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It's Poetry Month! Poetry is a beautiful form of creativity and expression. It tells stories in a succinct format that allows for both urgency and pause. In honor of Poetry Month, here's a short list of some of our favorite YA books written in verse. Pick one up, grab a good seat, and settle in for a couple hours.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Note: As you can see from the medals on this cover, Poet X is the winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Pura Belpré Award! Even more exciting, you can meet Elizabeth Acevedo at Books Inc. Opera Plaza on May 13th. It is a ticketed event, so purchase your ticket (which includes a copy of her newest novel With the Fire on High) here.
An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.
A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.
And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.
Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds.
Note: If you're looking for a book you can't put down until the very end, this is for you. This book will pull you along through heart-pounding verse, one floor at a time.
Blade never asked for a life of the rich and famous. In fact, he'd give anything not to be the son of Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star and drug addict with delusions of a comeback. Or to no longer be part of a family known most for lost potential, failure, and tragedy, including the loss of his mother. The one true light is his girlfriend, Chapel, but her parents have forbidden their relationship, assuming Blade will become just like his father.
In reality, the only thing Blade and Rutherford have in common is the music that lives inside them. And songwriting is all Blade has left after Rutherford, while drunk, crashes his high school graduation speech and effectively rips Chapel away forever. But when a long-held family secret comes to light, the music disappears. In its place is a letter, one that could bring Blade the freedom and love he's been searching for, or leave him feeling even more adrift.
Note: Music and poetry aren't too different so Solo weaves them together to bring you a lyrical story that navigates, death, family, and love.
A gorgeous and timely novel based on the incredible story of Sophie Scholl, a young German college student who challenged the Nazi regime during World War II as part of The White Rose, a non-violent resistance group.
Disillusioned by the propaganda of Nazi Germany, Sophie Scholl, her brother, and his fellow soldiers formed the White Rose, a group that wrote and distributed anonymous letters criticizing the Nazi regime and calling for action from their fellow German citizens. The following year, Sophie and her brother were arrested for treason and interrogated for information about their collaborators. This debut novel recounts the lives of Sophie and her friends and highlights their brave stand against fascism in Nazi Germany.
Note: This book is perfect for those looking for a different way to learn about history. Its a beatiful, heart-breaking window into a young woman's life and death during one of the world's darkest times.
Bestselling author David Elliott explores how Joan of Arc changed the course of history and remains a figure of fascination centuries after her extraordinary life and death. Joan of Arc gets the Hamilton treatment in this evocative novel.
Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), Voices offers an unforgettable perspective on an extraordinary young woman. Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.
Note: Another unique way of looking at a historical figure through her eyes, as well as people, creatures, and objects she comes in contact with.
Teen Advisory Board Member Evgenia Reviews Sky in the Deep
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
Eelyn, a young warrior, has been raised to value her clan, the Aska, above all else, but when she sees her dead brother fighting on the other side of a battle she is thrust into unfamiliar territory. Stolen away to live alongside her enemies, the Riki, Eelyn must form alliances and fight to survive the winter. Even further complicating things is Fiske, her brother’s new friend, who she must trust in order to win the coming battle. Eelyn is forced to confront her old beliefs, and to unite with her enemies in order to stop an even greater enemy that threatens both the Riki and the Aska.
Sky in the Deep has such originality, thrusting the reader into the brutal lives of viking clans. Adrienne Young delved deep into a portion of history seldom seen in young adult novels, and created a vivid, harsh backdrop for her story. The characters were compelling, revealing more and more secrets, connections, and traits as the book proceeded. With every page, the characters felt more and more real, as if they were flesh and blood.
Eelyn is an interesting protagonist to read about. She is characterized, largely, by her beliefs and values and her status as Aska. As all of those are threatened and challenged, the reader is able to see all of the ways that she develops and changes.
Clans, battles, and friendships abound in this interesting viking novel. Young’s writing emphasizes the connections between characters and raises questions about loyalty and family. Sky in the Deep would be perfect for people fascinated with vikings, history, or just those looking for an exciting, unusual read.
The Sky in the Deep is available in stores now!
Teen Advisory Board Member Ava Reviews Seafire.
Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx must captain her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric's armed and armored fleet.
But when Caledonia's best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all . . . or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?
I absolutely adore this badass feminist pirate story! The contrast between Caledonia, the headstrong Captain of the Mors Navis, and Pisces, her compassionate first mate, is the sort of female friendship I absolutely adore. Their solutions to escape are so cleverly planned out by the author, easy to comprehend and a joy to read. Adding to the amazingness of this book, Seafire is abundant with diversity. Not only are many characters described as having various skin tones, one crucial character is deaf and others are involved in LGBTQ+ relationships (as expected in an all-female environment).
If Seafire by Natalie C. Parker is missing from your shelf, then make a note to read it! You will have no regrets.
Seafire is available in stores now!
Happy National Poetry Month!
Looking for books to read along with your kiddos in celebration? Check out these new and recommended titles:
For the first time ever, the beloved songs from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood are collected here in a charmingly-illustrated treasury.
Mister Rogers instilled the values of kindness, patience, and self-esteem in his viewers, and most of all, taught children how loved they were, just by being themselves. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhoodreimagines the songs from the show as poetry, ranging from the iconic ("Won't You Be My Neighbor?") to the forgotten gems.
Perfect for Ages 6+
Fifty of the foremost diverse children's authors and illustrators--including Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Kwame Alexander--share answers to the question, "In this divisive world, what shall we tell our children?" in this beautiful, full-color keepsake collection, published in partnership with Just Us Books.
Perfect for Ages 8+
A warm, gorgeous exploration of a little girl's experience immigrating to a new country and missing her home and her grandmother, who still lives far away. Sakura's Cherry Blossoms captures the beauty of the healing power of friendship through Weston's Japanese poetry-inspired text and Saburi's breathtaking illustrations.
Perfect for Ages 3+
A girl writes a poem to a tree, but then is surprised when the tree writes back in this wondrous and warm picture book about friendship, nature, and the power of poetry.
Perfect for Ages 4+
Poems can appear in surprising forms – Iris uses the shape of her hands to create visual poems with her grandparents in his modern day classic about the connection between a girl and a whale who both want to be heard.
Perfect for Ages 8+
Teach the kids more about the world's greatest poets with the Who Was Series:
And then of course, there's always the classic favorites:
Let's be honest, every day should be Unicorn Day, but this Tuesday, April 9th, is the actual EXTRA SPECIAL SPARKLY NATIONAL UNICORN DAY!!
Publishers, authors, and booksellers all over the country will be celebrating and we'd like YOU to join US!
Stop by Books Inc. Campbell on Tuesday for ALL DAY readings of Unicorn-centric stories, an in-store scavenger hunt (Ages 2+), and a special gift to anyone (of all ages) who swings by the store dressed up like a Unicorn!
If you'd like continue the celebration into the month, stop by Books Inc. Palo Alto on Thursday, April 25 at 6:30pm and meet Dana Simpson, creator of the Pheobe and Her Unicorn Graphic Novel series!
Dana will be celebrating the newest book in the series: Unicorn Bowling!
Fun Unicorn Facts!:
2. Unicorn hunters may obtain a Unicorn Questing Licence from Lake Superior University, Michigan.
3. According to Pliny (a Roman author way way back in the day), a unicorn had the body of a horse, the head of a deer, the feet of an elephant, and the tail of a lion, with a black horn projecting ‘two cubits’ from the middle of its forehead.
(I'm glad we let that one go. Hey, here's an activity idea: Have your kid draw that... see how long you can keep it up on the fridge...)
Or you can always stop by your local Books Inc. and grab a copy of any of these wonderfully beautiful and fun Unicorn books.
I love The Moon Within by Aida Salazar! It focuses on Celi, an 11 year old mixed girl living in Oakland, as she struggles with her changing body and balancing friends, family and crushes. It’s written in verse, and you really get a sense of Celi’s emotions with Salazar’s beautiful poetry describing her thoughts! I also really enjoyed how The Moon Within tackles the topic of menstruation and how it impacts girls hitting puberty, which I don’t think an author has done for this age since Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., which was almost 50 years ago! I’m so excited for mothers and daughters together to discover this book, as well as kids to find it themselves in bookstores and libraries across the country.
The Moon Within feels like it’s written for a kid of now. There’s sections about rediscovering lost heritage, exploring alternative gender and gender norms, and talking to crushes through texting. Despite being written in poetry, it’s super easy to get yourself into Celi’s world, particularly the sections where she talks about her love of dance. Honestly, this book feels like it’s going to stick around for years to come!
About Rachel: Before becoming a bookseller, I worked in libraries and was a teacher, so you could probably say I’ve been working with books for a while. I’ve been working at Books Inc. as a children’s specialist for about 3 years and run the Flashlight Readers Book Club (Ages 8-12) at Books Inc. Berkeley. When I’m not reading, I love playing board games!
It's not really a new thing that people love (or hate) to see their favorite novels adapted into films. The "digital-age-old" battle of Movie vs. Book (the book is better) has pushed the sales of many novels up. After all, you can't have an opinion if you haven't seen the movie AND read the book, can you? NOPE.
So, what are readers excited to be seeing in theatres (or on their tv screen) based on sales in March? Let's take a look:
Angie Thomas' debut novel has spent a consecutive 180 weeks on the New York Times' Bestseller List. Tugging on heart-strings and shining a spot-light on nation-wide turmoil, The Hate U Give has captivated so many people. It was an obvious choice for a film adaptation. That film grossed over $29 million during it's 15 weeks on the big screen. The novel still sits-pretty on many Best Seller lists, including ours. In March it sits as the 2nd best selling novel in YA, just below Thomas' newest novel, On the Come Up.
Tapping into the John Green fandom, Five Feet Apart, the story of two teens falling in love despite major illnesses, debuted back in November and already we were expecting a film adaptation. Most likey it's because Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis are screenwriters and sold the story to the book and film industries simultaneously. The movie came out in March and the novel sits pretty at #1 on the New York Times Best Selling List. For Books Inc., it rests snuggly at #3.
Nicola Yoon's sophomore novel, The Sun is Also a Star came out back in November 2016 accompanied by a wave of praise. Yes, it is a #1 New York Times Best Selling novel as well, but it was also named their Notable Children's Book of the Year 2016. And still, we've had to wait nearly THREE YEARS for the film adaption. (To be fair we were given Everything, Everything back in 2017, but we're still counting.) It's not any less timely though, being the story of two teens falling in love in 24 hours while one struggles with societal expecations and the other faces deportation. The movie opens in theatres this May, so if you're not one of the people who helped land it the #4 spot on Books Inc.'s best selling list this March, you better go out and grab your copy quick!
The beloved story of Lara Jean and her adventures in love has captivated readers since 2014, but it wasn't until 2018 that we got our adaptation from Netflix and it was well worth the wait. Even more exciting is that Netflix announced it will also be giving us the sequel, P.S. I Still Love You. All three novels in the series were Books Inc. best sellers in March: To All the Boys I've Loved rounds out the top 5 while, P.S. I Still Love You follows closely at #6 and Always and Forever Lara Jean hangs in at #15.
This past February, Tor announced the exciting news that Fox 2000 will be adapting Children of Blood and Bone for the big screen. The West-African inspired fantasy sky rocketed in popularity before it even hit shelves, debuting, you guessed it, as a New York Times Best Seller. It currently sits at #8 on their list and #19 on ours. Though we don't have a date for the film, we do have a publication date for the sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengence, December 3, 2019. Preorder your copy now!