The 2020 Nerdies: Poetry and Novels in Verse Announced by Heidi Mordhorst
CHALLENGE. Every good book–even nowadays a poetry collection–needs a compelling challenge for the characters or for the reader. In this year’s Nerdy Award winners, poets capture our central human challenge: becoming and being true to ourselves, claiming our identity, resisting the limits of easy stereotypes and assumptions. Whatever “they” may say or believe, these books offer defiant, upstanding replies.
SINGLE POEM PICTURE BOOK
A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart
by Zetta Elliott
illustrated by Noa Denmon
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
When they say you’re an angry Black boy, show them the power of your tenderest feelings.
Cast Away: Poems for Our Time
by Naomi Shihab Nye
When they say it’s too late for the planet, gather up and recycle your ideas about trash.
Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z
by Irene Latham and Charles Waters
illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
When they try to define you, show them you’ll break the mold.
Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration, and Cake
by Marilyn Singer
illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
When they say it’s only cake, remind them that food is fundamental.
In the Woods
by David Elliot
illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
When they say nature isn’t relevant, remind them where wonder lives.
Just Like Me
by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Knopf Books for Young Readers
When they say you’re an ordinary little girl, tell them how extraordinary you are!
Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice
by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olivia Gatwood
illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
Roaring Brook Press
When they say ‘it is what it is,’ show them that you are what will be.
MIDDLE GRADE VERSE NOVELS
Before the Ever After
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books
When they say they want the fame and glory of sports, remind them of the price athletes pay.
BenBee and the Teacher Griefer: The Kids Under the Stairs
by K.A. Holt
When they say you’ll never be a reader, teach them that gaming is literacy too.
Closer to Nowhere
by Ellen Hopkins
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
When they say your broken brain can’t love, show them how trust grows.
Land of Cranes
by Aida Salazar
When they say this isn’t your home, find the sweetness in your struggle through immigration detention.
The Canyon’s Edge
by Dusti Bowling
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
When they say you’ll never be safe again, show them that you are your own superhero.
YA VERSE NOVELS
Apple (Skin to the Core)
by Eric Gansworth
When they say you belong nowhere, show them that Native peoples are still here, still standing.
Clap When You Land
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Quill Tree Books
When they say you are an orphan, reach across islands to find the limits of “family.”
Every Body Looking
by Candice Iloh
Dutton Books for Young Readers
When they tell you what you should hide, dance like you know who you are.
Punching the Air
by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Balzer + Bray
When they pronounce you guilty, use your anger to create your way out of the box.
The Black Flamingo
by Dean Atta
Hodder Children’s Books
When they say you’re neither this nor that, dress yourself in all the layers that fit.
Three Things I Know Are True
by Betty Culley
When they ask how the gun went off, reach out with your hands to find the truths.
BIOGRAPHY IN VERSE
Becoming Muhammad Ali
by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
When they say you’re all talk, show them your heavyweight heart.
No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History
ed. by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson and Jeanette Bradley
illustrated by Jeanette Bradley
When they say you’re too young to understand, show them you can lead!
With a Star in My Hand: Rúben Darío, Poetry Hero
by Margarita Engle
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
When they say you are an exile, take paper as your sky and words as your natural air; ride a new movement home.
HISTORICAL FICTION IN VERSE
by Deborah Wiles
When they tell you one side of the history, seek out multiple perspectives.
HEIDI MORDHORST teaches PreK in a Montgomery County, MD public school and is the author of two poetry collections for young readers, as well as contributions to numerous anthologies. She currently serves on the NCTE Excellence in Poetry Award Committee. She blogs regularly at my juicy little universe and you can follow her on Twitter @heidimordhorst.