Kwame Alexander’s books connect to kids. In fact, it’s why he’s one of the most popular authors of our time –kids can’t put his books down! In a recent phone conversation, Alexander shared, “I try to write books that kids are going to want to pick up and not going to want to put down. I’m writing for me, the book that I would want to read and not put down.”
Well, he succeeds. If you haven’t read his books, including his Newbery Medal-winning middle-grade novel, The Crossover, I can’t recommend them enough. Written in verse, Alexander’s stories pack a big, emotionally resonate punch. He skillfully writes about growing up, divorce, love, bullying, friendship, and family in lyrical stories that hook readers from the first page to the last.
Alexander said that novels in verse are “a gateway to being able to engage with literature in an immediate way.” He explained that poetry helps kids engage with text in a way that they haven’t before. “Poetry is a gateway to so many positive things… academically & socially. It’s a surefire way to hook kids on reading.”
New YA Book Swing
I’m thrilled to tell you that Kwame Alexander’s newest release, Swing, a young adult novel in poetry and verse written with Mary Rand Hess is NOW AVAILABLE at bookstores. What’s more, he’s touring the country so you’ll have a chance to see him in person — and get Swing signed.
Swing shows us the complicated lives of two teenage friends, Noah and Walt. Walt renames himself Swing for his love of baseball but the word also pays homage to Walt’s passion for jazz music. Another thing he’s passionate about is convincing his best friend Noah to profess his love for their mutual (girl) friend, Sam, even anonymously giving Sam one of Noah’s mixed-media love letters.
The story delves deeply into the boy’s emotional lives especially as it relates to feelings about girls. I asked Alexander to tell me more about this. “I was the guy in high school as a 15-year-old listening to oldies but goodies. I was listening to Bobbie Daren and Nat King Cole and thinking about the girl I couldn’t talk to because I was too afraid. I was the guy who had these emotionally weighty things going on in their head. My male friends, … we just didn’t talk about it. I wanted to speak to me as a young person.I wanted to write in ways that allow boys to have that space. To remind them all that yeah, we may not talk about it but we do feel and that’s okay.”
And I should tell you that there is an unexpected ending. But don’t share about it. Please. At least not with someone who hasn’t already read the book. “I ask readers when they get to the end -– don’t share it. If they want, call me, in-box me or something; they can talk about it with me.”
“Life happens,” Alexander said about the ending. “And these two boys are trying to find their cool, find their place in the world…And what happens when they find it, they find it that the world may not be so beautiful.”
Alexander hopes that readers will finish this book and see the need to do better so that children are able to live in this world and find their place in it.
Routine and More Books
On a 30-day book tour, Alexander keeps a routine. He works out once or twice a day and makes sure he is eating healthy food 80-90% of the time. He tries to live in the moment, relax, and enjoy the experience.
As far as what he’s personally reading, “I’m writing a graphic novel so I’m reading graphic novels. I’m trying to make sure that I’m in the right wheelhouse/ballpark with what I’m doing but be wholly original.” He’s also reading the autobiography of Miles Davis and a biography of Rod Sterling.
For kids, Alexander believes finding books that are going to connect to each individual kid — that ties into their interests. “Find out what the kid is into,” he suggested. That being said, he often recommends these favorites:
Keeping the Night Watch by Hope Anita Smith
Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg
Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
Kwame Alexander Book Tour October 2018
On the tour, Kwame Alexander will also be speaking at middle schools, high schools, and colleges to inspire tweens and teens to go deeper with their own creativity, reading, and writing.
Book Tour Info:
Visit Alexander’s website for specific times and locations.