Last week I had the great joy of attending Kwame Alexander’s event at a nearby bookstore! I hadn’t read any of his books, but I’ve heard fantastic things about them, and I make a point of attending author events whenever possible. I tend to be inspired, and to be much more interested in their books. Something about seeing an author’s passion firsthand is just unreplicable.
And what a joy it was! Alexander tours with a long-time friend, Randy Preston, who provides musical accompaniment while Alexander speaks. It’s unconventional and remarkable. In the small crowd at the bookstore, it was intimate and casual.
Alexander read from his 28th and most recent book, Swing.
We were best friends rounding the bases about to score
When he took questions from the audience, things got even more interesting. Alexander is an excellent storyteller and he talked easily about growing up with words, how his early teachers complained to his parents that he was intimidating other kids with his words. He was immersed in poetry from a young age, and it shows in his tightly-woven, genre-bending verse novels. He talked about how The Crossover, his first verse novel for children, was rejected numerous times. They said:
- Girls don’t read about sports
- And boys don’t read
- especially, boys don’t read poetry
When it was finally published, The Crossover won the Newberry Medal.
He continued in the same vein, talking about how often adults limit kids, guiding them to certain kinds of books, assuming they can’t be interested in certain things, or can’t handle types of content. He encourages publishing and parents both to be visionary. To guide children where we want to see the world go, not just give them what we think they will accept.
At the end of the night, I headed home and read straight through Booked, another Alexander book. It was excellent–full of imaginative and evocative writing. Realistic, lyrical, and hope-filled.
I strongly recommend picking up one of Kwame Alexander’s books, as well as seeing him in person if his tour is coming anywhere near you!