Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Reward of Giving

All the way back in November, Travis Jonker held a giveaway for Kwame Alexander's forthcoming novel, Booked (HMH Books, April 5). The stars in my literary heaven were aligned that night, and I found myself reading a tweet announcing I had won the copy. To say I was excited is just a bit of an understatement. Soon after, the package arrived, and I sat like many of us do, holding the book in my hands not yet opening it, just basking in the anticipation of what was to come. I took a picture, tweeted a thanks to Jonker once more, then held the book and traced my fingers over the cover... for a day or two. As eager as I was to read it, I did not want the moment to come when it would be over. I read all of the information on the back cover--twice--then, grinning from ear to ear, decided I could finally crack it open (gently, of course). Eleven pages into it, I knew Kwame had written a gem and had hooked every single child that would ever have this book in his or her hands. I put the book down again, knowing how lucky I was to be holding it, thinking about how much I admired Alexander's voice, and again thinking that I never wanted to finish Booked.

Scrolling through Twitter notifications, I saw Stacey Riedmiller commented, "OH MY..." on my pic of the ARC and suddenly, I knew what would become of this copy. I let Stacey know I'd be sending it her way as soon as I finished reading it. Her enthusiasm overwhelmed me and I wondered if Jonker had this same feeling when I thanked him--and used most of my 140 characters on exclamation marks. The idea grew and soon others were in line for the book. Kristen Picone had the amazing idea of people leaving thoughts on post-it notes as we read the novel. Every time the book was shipped off to a new reader, we cheered for one another. Every time the book was received, we spent days commenting back and forth. Scott Fillner sent pictures that cracked us up. Kwame joined in the conversations.

It was awesome.

literacybigkids When @kwamealexander's BOOKED looks so fly in your classroom library. TY @Beth_Parmer 🤓#nerdybookclub…

kwamealexander's avatarAppreciate that Jimmy. Who got next?!…
You've done it again @kwamealexander Lyrical, empowering, honest, relevant, & emotional. #titletalk #nerdybookclub

These strangers suddenly became the best book club I had ever been a part of, and while I'd give anything for our club to fly to the same city and meet over coffee or beers, I'm thankful for the way we came together. Tweets, YouTube clips, pictures, Vines, post-it notes, snail mail and A BOOK. We read and shared, and reflected on how we'd bring this experience to our students. Because when you read children's literature, you know you are reading for the reader you will hand it to, the child that needs that book. There is not a doubt in my mind that we will all buy copies of Booked for our classrooms or libraries. We will all buy a personal copy so we can stare at it on our bookshelves and reflect back on this amazing experience. But, I don't think it will quite end there. I think there will be another book in store for our new book club. I can't wait to find out what it will be.

Want to read some of our Booked club comments? Check out this Storify!

As always, thank you to my Pay It Forward mentors, @mrschureads and @loveofxena.

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