Book Review and Author Visit: The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Spencer and I had the opportunity to listen to and meet Newbery Award-winning author, Kwame Alexander at Upper Arlington Public Library tonight. We had a wonderful time: Alexander is engaging, interesting and entertaining and, as you’ve probably heard, his work is amazing! if the name is familiar but you can’t place the books he’s written…think of any YA book about sports or music, written in prose, that you’ve heard about in the past 5 years! The Crossover, Booked, Solo, etc…that’s Kwame Alexander!

About 200 people (kids, parents, educators and librarians) gathered at the library this evening to interact with Alexander and hear him read from some of his most popular books. He was joined in front of the audience by musician, poet and former teacher, Randy Preston who accompanied him on the electric guitar. Alexander told stories about his childhood, his family and his writing career and engaged the audience in participatory readings from a number of his works. He was incredibly funny and humble and the audience really responded to both him and Preston. We got to hear about everything from his idols (Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni) to what he eats in his tour bus (cookies and gluten free Godiva cheesecake!)

Alexander shared parts of about 8 of his latest books with the audience tonight but referred to The Undefeated, his latest picture book (released April 2) that honors the triumphs and struggles of Black Americans, as his favorite. He read it to us, start to finish and accompanied by Preston and a slideshow of the illustrations. The content was incredibly powerful and the illustrations breathtaking! I dare you to move past the word ‘unspeakable’ without gasping! The cover is beautiful but the way that Alexander and Nelson have woven together words and illustrations inside the book is not to be missed. I could imagine 

The Undefeated

Asked about diversity in his writing during the Q and A tonight, Alexander seemed less focused on making a point about writing diverse characters and more focused on writing his experience. His goal, it seems, is to give access to different people’s stories to as many different kinds of readers as possible. He asserted that the more we know about each other, the harder it is to harm one another and said, ‘Can you imagine a white cop who read Jacqueline Woodson when he was 4? That would be a totally different story!’

Alexander also indicated during his talk this evening that he has another book due out later this year. It’s called How To Read a Book and it releases on June 18th. His audience this evening knew most of his books by heart and there’s no doubt in my mind that they (and Spencer and I) will be queued up to purchase anything else Alexander chooses to write! We hear there’s even a TV pilot of The Crossover in the works!

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