Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Books Written in Verse

I love books written as poetry because the writers choose the strongest words and create wonderful visual images. Plus, novels in verse can be read more quickly, which is often a draw for struggling readers. Remember to read this type of book as a novel, and not as a poem and it will flow better. Watch for periods and commas and let them be your guide instead of line breaks.

One of my favorite books written as poetry is Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai. This novel is based on her life experience of living through the fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama when she was ten years old. This book is a Newberry Honor and a National Book Award Winner, both honors well deserved.

Here is my response to her wonderful book:

If a response can be patterned after
The book one is responding to,
Then for Inside out and Back Again,
it must be written as poetry.

Thanhha Lai takes sensory images
From her childhood in and escape from Saigon,
Images too large for a small girl
And packages them into bite size mouthfuls.

A missing father,
Papaya, fish sauce, shiny black hair, and hair like fire,
A crowded boat without enough food, water, or air,
The land of Alabama, kind cowboys without horses.
Opportunity and hatred dished up simultaneously.
Prejudice in all its American glory thrust in her face.

Was it your fault, Ha?
With your toe first on the floor at Tet?
Or stealing bits and pieces of deliciousness at the market?

Ha, I remember your war.
When it ended and the before.
Knowing Mom would cry at the
Evening news, lost friends,
A lost husband who didn’t partake
In your war, but followed a broken soldier
Into the hazy drug jungle.
Your father fought, now missing.
My father absent yet gracing us with
rage and mood swings,
Loud roars and louder fists.

‘Til Mom left and we found
A new land in Bountiful,
Handfuls of opportunity slapped from our grasp.
Surrounded by mountains and
Prejudice and hate for being different.

My fault?
Was I not good enough, quiet enough,
Lovely enough, or just enough?

A warm spring day.
Students called to gym
sit Indian style –
Now called crisscross for political correctness.

Warm, still air, stuffy from hundreds of children
Surrounds a little girl in a pink vinyl jumper – all the fashion,
Trapping sweat like a moment of silence,
Slightly awkward and uncomfortable.

3/29/73, the end of your war for me, but
For you, the fight raged two more years.
Stealing what it cannot give back.
No father for Ha. No father for me.
Hers a ghost, mine a demon.
The aftermath of war that never ends.

Other books you may enjoy if you like books written in verse:

Death Coming Up the Hill by Chis Crowe is a literary masterpiece. It is written in Haiku, one syllable for every American soldier who lost their life in 1968 in Vietnam, all 16,592 of them. In his book, a young man does not want to fight, but he must make some hard decisions as his family falls apart in the U.S.A. 

Newberry Author, Sharon Creech has three books written in verse that I'm aware of. My favorite is Heartbeat. This story will make you think about how you look at life and the difference perspective makes. 
She also wrote Love That Dog and Hate That Cat, which are great for younger readers. Love that Dog will make you cry. 

Newberry author, Karen Hesse has two books written in verse that I enjoyed. 
Out of the Dust, which won the Newberry Award is about a young girl during the horrible dust storms of the 1930s. This book will make you cry. 

She writes about racial tensions in Witness. The story is set in 1924 and the Klu Klux Klan has just moved into a small Vermont town. No one is safe. 

Do you have a favorite book written in verse? Please share in the comments. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you included Out of the Dust. That would be my favorite!