cover image How to Read a Book

How to Read a Book

Kwame Alexander, illus. by Melissa Sweet. HarperCollins, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-230781-1

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. [em](June) [/em]