Friday, April 8, 2016

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Twelve-year-old Nick Hall and his best friend Coby Lee both live to play soccer, on the field and virtually in a game called FIFA.  They may be best friends off the soccer field, but on it, they are on different teams and opponents set on winning.  And best of all, both teams are been selected to go to Texas for the annual Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup,

At school, Nick tends to daydream a little to much in Ms. Hartwick's Honors English class.  He's also being bullied by twin brothers Dean and Don, which is a real problem, especially when they start kicking his backpack around and telling him to stay away from April Farrow, 'cause she's Dean's girl.  Problem is, Nick is seriously crushing on April, who is just flirty enough to give him hope, despite the bully brothers.

At home, Nick's dad, a professor of linguistics, doesn't care as much for soccer as he does for his son's education and especially about his vocabulary.  Consequently, he has Nick reading the dictionary he wrote called Weird and Wonderful Words.  His mom is a stay-at-home, which is nice for special breakfast meals, nice hot dinners and for getting rides to school with Coby and avoiding the school bus and the bully brothers.

Life is pretty good as far as Nick is concerned, until a niggling suspicion that things aren't going as well between his parents as they had in the past.  Sure enough, his parents tell him that they are separating.  His mother, who used to train horses, is returning to that profession and that means she will be living in Kentucky, and returning home for short visits.

Once his mom is gone, life at home becomes a very different matter.  His normally stern father begins to feel like a tyrant, and Nick refuses to answer his mother's texts or take her calls.  As his life becomes more and mores stressed, Nick begins going to counseling to help him cope.   But it is a ruptured appendix and a kick in the ankle during a soccer match that finally take Nick out of play and offer him a chance for reflection and change, not to mention time to finally read some really good books.  Will he put it all to good use?  

If Booked reminds you of Crossover, it is only because they have some similarities.  Both are written in free verse, from the protagonists point of view.  Both protagonists are athletes, good at what they do, and both come from intact families that are put into crisis.  But don't let their comparability fool you, they are both excellent stories in their own right.

Nick, as you may have gathered, is a very reluctant reader with a very big vocabulary, and who ultimately discovers just what he has been missing.  OK, it's because of April that Nick really read All the Broken Pieces, but so what.  He read it and he liked it, and went on to read Out of the Dust.  April loves to read and even thinks the dictionary Nick's father wrote is cool.  Does who influences a reluctant reader or why they do really matter?  No, because once you  find yourself immersed in a few books, you are hooked.  I saw that with my own reluctant reader who went on to be an English major.

Booked is about family, friends, and change, but for me, the most important lesson that Nick gets comes from his eccentric Grammy-winning-rapper-turned-school-librarian, Mr. MacDonald, a/k/a "The Mac" who tells him:

Nick, the river is always turning and bending. You never
know where it's going to go and where you'll end up.  Fo/-
llow the bend.  (pg301)

It almost goes without saying that Kwame Alexander's poetic novels are lyrical, masterfully put together to paint a multi-layered picture.  And for that reason, his novel in verse packs a powerful punch simply by giving readers a realistic and relatable portrait of middle school life.  But the thing I love most is that Alexander shows young readers that it is cool to be smart.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an ARC from the publisher

FYI: to be booked in soccer - when a player has committed a serious offense or foul, they are given a yellow cautionary card by the referee.  If they commit another serious offense or foul, they are given a red card, must leave the field immediately and the referee writes done the details in his book (at least that's how I understand the term booked).

April is Poetry Month


  1. I can't read your review just yet; about to read Booked myself but looking forward to comparing notes!

  2. I'm really looking forward to reading Booked. I read the first few pages, but don't have a copy right now. Kwame Alexander is on to something with these verse novels. I enjoyed The Crossover and so did many of my students.

  3. I loved this book, too! Glad I found your amazing blog! Hopping over from the DiverseKidLit Link Up.

  4. Loved the Crossover! Looking forward to this one.

  5. I actually liked this one as much as The Crossover, and that surprised me because I loved The Crossover. Kwame Alexander is one brilliant writer.

    Thank you for sharing on Diverse Children's Book Link Up! My link up is:

  6. hi does anyone know the setting of booked?


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