Read, Discuss, and Do with MARI IN THE MARGINS

By Marci Whitehurst The best books make readers feel like they aren’t alone. They’re seen. Understood. Our very own  Rebecca J. Gomez  accomplishes this flawlessly in Mari in the Margins , her new middle grade novel in verse, published by Bandersnatch Books. It releases May 14 th !  Here’s a snippet about the novel, which you’ll surely want to READ:   For Marivel JimĂ©nez, life in her big family is full of chaos. Feeling overlooked by her parents and overshadowed by her siblings is frustrating, and it's even worse to have the constant attention of her annoying, mischievous three-year-old sister, Susana.  Caught between her need to be noticed and her dream of having time to herself, Marivel pours herself into poetry and, eventually, art journaling. When she hears of a school-wide poetry contest, she sees winning as a chance to escape the margins of her family and finally be seen. Doesn’t that sound amazing? That’s because it is. I was honored to read the book ahead of its release—and

Five Treasures to be Found in Novels in Verse

By Marci Whitehurst

Novels in verse are a hybrid form of storytelling. Novels in verse combine a complete narrative with the structure of poetry, bringing depth and richness to the beauty of stories. 

Here are five treasures you’ll find in a novel in verse: 

  1. POETRY! 

This treasure is obvious on every page of a novel in verse. Each page is a poem. The majority are free verse poems, meaning these poems don’t follow a particular meter, form, or rhythm. The poems can stand alone, but when each page of poetry is read from beginning to end, it weaves a full narrative to make a complete story. Check out this example from our own Rebecca J. Gomez’s forthcoming novel in verse: 

We call this car,
Sandra’s white clunky car,
a marshmallow with wheels.

It’s riddled with dings and dents,
and the rear driver’s side window is stuck 
stubbornly up
and the tear in the vinyl seat 
if you sit just wrong
while wearing shorts.

But my sister loves it
because she paid for it with 
her own money.

I’m just glad for
the seatbelts and airbags.
  1. EMOTION! 

Using poetry increases emotion because as readers, we experience the cadence and rhythm of the story not only in the words, but also in the meter and form of poetry. According to research done by Hospital Pediatrics, poetry increases emotional wellbeing. Their study found that fear, sadness, anger, worry, and fatigue were reduced with poetry intervention. 

  1. IMAGERY! 

Many pages of a novel in verse include words arranged like art to help convey an image being written about. For example, in one of my poems, I use the word dripping to describe butter dripping from toast. However, I wrote the word like the word itself is dripping: 

I make toast,
with butter… 

When a reader picks up a novel in verse, it is a quick immersion into the story. Within a few short pages, a reader often knows a lot about the main character, the setting, and the time frame of the story. This makes for a deep plunge into the tale—kind of like jumping off the high dive into a pool of water. You’re wet within seconds!


Intrigue is a natural by-product of a quick immersion into a story. This intrigue is also strengthened by the fact that there are less words in a novel in verse than in a prose novel. This creates a fast paced read. 

With these five treasures at play, novels in verse make great read-alouds and great books for kids that aren’t as interested in reading. 

Read! If you’re ready to pick up a novel in verse, check out these suggestions to get you started: 

*Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech

    The story of a young boy who resists poetry assignments from his teacher, but then finds inspiration in his dog. This is a great book to start with if you’ve never read a novel in verse  or if you have a young child starting to delve into these novels. 

*Other Words For Home, by Jasmine Warga

   The heart-tugging, yet hopeful story of a young girl who must leave Syria to move to the United States. 

*Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai 

   Set in 1975 during the Vietnam War, yet relevant for today, this is another immigration story about a girl coming to the United States, not knowing English. 

*The Magical Imperfect, by Chris Baron

    This story is a beautiful story about friendship between two young kids who feel they are outcasts. A Jewish boy befriends a girl who homeschools after her eczema caused incessant teasing. 

Gone Fishing: by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

This is a novel for young readers told in various forms of poetry. The story of a young boy coming to terms with his sister joining him and his dad on their special fishing trip is charming, relatable, and fun! The book includes a “Poet’s Tacklebox” to help young readers learn about different poetic devices, techniques, and forms.

Mari in the Margins, by Rebecca J. Gomez

    Coming May 14, 2024! As the middle child of nine, Mari uses poetry to express her feelings of being lost and overshadowed in her large family, but when she hears of a school-wide poetry contest, she begins to see herself as someone who could move from the margins to center stage. You can pre-order now from Bandersnatch Books! More details to come! 

Discuss! Here are some things to talk about during or after reading a novel in verse:

  • How is this format different than what you usually read?

  • Do you enjoy the verse format? Why or why not?

  • Did the novel you read use “free verse” only, or did it mix in other poetic forms?

Do! Here some ways to explore poetry:

  • If the book you read used various poetic forms, choose a form and look up more examples.

  • Try writing a poem or short story in “free verse” style.

  • Visit our previous Poetry Challenge posts and try one of the challenges. You can try list poems, persona poems, or limericks

What are your favorite novels in verse? What treasures do you see inside their pages? Tell us in the comments!