Stories in verse are great for understanding complex historical events and encouraging the reluctant reader. These selections are some of my favorites from authors who have already established themselves as exceptional writers.
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Told from the perspective of a young girl who recounts the frequent struggles against the dust storms and the resulting crop failures that bring poverty to a land that is already in the midst of a Great Depression. Hope is met with despair at every turn, but ultimately she realizes that survival is a condition within all of us. It is not determined by external factors.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This is an autobiographical account of Woodson’s early years living in South Carolina with her grandparents and later in New York City with her mother. She describes the cultural differences in her two childhood experiences from a civil rights perspective.
Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
Jack hates poetry. He doesn’t get it and he thinks it’s for girls. His teacher encourages him and is patient with him as he slowly begins to enjoy writing poetry. Incredibly cute and sweet. His dog is the topic of some of his poems.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Josh and Jordan are the stars of their school’s basketball team. Their dad is a former professional player and their mom is the school’s assistant principal. When Jordan gets a girlfriend, it threatens the brother’s relationship and their shot at the championships.
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Amira lives a happy life in Darfur with her parents and sister until her village is destroyed and her father is killed in a Janjaweed militia raid. Though the risks are high, she travels to a refugee camp where conditions are overcrowded and substandard. Her most prized possession is a red pencil and tablet given to her by a refugee worker.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Ha Ma is a young girl caught in the throes of the Vietnam War. As it becomes evident that the south will lose, Ha Ma and her family flee to America where they end up starting a new life in Alabama. Together her family must adapt to a new language and culture.
Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Kek is a Sudanese refugee escaping war in his country to make a new life in America. He is resettled with relatives in Minnesota. Everything is foreign and confusing for Kek. He misses his home, but must learn to adapt to this strange new world.
Witness by Karen Hesse
The Ku Klux Klan has infiltrated a small Vermont town in the 1920s. The story is told through the perspectives of various community members, some for and some against the Klan. The story mostly focuses on the discrimination of a black girl and Jewish girl.
Missing Mike by Shari Green
Cara’s best friend is her one-eyed dog Mike Wazowski, named after the one-eyed monster from Monsters, Inc. She lives in an area threatened by wildfires. When her family are given notice to evacuate, Mike runs into the woods, and they have to leave him behind. They move in with a temporary family and do volunteer work at the shelter. Though Cara’s home is destroyed, it doesn’t matter. For her, home is where Mike is.