Booked

by Kwame Alexander (2016)

A Middle School selection. 

A novel in verse.

From Newbery-winning author, Kwame Alexander.

For middle schools.

About soccer.

About books.

And relationships.

Nick Hall is a pretty typical middle schooler. He’s a king on the soccer field, he’s doing well in school, and he’s gearing up to ask out April, the girl of his dreams. However, Nick doesn’t like words. His father is a linguistics professor and Nick’s Honor’s English teacher definitely don’t help to change this feeling of resentment – but the rapping librarian, Mr. Mac, does. Everything changes when Nick’s mother takes a new job out of state and his parents’ relationship begins to crumble, unsettling the dependable stability of Nick’s world. Then he gets injured. Then, amid his recovery, Mr. Mac starts recommending books – and even a novel-in-verse! – for Nick to read.  

“The best ones were

like bombs,

and when all the right words

came together

it was like an explosion. 

So good, I

didn’t want it to end.” 

You can see that Alexander packs a lot into one ‘simple’ sentence, tightly and memorably expressing what Nick feels as he delves into poetry, himself. Alexander beautifully juggles verse styles to capture Nick’s wit and vulnerability, briskly propelling the reader into the plight and fortune of Nick and his year in middle school. 

There are certainly students (and adults) who might be skeptical about how a novel-in-verse can work, but it won’t take anyone long to see how bewitching the technique can be. Poems double as chapters that call the reader’s close attention to language and phrasing, its arrangement and descriptive, poetic detail.  A reader is hooked into the story, and inside Nick’s head, almost before you know it.

Booked is sure to captivate readers of all ages – particularly your middle schoolers, some of them perhaps despite themselves.  It is also sure to provide a raft of opportunities to discuss and explore all of those themes: how to talk to girls, how to think about your parents, what poems or books you like – with your students, in your classrooms, and with your parents.

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