As my regular readers know, I’m a round-one judge for the Cybils Awards in the Poetry category. Because of that, I’ve been reading tons of verse lately! I’m not allowed to share any details about our process for choosing the finalists, but I am allowed (and encouraged) to review the books as I read, so I figured I’d share four of them with you today. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
The Seventh Raven by David Elliott
Illustrator: Rovina Cai
Published by Clarion Books on March 16, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Retellings, Verse, Young Adult
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Jonathan Bartlett
Best-selling author David Elliott examines the timeless themes of balance, transformation, and restoration in this evocative tale about a girl who will stop at nothing to reverse a curse that turned her seven brothers into ravens.
And these are the sons
Of good Jack and good Jane
The eldest is Jack
And the next one is Jack
And the third one’s called Jack
And the fourth’s known as Jack
And the fifth says he’s Jack
And they call the sixth Jack
But the seventh’s not Jack
The seventh is Robyn
And this is his story
When Robyn and his brothers are turned into ravens through the work of an unlucky curse, a sister is their only hope to become human again. Though she’s never met her brothers, April will stop at nothing to restore their humanity. But what about Robyn, who always felt a greater affinity to the air than to the earth-bound lives of his family?
David Elliott’s latest novel in verse explores the unintended consequences of our actions, no matter our intentions, and is filled with powerful messages teased from a Grimms’ fairy tale. Stunning black-and-white illustrations throughout by Rovina Cai.
The Seventh Raven is a unique verse novel because it’s all written in formal verse. Most verse novels are written in free verse or a combination of free verse and formal verse. In this book, Elliott utilizes rondeaus, Onegin stanzas, couplets, and some more obscure forms. This will probably either make or break the book for people, but personally, I loved it. Formal poetry has a flow that rolls off the tongue and begs to be spoken aloud (which I often did when reading this book). The story is a retelling of “The Seven Ravens” from the Brothers Grimm, which I didn’t remember going into the book, but as I read pieces of the original story came back to me. Elliott brings the story to life in emotional and evocative detail. As April struggles to save her brothers from an undeserved fate, Robyn revels in a sense of freedom he never felt in the life he was “supposed” to live. I found myself swept away in their journeys. If you can appreciate formal verse, this book will be sure to enthrall you, just as it did me. I loved every minute of the reading experience!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Media Masters Publicity so I could provide an honest review. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on January 12, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Verse
Cover Artist: Kgabo "Saint Rose" Mametja
My content rating: YA (Bullying, racism, sexual harrassment)
A novel-in-verse about a young girl coming-of-age and stepping out of the shadow of her former best friend.
She looks me hard in my eyes&
my knees lock into tree trunks
My eyes don't dance like my heartbeat racing
They stare straight back hot daggers.
I remember things will never be the same.
I remember things.
Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend.
Chlorine Sky tells a story of finding a way to make yourself known in the world amongst broken friendships, difficult family relationships, and complicated dating relationships. Sky just wants to live her life—play basketball, swim in the pool, and hang out with her one and only friend, Lay Li. But when Lay Li just sits by and laughs when a guy calls Sky ugly and stupid, Sky knows that things are changing in ways she can’t control. As she deals with her friend ignoring her, she also has to fend for herself against her sister’s negative comments and racist and misogynistic aggressions coming from guys who don’t like the fact that she can beat them in any basketball game. Sky’s instinct is to hide from the world, but she remembers the words of her coach, who always encouraged her to take up space. In the end, Sky needs to take this advice so she doesn’t get lost behind the flurry of the big personalities around her.
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride
Published by Feiwel and Friends on August 17, 2021
Genres: Verse, Young Adult
Cover Artist: Rich Deas
My content rating: YA (Death of family members, Depression)
Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted.
Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she too will discover the history she carries in her bones.
Moth and Sani take a road trip that has them chasing ghosts and searching for ancestors. The way each moves forward is surprising, powerful, and unforgettable.
Here is an exquisite and uplifting novel about identity, first love, and the ways that our memories and our roots steer us through the universe.
This book explores both African American and Native American roots and the ways that those roots have been severed by American culture and exploitation. My favorite aspect of the book is the absolutely gorgeous verse. Honestly, I just loved every minute of reading the book because the poetry flows so beautifully and the imagery is wonderful. I went into the story without reading the description, and I’m so glad I did because I was surprised by what ended up happening. (In fact, I left out the first line of the Goodreads blurb because it’s a total spoiler—I think it’s a bit odd that they market it that way.) Moth and Sani find each other during their darkest moments, and they each go on a journey of self-discovery—and a literal journey, together. As they travel, they share stories of their families and their ancestors. And they teach each other to heal. I absolutely loved this moving and heartbreaking book!
Ice! Poems about Polar Life by Douglas Florian
Illustrator: Douglas Florian
Published by Holiday House on December 1, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Picture Book, Verse
Funny poems paired with intriguing facts introduce young readers to the fascinating creatures that live in Earth's polar regions.
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year!
The remote North and South Poles-- which poet Douglas Florian calls our Earth refrigerator-- are home to a wide variety of unusual, rarely-seen creatures including caribou, penguins, ptarmigans, narwhals, and many more! Young readers will love learning about these polar denizens and the ways they've adapted to their cold, windy, frozen environments.
Whimsical, colorful art and humorous poems introduce more than a dozen polar animals, and touch on the unique characteristics of the polar regions. Funny and educational, the book ends with an inspiring call to action about climate change, reminding us of our responsibility to take care of our planet.
Ice! Poems About Polar Life explores key scientific concepts such as animal adaptation, biomes, global warming, and interdependence in poems filled with rhyme, rhythm, figurative language-- and a huge dose of humor!
Artist and author Douglas Florian is well-known for combining poetry, art, and science in books that have wit, imagination, and an aesthetic sensibility.
Ice! is a picture book that’s part silly poems and part informative non-fiction. The art is all created by the author in a distinct almost childlike style that uses fun media like collage and crayons. The poems all have goofy elements like funny rhymes, made-up words, and play-on-words jokes. They’re sure to keep kids entertained and interested. Then there is a non-fiction section at the bottom of each page that gives information about the featured animal or region. The book tells ways that humans have affected polar life and ends with an important message about climate change. A very cute read!