Not long ago Katie Dekoster from Book Love speculated that Novels in Verse (NIVs) were becoming the new vampires. I certainly hope so, since I have one coming out next year and another (the sequel) in 2014.
People are becoming more familiar with this form. While most of the well-known novels in verses are aimed at YA audiences, there is a good selection of NIVs for middle grade readers too. I’d like to highlight three of my favorites.
All of these middle grade NIVS cleverly combine premise and form. Shakespeare Bats Clean-Up by Ron Koertge and Love That Dog by Sharon Creech both feature young male narrators who are reluctantly learning about poetry, while having an archetypal middle grade coming of age. Not that these books are derivative or banal. They are both not only great stories but great learning tools. Shakespeare Bat Clean-Up would be a great book in particular for reluctant boy readers, while if Love That Dog doesn’t make you cry, you have a heart of stone.
Another of my favorite NIVs for middle graders is Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. This is a sweet, tug on your heart strings story about a foster kid searching for capital F Family. The titular narrator is also learning about poetry, but this book tends to be less about poetics and more about the power of writing to heal.
Verse novels tend to be a bit dark and are mostly contemporary or historical realism. I’d love to see humor or even some genre novels in verse, both for middle graders and YA readers. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing this development very soon with paranormal, fantasy or even sci-fi verse novels.