Get Inspired: YA Novels with Characters Who Read or Write Poetry

sweet revenge of celia door finneyfrockIn celebration of National Poetry Month, and because I am a poetry lover myself, I wanted to share some YA fiction titles in which a major character reads and/or writes poetry.  If you are reading this blog entry, then you probably enjoy poetry too.  And if you are like me – who has not kept the promise she made to herself some time ago to read a poem every day – you could do with some inspiration. 

So take a look at the list below, pick out a couple novels to read and let the presence of poetry move you to read or write some verse yourself!


The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock

Author Karen Finneyfrock is herself a poet.  Celia, the protagonist of this novel, dreams of becoming one.  She also dreams of revenge on classmate Sandy for what she did to Celia in eighth grade, an act which is not revealed until late in the novel.  As Celia writes: “That’s the day the trouble started. / The trouble that nearly ruined my life. / The trouble that turned me Dark. / The trouble that begs me for revenge.”  Rejected by her classmates, Celia finds comfort in writing poetry.  She even turns her mom’s notes into haiku.  An unexpected friendship with Drake, a boy who has just transferred to Celia’s high school, eventually opens Celia up to a new way of seeing the world and a more hopeful approach to life.

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Crafting and Creative Pursuits in YA Nonfiction and Fiction

photo by flickr user Tammy Strobel
photo by flickr user Tammy Strobel

March is National Craft Month!  I love crafting in many forms and have led craft workshops at the library system where I work.  Apart from reading, crafting is one of the few things that I can get completely lost in.  I think for me it started in middle school.  I had a bit of a rough time in eighth grade (a situation partly of my own creation), but always felt grounded by our arts and crafts class, where we explored several different art forms without being judged on the “quality” of our finished products.  In high school, I took a class in drawing and painting, sure at first that I would just eke by with a barely passing grade.  Instead, I ended up very pleasantly surprised at the sketches that I was able to make as the result of patient instruction and a little concentration.  As an adult I’ve taken jewelry-making and other craft classes, and have realized that crafting for me is almost a form of meditation, and I need to make more time for it in my life.  So to inspire myself as much as you, our Hub readers, I’ve put together a list of YA crafting guides and YA novels whose main characters craft in some form.

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Bookish Brew: In Honor of Author Elizabeth Ross, a Pot of Tea and French Pastry

Belle EpoqueI loved 2014 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross so much that I thought it should be highlighted with both drink instructions AND a pastry recipe.  The drink this time is simply black tea – but made properly, soothingly, with a kettle, teapot, loose leaf tea and all the rest.  While protagonist Maude Pichon does mention drinking and fantasizing about a “bowl” of hot chocolate more than once, and two of the wealthier characters drink coffee a couple times, tea is by far the most commonly enjoyed hot drink in this novel, mentioned more than twenty times.  The eats?  A recipe for the beloved pastry of Maude’s close friend Marie-Josée: pain au chocolat, of course!

As Hub bloggers Alegria Barclay and Anna Tschetter have respectfully already thoughtfully reviewed Belle Epoque and interviewed author Elizabeth Ross, I will only provide a brief outline of the novel here.  Set in 1888, it is narrated by protagonist Maude Pichon, a sixteen-year-old who has run away from her home in Brittany to start a new, self-determined life in Paris.  Desperate to make ends meet, she takes a position as a repoussoir at an agency, serving as a hired “beauty foil” for the wealthy.  Supposedly plain-looking women such as Maude are paid by this agency to accompany wealthy women on social outings, with the idea that the women’s plainness will make the wealthy clients appear attractive in contrast.  Maude often finds her work degrading, and yet, eventually becomes a bit enchanted by the world of her main client.  In doing so she risks ruining meaningful new friendships and a possible love relationship.  In our appearance-obsessed 21st century culture, it is impossible not to identity with Maude’s experiemce on some level.

photo by flickr user Helen Chang

A bit of casual research on my part appears to indicate that black tea is the most popular variety in France, with Breakfast, Earl Grey and fruity black tea blends often being found on salon de thé menus.  This coincides with Marie-Josée’s humorous dismissal of herbal tea when she describes a client outing which she did not particularly enjoy: “ ‘But no, this client had me stuck in the back corner drinking a tisane… not a foot set on the dance floor, herbal tea, and my talents wasted.’ ”


Making a Pot of Black Loose Leaf Tea

  1. Pour the number of cups of water that you desire into the tea kettle (one cup of water makes one cup of tea).
  2. Put the kettle on a stovetop burner.  Turn the burner up to its highest setting.
  3. Meanwhile, warm your teapot by filling it with hot tap water and letting it sit covered for a while.
  4. Once the tea kettle is boiling, empty the teapot of warm water.  Measure into the teapot one teaspoon of loose leaf tea for each cup of water that you have boiled.
  5. Turn off the kettle and pour the boiling water into the teapot and place the lid on it.
  6. For black tea, let the teapot sit (let the tea “steep”) three to five minutes.  Longer steeping time leads to stronger tea.
  7. After this time is up, for each cup of tea, place a strainer on top of the tea cup and pour your tea through this so that you catch the leaves.
  8.  Remove the strainer from the tea cup, add anything to your tea that you like (honey, sugar, milk, etc.) and enjoy!

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Bookish Brew: Inspired by Lissa Price

starters-lissa-price-coverenders-lissa-price-coverIn December I first blogged about heightening your reading experience by concocting a “bookish brew,” a beverage inspired by the book that you’re into at the moment.  Today, in honor of yesterday’s release of Lissa Price’s Enders, I thought I’d share a drink recipe that I created in the spirit of her Starters (2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers), the first book in this duology and one of my favorite reads.

In Starters, sixteen-year-old Callie lives in a futuristic Los Angeles in which everyone is either under age 20 or over age 60.  A fatal spore illness has killed all those in the age range in between.  Callie, her ill young brother Tyler, and her friend Michael are attempting to survive together by living in abandoned buildings, trying to avoid being sent to a prison-like institution for parentless children.  Desperate to help Tyler, Callie decides to sign up to rent her body out to seniors who will take control of her mind, living as youth again for a short period.  In return Callie is promised a very large sum of money.  During Callie’s third “rental,” however, she experiences periods where she is back in her own mind, learning that her current renter may plan to use her body to kill someone.  This initiates an action-packed series of events in which Callie learns more about her renter’s motivations and the plans of Prime Destinations, the company which she’s allowed to loan out her body.  Fans of the Hunger Games trilogy will love Starters, another great dystopian read about a strong and compassionate female lead taking a stand in a society divided between haves and have-nots.

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