Saturday, 14 April 2018

Poetry or prose? reviewed by Emma Perry

The beauty of novels written in verse first fell in front of my eyes not long after I had set up My Book Corner, and was still enjoying the beautiful sunshine in Melbourne, Australia.

I distinctly remember trying to cook the kids' tea, and read the book at the same time because, whilst I hate to use a cliche, I really - really - didn't want to put it down. Plus. Cooking has never been my strong point anyway!

Pearl Versus The World

I was struck by the beautiful illustrated chapter book from Sally Murphy and Heather Potter - Pearl Versus The World, and it was the first time I could remember reading a children's novel written in verse. Sally Murphy is a talented writer, and her ability to convey the emotions of the character in so few words, and pull me into the story of Pearl as she copes with the passing of her Grandmother blew me away. Cleverly, Murphy also had her character battling her teacher at school regarding their stoic definition of poetry. It doesn't have to rhyme. 

The next verse novel to pull me up to attention was The Weight of Water from Sarah Crossan back in 2012. A neat, small book with blue ink and a wonderful cover from Oliver Jeffers. Kasienka and her mother head arrive in England with just one suitcase and a bag, Crossan uses the verse medium brilliantly to convey Kasienka and her mother's emotions as they negotiate their new life, as Kasienka navigates a new school and friendships.

The Weight Of Water
Cover Illustration: Oliver Jeffers

After that I was hooked.

I've managed to devour many (but not all... yet) of Sarah Crossan's novel ever since. The heartbreaking One, Apple and Rain and most recently Moonrise - which sees Joe trying to re-establish a relationship with his brother Ed, after being apart for ten years. Because Ed is on Death Row, and his execution date has been set. It's gripping, intelligent and the power of verse to pull you into a wonderfully flowing narrative is more than evident.

Cover Illustration: Peter Strain

My recent love... the verse writing of Kwame Alexander. I think I might be late to the party here in this discovery. Booked had this (me!) very un-sporty reader, hooked on a story featuring football. It has energy and pace - the verse flowed effortlessly from page to page. It's the follow-up to The Crossover, so I may or may not have read them out of sync (oops!), but it didn't impact on the journey it took me on.
Cover Design: Lisa Vega
Cover Photo: Steve Gardner

So have I convinced you? At the hands of these skilled writers poetry has such immense power to hook and absorb the reader, and pull them in to the narrative. The medium of verse seems to help the narrative really flow, seemingly effortlessly (I know!) pulling us into the hearts, minds and dramas surround the protagonist.

So, I now leave this in the words of Kwame Alexander's character, Nick Hall, from Booked...

"The best ones were
like bombs,
and when all the right words
came together
it was like an explosion.
So good, I
didn't want it to end."

I need more - where do I go next? Would love to hear your recommendations of novels written in verse.

Emma Perry is a picture book writer represented by Bell Lomax Moreton. 
She is the founder of the childrens book review site MyBookCorner and organiser of International Book Giving Day. 
Twitter: @_EmmaPerry @MyBookCorner


1 comment:

Penny Dolan said...

Some lovely titles here, Emma, and a poetic form seems just right as a way of making these kinds of stories accessible too. Thank you!

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