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How to Read a Book
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How to Read a Book

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,639 ratings  ·  566 reviews
A poetic journey about the experience of reading.

Find a tree—a

black tupelo or

dawn redwood will do—and

plant yourself.

(It’s okay if you prefer a stoop, like Langston Hughes.)

With these words, an adventure begins. Kwame Alexander’s poetry and Melissa Sweet’s artwork come together to take readers on a journey between the pages of a book.
32 pages
Published June 18th 2019 by HarperCollins
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Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,639 ratings  ·  566 reviews

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Dave Schaafsma
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
My family reads all the Goodreads-award-nominated picture books every year. This is book #13 (of more than 20) of 2019, and statistically this looks like one of there two best of the year for my family. It's a fairly predictable (and marketable) topic for a book to be purchased by elementary school teachers, parents and librarians about reading, but it features colorful collage art we (collectively) at least found unique and interesting

Lyra (12) 4.5. If I ever wrote a book [go, Lyra, the budding
Jun 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
For a book on 'How to read a book" this is really hard to read... like physically, it is hard to read the actual text. The collage like art combined with overly bright colors and mismatched patchwork font choices are jarring to the eye. This isn't to say the art itself is bad, but having hard to read font in a book for children is generally a poor choice. I'm not sure what they were thinking, but some poor design choices were made on this one. Shame on the art director for not catching this. The ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: picture-books
I know some will disagree but I found the book very hard to read. While I enjoyed the artful illustrations, I felt that a young child who may try to read this would have difficulty due to the font style interspersed with the collage work. I love the poem. I love the artwork. I don't love them together. ...more
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This could have been fine, but the writing was almost indistinguishable from the art, which made it really difficult to read the actual poetry. I couldn’t make it through while I was at the store today. I will have to dedicate some actual time to it, which I assume I would if I were to purchase it, but... ehhh. To summarize, I did not enjoy the art style. No comment on the poetry since I was UNABLE TO CONCENTRATE ENOUGH TO ACTUALLY READ IT.
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lush and psychedelic collage on the exploration of reading. It felt like an acid trip with pages popping out in neon colors and torn strips and verses of wandering fingers, rustling pages, and blooming souls. Yet this is a child's picture book. Go figure. ...more
Mary Lee
Wow. Melissa Sweet pulled out all the stops on this one. Hidden Nikki Grimes quote in the spread between the title page and the dedication page, before Kwame's poem begins (took me about four reads to find it). Gatefold, two small pages with cutouts, neon colors, and of course her amazing collages and lettering. The illustrations kind of overwhelm the poem a bit, if I'm going to be honest, but I love Kwame's metaphor of reading: peeling and eating a clementine. I'm feeling like lots of clementin ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Yup, yup, soak this one up!!
Rod Brown
Nov 08, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads Choice Awards Project: Read as many of the opening round Best Picture Book nominees as possible. 9 to go!

Visual and verbal gibberish make for the instruction manual from hell. Why did a copy of Bambi have to be sacrificed for this collage-strophe?

And I was never able to ascertain the purpose of the recurring X's, targets and asterisks. Any ideas?
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous book by a dynamic duo. Adult book nerds will appreciate the incredible artwork, clever language, and connections to notable poets. Kid book nerds will enjoy the clever structural features. OK, the adults like the structural features, too.
What a dilemma! She is one of my favorite illustrators. I love poetry. Put these together and it should be a WIN!


The illustrations tangled me badly. I was lost and ill-sorted and ill-suited against the collages and bright pops. *hangs head in defeat* What I normally cherish lead me astray and befuddled me; I feel frustrated and vexed. I kept checking and re-checking each page to make sure that I didn't miss anything. I would love to use this as a read-aloud, but I would PRACTICE. Hard.

This w
Laura Harrison
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am in awe of How to Read a Book! The gorgeous cover art draws you in and the text wow's you! Melissa Sweet is one of the very best picture book illustrator's of our time. She has topped herself with this one. Every page is an inspired wonder. There isn't a question in my mind that How to Read a Book will win awards. It is spectacular. ...more
Carolyn Klassen
How fun, an ode to reading. Instructional in the best way. "Once you're comfy, peel its gentle skin, like you would a clementine...Next, did your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section and POP the words out." I can't decide if I prefer the illustrations or the writing better, both are so complementary and enjoyable. Check this book out! ...more
Jillian Heise
This one would likely not make a good read aloud because of how busy the pages are and how the words are illustrated making it harder to read. As a lap story, it would be good, and has a beautiful way of saying what it has to say.
Images: 2 stars
Story: 2 stars

For a book called How to Read it sure is hard to read with it's neon colors and unusual fonts. And the description of reading "peel its gentle skin..." really creeped me out. Just in general not a fan of this book which means it will probably win an award.
Lyrical, beautiful, mesmerizing. The power of reading a form of bibliotherapy in itself. Bookart collages and zany colourways abound. Love it.

It's a book party
stacked with all
your favorite
A picnic of
in leaps+bounds

This is a picture book poem about the joy of reading.

While I thought the poem was pretty good, I found it to be a bit too abstract for kids - for example, it describes opening a book as "peel its gentle skin, like you would a clementine".

If I'm being perfectly honest, I wasn't the biggest fan of the collage-style illustrations either. I found them to be way too chaotic and messy. The te
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book as I've read rave reviews on it. While I do love the poem that this is based on, the art form used to illustrate the book made some of the pages very difficult to read. I found myself double checking to make sure I read everything that I was supposed to. I'm thinking younger readers may have the same issue. ...more
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books

Also, I would like several of these illustrations for my walls.
Ben Truong
How to Read a Book is a children's picture book written Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, which is a wonderful ode to reading.

Alexander's text is rather simplistic, straightforward, and lyrical. It depicts the joys and wonders of reading with verse and beautiful imagery. Sweet's illustrations riff on his verse, line by line, imbuing spreads with the feel of a continually evolving, handmade love letter.

The premise of the book is rather straightforward. It is simply a love letter t
I am reading all the Goodreads Picture Book Recommendations for 2019.

Hmmm, this is an unusual book. I can't say I didn't like it, though. It's very different from picture books I usually encounter.

I usually don't get poetry at all, but this is a very simple poem, and I got it, and I felt something.

The illustrations are collages, and I thought it made it a little hard to read. Collages are another thing I don't usually get.

I would not choose this for a snuggly read-aloud to children.
A poem about how to read a book. The artwork is busy and brilliantly colorful, mixed with collages and cutouts. At times I felt the poem got lost in the artwork. I had to read pages more than once to make sure I was seeing it correctly. I recommend this book as a one on one reading experience.
Bright colorful collage art by Caldecott honoree Melissa Sweet intertwines with Kwame Alexander's passion for poetry and the written word to remind us all about the joy of discovery through reading and inflaming a child's imagination. I disagree with the reviewers who found the book hard to read; I was entranced by the multifaceted, rainbow-hued illustrations and the perfect descriptions of reading and books - "Once you're comfy, peel its gentle skin, like you would a clementine the color of sun ...more
Patricia N. McLaughlin
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: picture-books
For a story about how to read a book, the author and illustrator have collaborated to create a disastrous introduction to reading for wee ones who are just getting the hang of making letters, let alone making sense of them. Each chaotic page is a challenge for even the most skilled adult readers to interpret. Yes, Alexander’s poem is lovely, and Sweet’s artwork is eye candy, but the combination creates a classic example of a children’s book written for adults, completely missing the mark for the ...more
Kate Willis
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
I dearly love this illustrator's style, so I picked this book up not knowing anything else about it. Some of the pictures were enjoyable, and I liked a few of the metaphors in the poem. Unfortunately, the decision to do the text in a collage style mixed with the pictures made it very hard for me to read. I also didn't connect well with the poem, but that's just me. ;) ...more
Feb 26, 2021 rated it liked it
The collage illustrations were pretty but they made it hard to read the actual words. I feel like this book would be hard for kids to read. I do like books about books though and the poetry is pretty.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It was unique and I get what they were going for but honestly it was hard to read and the collage was off putting.
Ann Haefele
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Found this difficult to read as both the words and pictures seemed to overwhelm me. (Ironic that a book titled “How to read a book” is hard to read. )
Dec 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audiobook which was read by Kwame and is very good. It’s a poem he was commissioned to write for World read day. I would recommend having the book and following along with the illustrations to get the full feeling of the poem.
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This book is stunning on both sides: Kwame Alexander's poetry sparkles and transports, a loe letter to reading a book. Melissa Sweet's collage illustrations are amazing and the perfect accompaniment. I've read the book to classes six times this week and each gets better and better. This one is a gem. ...more
Rebecca Ann
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book but it just didn't happen for me. Kwame alexander is very talented and the text of the book is poetic, but how anyone could read this font is beyond me. it feels like a picturebook that is really meant for adults. ...more
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Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children ...more

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