It’s been a while since I read a book told through poems and Booked by Kwame Alexander felt fresh and wonderful. I love the way that you get little nuggets of a character’s life, in this case Nick Hall, and he really comes alive. Alexander uses his verse to bring the reader in and to make one feel totally present.
Nick and his best friend Coby are in eighth grade and are both soccer fanatics. They play together on the school team but are on different travel teams. Nick’s dad is a linguistics professor ‘with chronic verbomania” and he has written a dictionary called Weird and Wonderful Words. He’s on Nick to read his book, which Nick resents, and many of these weird words, like codswallop, logorrhea and onomatophobia, are used throughout the book and explained in a glossary at the back.
Nick stays up late playing Fifa online and daydreams about soccer in Honors English, till he’s busted. He finds out that his travel team is going to go to Dallas for a world youth soccer tournament, but just when he’s most excited, his world comes crashing down when his parents tell him that his fantastic, lively mom, a former jockey, is moving to Kentucky to do the work she loves, train a racehorse, that in fact his parents are separating.
It does not take
a math genius
to understand that
when you subtract
from the equation
is negative. (p. 59)
Poems like this one capture the essence of what it feels like for Nick to find out that his mom is leaving.
A lot happens in Booked though it is short. Nick likes a girl named April who is a frequent user of the school library. The librarian Mr. Mac, a former rapper, keeps putting books in Nick’s hands. And two brothers constantly bully him and beat him up. With help from his friend Coby, his parents, and others Nick comes to terms with his parents’ separation and how to deal with his other problems and lots more. But the book ends with a big question regarding the contents of Mr Mac’s dragonfly box and only Nick knows.