If you don’t have any novels in verse in your classroom library, run, don’t walk, to grab some! A novel in verse is a story that’s told in poetry instead of normal paragraphs. It’s a wonderful option for students who feel overwhelmed by regular chapter books or who don’t like poetry. And honestly, it’s just a nice change from what we all typically read.
There are so many great novels in verse for elementary grades that tackle relatable and high-interest issues, as well as share some perspectives that may be new for students.
And they are perfect for teaching poetic devices, sensory language, point-of-view, plot, character development, and other standards in your poetry unit.
Here are some of my favorite novels in verse for grades 4-6 for independent reading, book groups, read-alouds, and mentor texts.
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Starfish by Lisa Fipps
Starfish tells the story of Ellie, a middle schooler who is constantly bullied regarding her weight – even by members of her own family. Her backyard swimming pool is the one place where she feels comfortable ‘spreading out like a starfish.’ Over the course of the book, and with the support of her dad, her therapist, and a new friend, we watch Ellie’s confidence and self-worth grow as she stands up to her bullies. A beautifully written, must-have book.
Unbound by Ann E. Burg
Unbound is another wonderfully written novel that will pull at your heartstrings. It’s the story of Grace, a young enslaved person who is sent to work at the Big House. Her family warns her to keep her head down and her thoughts to herself, but that’s more easily said than done, and her actions end up forcing her family to flee and take refuge in the Great Dismal Swamp. This historical fiction novel is absolutely one I recommend for all teachers and especially those who teach Virginia Studies.
Catching a Story Fish by Janice N. Harrington
We know how hard moving can be on families. In Catching a Story Fish, Keet (named after a parakeet) is a happy, chatty girl who adores telling stories – until she moves to a new school and is teased for her accent. Her relationship with her grandfather gets her through as she tries to find her voice again. It’s a sweet (and relatable) story, and I love that so many forms of poetry are featured. A good book to have to support discussions on teasing and bullying.
Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood
Lifeboat 12 is a solid choice for fans of Alan Gratz. This novel follows 13-year-old Ken, who is sent by ship away from England when the Nazis start bombing London. However, the ship is torpedoed, and we follow Ken’s struggle to survive on a lifeboat with a handful of other passengers. This book is based on true events and is a very powerful story.
Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins
Closer to Nowhere is about a young girl named Hannah whose life is upended when her cousin, Cal, moves in with her family. He doesn’t fit in easily with the rest of them and Hannah spends a lot of time wishing he’d never come. The reader learns a lot about personal growth, belonging, and empathy with this novel. I also love that topics like IEPs and learning differences are introduced in the story through the alternating perspectives of the 2 main characters.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Chances are your students are already familiar with The Crossover, but I still have to include it on this list! I’m not a huge basketball fan, but you can’t help but fall in love with it as you read this book! Sports, family, hip-hop, sibling rivalry, and more – with beautiful concrete poetry woven throughout. Kwame Alexander is a fantastic author and if you already have this award-winner in your library, there are two more in this series you’ll want to check out.
Alone by Megan E. Freeman
Alone is the novel in verse you need if your students are into survival and adventure stories. Maddie wakes up to find that her town has been evacuated and she is left to fend for herself. This brave, creative girl overcomes one obstacle after another as she learns to navigate this new reality.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai
Inside Out and Back Again tells the story of Hà, a young Vietnamese girl who is forced to flee Saigon with her family during the Vietnam War. They travel by boat to relocate in Alabama, where Hà struggles with her grief and frustration living in a brand new culture. This award-winning story is based on Lai’s personal life and is an impactful choice to show the perspective of a refugee during wartime.
I also recommend Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, about a young girl from Syria who migrates to the United States.
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Love That Dog was the first novel in verse that I read and it’s still a favorite (along with Hate That Cat). This is the perfect book for your poetry-loathing students! It’s about a young child named Jack who receives a poetry assignment from his teacher – and how his writing blossoms when he finally begins to do the work. A lot of students will connect to this story!
A Seed in the Sun by Aida Salazar
A Seed in the Sun is an inspirational story of a young girl in the 1960s whose family is harvesting grapes in California at a time when farmworkers are beginning to strike for better pay and treatment. This is an excellent introduction to the lives of migrant workers and the work of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez – which I never learned about in school. Another must-have for your historical fiction or poetry shelf.
I know how hard it can be to find novels in verse for children who aren’t ready for middle-grade content quite yet. I hope this list helps you find some new books for you and your students to fall in love with during National Poetry Month or anytime of the year!