Never a Word Wasted: Novels in Poems

Frenchtown Summer
Cormier, Robert

"Long ago,
before I was born,
the broken body
of Marielle LeMoyne
was found in the woods
at the bottom of Twelfth Street..."

Frenchtown is a seamy industrial town filled with families down on their luck. Secrets lurk here, dark and unwholesome, somewhere beneath our everyday understanding of life, love and family. Robert Cormier eerily captures the painful step from childhood innocence to adult awareness. By the author of The Chocolate War and The Rag and Bone Shop.

You Remind Me of You: A Poetry Memoir
Corrigan, Eireann

"When did you begin to experience dramatic weight loss?
	The spring I turned sixteen, after experiencing
 a dramatic desire to lose weight.

 What fueled this desire? Did you believe others considered you 
I believed others didn't consider me very often. I felt too much, burdensome. In the window beside my bed, a hole broke through the mesh screen. I used to write help me on scotch tape across pennies and poke the coins through the hole. One day I decided This is stupid. There are other ways to ask for help. Thin was one of them."

Eireann Corrigan's brief memoir is a painful and deeply personal examination of a teen's struggle for survival and understanding.

Love that Dog
Creech, Sharon

Jack doesn't like poetry. He doesn't want to read it and he certainly doesn't want to write it. Poetry is for girls. But Jack doesn't have much choice - teachers don't take no for an answer. To his surprise, Jack discovers that poetry has something to say to him, and that he has something to say with his poems. A touching and funny homage to the healing power of poetry by the Newbery Award-winning author of Walk Two Moons.

Keesha's House
Frost, Helen

It's Joe's house, really. He owns it. But Keesha is the one who leads people there. An unplanned pregnancy, an abusive home, an uncaring foster home - there are so many reasons why teens can end up on the street, looking for a place to call home. These are a few of their stories, told in a variety of poetic forms.

Who Killed Mr. Chippendale? A Mystery in Poems
Glenn, Mel

"At approximately 7:30 this morning,
The body of one of our teachers
Was found on the school's track.
We are withholding disclosure of his name
Pending notification of next of kin."

Who is Mr. Chippendale? Who shot him? Why? Does anyone care? Will anyone remember?

The Taking of Room 114
Glenn, Mel

"Mr. Wiedermeyer,	     No Answer
 I'm knocking		     No Answer
 On the door.		     No Answer
 Would you mind		     No Answer
 Opening it up, please?	     No Answer
 Are you OK?		     No Answer
 Is the class OK?	     No Answer"

When a highschool history teacher loses it and takes his class hostage, anything can happen. Mel Glenn's taut novel explores the thoughts and feelings of the many players in this drama.

Love, Ghosts and Facial Hair
Herrick, Steven

The New Teacher

He must teach Science
      see how he squints
      and looks at his lunch
      like a failed experiment.
Or Maths!
     the grey of his shorts
     the expanse of his ears
     the lovely floral tie and check shirt
     all add up.
He couldn't teach English
     because he's always reading
     and he seems able to string a few words together
     and as yet, 
     he hasn't misspelt his own name...

we're sure he'll fit into this school
     like a burger into a bun.

Australian Steven Herrick serves up a dose of quirky realism in Jack's musings on a miscellany of topics including Annabel (the love of his life), his mother (the ghost in his house) and nose hair (the curse of his existence). For more of his witty and reflective free verse, check out A Place Like This (the further adventures of Jack and Annabel) and The Simple Gift.

Out of the Dust
Hesse, Karen

"On Sunday,
winds came,
bringing a red dust
like prairie fire,
hot and peppery,
searing the inside of my nose,
the whites of my eyes.
Roaring dust,
turning the day from sunlight to midnight."

Billie Jo is suffering. Still aching with the loss of her mother and her own physical injury, she and her father are trying desperately to hold on to the family farm - and each other - through the harsh years of the Depression. Winner of the 1998 Newbery Award.

Hopkins, Ellen

Life is full of
We don't 
good ones.
It seems to 
you gotta 
to open your
invite the 
demons in.
throws rocks
at the feeble 

Kristina is reliable, responsible, everything her mother wants her to be. But on a visit to her father, Kristina decides to abandon her safe and sober self. She becomes Bree, adventurous, fearless, even dangerous. The freedom is impossibly, almost unbearably exciting, but what about the consequences? If she wants to, can Bree still find her way back to Kristina?

Brimstone Journals
Koertge, Ron

It's a sort of dark, post-modern Breakfast Club. All the stock characters are here - jock, brain, loser, loner, whatever. On the surface, they all play their roles, behave as expected. Inwardly, everyone is seething with suppressed emotion - anger, fear, resentment, insecurity, self-loathing. Now someone at Branston High has a gun, and a list. How long will it be before the pot boils over?

The Realm of Possibility
Levithan, David

"Here's what I know about the realm of possibility - 
it is always expanding, it is never what you think
it is. Everything around us was once deemed 
impossible. From the airplane overhead to 
the phones in our pockets to the choir girl 
putting her arm around the metalhead.
As hard as it is for us to see sometimes, we all exist
within the realm of possibility. Most of the limits
are of our own world's devising. And yet,
every day we each do so many things
that were once impossible to us."

David Levithan offers a familiar but intriguing look at highschool in all its desperate glory. Twenty distinct voices give us their perceptions of their world, themselves and each other. An engaging and thoughtful novel that speaks to everyone currently living through highschool - and survivors of the ordeal.

The Voyage of the Arctic Tern
Montgomery, Hugh

Ships, pirates, treasure, ghosts - here are all the ingredients of a classic tale of high adventure. Rhythmic and atmospheric, Hugh Montgomery's poems conjure up a story of intrigue and betrayal in the tradition of The Highwayman and The Wreck of the Hesperus.

17: A Novel in Prose Poems
Rosenberg, Liz

"She feels strangely sad and lost. This is when they should begin feeling closer and closer, but instead it is as if each is on a different train, drawing apart, heading for a different destination. Sometimes she worries, does she only like him because she feels she will never know him?"

Stephanie's 17th year is a crazy one. She is in love for the first time, but it doesn't make her happy - joyful, sometimes, but not happy. Love consumes and frightens her. She is stalked by the fear of loss - of this fragile relationship, of old friendships, of new possibilities, of her freedom, and of herself. 17 is a perilous journey.

God Went to Beauty School
Rylant, Cynthia

He never meant to.
He liked dogs, He'd 
liked them ever since He was a kid,
but He didn't think
He had time for a dog now.
He was always working 
and dogs needed so much attention.
God didn't know if He
could take being needed 
by one more thing...

What if God was one of us? Cynthia Rylant's skilled hand paints a portrait of God that is human and humane, a loving and powerful being who suffers from loneliness and finds that He cannot control everything. Amusing, poignant and thoughtful, this is one to be shared aloud.

What My Mother Doesn't Know
Sones, Sonia

"If only Dylan liked Ferris wheels.
If only I liked roller coasters.
If only Dylan liked fun houses.
If only I liked bumper cars.
If only Dylan liked horse shows.
If only I liked video arcades.
If only I had come with Rachel and Grace instead." ("At the County Fair")

Take a trip through first love (on to second and third love), friendship and family with Sophie. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, Sophie's trials and tribulations are ever so familiar...

Girl Coming in for a Landing: a Novel in Poems
Wayland, April Halprin

when      when
father     mother
father	   mother
     he   she
     he   she
   would make a
mother     father   ("Mr. C. Explains the Double Helix")

It's a year in the life - a year of home and school, friends and family, and the emergence of a poet's voice.

Wild, Margaret

"Do not get to know me.
Do not ask me out.
Do not love me.
Be warned!
I am Jinx."

Once her name was Jen, but that was before - before the deaths of two boyfriends. Now she is Jinx. Margaret Wild's poems speak with the voices of Jinx, her family and friends as she tries to find the way back to herself.

Woodson, Jacqueline

"When people ask how, I say
a fire took them.
And then they look at me like
I'm the most pitiful thing in the world.
So sometimes I just shrug and say
They just died that's all."

Lonnie Collins Motion is orphaned and separated from his sister at age seven. Life after that is silent pain and surviving out loud: group homes, new schools, foster care. Nothing seems to belong to Lonnie. He has no way to even express his grief - until Ms. Marcus makes his class write poetry.


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