Just in time for Cyber Monday! Surprise! Many of you asked for it last year and now here it is...a BOOK + GIFT list for older readers! As some of you may know, I have been writing my own Middle Grade Novel-in-Verse this year. So what better way to expand BOOK + GIFT than by including the genre that I adore and is so popular for many different types of readers! A special thanks to Christy Doucette for her input on many of these perfect BOOK + GIFT pairings!
What are Novels-in-Verse or Verse Novels? They are novels where the author uses narrative verse to tell the story. They often use free verse poetry that doesn’t rhyme and doesn’t use meter. They often tackle difficult topics in an accessible way that is not overwhelming. Novels-in-Verse are perfect as a bridge for reluctant readers into longer forms because the amount of white space on the page makes it less intimidating, but it still packs a powerful emotional punch.
The 2023 BOOK + GIFT Novel-in-Verse List
MIDDLE GRADE (approx. 8-12 y.o.)
"See, when I play ball, / I'm on fire. / When I shoot, / I inspire. The hoop's for sale, / and I'm the buyer."
THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander
"Twelve-year-old twins and basketball stars Josh and Jordan Bell must learn to deal with problems on and off the court as they navigate homework, first crushes, family and, of course, basketball. Basketball and heartache share the court in this slam-dunk novel in verse."
"Sometimes when they talk, I close my eyes / and imagine growing a tail / and hiding in the woods, / puffing out all the steam and smoke inside me / or flying until I find / a quiet island / with other dragons like me."
GOOD DIFFERENT by Meg Eden Kuyatt
A story about a neurodivergent girl who comes to understand and celebrate her difference. Selah Godfrey knows that to be "normal" she has to keep her feelings tightly controlled when people are around. Selah feels like a dragon stuck in a world of humans, but she knows how to hide it. Until the day she explodes and hits a fellow student. But as Selah starts to figure out more about who she is, she comes to understand that different doesn’t mean damaged. "The next Wonder. Good Different should be required reading." --Good Morning America
"I prefer salt water / to swimming pools, / but all I want / is to / sLiP / s l i d e / D r I f T /
g l i d e / in gallons / of any kind of water."
ANIANA DEL MAR JUMPS IN by Jasminne Mendez
"Aniana Del Mar belongs in the water like a dolphin belongs to the sea. But she and Papi keep her swim practices and meets hidden from Mami, who has never recovered from losing someone she loves to the water years ago. Until the day Ani's stiffness and swollen joints mean she can no longer get out of bed, and Ani is forced to reveal just how important swimming is to her. A poignant story about chronic illness and disability, the secrets between mothers and daughters, the harm we do to the ones we love the most and all the triumphs, big and small, that keep us afloat."
Build your own greenhouse garden after reading this verse novel re-envisioning of The Secret Garden.
A BIT OF EARTH by Karuna Riazi
"Maria Latif is used to not having a space of her own. But what happens when she feels the sudden urge to put down roots in the most unexpected of places? Karuna Riazi crafts a tender coming-of-age story about friendship, family, and new beginnings. A Bit of Earth is a reimagining of the classic The Secret Garden, perfect for fans of Other Words for Home and The Bridge Home."
"The puck echoes / off the boards / --shot wide / glove side. / I grin / ...My face stings, but my heart / sings / cuz this / is the closest thing I know / to pure happiness."
GAME FACE by Shari Green
"Thirteen-year-old Jonah is determined to prove that anxiety won't stop him from succeeding as his hockey team's goalie in this dynamic novel in verse. What-ifs rattle around his brain at the worst times, like when he's in the middle of a playoff game. What if he lets his teammates down? What if he can't make it pro? And the biggest what-if of all, the one he keeps to himself -- what if he's like his dad, whose life is controlled by anxiety that has only gotten worse since Jonah's mom died in a car crash? To prove that he's not like that, Jonah is determined to succeed in the high-stress role of goalie."
"I am from hand-me-downs, / soft McIntosh apples simmered down to sauce, / and crisp, hard Cortlands eaten straight off the tree."
ENEMIES IN THE ORCHARD by Dana VanderLugt
"Set against the backdrop of WWII, this achingly beautiful middle grade novel in verse based on American history presents the dual perspectives of Claire, a Midwestern girl who longs to enter high school and become a nurse even as she worries for her soldier brother, and Karl, a German POW who's processing the war as he works on Claire's family farm. This poignant and moving story of an unlikely connection will stay with readers long after the final page."
"She hands me her Discman, / sliding the earphones over my ears. / If only you were popping bubblegum right now, / the look would be / totally complete!"
I AM KAVI by Thushanthi Ponweera
"Caught between two worlds--a poverty-stricken village and a fancy big-city school--a young Sri Lankan girl must decide who she really is and where she really belongs. 1998, Colombo. The Sri Lankan Civil War is raging, but everyday life must go on. At Kavi's school, her friends talk about the weekly Top 40, the Backstreet Boys, Shahrukh Khan, Leo & Kate... and who died--or didn't--in the latest bombing. But Kavi is afraid of something even scarier than war. She fears that if her friends discover her secret--that she is not who she is pretending to be--they'll stop talking to her."
"That rustic cottage / on the island, / that cottage with its own little lighthouse. / If we could buy that island, / live here year-round, / maybe everything would be better."
RUPTURED by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz
"Claire's mom and dad don't talk to each other much anymore. Their tense, stilted stand offs leave thirteen-year-old Claire, an only child, caught in the middle. So when the family takes their annual summer vacation, Claire sticks her nose in a book and hopes for the best. But while the family is away, Claire's mother has a ruptured brain aneurysm--right after she reveals a huge secret to Claire. With the weight of her mom's confession on her shoulders, Claire must navigate fear, grief, and prospects for recovery. This beautifully written novel speaks to kids' fears and credits their strength, and stems from the author's incredible experience surviving two ruptured aneurysms."
"If you give me a table tennis ball and a paddle, / I will challenge you to a match."
CALL ME ADNAN by Reem Faruqi
"All Adnan dreams of is making it to the Ultimate Table Tennis Championship in Florida, and if he qualifies for the tournament, he knows he will get to spend the Eid holiday with his cousins. But when the family travels there, unthinkable tragedy strikes, and Adnan swears he'll never play table tennis ever again. Slowly, he and his family must learn to make peace and move forward, as a family."
"I let my hands move faster, / rocking a triple-beat drum roll, / sweat beading on my forehead. / On the edge of my seat, I'm in the zone, / the feeling I love most when / playing the drums."
THE ORDER OF THINGS by Kaija Langley
"Eleven-year-old April Jackson loves playing the drums, almost as much as she loves her best friend, Zee, a violin prodigy. They both dream of becoming professional musicians one day. When Zee starts attending a new school that will nurture his talent, April decides it's time for her to pursue her dreams, too, and finally take drum lessons. She knows she isn't very good to start, but with Zee's support, she also knows someday she can be just as good as her hero, Sheila E., and travel all around the world with a pair of drumsticks in her hand.
When the unthinkable happens and Zee suddenly passes away, April is crushed by grief. Without Zee, nothing is the way it's supposed to be...And every time April tries to play the drums, all she can think about is Zee."
This funny and fun pairing will be a BIG knockout!
KNOCKOUT by K.A. Holt
"As a baby, Levi 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? This gripping, funny novel in verse looks at what it means to be a typical kid, and all the many definitions of strength."
"I'm thinking about / where to find food / and fuel / and water / and whether to use Mountain Dew / to force flush the toilet / or to drink..."
ALONE by Megan E. Freeman
"When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She's alone--left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned. With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten. As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie's most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie's stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?"
"I never knew mist / wrapped in metal could be / light as air and dark as night / or brighter than a neon sign..."
MOONWALKING by Zetta Elliott and Lyn Miller-Lachmann
"Punk rock-loving JJ Pankowski can't seem to fit in at his new school in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as one of the only white kids. Pie Velez, a math and history geek by day and graffiti artist by night is eager to follow in his idol, Jean-Michel Basquiat's, footsteps. The boys stumble into an unlikely friendship, swapping notes on their love of music and art, which sees them through a difficult semester at school and at home. But a run-in with the cops threatens to unravel it all. Moonwalking is a stunning exploration of class, cross-racial friendships, and two boys' search for belonging in a city as tumultuous and beautiful as their hearts."
Learn to code music like Emmy with this Code Piano set.
EMMY IN THE KEY OF CODE by Aimee Lucido
"In a new city, at a new school, twelve-year-old Emmy has never felt more out of tune.
Things start to look up when she takes her first coding class, unexpectedly connecting with the material--and Abigail, a new friend--through a shared language: music. But when Emmy gets bad news about their computer teacher, and finds out Abigail isn't being entirely honest about their friendship, she feels like her new life is screeching to a halt.
Despite these obstacles, Emmy is determined to prove one thing: that, for the first time ever, she isn't a wrong note, but a musician in the world's most beautiful symphony."
More BOOK + GIFT news!
Next week, we will be dropping the 2023 BOOK + GIFT Picture Book List!
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YOU ARE A GIFT!