10 books like Blood Water Paint

By Joy McCullough,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Blood Water Paint. Shepherd is a community of 6,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Crossover

By Kwame Alexander,

Book cover of The Crossover

Written in poetic verse, this novel is captivating, clever, and emotional. I love it when a book is written with so much emotion that I have to wipe away the tears. Yes, I cried. Alexander combined sport with heart, and this book has depth, and covers so much more than basketball. The family scenes are realistic and powerful.

The Crossover

By Kwame Alexander,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Crossover as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A million copies sold

'With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .
The court is SIZZLING.
My sweat is DRIZZLING.
Stop all that quivering.
Cuz tonight I'm delivering'

12-year-old Josh and his twin Jordan have basketball in their blood. They're kings of the court, star players for their school team. Their father used to be a champion player and they each want nothing more than to follow in his footsteps.
Both on and off the court, there is conflict and hardship which will test Josh's bond with his brother. In this heartfelt novel in verse, the boys…

Brown Girl Dreaming

By Jacqueline Woodson,

Book cover of Brown Girl Dreaming

Written in verse, this book is the rare piece of literature that has something to offer every single age group. I can imagine holding a baby and whispering Woodson’s poetry into their open ears. I can picture my own middle grade reader curled up on a couch being transported for the first time by the magic of Woodson’s language. And I remember my first encounter with this book as a grown up, read in a single sitting with a cup of coffee growing cold next to me as I absorbed Woodson’s captivating story. Which is to say, I don’t care how old you are, where you are from, what your own history says about you. I promise you will grow from reading this memoir.  

Brown Girl Dreaming

By Jacqueline Woodson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Brown Girl Dreaming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The compelling story of a young Black girl growing up in 1960-70s America - a multi-award winning New York Times bestseller and President Obama's 'O' Book Club pick.

Brown Girl Dreaming is the unforgettable story of Jacqueline Woodson's childhood, told in vivid and accessible blank verse. She shares what it was like to grow up as an African-American in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, never truly feeling at home, and discovering the first sparks of an incredible, lifelong gift for writing. It's packed with wonderful reflections on family and on place, in a way that will appeal to…


Your Heart, My Sky

By Margarita Engle,

Book cover of Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger

Your Heart, My Sky is a gorgeous book set on the island of Cuba during a terrible period of starvation in the 1990s. The points of view of two young lovers and a stray dog work together to paint a full picture of both the bleak situation and their heightened emotions during this desperate time.

I found the romance to be the perfect bright spot as the protagonists and their families struggle to survive on the island they love. As always, Engle’s poetry sings as the perfect vehicle for this very personal story that YA fans will surely devour. 

Your Heart, My Sky

By Margarita Engle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Your Heart, My Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed author Margarita Engle tells a “deeply felt and engrossing” (Horn Book Magazine) story of love in a time of hunger inspired by her own family’s struggles during a dark period in Cuba’s history.

The people of Cuba are living in el período especial en tiempos de paz—the special period in times of peace. That’s what the government insists that this era must be called, but the reality behind these words is starvation.

Liana is struggling to find enough to eat. Yet hunger has also made her brave: she finds the courage to skip a summer of so-called volunteer farm…

Audacity

By Melanie Crowder,

Book cover of Audacity

Audacity is based on the life of Jewish immigrant Clara Lemlich, who fought for female workers’ rights in New York factories in the early 20th century. I found this verse novel gripping from its very first pages. 

YA readers today will definitely identify with the young woman at the story’s core—especially those who are familiar with the historical backdrop. Despite the difficulties the protagonist faces, her story is filled with hope and is told in beautifully-written verse.

Audacity

By Melanie Crowder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Audacity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A 2015 National Jewish Book Award finalist

The inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history

A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan's Lower East Side.…

Here in Harlem

By Walter Dean Myers,

Book cover of Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices

Here in Harlem pays homage to the people of Harlem in the first half of the 20th century. I loved how the rhythmic, musical verse brings the setting to life. It’s modeled on Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, but in a completely unique way that will really speak to YA readers.

The voices depicted in this poetry collection—especially Clara Brown’s recurring testimonies—make the book feel like a fully alive story rather than simple moments captured in time.

Here in Harlem

By Walter Dean Myers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Here in Harlem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed writer Walter Dean Myers celebrates the people of Harlem with these powerful and soulful first-person poems in the voices of the residents who make up the legendary neighborhood: basketball players, teachers, mail carriers, jazz artists, maids, veterans, nannies, students, and more. Exhilarating and electric, these poems capture the energy and resilience of a neighborhood and a people.

Out of the Dust

By Karen Hesse,

Book cover of Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust was the first verse novel I read. Set during the Dust Bowl of the thirties, I was drawn into the story from the first page. I loved Billy Jo, the main character, and was impressed by Karen Hesse’s ability to capture, in so few words, the dust, desolation, and difficulty of living in Oklahoma at that time. 

Out of the Dust

By Karen Hesse,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Out of the Dust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed author Karen Hesse's Newbery Medal-winning novel-in-verse explores the life of fourteen-year-old Billie Jo growing up in the dust bowls of Oklahoma.

Out of the Dust joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content!"Dust piles up like snow across the prairie. . . ."A terrible accident has transformed Billie Jo's life, scarring her inside and out. Her mother is gone. Her father can't talk about it. And the one thing that might make her feel better -- playing the piano -- is impossible with her wounded hands.To make matters worse, dust storms are…

Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds,

Book cover of Long Way Down

The reason I’m recommending the graphic version of this story is that, as a teacher of students with dyslexia, I believe it is critical to validate storytelling in all its forms. Visual stories remove barriers and make reading more equitable.

Long Way Down opens with, Will, finding his brother, Shawn, shot dead. Shawn had ventured into a rival gang’s territory in order to buy his mother’s eczema cream. Will rushes home, grabs his brother’s gun, and heads to the elevator. Shawn is following the three rules of his hood: do not cry, do not snitch, take revenge when a loved one is killed. However, his elevator ride takes an unexpected turn when it stops on each floor to let in ghosts of people who died due to gun violence.

Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Long Way Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“An intense snapshot of the chain reaction caused by pulling a trigger.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Astonishing.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A tour de force.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A Newbery Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
A Printz Honor Book
A Time Best YA Book of All Time (2021)
A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner for Young Adult Literature
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
Winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award
An Edgar Award Winner for Best Young Adult Fiction
Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner
An Entertainment Weekly Best YA Book of…

Voices

By David Elliott,

Book cover of Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc

In Voices, David Elliott uses formal verse to explore the last hours that Joan of Arc lived. Told from multiple points of view, including the voice of the flame that will burn Joan at the stake, Elliott chooses specific poetic forms to reflect fundamental truths about the different characters. All forms of verse in the book were popular during Joan’s actual lifetime, and Elliott provides an interesting author’s note at the back of the book. Aside from being a poetic tour de force, Voices is a true page-turner, and readers will root for Joan to triumph over her enemies, even as they dread the inevitable outcome.

Voices

By David Elliott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Voices as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc's life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), Voices offers an unforgettable perspective on an extraordinary young woman. Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.

The Guardian of Mercy

By Terence Ward,

Book cover of The Guardian of Mercy: How an Extraordinary Painting by Caravaggio Changed an Ordinary Life Today

In this wondrous book on Caravaggio, the world of Naples unfolds from the inside through an electrifying reading experience. Written with grace, almost every sentence imparts an epiphany. The author challenges us to undertake soul-work, even if one is a secular reader. Reading becomes an act of empathy and passion. In the words of Wallace Stevens, potential readers will become ‘necessary angels’.

The Guardian of Mercy

By Terence Ward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Guardian of Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Profound New Look at the Italian Master and His Lasting Legacy

Now celebrated as one of the great painters of the Renaissance, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio fled Rome in 1606 to escape retribution for killing a man in a brawl. Three years later he was in Naples, where he painted The Seven Acts of Mercy. A year later he died at the age of thirty-eight under mysterious circumstances. Exploring Caravaggio's singular masterwork, in The Guardian of Mercy Terence Ward offers an incredible narrative journey into the heart of his artistry and his metamorphosis from fugitive to visionary.

Ward's guide…

The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau

By Jon Agee,

Book cover of The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau

I’m going to guess that most adults don’t encounter many picture books, except in the context of introducing them to children. I would like to humbly suggest that if your reading habits don’t extend to picture books, you may be missing out. It’s an art form I adore, and one of my favorites is this book about a mysterious painter in Paris whose paintings contain scenes that come alive. I love Agee’s palette and the perspectives he chose for this story — and no matter how many times I read this book, I’m still thrilled by the twist at the end. It’s the sort of mysterious story that delights, while opening your imagination to bigger things.

The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau

By Jon Agee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Art imitates life in this hilarious, absurdist picture book--one of Jon Agee's most beloved titles, now back in print.

"Outrageous!" the judges cried. "Ridiculous!" Who would dare enter a portrait of a duck in the Grand Contest of Art? But when Felix Clouseau's painting quacks, he is hailed as a genius. Suddenly everyone wants a Clousseau masterpiece, and the unknown painter becomes an overnight sensation. That's when the trouble begins.

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