Nick Hall is a typical eighth grader who loves soccer and hates school. Unfortunately, he has a father who is a linguistics professor afflicted with chronic verbomania.* Nick’s father loves words so much that he has written a dictionary, Weird and Wonderful Words, which he is forcing Nick to read, one letter at a time. And of course, his father is much more interested in developing his son’s cognitive abilities than in supporting Nick’s passion for soccer.
Most of Nick’s problems are typical middle school dilemmas– boring classes, budding interest in a girl, and dealing with the school bullies, twins who steal Nick’s bike. And of course the book has a couple of caring adults- one of whom happens to be a former Grammy-winning rapper turned school librarian, Mr. MacDonald. Nick’s life takes an unexpected turn when his parents inform him they are separating and his mother is moving out of state to return to her first love, training horses.
What’s not typical about this book are Kwame Alexander’s poems. Alexander uses a variety of poetic forms- including free verse, acrostics, found poems, and many others. And thanks to Nick’s father, there’s tons of interesting and unusual vocabulary- codswalloped, limerence, cacchinate, to name a few.
A novel-in-verse that’s sure to engage even the most reluctant reader.
*a love of words
Irene Latham’s poems and Mique Moriuchi’s illustrations bring to the reader one of the colorful pleasures of summer in this “fresh” and “delicious” poetry. Here we go into the farmer’s market, baskets on our arms. They might be filled with “a fleet of green submarines” (cucumbers), ” a “mountain of mice-sized swords” (okra) or “rows upon rows/of tiny noses” (corn on the cob). The poems open the senses to new ideas about fruits and vegetables found. They are mouth-watering to imagine through the words, with illustrations that show the animals shopping in the happiest of ways. In the poem Wild Honey, Irene writes that it makes “our tongues/buzz/with pleasure.” In this book of poetry, readers will do the same. Irene also shares recipes after the market shopping, just right for kids to help with the cooking.
A middle grade verse novel that strikes at the heart of early adolescent angst, Grimes has given us a heartfelt, realistic portrayal of what it means for a young person to navigate school, friendships and family life. Garvey, who is overweight and not the athlete his father hoped he would be, has dreams of his own. Written in tanka, Grimes’ short verses pack an emotional punch, sharing the highs and lows of Garvey’s journey to figure out who he is, while simultaneously making himself happy and his father proud. Father and son eventually find that connection, and I dare you not to tear up when they do. Grimes has a gift for getting to the heart of middle school angst and gives readers a boy they will love and won’t soon forget.
Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell is a fun introduction to the puzzle of poetry. Each spread presents a farm animal’s poem–a riddle in haiku form–on bright pages with simple, engaging illustrations by Bob Shea.
The familiar barnyard animals and the rhythm and rhyme of the repeating lines make this an excellent read-aloud. It’s the perfect book for groups of mixed age children at library storytime or at home. The youngest children will enjoy the riddles while older children will want to take up the writing challenge.
Deanna Caswell plays with language, and then invites her readers to join the fun! The delightful end matter continues the game and helps to answer the last, most surprising riddle of all.
A teacher and her students work together to try to save their school from demolition in this novel in verse snapshot of one fifth grade class across a whole school year. Ms. Hill’s class of 18 students includes a mix of boys and girls, twins, Spanish speakers, children from a variety of cultural backgrounds, shy kids, leaders, friends, “frenemies,” all trying to express themselves through poetry. Each poem reflects an individual point of view that changes and grows over the year contributing to a complete narrative detailing their classroom dynamics as well as their struggle to take an active stand for their school. Shovan effectively employs 17 different forms of poems throughout this novel in verse including acrostic, concrete, diamante, epistolary, fib, found, free verse, haiku, limerick, list, narrative, ode, rap, rhyming, senryu, sonnet and tanka poems. This is an engaging school-based story in poems that can inspire young readers to become activists in their communities and to consider writing poetry as a vehicle for achieving some of their goals.
To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party
by Skila Brown
Nominated by: Jonemac
Donner Party. This ill-fated party began their westward journey from Illinois to California in the spring of 1846. An ill advised detour proves deadly as less than half of the party actually survived.
Through the eyes of 19-year-old, Mary Ann Graves, readers travel on the trail with her family.
Skila’s poems match the mood of the party. In the beginning, they are light with a quick tempo. But as the travel slows, challenges surface along with danger, and so does the cadence and tone of Mary Ann’s voice. Readers are with her during that ominous snowstorm. when the entire party takes shelter and are forced into cannibalism to survive.
Skila captures a compelling story of adventure, despair and survival that readers will want to read again and again.
When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons
by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Sara Ralph
When Green Becomes Tomatoes Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano gently leads the reader through a year’s worth of journal entry poems to celebrate the seasons. Written without capitalization or punctuation, the poems take advantage of caesuras and spacing on the page to draw the reader through the poems. There is a Zen like/haiku feeling of discovery in the short poems.
These poems frolic in nature and provide fresh language for young ones just learning language and for jaded old timers who need new ways of seeing and discovering their environment.