While many books are being read in room 235D this year, one format reigns supreme no matter what; free verse. These brilliant books with their impactful, but shorter, text is one of the biggest tools I have in getting students reconnected with reading. There are a few reasons for this; students who are building up stamina in their reading concentration can stay focused with a faster-paced story, students where “regular” books intimidate them do not feel as overwhelmed due to less text on the page, and finally; the stories are enchanting. So what have some of our favorite free verse books been?
This list would not be made possible without the incredible book The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. While free verse novels have been around for a long time, The Crossover and Booked are what legitimized the format for many of my students. This is the book that clued them in, this is the book that made them stay.
Another book by Kwame Alexander, Booked
just kept the excitement going. For this soccer-loving classroom, this book is never on the shelf for long.
All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg set in the US during the Vietnam War it follows Matt Pin, a child from Vietnam who has been rescued from the war and brought to the United States for adoption. Powerful historical fiction.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai follows Ha and her family as they also flee the Vietnam War and make their way to the United States as refugees. How do you fit in when you feel so different?
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson has won over the hearts of several of my students. While not read by many of my students those who have braved its pages have devoured it and made it a heart book.
While mature, Sold by Patricia McCormick is one that many students have read. It follows the story of Lakshmi who thinks she is being sent to the city to be a maid to support her family in Nepal. Instead she is sold into child prostitution and must try to make her way home.
While Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams is more mature, it has really captured the interest of many of my students, girls in particular. I book talk it and let them know that it is definitely PG13 or even PG14 but that they know themselves best.
Another more mature free verse is Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
. With its story of a girl who tries to help a teen mom, the kids reading this one are really touched by the story.
Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham reminds me of Soul Surfer, a story that is in heavy rotation in our classroom, yet this one is fictionalized free verse. This one is in heavy rotation due to its gripping story of loss and survival.
What happens when loneliness is all you know and you have to recede into a fantasy world to make yourself happy? That is the question explored in The Lonely Ones by Kelsey Sutton.
The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan follows the story of Kasienka and her mother as they move from Poland to England. How do you figure out how to fit in in a culture that tells you that you are foreign no matter what you do? And where is her father?
Consistently Amazing Free Verse Authors
There are a few authors where I pretty much purchase their books because I know they will be loved by my students. These are:
– some of her books are too mature for my 7th graders so read them as needed
8 thoughts on “Some Favorite Free Verse Books for Adolescents”
Hi Pernille, Thanks for the great list of books written in verse. My students enjoy Kwame Alexander’s books as well. Another great title is Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg.
THANK YOU! Was just preparing a new poetry unit. Students will be writing a narrative using poetic forms. Free verse is their comfort zone in 5th grade 🙂 Love the resources.
Happy to have this list. Thank you! Helen Frost is another great author of verse…some of her books are definitely PG-13 or above…but not all.
Thanks so much for the list. I am a high school librarian and I have been recommending more and more free verse novels for reluctant readers who require an ‘extended text’ for their studies. I can’t wait to add the suitable ones on the list I didn’t know about
Hi Pernille.This list is exactly what I’ve been looking for. As I read your list my mind continually thinks about a particular male student in my 6th grade class. He started with Crossover and hasn’t stopped looking for another free verse text. He is currently reading Sharon creech’s Heartbeat, and just can’t out it down. Thank you for this list. It will be put to good use in my classroom library
Hi Pernille–Thanks for the list. You could add Yellow Star to it–an incredibly powerful Holocaust book about the Lodz ghetto that tells the story of one of the 12 children who survived.
Thank you so much for sharing. I was excited to see that I have about half of these titles in my classroom but even more excited to see the ones I should add for next year.