Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mary Louise Sanchez: "Less is More"

A few years ago, when I was substituting in a high school library, I noticed the kids were asking for Ellen Hopkins' books. The majority of the time I read middle grade books, so I wasn't familiar with the author's works. I soon realized the subject matter she writes about is appealing to young adults. The large sized volume I found on the shelf seemed  imposing until I opened it. Then I discovered another reason her books resonate with young adults. They are novels in verse with lots of white space!  It occurred to me that reluctant readers, especially, would be attracted to this type of book because verse novels combine poetry with a story and are brief. As Sarah Tregay, an author of verse novels says, "With fewer words on each page, these books are perfect for reluctant readers and busy teens." Wouldn't you agree that busy people do appreciate brevity in their reading material at times?

In a few hours this summer, I read an interesting novel in verse about the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial written by Jen Bryant.
It inspired me to look into other verse novels which are historical in nature. I believe introducing historical novels in verse would be an excellent way to start meeting curricular standards at the start of the school year. Students (and even teachers) may still be in a summer mode with laid back attitudes. Everyone could be eased into the rigors of school by starting the year with these brief novels which have much substance. 

Teachers, you still have a few weeks before school starts and you could easily read many of these books in a few days.
Hopefully you'll find some short historical fiction books that match your students' needs, which would give you more time to incorporate additional and outstanding historical novels into your busy school year.

One good site which lists novels in verse is Goodreads novels in verse. I have posted some of their historical fiction books-in-verse-for kids, but please follow this link to Goodreads to find even more titles. On the Goodreads' site you can also read a synopsis of each book.

Here are some historical novels in verse which prove "Less Is More." The pictures are courtesy of Goodreads.


1812 Indiana Territory
WWII Holocaust
WWII Germans dealing with handicapped
WWII Holocaust

1960s Civil Rights

Vietnam War
Women's Rights

Karen Hesse, a Newbery Award medalist for Out of the Dust, which is about the Great Depression, has written these other novels in verse too.

Great Depression
WWII Japanese invading Aleutian Islands

Ku Klux Klan 1924


  1. Thanks for the list! Most of these are new to me. Caroline Starr Rose also has written a couple wonderful historical fiction verse novels for middle graders: May B and Blue Birds. I think verse novels are wonderful for reluctant readers. They give the kids a chance to succeed at reading a book that is at their interest and maturity-levels.

    Deb Watley

  2. I knew Caroline Starr Rose wrote some historical verse novels and will have to read them.