I wanted to read Kwame Alexander’s picture book as I had just finished Crossover the Graphic Novel and wanted to experience another genre he had written. Sometimes an author excels at novels, sometimes picture books and a rare few can cross over into any format. I think Alexander is one that can easily flow into any format.
The entire book is a piece of art. How to Read a Book might be more sophisticated than the traditional picture book crowd, but everyone will find something in it. Sometimes Melissa Sweet’s illustrations overpower the text due to the fact the text is the illustration. They bleed into each other effortlessly.
There is a lot of emotion going on in the limited pages. The poem is abstract, realistic and something else all mixed into one. The afterwards about the journey Alexander took to get this p0em published is a fun extra detail to the poem itself.
As mentioned, since this is almost too sophisticated for the usual picture book crowd, you might have to search for your audience. There is a lot going on, and the fact that the text is the illustrations can make it hard to read, adds to this. Also, the fact it is a poem about reading and books, that is not usually a theme that keeps most children’s attention. I would, therefore, read it to an older class that is studying poetry, give it as a gift to a teacher or administrator for a big anniversary or end of school year or for retirement.
While reading, I felt many things: I was happy, sad, even sick (but not in a bad way…..I got butterflies). This is not so much as story or even a poem but a feeling or an expression. It is emotion come to life.