Verse Novel Round-Up August 2015

it’s been a while since we’ve done this but I’d like to start keeping up to date with what’s happening in the verse novel world.

Sally Morgan released her new verse novel Sister Heart.

Kwame Alexander’s Crossover is reviewed by the The Book Wars


Author of groundbreaking sci-fi verse novel Dark Star, Oliver Langmead is interviewed at BookWraiths.

Audacity, by Melanie Crowder is reviewed at Dee’s Book Blog


Award winning author of Enchanted Air, Margarita Engle is interviewed at Book Page.


This entry was posted on September 2, 2015. 2 Comments

Verse Novels for “Reluctant” and/or Struggling Readers – ALA 2015

Five verse novelists, including myself are presenting today at ALA in San Francisco. Some of the supporting materials for this presentation are or will be posted here.

Material from Lesléa Newman: leslea for blog

Slide show of the author’s book covers with review quotes: slide show

Selection from House Arrest by KA Holt: Pages from HouseArrest_KAHolt

Panel handout: verse novels for reluctant readers handout

Banned Books Week Giveaway – AUDACIOUS and CAPRICIOUS

It’s Banned Books Week again! I LOVE Banned Books Week! it’s better than Halloween!

Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2013 celebration of Banned Books Week will be held from September 22-28.  Banned Books Week 2014 will be held September 21-27.

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982. For more information on Banned Books Week, click here. According to the American Library Association, there were 464 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012, and many more go unreported.

I live in hope that my book AUDACIOUS and CAPRICIOUS will one day make the list of most challenged books so in that spirit I’m giving them away!

This is a US/Canada only giveaway for physical books but the good news is that I am giving away an eBook if an international entrant wins!

bothcovers copyHere’s a bit about AUDACIOUS and CAPRICIOUS:


Sixteen year old Raphaelle is that girl who says the wrong thing, who crosses the wrong person, who has the wrong hair, the wrong body, the wrong attitude, the totally wrong clothes. She can’t do anything right, except draw, but she draws the wrong pictures.When her father moves the family to a small prairie city, Raphaelle wants to leave behind the misfit rebel, the outcast, the vengeful trouble-maker she was. Reborn as “Ella,” she plans fit in at her new school, while her perfect younger sister goes to the Catholic girls’ school and her emotionally fragile mother looks for a job.But Ella might just be a different kind of misfit. She’s drawn to a brooding boy in her art class, Samir, and expresses her confused feelings in an explicit artwork. When a classmate texts a photo of Ella’s art to a younger friend, the horrendous fallout spreads though Ella’s life like an uncontrollable disease. Ella is expelled from school and faces pornography charges, her mother is hospitalized, her sister fails all her classes, and her distant father finally notices something is wrong.


Ella’s grade-eleven year was a disaster (“Audacious”), but as summer approaches, things are looking up. She’s back together with her brooding boyfriend, Samir, although they both want to keep that a secret. She’s also best buddies with David and still not entirely sure about making him boyfriend number two. Though part of her wants to conform to high school norms, the temptation to be radical is just too great. Managing two secret boyfriends proves harder than Ella expected, especially when Samir and David face separate family crises, and Ella finds herself at the center of an emotional maelstrom. Someone will get hurt. Someone risks losing true love. Someone might finally learn that self-serving actions can have public consequences. And that someone is Ella.

I think I’ll leave you guessing what about the books gives me hope that it might get challenged. To enter all you have to follow this blog and let me know in a comment  if you have added the book on Goodreads, Tweeted or Facebooked the giveaway and I will give you an extra entry. Good Luck.

Don’t forget to visit the rest of the blogs participating in the Giveaway Hop (there are a lot of them!). You can find the list here.

This entry was posted on September 21, 2014. 15 Comments

Interview With Madeleine Kuderick

Back in January, I was able to snag an interview with the author of the soon-to-be-released KISS OF BROKEN GLASS, Madeleine Kuderick. For various reasons, we haven’t posted this interview until now, but without further ado… Madeleine!



1. Welcome, Madeleine, care to tell us a little about yourself?

Thanks! So here’s a little about my background. I grew up in Oak Park, a suburb near Chicago. There’s a rich literary tradition there. In high school, I was editor-in-chief of the same newspaper that Ernest Hemingway wrote for as a teen. I studied journalism at Indiana University but then transferred to the School of Hard Knocks where I earned plenty of bumps and bruises and eventually an MBA. Today, I like writing about underdogs and giving a voice to those who are struggling to be heard.

2. When did you start writing? Did you start with prose, poetry or did you go straight into narrative verse?

I started writing when I was eight years old in Mrs. Margotti’s third grade classroom. I wrote both prose and poetry and my stories were bound into little books and placed in the school library. Three people actually checked them out.  I’ve never forgotten that. And I share that story with teachers today to remind them of the powerful impact they can have on aspiring young writers.


3.Do you prefer writing with pen and paper or a keyboard?

Definitely keyboard.


4. What are some of your favourite novels in verse? Do you have verse novelists who are inspirational to you?

There are many beautifully written verse novels I’ve enjoyed by authors like Karen Hesse, Helen Frost, and Margarita Engle, just to name a few. But I’d have to say that Sonya Sones is the most inspirational verse author for me. Not only is her writing gorgeous but she’s an amazing person and a generous mentor too. Sonya was on the faculty when I attended the week-long Novel in Verse workshop at Highlights. It was a magical, transforming experience for me and my writing.

5. Your novel is going to be released this year! How has the experience of waiting been for you?

The experience has been wonderful every step of the way. Even the waiting. I never imagined I’d be working with industry legends like my agent George Nicholson, who founded Delacorte Press and Yearling Books, or my brilliant editor Antonia Markiet who just celebrated her 40th anniversary with HarperCollins and has worked with talent like Maurice Sendak, Shel Silverstein, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, and so many more. I’m just honored to have this opportunity.


6. How did you gain inspiration for Kiss of Broken Glass? What compelled you to tell this story?

This book has roots in a true event because my daughter had a similar experience. But I think it’s important to remember that KISS is a work of fiction. So while my daughter’s experiences influenced me deeply, I also spent hundreds of hours researching the blogs and Tumblr pages of other teens struggling with self-harm. Eventually I developed Kenna, a fictional character who embodied all those brave and aching voices, and I felt compelled to tell her story.


7. How do you feel about the themes of self harm and mental health in young adult literature? Do you think that your main character’s voice in an underrepresented one?

There are some very compelling novels that deal with self harm like Patricia McCormick’s CUT and Cheryl Rainfeld’s SCARS. But I still believe this is an underrepresented voice and that was a strong driver for me in writing this book.

I also think this book is vital now, more than ever, because there seems to be a surge happening. Self-harm is more prevalent, visible, and competitive than it has ever been before. I wanted to write a book about what it would be like to get swept up in that, and how hard it might be to get out.


8. Do you share any traits with your main character? If so, what are they?

I don’t know that I share specific character traits with Kenna. But there have definitely been darker times in my life, situations that I wanted to escape and didn’t know how. On that level, I can relate deeply with her.

9. Who was your favourite character to write?

I enjoyed writing Kenna because her voice spoke so loudly in my head that I knew almost instinctively what she would do in any situation. But I also enjoyed writing the voices of the three other teens who are locked up in the psych ward with her. I especially liked writing Sklyar’s softer voice and creating the rhyming poetry she pens like the verse that begins: I made the first cut razor thin. A gentle kiss on virgin skin.


10. What part of the story was hardest to write? What kept you coming back to it, even when it got hard?

Honestly, there was no “hard part” of this book that I had to keep coming back to. There were times when it felt like I was typing on barbed keys, when it literally hurt to write. But I think that’s because of my personal connection to the material. In terms of the writing process itself, the story simply poured out. Almost fully formed.  Believe me – I know how rare that is. It will probably never happen to me again. But with this book, that’s just how it went.

11. Any hints you can give us about what to expect from Kiss of Broken Glass?

Expect the characters to be raw and wrecked and achingly real.

12. Do you have any future projects that you’d like to tell us about about?

I’m currently working on another YA novel for HarperTeen. Speaking of which, I’d better get back to writing it! Thank you for having me.

Thank you Madeleine! It was a treat to have you!

Find KISS OF BROKEN GLASS by Madeleine Kuderick in a bookstore near you 



Madeleine Kuderick grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, a community with rich literary tradition, where she was editor-in-chief of the same high school newspaper that Ernest Hemingway wrote for as a teen. She studied journalism at Indiana University before transferring to the School of Hard Knocks where she earned plenty of bumps and bruises and eventually an MBA.

Today, Madeleine likes writing about underdogs and giving a voice to those who are struggling to be heard.

Her debut novel KISS OF BROKEN GLASS will be published in Fall 2014, by HarperTeen.



In the next 72 hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for 72 hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.

When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for a mandatory psychiatric watch. There Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.

Madeleine Kuderick’s gripping debut is a darkly beautiful and lyrical novel in verse, perfect for fans of Sonya Sones and Laurie Halse Anderson. Kiss of Broken Glass pulses with emotion and lingers long after the last page.

Cover reveal – Holly Bodger’s 5 to 1

hollybodgerHolly Bodger tweeted her new cover today and holy moley, is it GORGEOUS?! Check it out:

I can’t even speak from the stunning. I’m literally stunned. I’m also so looking forward to this dystopian verse/prose hybrid. It’s coming May 2015 from Knopf.

Check out the Goodreads description:

In the year 2052, after decades of gender selection, Koyanagar–a country severed from India–now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, and women are an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of wedding their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife. But after fighting so hard for freedom against the old ways of gender selection, these women have become just as deluded as their male predecessors. 

Sudasa Singh doesn’t want to be a wife and Kiran, a boy competing to be her husband, has other plans as well. Sudasa’s family wants nothing more than for their daughter to do the right thing and pick a husband who will keep her comfortable—and caged. Kiran’s family wants him to escape by failing the tests. As the tests advance, each thwarts the other until they slowly realize that they might want the same thing.

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view—Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose—allowing readers to feel both characters’ pain and grasps at hope.”

Doesn’t that sound amazing?


This entry was posted on May 27, 2014. 1 Comment

April New Release Giveaway Hop – AUDACIOUS and CAPRICIOUS

new-release-giveaway-hop_april2014_buttonbothcovers copyIn case you haven’t heard, I have a new book out this month. CAPRICIOUS is the sequel to the verse novel AUDACIOUS, which came out last year to rave reviews (if I do say so myself!). To celebrate my verse novel duology I’m giving away three copies of CAPRICIOUS and one copy of AUDACIOUS as part of the April New Release Giveaway Hop hosted by Book Nerd.

Audacious is about Ella, a misfit girl who vows to try to fit in, and blows it in a spectacularly teenage way. Publisher’s Weekly called it a “rich, riveting story… with an honest teenage voice”.

In Capricious  Ella does for her heart what she did to her life in the previous book: throws it down and stomps on it. Kirkus called it “sensitive and compelling”.

To enter simply comment below that you follow this blog. Those who follow me on Twitter, tweet or Facebook about the giveaway or add both books to Goodreads will get extra entries. Let me know in you comment what you’ve done.

The lucky winner who enters here will win both books!  You can also enter to win CAPRICIOUS over at my author site or at my design site Cover Your Dreams. You can also enter to win Capricious on Goodreads!

Book Birthday!

CAPRICIOUS is comes out today!

coverMy wardrobe is becoming more polka-dotted by the day to match how thrilled I am with Ella’s new look. Reviews so far have been great.  Kirkus called it “Sensitive and compelling”. CM Magazine rated it  4/4 stars and “highly recommended” . School Library Journal says its “candid approach to sex, lies, and friendship should attract a wide audience, especially readers who are drawn to deep and sometimes dark issues”.

Blogger Ashley from On Page 394 called it “one of the BEST Canadian novels I’ve read in a very long time” in her very insightful review which also compares me to William Carlos Williams! So…win!

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway to win a copy of Capricious !!

In the meantime, you can visit my Pinterest page for a few little teasers from CAPRICIOUS.

Verse on.

This entry was posted on April 1, 2014. 1 Comment

RUMBLE Cover Release

Now, I’m sure it can be agreed that many young adults, such as myself, wouldn’t even know what a verse novel was if it weren’t for those very wide, very colourful, one-word titled novels adorning the shelves of libraries and bookstores across the world. It can also be agreed that many of you out there, reading this blog, have also greatly enjoyed said fat, often controversial YA novels. There is one woman who we have to thank for that – the amazing Ellen Hopkins!

From Crank, way back in 2004, to Smoke, released only last year, Ellen (am I supposed to call her Hopkins? Heck, this isn’t formal) has graced us with over ten verse novels for both the adult and young adult age groups. Now it’s time to congratulate her on the reveal of the cover of her religious crisis novel (look, Gabrielle did it first, I hope she’s very proud): Rumble!


About Rumble (from Goodreads)

Eighteen-year-old Matthew Turner doesn’t believe in much. Not in family—his is a shambles, after his brother’s suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when the going gets rough. Certainly not in some omnipotent master of heaven and earth, no matter what his girlfriend, Hayden, thinks. In fact, he’s sick of arguing with her about faith. Matt is a devout atheist, unafraid of some Judgment Day designed by decidedly human power brokers to keep the masses in check. He works hard, plays hard, and plans on checking out the same way. But a horrific accident—one of his own making—plunges Matt into a dark, silent place where the only thing he can hear is a rumble, and eventually, a voice. And what it says will call everything Matt has ever disbelieved into question.

Are you as excited to read Rumble as we are? Tell us here or tweet at us @versenovels_com on twitter. I’d love to hear what you are thinking about this news!

di-VERSE-ity: Racially and culturally diverse authors

As part of our Di-verse-ity celebration, I’d like to highlight a few verse novel authors from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds.

Nikki Grimes

Nikki is African American and the author of several novels in verse including her latest WORDS WITH WINGS which was just a Coretta Scott King Author Honor book.

Words with WingsA Girled Named MisterBronx Masquerade

Here are a few words of wisdom from Nikki’s blog: 

“… the next time you come across a poet who clearly demonstrates a gift for this genre, don’t tell him to hide his light under a basket. Instead, tell poets to be smart about their choice of subject, to research the market to make sure their ideas haven’t already been done, to consider the needs of school curriculum and shape their work accordingly so that their books of poetry will be as marketable as possible. Encourage them to consider narrative books in verse—novels, biographies, historical fiction, creative non-fiction”

Margarita Engle

Cuban American Margarita Engle was kind enough to blurb my book for which I am eternally grateful. She is the author of many award winning novels in verse, including the Newbery Honor book THE SURRENDER TREE and multiple Pura Belpre Honor books such as THE POET SLAVE OF CUBA and THE FIREFLY LETTERS.


Here is what Margarita has to say about writing in verse:

“There’s something about the flow of emotions that fits the form. Free verse has a lot in common with dreaming. Things happen that aren’t expected, even by the author.”

Thanhha Lai

Thanhha Lai is a Vietnam-born American writer of the children’s literature. She won the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and a Newbery Honor for her debut novel, Inside Out & Back Again, published by HarperCollins.

Thannha made this interesting point about using verse to express the voice of someone who does not speak English:

“Right then I knew I had found the voice of a 10-year-old girl who was yanked out of her beloved home and replanted in an alien land called Alabama. She would be thinking in Vietnamese because when the story opens she has not learned English. That’s why none of the thousands of sentences I had written before rang true. When she thinks in Vietnamese, every word springs forth from images and condenses into quick, sharp phrases that capture vivid emotions. Vietnamese is a naturally lyrical, rhythmic language influenced by Chinese, which is written in characters not letters, thus lending itself to visual expressions.”

Looking for MeBetsy Rosenthal

Betsy is the author of LOOKING FOR ME IN THIS GREAT BIG FAMILY, a verse novel inspired by her mother’s large Jewish family. It won cutest middle grade verse novel cover right here on this blog! Still a very cute cover, don’t you think?

Finally let’s not forget verse novels for adults, Vikram Seth.


Vikram Seth is a multi award winning author whose first novel, THE GOLDEN GATE, is written not just in verse but in  590 Onegin stanzas (sonnets written in iambic tetrameter, with the rhyme scheme following the unusual ababccddeffegg pattern of Eugene Onegin), which is not only insane but also bada$$. Vikram was born in India and now lives mostly in England.

I don’t think that diversity is lacking exactly in verse novels, but I would love to see more verse novels from diverse voices OUTSIDE the American experience. West Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Muslim, Hindu, South American. As I’ve said before, I know many authors from these cultures are not writing in English and verse novels do not make the most obvious translation projects, but I’d love to hear about any novels in verse from any non Anglo-American cultures.


This entry was posted on February 11, 2014. 3 Comments

Verse Novels in the Classroom – Resource List

I’m doing a few classroom visits to colleges, universities and high schools over the next few weeks so to that end I have gathered a list of verse novel resources for teachers. I thought I’d share it here.

Below is the course plan I have used in high workshops. It is designed for high school age students but can be adapted as needed. The second link is to a PDF required for one of the suggested exercises.

An Educator’s Guide from Random House includes ideas for lessons, book suggestions and resources

An Introduction to Using Verse Novels with Emerging, Struggling or Reluctant Readers

This is an interesting website that has conducted an online version of a high school YA Lit class, with a unit on verse novels:

Here are two longer verse novel exercises to be used with students

Click to access Writing_a_Verse_Novel_-_Retelling.pdf

This is a scholarly article on the verse novel, which includes an excellent bibliography

An interview with three YA verse novelists

Verse Novels on difficult or Topical themes:

Verse Novels on Controversial Themes

School shootings/violence


Specific Verse Novel Study Guides:

The Simple Gift by Steven Herrick (YA)

By the River by Steven Herrick (YA)

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (MG/YA)

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate (MG/YA)

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (MG)

May B by Caroline Starr Rose (MG)

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas (upper  YA)

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins (upper YA)

Crank Trilogy by Ellen Hopkins (upper YA)

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson (YA)

Toppling by Sally Murphy (Lower MG)

Out of This Place by Emma Cameron (YA)

October Mourning by Lesléa Newman

This entry was posted on February 2, 2014. 1 Comment