How to Read a Book

by Kwame Alexander (Author) Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)

How to Read a Book
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A stunning new picture book from Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander and Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet! This New York Times bestselling duo has teamed up for the first time to bring you How to Read a Book, a poetic and beautiful journey about the experience of reading.

Find a tree--a

black tupelo or

dawn redwood will do--and

plant yourself.

(It's okay if you prefer a stoop, like Langston Hughes.)

With these words, an adventure begins. Kwame Alexander's evocative poetry and Melissa Sweet's lush artwork come together to take readers on a sensory journey between the pages of a book.

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Publishers Weekly

Newbery Medalist Alexander's love poem to literacy conjures up startling, luscious images: to begin reading a book, he tells readers, "peel its gentle skin, / like you would/ a clementine..../ Dig your thumb/ at the bottom/ of each juicy section." Caldecott Honor artist Sweet (Some Writer!) riffs on his verse, line by line, imbuing spreads with the feel of a continually evolving, handmade Valentine (as the copyright page pointedly notes, "no computer was used in making this art"). By turns dreamy and ecstatic, the images include portraits of blissed-out readers in a variety of settings, all constructed from swaths of saturated neon color and literary-themed ephemera (pages from Bambi are used throughout). One gatefold transforms a book into an electric orange triple-decker party bus, with 18 windows revealing allusive scenes made from cut paper and collage. The text, set in hand-lettered capitals, sprawls and stacks energetically as it proclaims its bibliophilia--sometimes whispering and cooing, sometimes shouting from the rooftops that it's got it bad for books. And why not? As Alexander writes, "Now, sleep./ dream./ hope./ (you never reach)/ the end." Ages 4-8. (June)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

PreS-Gr 2—Award-winning poet Alexander compares reading a book to peeling the gentle skin of a clementine, digging in to its juiciness, enjoying it "piece by piece, part by part," until you can "watch a novel world unfurl right before your eyes." And who better to illustrate this delicious poem than Caldecott Honoree Sweet. The artwork is done in watercolor, gouache, mixed media, handmade and vintage papers, found objects including old book covers, and a paint can lid. Not a splash of color, a piece of paper, or a line is out of place. Starting with the initial collage that incorporates the building blocks of reading (the letters A to Z) and the lines from a poem by Nikki Giovanni that careful readers will have to pay attention to see, the tone is set. "So get/real cozy/between/the covers/And let your/fingers wonder/as they wander..." for there is much to relish in this poem and its exuberant images. "Squeeze/every morsel/of each plump line/until the last/drop of magic/drips from the infinite sky." The book includes a note from both the poet and the artist. VERDICT A beautiful book not to be rushed through, but to be enjoyed morsel by tasty morsel.—Lucia Acosta, Children's Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"[This] love poem to literacy conjures up startling, luscious images...By turns dreamy and ecstatic."—Publishers Weekly
Kwame Alexander
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including Booked and The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf's Up, a picture book, Crush: Love Poems for Teenagers, and He Said She Said, a YA novel.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
June 20, 2019
BISAC categories
JUV047000 - Juvenile Fiction | Books & Libraries
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
JUV057000 - Juvenile Fiction | Stories in Verse (see also Poetry)
Library of Congress categories
Books and reading

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