Review: Booked by Kwame Alexander

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Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: April 5th 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Raincoast Books

Like lightning/you strike/fast and free/legs zoom/down field/eyes fixed/on the checkered ball/on the goal/ten yards to go/can’t nobody stop you/
can’t nobody cop you…
In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel THE CROSSOVER,  soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.
This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match!

After the wonder that was The Crossover that won a Newberry Medal, Kwame Alexander returns stronger than ever with Booked. And I’m going to say it straight: I liked Booked better than I did The Crossover and I loved The Crossover. Booked is also in verse and like The Crossover, it, too, deals with kids playing sports, kids with family and friend issues, and kids who, it seems to me, don’t often find reflections of themselves in literature.

It is such a pleasure to read Nick who comes across in all his flawed glory as only a 12 year old boy can be. Nick’s parents are going through a rough patch and maybe heading to splitsville. His mother has to leave for a job in another state and he is left with his father who makes him read the dictionary he wrote. Nick is extremely articulate and his diction could possibly rival a professor’s. Nick doesn’t like to read–in fact, the very idea is anathema to him. He loves to play soccer and his closest friend Coby is just as (if not more) soccer mad as he is.

One of Kwame Alexander’s greatest skills as a writer, in my opinion, is infusing his poetry with a kind of movement. As soon as you read them, the words stop being static and still on the page. They leap off the page and move with a rhythm that is irrepressible and irresistible. Alexander’s use of white space, language, and in this instance, illustrations enrich his storytelling the same way a storyteller uses different voices and tones to enrich the tale he’s telling.

The energy in Booked can be attributed to the precision with which Alexander has grasped the character of his twelve year old protagonist. Nick’s vulnerabilities and insecurities read authentically The corrosion of his emotional self that occurs at his inability to process the things happening at home feel sincere without a whiff of melodrama. And then there’s Nick’s relationship with books. I loved that Nick finds a way to start and even like reading but it takes a time and a very good librarian to lead him there.

I enjoyed the journey Nick makes from the person he is at the beginning of the book to the person he becomes by the end. He confronts his fears and his helplessness and comes to terms with the state of his world. I like the friendships and the relationships in the book.

My favourite part of the book, however, were the footnotes where Nick very cheekily defines words he has used and adds snarky commentary. For example:

gadfly [gad-fly] noun: an annoying person. In the dictionary, there’s a pic of Winnifred next to this word.

So if you’re still wondering whether I recommend this, you probably haven’t read my review. Yes, I do recommend this. It comes out tomorrow and should be in all good bookstores. Do yourselves a favour and snap it up. It will be the perfect fit for a reluctant reader or a soccer lover or any kid who thinks reading is the pits. Or any kid who loves reading. Heck, you don’t even have to be a kid. I give this one all the stars.

3 responses to “Review: Booked by Kwame Alexander

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: 2016 Favourites So Far | The Book Wars·

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