When it comes to books about soccer, Dylan has read all kinds—picture books, chapter books, novels, graphic novels and biographies. Now, thanks to author Kwame Alexander, he can add poetry to the list.
We had been browsing the aisles of Powell's Books in Portland looking for something new for Dylan to read when one of the staff handed him a copy of Alexander's Booked.
“You might like this,” she suggested.
When I realized it was a novel in verse, I hesitated. Dylan is not always adventurous about new or challenging books, and I wasn’t sure poems would interest him.
That’s when I learned an important lesson: don’t assume you know what your child wants to read.
“Sure, I’ll try it,” he said, persuaded by the image of the soccer player on the cover.
A few days later, Booked was still on his shelf. I asked him about it, assuming he hadn't tried it.
“Oh, I finished it. It was good,” he said.
He read a book of poems in less than two days? And he liked it? I had to pick up Booked myself, out of curiosity. It was so mesmerizing that I finished it in one sitting.
Booked is about 12-year-old Nick Hall, who loves soccer, hates reading, and is coping with his parents’ separation. He's also struggling to deal with bullies and his first crush. It’s an ordinary coming-of-age story, but told in an extraordinary way.
His journey unfolds through poems of varying styles. The poems are fast-paced, rhythmic, and thoughtful. They’re funny, provocative, and heartbreaking. Even the choice of typeface, font and layout makes them visually engaging on the page. The book is a vibrant celebration of words.
In an interview with Reading Rockets, Alexander explained the appeal of this form of writing.
“Poetry is like the human soul entire distilled into very few words and they’re power packed. You can get a whole beginning, middle, and end in 10 lines,” he said. “Poetry, because of the language we choose, because of the metaphors we use, we can make the reader feel something pretty powerful in those few words.”
For example, this poem reflects Nick's pain over his mother moving out of the house:
It does not take
a math genius
to understand that
when you subtract
from the equation
Alexander cleverly uses sport to entice readers to discover poetry. It's effective. Having broadened his reading horizons, Dylan has now added two more of Alexander's novels in verse to his reading list: the Newbery Medal-winning The Crossover, and the just-published sequel Rebound.
Poems can be intimidating for some, but Booked is immensely approachable, and shows us how cool poetry can be.
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