming out in October that is definitely on my wishlist! We talked about it in our episode featuring Reynolds's work.
Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming - This one, which is actually a memoir in verse, is a middle-grade read but can be enjoyed by high school students and adults. Woodson relays her experiences of growing up and comments on the world around her and her evolving place in it as she comes of age. I loved this one. We talked about this one in our episode about great books for the classroom by Black authors.
Have you read any novels in verse that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments (scroll all the way down!) or on the socials!
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Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.
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