STARRED REVIEW
July 2019

How to Read a Book

By Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Likening a book to a clementine, he suggests that young readers “peel its gentle skin” and let the story unfurl. With language that beguiles each of the five senses, Alexander playfully and reverently pays tribute not only to books themselves but also to the magic of reading and its ability to give our souls “room to bloom.” Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet renders the illustrations via mixed-media collages that include handmade papers, found objects, excerpts from Felix Salten’s Bambi: A Life in the Woods and even a lid from a paint can. Sweet’s distinctive hand-lettered text, which itself becomes another part of the artwork, is a perfect complement to Alexander’s prose. 

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Colors pop and the imagination soars in How to Read a Book, a set of instructions and a delicious ode to the pleasures of reading from bestselling author and Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander.

Likening a book to a clementine, he suggests that young readers “peel its gentle skin” and let the story unfurl. With language that beguiles each of the five senses, Alexander playfully and reverently pays tribute not only to books themselves but also to the magic of reading and its ability to give our souls “room to bloom.” Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet renders the illustrations via mixed-media collages that include handmade papers, found objects, excerpts from Felix Salten’s Bambi: A Life in the Woods and even a lid from a paint can. Sweet’s distinctive hand-lettered text, which itself becomes another part of the artwork, is a perfect complement to Alexander’s prose. 

A gatefold spread appearing at the midway point features shades of brilliant orange and opens into a book that has morphed into a three-decker bus with 18 windows. Alexander urges readers not to rush through their books (eyes need “time to taste,” after all), and once they set their sights on this visual feast, they’ll know exactly what he means.

“(You never reach) The End,” he writes at the book’s close. This is good news for readers who will want to head right back to the beginning and soak in this lovingly rendered testimonial more than once.

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How to Read a Book

How to Read a Book

By Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
HarperCollins Children's Books
ISBN 9780062307811

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