Review (Plus): Booked

Bookshelf Blurb: Narrative poetry–short and concise, but the depth found in these pages about 12-year-old Nick and his passion for soccer, his struggles with his parents divorce and the middle school mayhem is an amazing read.

Booked_9780544570986_01048America’s Review: It is not a surprise that Kwame Alexander’s new book, Booked, is just as outstanding as his book, Crossover. Both stories are told in the same poetic fashion which won him the 2015 Newbery Award and the Coretta Scott King Award. His use of narrative poetry is vastly different from the typical middle grade read and one I found to be mesmerizing. Crossover is about a young man and his appetite for basketball whereas Booked is about a boy who only breathes because he can play soccer.

The depth found in these poems surpasses any poetry I have encountered–and I have taught a lot of poetry through the years in the classroom. I enjoyed the variety of poetry found while telling Nick’s story; he is a 12-year-old boy who lives and breathes for soccer, but there is more to this story than merely a teen boy obsessed with a sport. It is the apathy found in his daydreams I first adored about Nick; the honesty of his drifting because of a boring teacher teaching a so-so subject. This made my heart sink from my own experiences knowing I might have been the boring teacher who caused my student to drift or hearing through the teenage gossip of a teacher who bored their students to tears.

We jump to the next page with the teacher confronting Nick; and then we are having a debate with Nick’s best friend about who is the greatest soccer player ever–and all of this is delivered in the form of a HAIKU. I kid you not.

WOW. I was speechless–probably because I was laughing so hard at the haiku that was mildly crass with a double innuendo about a soccer play. Totally crafty, totally witty and a poem you could pull and teach an entire lesson to your students. Thank you, Mr. Alexander, for writing a book of beautiful, teachable poetry.

With all of that wonderful glory to be found there is still more to the layers. Call me a walking, writing cliché, but this book is like an onion. There’s Nick and his impressive relationship to sports, his hilarious best friend and their unique situation because they play on different soccer teams, and soon we discover there’s also a girl involved: a crush Nick cannot work up the courage to talk to, much less be around without freaking out!  All of this is wonderful middle grade novel stuff, but the onion keeps peeling away and soon we learn Nick’s parents are separating and there is a mean kid who starts bullying him. Keeping his head in the game has never been harder for Nick.

The poems made this an easy read. I had to reread parts to ensure I understood the dynamics of the plot. And since the chapters were poems, it made for a quick reread to ensure I was truly understanding the story line. (Yep, it offers so much depth that a reread of POETRY is necessary. Who would have thought?) I understand why Kwame Alexander is considered a champ amongst students and teachers.

In the Classroom: Poetry! Need I say more? You can find every element of poetic devices in this book. Often times poetry can have a negative connotation. Don’t let it. Try this: Read this story out loud to students without them knowing it is a poem and after completion of the story start a poetry unit using these poems as part of your unit. Your students may be surprised to learn the story you just read out loud for 10 minutes a class period for the last six weeks was actually your prequel to the poetry unit.

Booked by Kwame Alexander (HMH Books for Young Readers | 9780544570986 | April 5, 2016)

America Grelinger

America Grelinger doesn’t mind if you call her Ms. America. It makes her head swell and she loves the title. America is a former English teacher and has a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, now retired to raise two crazy little boys who think the funniest thing on the planet is to burp and toot… which is why she reads. Because it’s cheaper than counseling. Amy and her husband live with those two crazy little boys in Derby, Kansas.