Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Review: How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander

First, How to Read a Book, written by Kwame Alexander with art by Melissa Sweet, is breathtakingly gorgeous. Sweet's collage-style art is a perfect complement to Alexander's instructions on how to read, no, how to devour a book, any book.

As a high school English teacher, I am not often afforded the opportunity to read/utilize children's books in my classes. Though I do try my best to incorporate one for every unit, there's not a lot of time set in the curriculum to read and teach everything that I want. But this book doesn't need a unit to accompany; it stands alone. For the 2019-2020 school year, How to Read a Book will be introduced to my tenth graders on the first day of school.

When you first open the book, you are hit by neon pink overlaying a sketch of bookshelves (I was already hooked) followed by Sweet's initial color artwork of a collage of words and illustrations taking the reader through the alphabet--educational and beautiful. Then we begin the story with Alexander's initial instructions for how to read a book: "First, find a tree--a black tupelo or dawn redwood will do-and plant yourself in it. (It's okay if you prefer a stoop, like Langston Hughes)". As a reader, I am already transported through Alexander and Sweet's imagery into a world where books, imagination, learning grow. The non pinks and oranges juxtaposed with watercolor blues and tans only enhance the experience.

As the story progresses, the art becomes more complex and begins to intertwine even more with the words. For a sweet surprise (pun intended), pages unfold into artwork and words that I wish I could frame, and I'm left at the end of the book anxious to start all over again and study each page.

That is the magic of How to Read a Book.