Category Archives: free verse

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

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June 20 is World Refugee Day.
If you have read my book Stepping Stones (illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr and published by Orca Book Publishers), you might enjoy a novel with a similar theme.

Inside Out & Back Again is a beautifully written free verse novel. I love free verse, if it is well done. And this Newbery Honor Book is lovely crafted, a tender tale told from the inside out. Much of the story is autobiographical. In her Q & A pages in the back of the novel, the author explains her own story and how she struggled with finding the right tone for this book. Free verse turned out to be the perfect voice.

Told in the voice of ten year old Há, this is a refugee story from Vietnam.
But it is more than that. It is the story of a close knit family, of loss and love. It is a story of the importance of brothers and how strong a mother can be. It is also the story of how resilient a child can be and how many obstacles for people face in life.

Treat yourself to this fascinating, beautiful read and share it with students to discuss refugees – now and in the past. This book is also winner of the National Book Award.
Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-196279-0

Lose the Rhyme!

Take your poem from a few days ago.
Retell the story in short, poetic sentences but lose the rhyme!
Don’t worry about find words that rhyme but do see if you can use some aliteration.
Use humor.
Use short,  snappy lines.

Which format tells a better story?
Which version do you like best?

While I like rhyming poems, I love free verse. Free verse is a story told in poetic, often short, sentences that do not rhyme.

Some of my favorite free verse novels include:
Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse
Love That Dogs, Sharon Creech
May B, Caroline Starr Rose
The Dancing Pancake, Eileen Spinelli

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she endures heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.

Written in free verse, this Newbery Award winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma’s staggering dust storms, and the environmental as well as emotional turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.

I completely fell in love with the language of this book. Not all Newbery books are books that I love, although most of them are. And that medal on the cover always makes me want to read the book, just to see why the judges felt it was worthy. Out of The Dust is powerfully written and deserves this recognition. It made me want to read all the free verse novels I could get my hands on. Love the genre. Karen Hesse says more with fewer words. Read it!