Booked by Kwame Alexander

It took me three days to finish Kwame Alexander’s book-in-verse Booked (2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and I’ve already decided I’m going to use it in my literature methods course for preservice English teachers in the fall.

Nick Hall loves soccer. What he doesn’t love is reading his professor-father’s dictionary. Or being bullied by Dean and Don. When his parents tell them they have decided to separate, Nick has a tough time.  After a few visits to “Dr. Fraud,” some book recommendations from his ultra-cool librarian, and a heart-to-heart with his verbomaniac father, Nick learns finally that words are power and that sometimes you have to stand up for yourself.

I 645px-Love_Heart_SVG.svg.png books-in-verse. I have always loved poetry, and I am so happy that this type of book has become popular with middle and young adult literature. Books-in-verse are great because they offer students an opportunity to become comfortable with the poetry genre.

Having played soccer during middle and high school, I relate to Nick’s love of soccer.  I’ve also dealt with stories of divorce – personally and professionally – and I applaud Alexander for taking on this issue in the book. Kids who have divorced parents will relate to Nick’s struggles, and kids whose parents are not divorced will gain some perspective for what many of their classmates go through.

Alexander tackles – pardon the soccer pun – a lot in this book: divorce, soccer enthusiasm, a multiracial kid’s encounters with bullies, parent-child relationships, first love, a librarian’s influence. The list goes on. Whereas it’s true that Alexander paints a realistic portrait of all that Nick has to deal with, he might have taken on a bit too much in one text. I would like to hear other readers thoughts on this. Can an author try to tackle too many issues?

Here’s why I’m going to use this book with my methods students this fall:

(1) It’s a book-in-verse, and I’m excited to share it with my students. It’s important that students (even college students) learn about their instructor’s reading interests. I think students feel the authenticity. I also like that Alexander references other books-in-verse, such as Out of the Dust and A Long Walk to Water,  which are great middle grades books-in-verse. I’m going to have my students engage in what I call poetry manipulation. They will pick one of Alexander’s poems and rewrite it based on elements of their lives. When they manipulate poems, students type out a poem on a computer screen and can keep or change any word they want. I had my sixth graders do this with Creech’s Love That Dog‘s poems, and they turned out spectacularly!

(2) It presents a picture of what secondary students have to deal with outside of classrooms and helps readers understand adolescents’ developmental stages. Enrolled in a program without a required human development course, my methods students will be able to consider the home lives of their students and in what ways the English Language Arts curriculum can contend with and help out with what students are dealing with outside of the classroom. The effects of a divorce are depicted vividly in this text. I’m going to have my husband (a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology) guest lecture on human development as it relates to Nick’s development in the text. I’m excited to engage with my preservice teachers about how they think about the their students’ developmental stages before and after they read Booked.

Let me know what you think of Booked below!

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