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The Best Novels In Verse Kids Books

Looking for the best novels in verse books?
Knockout
Written & illustrated by K. A. Holt
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Levi just wants to be treated like a typical kid. As a baby, he had a serious disease that caused him respiratory issues. He’s fine now, but his mom and overprotective brother still think of him as damaged, and his schoolmates see him as the same class clown he’s always been. He feels stuck. So when his dad—divorced from his mom—suggests he take up boxing, he falls in love with the sport. And when he finds out about a school with a killer boxing team and a free-study curriculum, it feels like he’s found a ticket to a new Levi. But how can he tell his mom about boxing? And how can he convince his family to set him free?

House Arrest
Written & illustrated by K. A. Holt
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Timothy is on probation. It’s a strange word—something that happens to other kids, to delinquents, not to kids like him. And yet, he is under house arrest for the next year. He must check in weekly with a probation officer and a therapist, and keep a journal for an entire year. And mostly, he has to stay out of trouble. But when he must take drastic measures to help his struggling family, staying out of trouble proves more difficult than Timothy ever thought it would be. By turns touching and funny, and always original, House Arrest is a middlegrade novel in verse about one boy’s path to redemption as he navigates life with a sick brother, a grieving mother, and one tough probation officer.

Lifeboat 12
Written by Susan Hood
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-13

In the tradition of The War That Saved My Life and Stella By Starlight, this poignant novel in verse based on true events tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II. With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones—one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada. Life aboard the luxury ship is grand—nine-course meals, new friends, and a life far from the bombs, rations, and his stepmum’s glare. And after five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger. They’re wrong. Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive? Award-winning author Susan Hood brings this little-known World War II story to life in a riveting novel of courage, hope, and compassion. Based on true events and real people, Lifeboat 12 is about believing in one another, knowing that only by banding together will we have any chance to survive.

All of Me
Written by Chris Baron
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Ari has body-image issues. After a move across the country, his parents work selling and promoting his mother’s paintings and sculptures. Ari’s bohemian mother needs space to create, and his father is gone for long stretches of time on “sales” trips. Meanwhile, Ari makes new friends: Pick, the gamer; the artsy Jorge, and the troubled Lisa. He is also relentlessly bullied because he’s overweight, but he can’t tell his parents—they’re simply not around enough to listen. After an upsetting incident, Ari’s mom suggests he go on a diet, and she gives him a book to help. But the book—and the diet—can’t fix everything. As Ari faces the demise of his parents’ marriage, he also feels himself changing, both emotionally and physically. Here is a much-needed story about accepting the imperfect in oneself and in life.

It Rained Warm Bread
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-14

Moishe was thirteen when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 and he was sent to Auschwitz. His home was ravaged, his family torn apart by illness and abduction. Years of brutality drew on as Moishe moved from one labor camp to the next. Finally, towards the end of the war and at the peak of Moishe’s deepest despair, a simple act of kindness by a group of courageous Czech women redeemed his faith that goodness could survive the trials of war: That was the day it rained warm bread. Deftly articulated and beautifully illustrated, this is a strong addition to the ever-important genre of Holocaust testimonies.

  • Inside Out and Back Again - Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama.

  • Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie - When nine-year-old Eleanor’s beloved babysitter Bibi moves away to care for her ailing father, Eleanor must spend the summer adjusting to a new babysitter while mourning the loss of her old one.

  • Summerhouse Time - The approach of summerhouse time at the beach brings back good memories of this annual tradition, of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents cleaning, laughing, eating, playing, and relaxing.

  • Booked - In this middle grade novel-in-verseby the Newbery Medal-winning and Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winningauthor of”The Crossover, “a””twelve-year-old, soccer-loving boy namedNick, absolutely hates books. In Kwame Alexander’s latest poetictour de force, it’sbooks versus soccer balls ina match-upyou won’t want to miss! “

Home of the Brave
Written by Katherine Applegate
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

A man I helped to settle here taught me a saying from Africa. I’ll bet you would like it: A cow is God with a wet nose. Kek comes from Africa where he lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived. Now she’s missing, and Kek has been sent to a new home. In America, he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter—cold and unkind. But slowly he makes friends: a girl in foster care, an old woman with a rundown farm, and a sweet, sad cow that reminds Kek of home. As he waits for word of his mother’s fate, Kek weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.

The Crossover
Written by Kwame Alexander & illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-12

New York Times bestseller ∙ Newbery Medal Winner ∙ Coretta Scott King Honor Award ∙ 2015 YALSA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults ∙ 2015 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers ∙ Publishers Weekly Best Book ∙ School Library Journal Best Book ∙ Kirkus Best Book

“A beautifully measured novel of life and line.”—The New York Times Book Review

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

The Red Pencil
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney & illustrated by Shane W. Evans
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

“Amira, look at me,” Muma insists.She collects both my hands in hers.”The Janjaweed attack without warning.If ever they come— run.” Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala— Amira’s one true dream. But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey— on foot— to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind— and all kinds of possibilities. New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.

Other Words for Home
Written by Jasmine Warga
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A gorgeously written, hopeful middle grade novel in verse about a young girl who must leave Syria to move to the United States, perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Aisha Saeed. Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is. This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home and, most importantly, finding yourself.

Never Forgotten
Written & illustrated by Patricia C. McKissack
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

A 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book. This gorgeous picture book by Newbery Honor winner Patricia C. McKissack and two-time Caldecott Medal-winning husband-and-wife team Leo and Diane Dillon is sure to become a treasured keepsake for African American families. Set in West Africa, this a lyrical story-in-verse is about a young black boy who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, and his father who is left behind to mourn the loss of his son. Here’s a beautiful, powerful, truly unforgettable story about family, memory, and freedom.

  • The Places We Sleep - A family divided, a country going to war, and a girl desperate to feel at home converge in this stunning novel in verse. It’s early September 2001, and twelve-year-old Abbey is the new kid at school. Again. I worry about people speaking to me / and worry just the same / when they don’t. Tennessee is her family’s latest stop in a series of moves due to her dad’s work in the Army, but this one might be different. Her school is far from Base, and for the first time, Abbey has found a real friend: loyal, courageous, athletic Camille. And then it’s September 11. The country is under attack, and Abbey’s “home” looks like it might fall apart. America has changed overnight. How are we supposed / to keep this up / with the world / crumbling / around us? Abbey’s body changes, too, while her classmates argue and her family falters. Like everyone around her, she tries to make sense of her own experience as a part of the country’s collective pain. With her mother grieving and her father prepping for active duty, Abbey must learn to cope on her own. Written in gorgeous narrative verse, Abbey’s coming-of-age story accessibly portrays the military family experience during a tumultuous period in our history. At once personal and universal, it’s a perfect read for fans of sensitive, tender-hearted books like The Thing About Jellyfish.

  • Keeping the Night Watch - So many unanswered questions weigh down thirteen-year-old C.J. as he struggles to understand why his father walked out. His father is back now, though C.J. is not as quick to forgive as the other members of his family. He still feels the weight of responsibility that fell on his shoulders when Daddy was gone, and he’s not prepared to give that up. But C.J.’s anger is making him a stranger in his own home, and instead of life seeming better now that Daddy has returned, it feels worse. Through powerful poems, Hope Anita Smith chronicles the nuanced emotions of a family that is slowly learning to heal and put the pieces back together. Keeping the Night Watch is a 2009 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book and a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children’s Book of the Year.

  • Trouper - A moving story of a three-legged stray dog who finds a loving boy to call his own—illustrated by Caldecott Honor Book artist E.B. Lewis. Based on a true story. Trouper ran with a mob of mutts who tripped over trash cans and pawed the cold streets for bones. They howled and cried and wished for a home. Until one day, the dogs are captured from off the streets and put in cages in a shelter as they wait to be adopted. Trouper watches sadly as, one by one, each of his dog friends are chosen. He’s the only one left until finally, one lucky day, just the right boy comes around and finds that this three-legged mutt is the perfect pet for him!

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