Booked by Kwame Alexander, 2016
Children’s novel in verse for grades 4-8; realistic fiction, sports stories
Eighth grader Nick Hall’s life revolves around soccer, playing with his friend Coby, and thinking about his crush April. Things are looking good for him; his soccer team has been invited to play in a prestigious tournament in Dallas, April seems to like him, and he’s doing well in school, even if he does hate all the reading that his father makes him do. But then his parents drop a bombshell: they’re separating. Later in the book, Nick needs emergency surgery for a perforated appendix. When his mother comes to help take care of him, Nick thinks that his parents are getting back together again.
This is a good book by a Newbery-award-winning author, so it’s definitely worthy of attention from librarians, teachers, and other adults with a vested interest in children’s literature. And it definitely will find an audience among young soccer players and fans of novels in verse. I would strongly recommend it to preteen boys who are reluctant readers, not only because it’s a fairly easy read, but because they will identify with Nick’s initial lack of interest in reading. I might also recommend this to fans of popular middle school series such as the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books or the Origami Yoda series.
With all that being said, this isn’t exactly one of my favorite books of the year. A lot of the plot points, such as success in sports, conflicts with bullies, and family breakups, are very common and aren’t really treated in a unique way in this book, so I think that Booked is the type of story that I will barely remember a few months after I’ve read it. I didn’t think the novel in verse format added anything to the story; it would have had the same tone and cadence as a short prose novel. And Nick’s relationship with the school librarian seems forced, as if the author wanted to make sure that the moral of this story is “librarians are cool”. As a librarian and lifelong library-lover, I tend to appreciate positive depictions of libraries and librarians in fiction, but Mr. MacDonald, otherwise known as The Mac, doesn’t really play a part in the plot despite showing up frequently.
In short, I can see myself recommending this book to certain readers, but I didn’t absolutely love it. To be honest, I’d be a little surprised and disappointed if it ends up winning major awards.
Additional information for teachers and parents:
Lexile score: 660L
Other reading level information is not currently available. Please keep in mind that reading levels are determined by an algorithm and do not take every possible factor into consideration. This is an example of a book for which the target audience is older than the Lexile score would indicate.