10 Novels in Free Verse #NationalPoetryMonth #WhatsOnYourBookshelfChallenge #LoveThatDog [Book Review]

April 22, 2022

10 Novels in Free Verse

Do You Have Novels in Free Verse on Your Bookshelf?

April is National Poetry Month: 10 Favorite MG and YA Novels in Free Verse (white text over a background of an open poetry book and a cup of coffee)

Today for the April #WhatsOnYourBookshelfChallenge I’m focusing on Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA) Novels in Free Verse.

It’s National Poetry Month in April and I’ve featured three poems on the blog this month: The Lanyard, Refugee Blues, and The Rain Stick. However, my favorite form of poetry is a novel in free verse.

A Poet’s Glossary defines books in verse as “A novel in poetry. A hybrid form, the verse novel filters the devices of fiction through the medium of poetry.”

For today’s post I’m reviewing an old favorite (one that I used in my classroom), and I’m listing a few of my favorite novels in free verse.

You might notice that this list is comprised of Middle Grade and Young Adult titles (that all adults will enjoy). I think a novel in free verse appeals especially to reluctant MG and YA readers. They are usually quick reads and seem more personal and accessible. Some of these selections are more poetic than others.

Do you have a favorite novel in free verse?
Have you ever read a novel in free verse?

***Titles in this post are links to my reviews or Amazon affiliate links.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech [Review]

MG Contemporary Fiction. Heartfelt. A Boy and his dog. Teaching poetry.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (cover) Image: a hand drawn dog on a yellow background

My Thoughts:

One book I used in my class when I taught fifth grade was Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.

I used this heartfelt story to introduce a poetry unit.

In the beginning of the story, Jack is convinced that he cannot write poetry. Boys don’t write poetry! With a bit of courage, his teacher’s gentle and persistent encouragement, and using models of wonderful poems, Jack discovers that he can write poetry….especially poetry when his beloved yellow dog, Sky, is the subject.

I love that the back of the book contains several selections of poetry from the teacher’s lessons (which are inferred and not presented). After the lesson, Jack attempts to write his own poetry by using the models. As a class, we flipped to the back of the book and read the model poem before we read Jack’s attempt so that we could notice how the famous poem had affected Jack’s writing process…I also gently and casually inserted elements of poetry for discussion. It was one of our favorite lessons!

As a bonus, it’s a wonderful text for teaching inference as we only hear the story from Jack’s POV and we need to infer the teacher’s part.

Throughout the story, Jack grows in his ability to write poetry and his final poem about Sky is emotional and memorable. I read this as a read aloud over several days (each student also had a copy of the book to follow along) and the entire class was in tears at the end (including me!).

For the full emotional experience, I honestly think that this book is best consumed as a read aloud (parent/child, teacher/class).

Can you tell this book makes my teacher heart happy?!

This is a sweet story that an adult can read in one sitting. If you’ve ever had a beloved dog as a child, have tissues handy!

If you’re a teacher, use this as an intro to poetry! You’re welcome.

Other Novels in Free Verse

Paper Hearts (YA) by Meg Wiviott

YA Historical Fiction. On my lifetime favorites list. Simply beautiful. Review is linked in title.

Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott (cover)

Inside Out and Back Again (MG) by Thanhha Lai

MG Historical Fiction. Refugee and Immigrant story. Brief review is linked in title…scroll down page.

Inside Out & Back Again y Thannha Lai (cover) ....a girl holding onto a tree trunk with one hand on a breezy day

Brown Girl Dreaming (MG) by Jaqueline Woodson

MG Nonfiction. Childhood Memoir. Diverse Read. Review is linked in title.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (cover)

Clap When You Land (YA) by Elizabeth Acevedo

YA Contemporary Fiction. Diverse Read. Review is linked in title.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (cover)

Poet X (MG/YA) by Elizabeth Acevedo

Mature MG or YA Contemporary Fiction. Diverse Read.

The Poet X

Out of the Dust (MG) by Karen Hesse

Mature MG and YA Historical Fiction. Newbery Award. Dust Bowl. My very brief Goodreads review.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (cover)

Finding Wonders (MG) by Jeannine Atkins

MG Fictionalized Biographies. Science. My Goodreads review.

Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins (cover)

For Everyone by Jason Reynolds

Inspirational and motivational free verse. (graduation gift idea)

For Everyone by Jason Reynolds (cover)

Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga

MG Historical Fiction. Middle East. Refugee, Immigrant. Diverse Read. My Goodreads review.

(a poignant story but not as poetic as the other titles here.)

Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga (cover) Image: the profile of a young girl wearing a headscarf

QOTD: Are you tempted to read a novel in free verse?

 I’m linking up with Deb @ Deb’s World and Sue @ Women Living Well After 50Donna @ Retirement Reflections, and Jo @ And Anyways…. for the April installment of #WhatsOnYourBookShelfChallenge. (***I guess I didn’t get the memo about this being a travel related post….oops!)

Whats On Your Bookshelf Challenge

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com


  1. Hi Carol, what a great way of introducing poetry to young students, although I’ve not heard of any of the ones you mention I can see how they would help cultivate poetical thoughts. Thanks for joining us for WOYBS this month, it’s always good to have you!

  2. I’ve actually never read any free verse – and that surprises me. In fact, I only read poetry if I accidentally come across it – and that surprises me too. I’m thinking I need to rectify both those situations! Thanks for linking up!

  3. Hi, Carol – Thank you for joining us at What’s On Your Bookshelf/Friendly Friday Challenge. Like some others have mentioned, I don’t believe that I have read a full novel of free verse. The closest that I can remember is Maaza Mengiste’s “The Shadow King.” While it is not exactly free verse, the language is hypnotizingly poetic. Her words and images play in the mind long after the book is finished. It’s not a quick read, but I highly recommend it.

  4. I have read 3 of these, Carol. All after reading your reviews. I hope to read them all eventually. Great post for Poetry Month.

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