Free Verse Friday - HEARTBEAT and Others
All novels teach. Sometimes they teach about something that happened in history, or about how it feels to have a missing pet, or what it is like to work in on a farm. Virtual experiences are great ways to learn. But some books show characters doing activities that inspire readers to not only experience by reading but also by doing. Following up reading a chapter of a novel by getting out supplies and actually participating in what you were reading about is a special gift only some books offer.
Sharon Creech’s novel, HEARTBEAT, is filled with activity inspirations all rolled up in a fantastic story! The story follows twelve-year-old Annie as she waits for a new baby sibling to arrive, decides if she will join a running team, does an art project, and learns about life with an aging grandfather and grumpy friend.
Annie learns about and falls in love with footnotes. Simply defined, footnotes use a superscripted numeral to refer readers to an additional bit of information or description that may be to long or distracting to insert into the text. Footnotes are usually found in upper-level research papers and other similar places, but almost never in writing for kids. However, that’s what makes it fun in this novel; Annie finds she can add a footnote to just about any sentence in order to share a little bit more about her thoughts. While it still leaves much to learn about footnote usage, HEARTBEAT offers a fun introduction that can be useful later when those more standard footnotes crop up for your student. The best part is that, at least in my case, the kids wanted to try writing footnotes after reading this story. Write a couple sentences and see what footnotes can be added.
Annie’s 30 days of drawing is another one of my favorite examples of activities in this book. Even kids that love to draw tend to get frustrated or bored when asked to repeat a drawing or try it a different way. “Didn’t I do it right the first time?” “It will just look the same.” “It’s boring to draw the same thing again!” Annie’s apple drawings and her change in perception of the project over time helps change those misconceptions. Daily drawings of particular objects have been a huge part of our days ever since!
Free verse novels are amazing works of art that still encompass everything a prose novel does, but in new and sometimes better and surprising ways. Free verse novels are gems! I hope this series of blogs has introduced you to some aspects of free verse you may not have thought about before. Here are a few more of my favorites:
- KALEIDOSCOPE EYES by Bryant– a long free verse novel with a compelling mystery plot. Super fun!
- GOD WENT TO BEAUTY SCHOOL by Rylant – hysterical, touching and very short novel that will have you looking at things in a new way.
- OUT OF THE DUST by Hesse – This Newbery-winning novel has a tough subject matter but is beautifully written and expertly brings a tragic time period to life.
- TOFU QUILT by Russel – This story, based on the author’s life, shares the struggles of a girl who wants to be a writer but is living in a culture and era when that was not the norm.
- THE TRIAL by Bryant – follows a young girl living in the small town where the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trail was held. It’s an interesting look at the legal system and journalism of the time.
I can only hope this list grows by leaps and bounds as more authors offer free verse novels to the juvenile audience.
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