Sunday, April 29, 2012

Novels in Verse Reading Challenge Update



This month I read two novels in verse as part of the Reading Challenge hosted by Amanda at Born Bookish: Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones and Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Let me tell you a little bit about them. . .

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister
Went Crazy



This book is based on the true experience of the author and her own girlhood journals.

At the age of thirteen, Cookie witnesses the frightening changes in her older sister as she has a mental breakdown. From that point on, everything in her life changes. Not only does she lose her sister, best friend, and confidante to a lengthy hospitalization, but also her mother and father become unrecognizable to her under the pressure of their grief and their inability to comfort each other through the loss.

Cookie finds herself lonely and longing to talk to someone about what’s going on, yet she’s afraid of losing her friends if they find out.

I felt the honesty of Cookie’s emotions, from her own fear of being crazy, to her admission that she often didn’t want to visit her sister in the hospital. Although she desperately missed her, most times she found that she didn’t recognize the girl who looked back at her. It's heartbreaking to watch Cookie try to navigate through the changes alone. But there is also hope and deep joy as she finds a true friend, and  her family begins putting their life back together.

I borrowed this book from the library, came home and thought I’d just pick it up and read the first page or two before starting lunch. But I couldn’t put it down. I read the first third of the book standing in the kitchen. Finally, I stopped long enough to fix lunch, then sat down, and read the rest of the book. I heartily recommend Stop Pretending. At just under 10,000 words, it’ll take you on a short but powerful journey.

Out of the Dust


 I had heard of this book before but never picked it up. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was put off by the cover, which I find quite drab. But after reading several wonderful reviews, I put the cover out of my mind and got the book.

This is the story of Billy Jo, a fourteen-year-old girl who grows up in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the great depression.
We watch her farming family struggle through drought and loss with a constant shroud of dust that covers everything from Billy Jo’s mother’s beloved piano to the very food they eat.

After a terrible accident takes her mother's life and leaves Billy Joe burned and scarred, she and her father drift through life on currents of their own quiet grief and Billy Jo dreams of the day she will leave. 


When Billy Jo finally jumps a train that will take her out of the dust bowl, she is able to come to terms with the past and the present, trading in blame for hope, and discovering something about herself in the process.


This is a wonderful book and it rises right to the top of my list as one of my favorite novels in verse.


For a peek into the story, have a look at this 10-year-old actress performing one of the most dramatic scenes in the book. It gives me goosebumps! 



If you haven't joined the Novels in Verse Reading Challenge yet, I encourage you to consider it. There's still time to join in, and at the least intimidating level you only need to read one book. I'm a big fan of the format and I've found that the challenge has pushed me to try more than just the authors I'm familiar with. And that's always a good thing.

51 comments:

  1. You're right on drab covers putting readers off books, Ruth! Luckily you went ahead with reading. I've read another Karen Hesse verse novel, so I know and like her style of writing enough to look past the cover. 'Out of the Dust' sounds like something I'll really enjoy. I've placed it on my to-read list. The young actress in the video was amazingly natural!

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    1. I have another of her books on my desk right now. Can't wait to get to it!

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  2. Two very deep novels... I'd be like you and get completely hooked. The performance was great... sounds like such a great book.

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    1. The other plus with novels in verse is that they are quick reads. Lets you feel like you're actually gaining ground on your TBR list ;)

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  3. Interesting to read your reviews, thanks for sharing. I've actually never read a novel in verse (the format just doesn't appeal), but I know I'm being stubborn about it and one of these days really should give one a go.

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    1. Yes, Anne, I hope you do give one a try one day!

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  4. I read Out of the Dust a long time ago. It was a great read.

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    1. yep, now I'm excited about reading her other verse novels.

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  5. Wow, thanks for the reviews. I think I need to put both books on my tbr list!

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    1. I'd love to hear what you think of them.

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  6. Karen Hesse is one of my favorite authors, so it's great to see her work spotlighted.

    What a fascinating and heartbreaking topic Sonya Sones has chosen. I will definitely pick this up.

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    1. I read another of Sonya Sones books this week and have requested another from the library. I'm hooked!

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  7. I admit I have a hard time grabbing a book with a horrible cover. I know, I know, dont judge by cover alone, but it really sets the pace for me.

    Good on you for contining with it anyway. Thanks for the great review.

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    1. I think we all know better, but we do it anyway. You almost can't help it.

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  8. What wonderful books to review. I need to find a multicultural book in pros to read/review for a challenge I'm participating in "Reading the World." Any suggestions? You are so good in this area.

    I absolutely loved the video -- one very talented girl who's headed somewhere. Can't believe she recited the story. It was moving, chilling, and heartbreaking. I loved it!

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    1. Hi Pat, you might be interested in The Good Braider by Terry Farish about a family that escapes from war-torn Sudan and must adjust to the cultural differences between Sudan and the U.S.

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  9. Out of the Dust is one of my all time favorites. It's an amazing story. I read Sonya Sones' What My Mother Doesn't Know and What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know, and I'm a big fan of hers, but I have read this one yet. I'll have to check it out from my library. Thanks for posting on these two wonderful books, Ruth!

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    1. Hi Lynn, thanks for the recommendations. I took your advice and read What My Mother Doesn't Know yesterday. My library doesn't have What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know but I've put in a request for it. Can't wait! Thanks!

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  10. Great reviews, Ruth! That little actress was amazing! Thanks for another great post.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Victoria. I know, I wish I could have given presentations like that at that age (or at any age for that matter.)

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  11. I felt exactly the same way about the cover of Out of the Dust, and how amazing it is.
    Stop Pretending was actually my least favorite of Sonya Sones' novels in verse; I highly recommend the ones LynNerdKelley recommended above.

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    1. Thanks, Miss K. Between you and Lynn, I was convinced. Looking forward to reading all of Ms. Sones' books.

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  12. I'm not sure I've ever read a novel in verse, but you speak so highly of these, and I've read synopses of several others where the story sounds so good, I just may have to give them a try! Thanks for sharing these reviews - both books sound amazing!

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  13. I hadn't heard of these two books before now. I'm not a big fan of novels in verse, but the one's I've read I've enjoyed. Especially those by Elle Hopkins.

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    1. I haven't read Elle Hopkins' books. I think they're a bit "dark" for me.

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  14. ooh! That video gives me goosebumps too! That girl does a phenomenal job. Great new book suggestions!

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  15. Excellent reviews! Drab covers always put me off. I am glad you overlooked these and read on. I have NEVER read a novel in verse. Now I will. Thanks, my friend. *waving*

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  16. I try desperately hard not to judge a book by its cover, though, more than often, I fail miserably at it. Great video- Impressive : ) ~ Jess

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  17. What a wonderful performance that was. Thanks for posting this and I'm hooked.

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  18. Out of the Dust is a masterpiece. I actually love the cover, but more important, what’s between the covers is a pearl.

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    1. Which just goes to prove how subjective it is. Glad you enjoy the cover AND the book.

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  19. That's an interesting reading challenge! The two novels sound intriguing.

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    1. It is a great challenge. I only wish there were more people participating!

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  20. I loved Out of the Dust, but I haven't read Stop Pretending yet. It sounds powerful. Thanks for these wonderful reviews.

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    1. Yes, it's a tiny books that makes a big impact.

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  21. Stop Pretending sounds so interesting that I want to go to library (if it's there) and get it.

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    1. I'd love to hear what you think of it.

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  22. Thanks for posting about those two books. I don't have time to join the Novels in Verse Reading challenge right now, but perhaps I can try doing this another time. =)

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    1. Yes, I hope Amanda hosts one again next year!

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  23. I remember how powerful Out of the Dust was. Verse novels can have so much impact with their spare, lovely lines.

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    1. I have another of Karen Hesse's verse novels here at home. I'm really looking forward to it now.

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  24. That's quite a performance. I haven't read Out of the Dust yet, but it's going on my wish list. I read Sones' book, though.

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  25. Oh, good. I hope you like it as much as I did!

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  26. I just came over from Claire's Tea Party, connecting from your last comment. I love the title of your blog! These books sound good, I'll have to check them out. Your blog looks interesting too (I share that love of words and God's encouragement, too)... will be back to read more... :)

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    1. Pam, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

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  27. Great post. Haven't read any novels in verse since I was doing my degree. May have to look something out.

    By the way, I've awarded you the Beautiful Blog award. You're mentioned as a nominee on my blog.

    http://fionajphillips.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/somebody-loves-me.html

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    1. Awwww, thanks, Fi! I look forward to passing it on.

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