By Lori Prince
Before my years at First Book, I was a poet.
The poetry I knew as a child was the poetry of songs—folk music at home, hymns at church, show tunes in choir—so the idea of saying something big through something rather small was there from the beginning. As I began to read poetry in school, I started to craft my own; writing poetry became a way to put my increasingly very big feelings into a small, concrete space. The value and emotional connection of poetry even inspired me to focus my traditional English degree on creative writing. While I was destined to become a librarian and eventually First Book’s director of merchandising, I never stopped reading poetry.
Novels in Verse, Weird but Good
I was working toward my degree in library science when I encountered my first novel in verse, and I was immediately hooked. The idea of putting a novel into the tight lines of poetry knocked my socks off. These were not the classical epics I had read in college. They were personal, intimate, everyday stories. They were short but thought-provoking, lyrical but approachable. As one of the kids who came through the library said after reading “Locomotion” by Jacqueline Woodson, “It was weird, but good, like I was inside Lonnie's head.”
This Poetry Month, let's look at the everyday from a new angle, find those small ways to say something big, and get close to characters, perhaps even inside their head, who may be nothing—and everything —like us. It will be weird, but good.
Novels in Verse: Poetry for Your Classroom
Explore First Book’s Marketplace to add new poetry books to your collection. With Amanda Gorman breathing new life into what poetry can mean for young and adult readers alike, network members can choose from our suggested titles or explore our full collection this month.
- The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
- Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Memoirs in Verse
- Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
- Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes
Perfect for the Middle Grades
- Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
- BenBee and the Teacher Griefer by K.A. Holt
- Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
New and Not to Be Missed
- Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca
- Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
- Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh
Still Great After All These Years
- Locomotion by Jaqueline Woodson
- Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
- Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff
As always, featured Marketplace titles tend to sell out quickly, but more are on their way, so check back often! First Book supporters, not currently eligible to join the network, can purchase books through Bookshop.org to still directly impact kids in need; 10 percent of your order is donated directly to First Book.
Join the Network
Educators can join First Book’s network—the largest and fastest growing network of educators, schools and programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada—to bring these titles and many more to your classroom.
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This guest post was written by Lori Prince, director of merchandising at First Book.