Monday, October 13, 2014


In honor of Teen Read Week (Oct. 12-18), I’d like to promote this year’s selection of poetry for young adults. As usual, I find that about a third of each year’s list of poetry published for young people targets the teen audience and most of those are novels in verse. That’s true once again this year. I would also add that you’ll find some of the most risk-taking and inventive writing here, by a diverse crop of writers, too. I’ve written about many of the titles below in previous postings, but here’s a round up of all the teen poetry this year, as far as I know. And of course, many of the poetry books that target children (ages 0-12) are also eminently suitable for tweens and teens. That’s one of the things I love about poetry, in particular, that poetry is so little age-bound or limited by grade level or readability. So be sure to look at ALL the poetry published for young people available here. 

1. Alexander, Kwame. 2014. The Crossover. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Twin 12 year old boy protagonists love playing basketball and are growing up-- and maybe apart-- as they cope with middle school, girls, and the expectations of their parents. Teacher’s guide here.

2. Brown, Skila. 2014. Caminar. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
*Set in Guatemala in 1981 when conflicts between Communist soldiers and guerilla fighters were at a crossroads, the love of a mother for her son is a beautiful thread throughout this powerful story of war, courage, and survival. Poet to Poet interview here

3. Crowe, Chris. 2014. Death Coming Up the Hill. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
*It's a historical novel in verse about a teenage boy who is navigating high school, first love, and parental conflict during the Vietnam War and it highlights issues of conflict, resistance, and racism. It's built entirely upon haiku poems with a total of 16,592 syllables, one syllable as a tribute to each soldier's death in 1968 during the Vietnam War, the year with the highest casualties during the war. Poet to Poet interview here.  

4. Engle, Margarita. 2014. Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
*From the young “silver people” whose backbreaking labor built the Panama Canal to the denizens of the endangered rain forest itself, this novel in verse tells the story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. Teacher’s guide here

5. Frank, Lucy. 2014. Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling. New York: Schwartz & Wade.
*“This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness."

6. Heppermann, Christine. 2013. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty. New York: HarperCollins/Greenwillow.
*”In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious.”

7. High, Linda Oatman. 2014. Otherwise. Costa Mesa, CA: Saddleback.
*A love story set “in a near-future United States, unisex gender presentation becomes mandated by law.”

8. High, Linda Oatman. 2014. Teeny Little Grief Machines. Costa Mesa, CA: Saddleback.
*“When her semi-friends start bullying her… Lexi can't handle school any more. Lexi breaks down and the new counselor calls in the hospital - Lexi has a rehabilitating stay in the mental health ward. Suddenly, she is reborn.”

9. Holt, K. A. 2014. Rhyme Schemer. San Francisco: Chronicle.
*”Rhyme Schemer is a touching and hilarious middle-grade novel in verse about one seventh grader's journey from bully-er to bully-ee, as he learns about friendship, family, and the influence that words can have on people's lives.”

10. Hopkins, Ellen. 2014. Rumble. New York: Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster.
*“Rumble explores bullying and suicide in a story that explores the worth of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

11. Kuderick, Madeleine. 2014. Kiss of Broken Glass. New York: HarperTeen.
*“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.”

12. Lewis, J. Patrick and Lyon, George Ella. 2014. Voices from the March: Washington, D.C., 1963. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
*This poetry collection focuses specifically on the march on Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Six fictional characters tell their tales on this historic day in cycles of linked of poems alongside the perspectives of historic figures and other march participants for a rich tapestry of multiple points of view.” Teacher’s Guide here.  

13. Nagai, Mariko. 2014. Dust of Eden. Chicago: Whitman. 
*"'We lived under a sky so blue in Idaho right near the towns of Hunt and Eden but we were not welcomed there.' In early 1942, thirteen-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa and her Japanese-American family are sent from their home in Seattle to an internment camp in Idaho. What do you do when your home country treats you like an enemy?" Poet to Poet interview here.  

14. Pattou, Edith. 2014. Ghosting. Skyscape.
*”On a hot summer night in a midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes altering lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario all too familiar from current real-life headlines.”

15. Phillips, Linda. 2014. Crazy. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
*Laura is a typical fifteen-year-old growing up in the 1960s, navigating her way through classes, friendships, and even a new romance. But she’s carrying around a secret: her mother is suffering from a mental illness.”

16. Winters, Ben H. 2014. Literally Disturbed #3: More Tales to Keep You Up at Night. New York: Penguin/Price Stern Sloan.
*”Ben H. Winters continues to scare readers in this collection of 30 creepy rhyming stories about the things that haunt your nightmares!”

17. Woodson, Jacqueline. 2014. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin.
*Woodson’s poetic memoir reflects her dual upbringing in her extended family in South Carolina and in New York City, growing up African American in the 1960’s and 1970’s, experiencing difficulty with reading, but a passion for words, stories, and writing. Poet to Poet interview here.  

18. Yolen, Jane. 2014. Sister Fox’s Field Guide to the Writing Life. Papaveria Press.
*”Jane Yolen brings us this delightful new collection of poems on the art and craft of writing. Sometimes whimsical, often amusing, and always a wonder and a delight.”

19. Nelson, Marilyn. 2014. How I Discovered Poetry. Ill. by Hadley Hooper. New York: Dial.
*”Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems.”

Be sure to seek out all these intriguing, diverse works and buy them now, plus multiple copies for your library.  And if I missed any YA titles, please let me know!

Of course I hope you'll look for last year's book, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, a NCTE Poetry Notable, with poems by 70+ poets and "Take 5" mini-lessons for every poem. And check out the other poetry books published in recent years-- you'll find new links to comprehensive lists in the sidebar of this blog.

Happy Teen Read Week!

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.

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