5 Verse Books For Beginners

These five books are excellent for anyone looking to dip a toe into this style of writing - they're books with a range of subject matters, so I would imagine at least one would be appealing. Each was a quick and solid read and one I'd feel confident recommending you check out to get started reading books in verse.

I used to be really intimidated by books that are in verse. You see, I thought maybe I wouldn’t like them as they didn’t follow typical prose structure. Yet as it turns out, once I gave them a shot, I was hooked. These five books are excellent for anyone looking to dip a toe into this style of writing – they’re books with a range of subject matters, so I would imagine at least one would be appealing. Each was a quick and solid read and one I’d feel confident recommending you check out to get started reading books in verse.

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

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Verse books really pack a real punch sometimes. Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley slaps in the best kind of way. The book is a story about a tragedy involving gun violence and the havoc it wreaks.

Three Things I Know Are True follows Liv, a girl who has this obsession with the river in her town. Her older brother Jonah is a bit of a daredevil. One day, Jonah and his best friend Clay are grabbing decorations for Clay’s mom in the attic when they come across a gun on the windowsill. Jonah, being a jackass, takes the gun and while messing around, shoots himself in the head.


Jonah then ends up with a TBI and in need of round the clock care. Meanwhile, Liv’s mom is suing Clay’s parents for what happened. And so, this book in verse covers the trial and the what happens next as well as how Liv’s school life seems to be falling apart.

Culley’s story is beautifully written – particularly when she talks about hands. I am of the mind that you should pick up this quiet, lowkey story of an awful, awful moment and the fall out. It’s raw and real and an excellent read. I look forward to picking up more from Culley in the future.

Language Of Fire by Stephanie Hemphill

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I thought I knew Joan of Arc’s story – but apparently half remembering a movie starring Leelee Sobieski from when I was in eighth grade absolutely encompasses zero knowledge about Joan Of Arc. Famous historical women are fascinating to me, so Language Of Fire by Stephanie Hemphill really caught my attention.

Language Of Fire is a verse book that details Joan Of Arc’s life from when she starts hearing God talking to her all the way to getting burned at the stake and her legacy. I felt like this book was really detailed and went deeply into her convictions. It made this piece of history easy to digest and better understand. On the whole, Language Of Fire is a very quick read – granted, there’s no romance or anything. However, it’s a real interesting way to explore such an important historical figure.


I will say, by the end I was very much ready to move on to my next read. After all, I did read this during a restless time in my life. Had I read it when things were a bit more slow and not so much up in the air, I probably would have liked it more. Language Of Fire is a book I’d recommend to verse and historical fiction fiends alike.

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott

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Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott is a sparse collection of poems aimed at young Black women. I’ll preface by saying I am absolutely not the target audience for this book. However, Say Her Name is an empowering read with references to famous poems by Black women throughout history – as well as the inclusion of a few of these poems. This book belongs on the shelves of youth serving libraries.

If I wasn’t so focused on reading this book quickly and getting it into the hands of someone who is actually in the target audience, I would have read this much more slowly. I think there’s value in reading just one of Elliott’s poems or a poem she included per day and ruminating on it. These are poems that you can think about deeply and analyze and really have a discussion about. However, my aim was really to read it, review it, and then when the pandemic is over, drop it off to a center that caters to youth of color.

Say Her Name is beautifully written and beautifully illustrated. Loveis Wise is the illustrator and has a really colorful, vivid style that is appealing. This is a special book and one that I think should not be missed if you are a poetry reader. Even if you are new to poetry, Elliott makes her words accessible and relatable to teenagers – particularly marginalized teenagers.


Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga

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I don’t often read middle grade books, but when I do, I am pretty sure the book I pick up is of high quality. Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga is a middle grade verse novel that I read over the summer and just absolutely fell for. Warga’s story of Jude blew me away.

Other Words For Home is about a girl named Jude who up until this point has lived her life in Syria with her parents and brother. However, with the situation in Syria becoming dangerous, Jude and her mother move to Cincinnati to live with Jude’s uncle. Cincinnati is so different from what Jude is used to, but she’s determined to make the best of things. Also? As it turns out, her mom is pregnant (so of course this book resonated with me even more). Jude makes new friends in her ESL class and goes out for the school play. She continues to worship with her mother at the local mosque. But, not all is perfect. Jude misses her dad and worries for her brother. Plus, she must deal with the occasional Islamophobia.

Other Words For Home is a must read. I think if you are dipping your toes into middle grade or into verse books, you cannot go wrong with this book. Jude is a wonderful character and ultimately triumphant. I loved her story and her growth. She’s someone that you just want all the best things in life for. Plus, I believe that this story provides a mirror for children who have come to America from another country and particularly for Syrian children. Do not miss out on reading this wonderful book.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

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Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo was a more quiet verse book than I had expected. And well, that’s what I genuinely really want to read sometimes – a quiet YA book that’s not TOO MUCH. I dived right into The Black Flamingo after seeing that former co-blogger Allison loved it. Although Allison was a fan of the audiobook, I only had the eARC on hand. As it turns out, I really liked physically reading this book. However, I wouldn’t mind going back and checking out the audiobook particularly for the poetry cadence that I probably missed while physically reading this.

The Black Flamingo is about Michael Angeli, a Jamaican-Cypriot young man from the UK. The book opens with Michael as a six year old who just wants to get a Barbie for Christmas. We then see his age progression as he goes from taking singing lessons to going to an All Boys School to going to Catholic School. From there, the book progresses to Michael’s life in college where he discovers performing in drag.

This book is about Michael discovering his identity. We get so many pivotal life moments that shape Michael, but we aren’t beaten over the head with it. Like I said, this book is quiet. Part of Michael’s identity comes from the fact that his dad never really stepped up, so it’s just him, his mother, and his little sister. Michael is also navigating being biracial and experiencing microaggressions. On top of that, he is figuring out his sexuality. Michael has a best friend – Daisy – but he’s still a lonely guy. Ultimately though, he finds his voice, and it is a triumph when he does.


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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

Comments

  1. Three Things I Know Are True and Other Words for Home are on my TBR! I’m definitely adding the others. Have you read Elizabeth Acevedo’s books? The Poet X is amazing – the audio is even better and narrated by the author. With the Fire On High is another good one by her.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?
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  2. I didn’t realize that Other Words for Home was a verse novel!

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