Booked by Kwame Alexander

“The poems
were cool.

The best ones were
like bombs,
and when all the right words

came together
it was like an explosion.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsIn 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!

Feelings: A couple of years ago, I read The Crossover and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. The way the author fuses together storytelling and poetry is really special. Kwame Alexander manages the same feat in this book, as well, showing us the perspective of a young boy who’s dealing with budding romance, divorcing parents, and hopes of soccer stardom.

This is a book I’d like to teach – we see the power of words (and learn new ones along the way), interactions with bullies and friends, and how to interpret the choices our parents make. And beautifully done poetry. What more could you ask for? I think this is a great read not only for kids, but for adults, as well. Whether you’re a parent or just someone who works with kids, this book allows us to get a glimpse at what our kiddos deal with and how they see the world. The author uses second person, which we don’t see too often, helping us to walk a mile in the main character’s shoes.

What I really love about the poetry in this book is that each individual poem serves a purpose. Some draw emotions out of us, others move the storyline along, and others still paint a picture of action and drama. When read together, we get a full story – characters, conflict, suspense, action. Masterfully done and very compelling.

Characters: Sometimes I struggle with books told from the male point of view. It’s just harder for me to connect with, for obvious reasons. However, I was able to understand Nick. I think part of it was because it was told through poetry and partly because it was second person, but I just felt what he was feeling. I was right there with him the whole time. Sometimes he frustrated me, but that’s because he’s a kid and I could see the bigger picture. I loved his relationship with his mother and getting to see his softer side.

This book has a great cast of minor characters. We have The Mac, adding some comic relief and an outside perspective, drawing us in with that mysterious box. We have Coby, who is mixed race and deals with bullying, handling it like we all hope we would. We have Nick’s parents, who are real people and dealing with very real struggles. And we have April. April is open and kind and inviting, adding another special layer to this story.

Final thoughts: I really, really enjoyed this book. It has so much going for it and I recommend it to everyone. Don’t go into it expecting it to be all about sports. Soccer is just the backdrop, but it’s not the heart of this story. People are.

Pick this up if you liked:

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

Goodreads rating: 4.21/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.5/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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The Crossover

“But is hummus really the answer?”

crossover

My intention with this book was to find something I could recommend to my athletic, non-reader students. I wanted to find a story they could connect with, literature that speaks to them.  I ended up getting so much more than that out of this book.

Synopsis:The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a book written in verse about two twin boys and the love of basketball that they share with their father. We follow Jordan and his brother JB as they navigate junior high, growing up, girls, and tragedy.

Each individual poem follows a unique style specific to the content. The poems about the game itself are fast-paced and rhythmic – following a sort of melody. When Jordan, or “Filthy McNasty”, is nervous or upset, the lines are short and scattered, matching the character’s feelings.

Characters: This book was 237 pages of YES. I don’t usually gravitate towards sports books, which is why I was looking for some that I could recommend to my kiddos, but I felt like I really understood this character. By writing Jordan’s story in a collection of poems, the author allowed me to connect on a deeper level with the character than I would have if it was a chapter book.

I’m currently re-watching seasons of one of my all-time favorite shows One Tree Hill…which is also a basketball-centered story about two brothers with a dad who loves the game. Both stories also had similar story arcs of heart conditions and genetic illnesses, threatening to impede on their love of the game.

Issues: I knew what was coming. I could tell pretty early on how the story would end. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because I think the integrity of the story would have been lost if the climax had been sudden. The story had to build towards it and the resolution was quick, but satisfactory. I didn’t feel like I was short changed or that the ending was unjust.

I’d recommend this book first and foremost to middle grade readers. However, I’m not limiting my recommendation to 6th-8th graders. I think anyone would like this book…even if you don’t love basketball. I’m glad I crossed over out of my comfort zone and I can’t wait to share this read with my students next year.

Pick this up if you liked:

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg (a book about the Vietnam War and baseball, also written in verse)

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane (similar themes and also about sports)

Goodreads rating: 4.1/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.8/5

My rating: 4.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn