Booked by Kwame Alexander (2016)

bookedKwame’s novel-in-verse follows in the tradition of Newbery Award-winner The Crossover.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages:   320 (for ISBN 9780544570986)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, verse, sports, diverse, reluctant readers, African-American protagonist

Tone/Style: cool, lyrical

Pace: fast

Topics: reading, soccer, vocabulary, divorce, injuries

Themes: family relationships, changes

Summary: Like lightning/you strike/fast and free/legs zoom/down field/eyes fixed/on the checkered ball/on the goal/ten yards to go/can’t nobody stop you/can’t nobody cop you…

Nick Hall lives and breathes soccer. But when he’s sidelined by an injury, his word-loving father takes the opportunity to try to instill a love of reading into his reluctant son. Nick’s mother leaves for a job out of state, he and his best friend hit the skids, he’s dealing with a bully, and on top of all of that, he has to navigate the highs and lows of a first crush.

With an impressive array of poetry styles—free verse, acrostics, haiku—and the pacing of a soccer match—at times leisurely and thoughtful, at others frenetic and heart-stopping— Booked is both poetry for Lionel Messi fanatics and a sports novel for those more likely to memorize a sonnet than kick a soccer ball. But what it is—at its rhythmic, loving heart—is a novel about a father and son, family and friendship, and the true power that words can have on and off the page. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Fans of The Crossover should definitely, definitely read this one; the two are similar in a lot of ways. The verse format and smooth language make this a good choice for reluctant readers. It’s great for hooking sports fans into reading.

Who won’t like this book?: The hip-hop influenced poetry may take some getting used to for some readers (though I think they will find it’s worth the effort). I have a hard time convincing non-sports fans to read this.

Other comments: This book is actually a lot more about reading and vocabulary than it is about soccer. I have a theory that Kwame Alexander is mostly interested in poetry, family, and basketball, and the soccer in this one is more of a draw.


Readalikes: As I said above, this is very similar to The CrossoverAll The Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg is another novel in verse featuring sports, and is actually read by Nick in Booked. Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt is a novel in verse about a boy with a connection with words, and who shares some of Nick’s attitude. Readers interested in soccer can try Tangerine by Edward Bloor, Kick by Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman, Now is the Time For Running by Michael Williams, Losers Take All by David Klass, and the memoir Breakaway: Beyond the Goal by Alex Morgan.

-Kylie Peters

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