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Review of Booked

alexander_bookedstar2 Booked
by Kwame Alexander
Intermediate, Middle School    Houghton    314 pp.
4/16    978-0-544-57098-6    $16.99    g

Eighth grader Nick Hall is quite a wordsmith, thanks largely to his father, a linguistics professor and the author of Weird and Wonderful Words, which Nick is required to read page by page: “You’re the only kid / on your block / at school / in THE. ENTIRE. FREAKIN’. WORLD. / who lives in a prison / of words. He calls it the pursuit of excellence. / You call it Shawshank.” Nick would rather be shining on the soccer field with his best friend Coby Lee, trying to talk to April Farrow, or playing Ping-Pong with his cool mom. Nick is blindsided when his parents suddenly separate and Mom moves away, leaving him to live alone with his stern dad. Then things worsen at school, too, as he and Coby (whose dad is from Singapore and mom is from Ghana) are targeted by the racist Eggleston twins (“pit-bull mean / eighth grade tyrants / with beards”). Like Alexander’s slam-dunk Newbery Medal winner, The Crossover (rev. 5/14), this novel in verse offers sports action combined with spot-on portrayals of middle-school life; warm, believable family and friend dynamics; and hip, down-to-earth adult secondary characters, such as The Mac, an eccentric rap-producer-
turned-cool-librarian who supports Nick through his many trials. Alexander understands reluctant readers deeply, and here hands them a protagonist who is himself a smart, reading-averse kid who just wants to enjoy the words that interest him on his own terms. With accessible poetic forms and engaging formatting, Booked’s pages will be turned swiftly and enthusiastically.

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide and manager of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards.

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