How to Read a Book
“How to Read a Book is a gem. Children and adults will want to return to it often for its full-hearted celebration of the power of stories, words, and images.”
The award-winning poet Kwame Alexander has written an extraordinary poem that celebrates the joys of reading, “painting a picture of the journey readers take each time they crack open a book, get lost in the pages, and wander through the wonder.”
The poem is rich with metaphor, encouraging readers to take a book and “peel its gentle skin, like you would a clementine” and “dig your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section and pop the words out.”
Delightful puns and word play add wit and whimsy as readers are advised to, “find a tree and plant yourself” and encouraged to, “watch a novel world unfurl right before your eyes.” Alexander adds, “It’s a book party stacked with all your favorite friends . . . so get real cozy between the covers . . .”
Sensual images abound. Alexander describes, “the scent of morning air and sweet butterfly kisses” and the sound of turning “page by rustling page.”
Caldecott honoree Melissa Sweet’s illustrations do full justice to Alexander’s exquisite and joyful words. Known for her mixed media images, here she uses watercolor, gouache, and torn fragments of the printed word to create collages that capture the pure delight of Alexander’s poem.
Exuberant neon colors dominated by oranges and blues grab the eye, embodying the joy and abandon of the text. But there is subtlety here as well. Throughout the book are torn scraps from a worn-out copy of the classic children’s novel, Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten. The old book’s pages have aged to a beautiful tawny patina. Melissa Sweet’s choice of text passages torn from the aged book echoes the tone of Alexander’s sensual images as well as his word play.
For example, in her illustration of a boy comfortably ensconced in a large upholstered chair, Sweet inserted a printed paper scrap next to the chair’s arm that reads, “Bambi is a delicious book.” The sensual metaphor is from the original introduction written by John Galsworthy. On the page illustrated with a gramophone and a guitar illustrating the concept of, “words and sounds in leaps and bounds,” the Bambi scrap says, “Bambi suddenly grew silent . . .” On the same page, another scrap from the book is an illustration of deer bounding across a meadow.
How to Read a Book is a gem. Children and adults will want to return to it often for its full-hearted celebration of the power of stories, words, and images.