Tag Archives: novel in verse

The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene

The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene. February 7, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 496 p. ISBN: 9781492638537.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

An emotional and heart wrenching novel about grief and striving for perfection.

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

Raesha will to do whatever it takes to win Nationals. For her, competing isn’t just about the speed of her horse or the thrill of the win. It’s about honoring her mother’s memory and holding onto a dream they once shared.

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

For an athlete, every second counts. Raesha knows minus five on the scale will let her sit deeper in her saddle, make her horse lighter on his feet. And lighter, leaner, faster gives her the edge she needs over the new girl on the team, a girl who keeps flirting with Raesha’s boyfriend and making plans with her best friend.

So she focuses on minus five. But if she isn’t careful, she’s going to lose more than just the people she loves, she’s going to lose herself to lighter, leaner, faster…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Barrel-racer Raesha keeps her life and her loves small: she has best friend Asia, boyfriend Cody, her dog, and her horse. Home is just Rae and her dad and the memory of her mother, who died a few years back. But there’s a new girl in town, Kierra, and both Cody and Asia are growing close with her. Rae focuses on the one thing she can control: herself. Nationals are approaching, and if Rae can make herself just a little lighter, a little leaner, she won’t be as heavy in the saddle, and her horse will move faster. “Minus five” becomes her mantra as she strives to succeed at the sport her mother loved. The novel in verse approach isn’t always the most effective here; the spare format works best when the focus is on the worsening of Rae’s anorexia. Though there are many teen books about anorexia, few focus on equestrian sports, despite the fact that eating disorders in the equestrian world are common, and this debut provides an intriguing and valuable perspective.

Publishers Weekly Annex (January 30, 2017)
A competitive barrel racer, Raesha knows that a single pound can translate into seconds lost or gained. Determined to win Nationals, like her mother did before dying from cancer, Rae fixates on her weight, sure that losing five pounds will make all the difference. The arrival of Kierra-a new rider who throws a wrench in Rae’s relationships with her boyfriend, Cody, and best friend, Asia-leaves Rae feeling alone, jealous, and frenzied. As her eating disorder develops, Rae becomes less strong and less focused, yet those elusive five pounds remains just out of reach, no matter what the scale says: “Lighter/ Leaner/ Faster, My goal/ Is always/ There.” Writing in free verse, debut author Alene vividly conveys Rae’s spiral into anorexia; as she weakens, the poems fragment and become less fluid, mirroring Rae’s physical deterioration. Alene’s characterization of secondary characters, particularly Rae’s friends, is less successful; Cody’s shallow comments about Rae’s looks are particularly damaging, but this issue is never acknowledged. Even so, Alene presents an illuminating account of a girl struggling for control of her life and body. Ages 14-up.

About the Author

Catherine Alene wrote this story when she was in recovery for her own eating disorder. She has an MA in teaching and an MFA in writing from Vermont College. She spent the last seven years as a language arts teacher at an alternative high school. She lives in Oregon with her daughter.

Her website is www.catherinealene.com

 

Around the Web

The Sky Between You and Me on Amazon

The Sky Between You and Me on Goodreads

The Sky Between You and Me on JLG

The Sky Between You and Me Publisher Page

Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell. January 31, 2017. Chronicle Books, 260 p. ISBN: 9781452125909.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

From acclaimed author Patricia Hruby Powell comes the story of a landmark civil rights case, told in spare and gorgeous verse. In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Racism and racist language

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. Readers meet sixth-grader Mildred Jeter, known to her family as String Bean, walking to school in 1952. Descended from African slaves and Indians, the kids in the Jeter family attend segregated schools, though in their small, racially mixed rural Virginia community, all enjoy music and square dancing together. Richard Loving enters her life as a white friend of her older brothers. As the years go by and Mildred grows up, the couple’s story becomes one of love, courtship, marriage, tribulation, and triumph. The local sheriff hauls them off to jail in 1958 for violating a statute prohibiting interracial marriage. After court battles, the law is overturned in the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision known as Loving v. Virginia. Written in free verse, Powell’s novel unfolds in a series of concise, evocative first-person narratives alternating between Richard and Mildred. Placing their personal stories within the broader context of the major events of the civil rights movement happening at the time, occasional sections feature archival photos as well as significant quotes. Powell’s thorough research includes 10 interviews. Not seen in final form, Strickland’s expressive illustrations draw on a mid-twentieth-century style. Fine, dramatic storytelling in a memorable verse format.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2016)
A powerful and riveting account of an American couple in love when that love was ruled illegal in many American states.In the early 1950s a boy and a girl in rural Virginia fell in love and got married. Her family was “descended / from African slaves. / And their owners.” He was white. Their love was scorned and against the law in their state. The couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, alternate and sometimes join together to tell their stories in beautifully rendered free verse. Love, children, marriage, jail, flight to Washington, D.C., long court battles, and final unanimous vindication in 1967 from the Warren Supreme Court fill the pages, detailing every particle of their strong feelings for each other and the equally strong bigotry of the local sheriff and state judicial system. Full-page photographs of school segregation and civil rights demonstrations clearly set the time frame. Excerpts from court decisions, period headlines, and quotations from Dr. King strengthen the learning curve for readers. Strickland’s blue-, gray-, and yellow-toned illustrations have a strong retro feel and tenderly reinforce the written words. A song of love vs. a cacophony of hate—all in a beautiful model of bookmaking. (timeline, bibliography, credits and sources) (Historical verse fiction. 11-18)

About the Author

Patricia Hruby Powell’s previous book, Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, won a Sibert Honor for Nonfiction, a Coretta Scott King Honor, and five starred reviews. She lives in Illinois with her husband and tree walker hound, Lil.

Her website is talesforallages.com.

Teacher Resources

The Loving Story from Teaching Tolerance

Loving vs. Virginia Teaching Guide

Around the Web

Loving vs. Virginia on Amazon

Loving vs. Virginia on Goodreads

Loving vs. Virginia on JLG

Loving vs. Virginia Publisher Page

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown

To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown. October 11, 2016. Candlewick, 304 p. ISBN: 9780763678111.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.3; Lexile: 860.

Told in riveting, keenly observed poetry, a moving first-person narrative as experienced by a young survivor of the tragic Donner Party of 1846.

The journey west by wagon train promises to be long and arduous for nineteen-year-old Mary Ann Graves and her parents and eight siblings. Yet she is hopeful about their new life in California: freedom from the demands of family, maybe some romance, better opportunities for all. But when winter comes early to the Sierra Nevada and their group gets a late start, the Graves family, traveling alongside the Donner and Reed parties, must endure one of the most harrowing and storied journeys in American history. Amid the pain of loss and the constant threat of death from starvation or cold, Mary Ann’s is a narrative, told beautifully in verse, of a girl learning what it means to be part of a family, to make sacrifices for those we love, and above all to persevere.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Domestic violence; Death; Murder; Cannibalism; Harsh realities of surviving in the wilderness

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 6-9. Their land sold, livestock traded, and belongings bundled into groaning wagons, the Graves family has 1,900 miles to go. It’s spring 1846, and Franklin and Elizabeth Graves—along with their nine children—are headed west, trekking from their home in Lacon, Illinois, to Sutter’s Fort, California. Months into the expedition, the family merges with the Donner and Reed parties; there’s strength in numbers, and the Hastings Cutoff, a route south of the Great Salt Lake, is rumored to chop weeks from the increasingly backbreaking journey. That is, until winter falls early, notoriously trapping the families “less than one hundred miles” from their intended destination. In this concise collection of narrative poetry, Brown assumes the voice of 19-year-old Mary Ann Graves, nimbly straddling the unfathomably harsh realities of travel, starvation, and bloodshed through the imagined musings of a headstrong girl entranced by quilts, birds, and the beauty of the moon. With her refreshingly varied form and ever-earnest tone, Brown weaves a compelling story of suffering, sacrifice, and survival.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
A fictional account of the Donner Party’s ill-fated attempt to cross the Sierra Nevada in 1846.Looking for a better life in California, Franklin Graves decides to take his large family west from Illinois. Nineteen-year-old Mary Ann relates in verse their experiences on the wagon trail as they meet up with other families, including the Donners, and are eventually trapped in the mountains during a brutal winter. The historical Mary Ann Graves survived the ordeal, and her letters to a newspaper editor form the basis for the novel’s details. Across four seasons, Brown uses words and form effectively to evoke the hopeful idealism, love, joy, and life-or-death terror they feel along the way. Words scatter and shake across the page “Inside the Wagon.” As Franklin looks upon the Great Salt Lake, “a gloom of sour surrounds him.” Short verses over several pages depict the drawn-out anguish of the starving, desperate travelers. The trip’s horrific end is foreshadowed in “The Sound of Meat” when the last of the beef is gone and one man responds to a snapping branch: “He almost shot Charles / thinking he was food.” An author’s note puts the story in historical context, including the difference in the points of view of the white pioneers and the Native Americans whose land they were trespassing on. A solid introduction to a somber episode in American history. (dramatis personae) (Historical verse/fiction. 11-15)

About the Author

Skila Brown has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has visited Guatemala numerous times in the last decade. She lives in Indiana with her husband and their three children.

Her website is www.skilabrown.com.

Teacher Resources

Donner Party & Westward Expansion Lesson Plan

Donner Party Full Documentary

Around the Web

To Stay Alive on Amazon

To Stay Alive on JLG

To Stay Alive on Goodreads