Novels in Verse: Grades 5-8

By Skokie Staff Youth Services

Novels in verse are stories told in poetry rather than prose. Here are some of our favorites for middle school students.

  • Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math

    2020 by Atkins, Jeannine

    Featuring a prime number--seven--of girls from different eras in history, this biographical novel in verse is anything but average. Pioneers in math and science who deserve to be honored, appreciated, and understood are described throughout their lives with magnificent poems combining history, science, and the author’s imagination. They all face challenges and, with determination, they all persevere. Recommended by Lorrie.

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  • All He Knew

    2020 by Frost, Helen

    Inspired by a true story, this historical novel features Henry, who is born in 1933 and loses his hearing after an illness when he is four years old. He is deemed "unteachable," denied admission to the school for the deaf near his family's home, and sent to Riverview, an awful institution for the "feeble-minded." Things begin to change when Victor, a conscientious objector, begins working at Riverview as an alternative to the WWII draft. Friendship, family, and resilience are all important themes. Recommended by Gudrun and Karen.

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  • Diamond Willow

    2008 by Frost, Helen

    Willow’s story sparkles through diamond-shaped poems containing sporadic and intentional words in bold that expand on the main character’s thoughts and feelings. Set in a fictional Alaskan town and revolving around her first solo sled dog trip, this sentimental story will resonate with readers who love animals, those who appreciate magical realism, and anyone who enjoys complex story layers cleverly disguised in a quick-reading page turner. Recommended by Shelley.

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  • Red, White, and Whole

    2021 by LaRocca, Rajani

    Based on the author's experience of feeling like she has always been "split in two," Red, White, and Whole follows 13-year-old Reha as she navigates being an American raised by Indian parents, wanting to be unique while fitting in, and having an interest in becoming a doctor even though the sight of blood makes her faint. At turns a heartbreaking and hopeful story, Hindu mythology and 1980's pop culture references add interest. Recommended by Lorrie.

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  • Before the Ever After

    2020 by Woodson, Jacqueline

    The 12-year-old main character in this book is an African American preteen whose father is a famous professional football player in his mid-30s. What seems like an awesome lifestyle reveals an unexpected private life in which his father's repeated concussions on the field cause headaches, mood swings, and dramatic decline. Fortunately, ZJ and his closest friends support each other. Music adds another thread of beauty, providing a connection between ZJ and his father. Recommended by Gudrun and Karen.

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  • Other Words for Home

    2019 by Warga, Jasmine

    Have you ever felt “sad and happy at the same time”? How about unsure of where you fit in among your friends, neighbors, or even family? You are not alone. Jude is a 12-year-old Muslim Syrian refugee who moves to Ohio with her pregnant mother during a time of civil unrest, while her father and brother stay overseas. If Jude is able to follow her brother’s directive to “be brave,” will she be able to adjust? Recommended by Jarrett and Karen.

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  • Somewhere Among

    2016 by Donwerth-Chikamatsu, Annie

    Accustomed to spending the summers with her American grandparents, Ema is quite disappointed when she and her mother need to stay with her traditional Japanese grandparents while mom rests during a difficult pregnancy. Things go from bad to worse when the 9/11 tragedy happens and Ema and her mom have to grieve for her mother’s country from the other side of the world. Catastrophe leads to connection in this affecting story about identity, family, and hope. Recommended by Lorrie.

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  • The Crossover

    2014 by Alexander, Kwame

    Twelve-year-old narrator Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan (JB) star in this coming-of-age novel in verse that is sure to be a slam-dunk hit--and not just with sports fans. The author says that he wrote it about sports, family, friendship, and a first crush, all things that were important to him when he was the same age as the main characters. Recommended by Karen and Shelley.

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  • The Weight of Water

    2013 by Crossan, Sarah

    Kasienka and her mother travel from Poland to England in an attempt to find her father, who left them before this part of their story begins. It is a difficult transition for "Cassie," as she is called at school, and she struggles to be accepted while trying to not make waves with the girls who treat her poorly. Determined and resilient, she is able to stay afloat by swimming at the local pool, becoming friends with a new neighbor from Kenya, and figuring out how to stand up for herself. Recommended by Jarrett.

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  • With a Star in My Hand: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero

    2020 by Engle, Margarita

    This novel in verse tells the story of a passionate young Nicaraguan poet who made a contribution to world literature by starting the movement called Modernismo, which blends together poetry and prose. With a Star in My Hand is considered historical fiction because all of the events detailed are based on the facts of Ruben Darios' turbulent life. It is no wonder that he found refuge in words and also stretched the boundaries to make them less restrictive. Recommended by Lorrie.

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