Saturday, March 12, 2016

Kid Konnection: Free Verse

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a newly published middle grade book that is just fantastic!

Summary: When her brother dies in a fire, Sasha Harless has no one left, and nowhere to turn. After her father died in the mines and her mother ran off, he was her last caretaker. They’d always dreamed of leaving Caboose, West Virginia together someday, but instead she’s in foster care, feeling more stuck and broken than ever.

But then Sasha discovers family she didn’t know she had, and she finally has something to hold onto, especially sweet little Mikey, who’s just as broken as she is. Sasha even makes her first friend at school, and is slowly learning to cope with her brother’s death through writing poetry, finding a new way to express herself when spoken words just won’t do. But when tragedy strikes the mine her cousin works in, Sasha fears the worst and takes Mikey and runs, with no plans to return. In this sensitive and poignant portrayal, Sarah Dooley shows us that life, like poetry, doesn’t always take the form you intend. -- Putnam

FREE VERSE by Sarah Dooley is one special book! It has received starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal; and the blurbs from famous authors are pretty darn impressive too. I couldn't agree more with everything that is being said about this novel. I'm not sure I can add much more to what's already been said, but I'll try!

FREE VERSE tells the story of Sasha Harless, a 12 year old girl who has lost everything. Her mother left went she was younger, her father died in a coal mining accident, and her brother Mike died while fighting a fire. She's in foster care with a kind woman, but Sasha is having a hard time dealing with things. There are triggers, like a song her mother used to sing, that cause Sasha to lash out and even become violent; and Sasha has problems remembering what happens when these fits occur.

Sasha and her brother Michael always dreamed about leaving Caboose, the small coal-mining town in West Virginia where they make their home; however, Sasha feels almost as if there is no hope for her future without Michael. And then, she learns that she does have family... in the form of a distant cousin and his family. She feels a special affinity with her cousin's son Mikey, who appears to be almost as troubled as Sasha.

Sasha and Mikey become friends and this relationship helps Sasha begin to heal. As Sasha begins to adapt to her new life, she makes a friend at school and also discovers her talent for writing different types of poetry. This new creative outlet opens doors for her at school and also allow her to better express her feelings through the written word!

When Sasha hears about a mining accident and her cousin goes missing, her worst fears come to life -- she will lose another person she cares for! She and Michael run away with no real plan for how to survive, and Sasha finds herself facing yet another personal loss.

I loved FREE VERSE!!! Everything about this novel is just so well done -- from the writing, to the character development, to the poetry, to the themes of the story. It's a powerful novel that is guaranteed to touch your heart and make you think.

Sasha is an amazing character. The poor thing has experienced a lifetime of loss in her twelve short years, and her feelings of desperation are so real. My heart went out to this child and I loved her story. FREE VERSE was written in Sasha's voice, and it was just the perfect way to tell her story. Her thoughts and feelings were so authentic, and that's a huge testament to the author!

Sasha is such an inspirational character too. Her struggles were very real, yet there was a survival aspect to her character that was just admirable. I absolutely loved that she found her some confidence through poetry -- and that she was able to also find her voice.

And the poetry in the book was wonderful. I think there are about 60 pages of the book that are written in different styles of poetry including haiku, cinquain, tanka, and more. The method of storytelling was unique and also provided much insight into Sasha's character. I'm not a huge fan of poetry (namely because I don't understand it), but I absolutely loved how the author used it to show Sasha growth and maturity!

I could go on and on about FREE VERSE and, truly, this review only touched the surface of this powerful middle grade novel. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

Oh my gosh, I love novels written in verse and just reviewed one myself. Free Verse sounds heartbreaking because those are real situations for so many kids. I'm sure that book is outstanding!

Kate Unger said...

Oh wow. Free Verse sounds really good. I'm adding it to my TBR list right now. Is it middle grade? It sounds a little heavy for younger kids. Great review!

I added my link to a review of Last Stop on Market Street, a Newbery winning picture book by Matt de la Pena. It highlights economic diversity and was a great conversation starter.

Stacie said...

Wow! This sounds really good and reminds me of my social work days. Thanks for sharing and for the link up!