Katie Logonauts

Join up for Poetry Friday!

It's been exactly a year since I first hosted the Poetry Friday Roundup, and I am so thrilled to be a part of this great community! (For the curious, click here to see last year's linkup.)

Quick introduction: My name is Katie, and I am a language arts and social studies teacher in Wisconsin. I have taught third and fourth grade for many years and am making the big jump up to middle school this fall (yikes!). I have been holding weekly Poetry Friday time with my students for several years now, and it is one of my favorite things about teaching. I am very much looking forward to exploring weekly poetry with my middle schoolers as well. (Tips and leads much appreciated!) You can read more on my thoughts about The Power of Poetry Friday here.

The Novel as Poetry

The novel-as-poetry has a long, long history that predates written books, back when stories and tales were meant to be sung or whispered around the fire. Poetry, rhyme, and meter aided in the memorization of such stories, as they spread through repetition.

Nowadays there seems to be a renaissance of the idea of the poem as novel, but rather than the epic poems of great battles and heroes, many of today's novels in verse for children feature a range of free-verse expressions and imaginative use of words and imagery.

As part of my preparation for teaching middle school next year, I am working to familiarize myself with the literature of Latin America and East Asia (the Social Studies regions of focus for the year). One of my most recent reads along these lines is The Poet Slave of Cuba: a biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Sean Qualls (winner of the Pura Belpré and Américas Awards).

Poetry is the perfect vessel to convey the early life of Juan Francisco Marzano, born into slavery in Cuba, who overcame his lack of education and many hardships to become an admired poet.

Right from the beginning, this novel surrounds you with the power of poetry:

"Poetry cools me, syllables calm me
I read the verses of others
the free men
and know
that I'm never alone

Poetry sets me aflame
I grow furious
dangerous, a blaze
of soul and heart, a fiery tongue
a lantern at midnight" (page 4).

The story is told through poems in Juan's voice as well as those of other characters around him, providing addition insights and perspectives. There are many disturbing events related to slavery and the treatment of slaves in this story, making it suitable for older readers. The back matter includes more historical information about Juan, as well as selections of his actual poetry (both in the original Spanish and translated into English by the author).

Other Novels in Verse

  • May B. a Novel by Caroline Starr Rose is a novel-in-verse set during pioneer times in the US featuring a character with struggles with dyslexia.
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse is set during the Dust Bowl in the southern/western US and portrays the hardships of the time period.
  • Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton is a novel-in-verse set during all of 1969, following Mimi Yoshiko Oliver who had just moved to Vermont with her black father and Japanese -American mother.
  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhhà Lại shares the story of a young girl who must leave her home in Vietnam during the war and emigrates to America (Newbery Honor Book, National Book Award Winner).
  • Caminar by Skila Brown. This historical fiction novel in verse tells the story of young Carlos, living in 1981 in Guatemala.
  • Heartbeat by Sharon Creech is the story of a 12-year old girl named Annie who loves to run but does not understand the appeal of a track team and who is working through her feelings about her grandfather's growing dementia and her mother's impending pregnancy.
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a contemporary story that features the inside perspective of eighth grade Josh Bell. Josh and his twin brother are basketball stars and take after their father (Newbery Award Winner).
  • Booked by Kwame Alexander is a contemporary story told from the perspective of twelve-year old Nick Hall, an up-and-coming soccer star, plagued by his wordsmith father's book, Weird and Wonderful Words.
  • The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan is told through the collected poems of a class of students facing the imminent closure of their elementary school, as they learn about the power of the written and spoken word.

Memoirs in Verse

  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is an incredible memoir told in vivid poems that are rich with history and imagery (Newbery Honor, National Book Award Winner, Coretta Scott King Award Winner).
Do you have a favorite novels in verse?

Poetry Friday Linkup

Please keep checking back during the day for more poetry goodness - or get started now by jumping into the links and comments! (Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

I look forward to getting around and reading all your amazing poems and contributions. (Those sharing after Friday, it may take me some time, as I am off for #nErDcampMI shortly, whoo-hoo!)

Happy Poetry Friday!

** Apologies to participants from Australia: if you are having problems leaving a link in the linkup, please leave it in the comments, and I will be sure it gets added. **

An InLinkz Link-up

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