An evening with author Kwame Alexander

by: Tania Lasenburg

I’m going to be able to rebound on and off the court.- Kwame Alexander

On April 26th, author Kwame Alexander took a stop at Quail Ridge Books, located in Raleigh, North Carolina for his #reboundtour.

It was an unexpectedly warm evening, as a crowd of children, parents, librarians and general lovers of Mr. Alexander’s books piled into a fairly large space, surrounded by books, to hear him speak. But in the front row, there was a single person in the room, who had not read any of Kwame Alexander’s books. That person was me. Waiting with as much anticipation as the little girl sitting next to me to see the Newberry Award winner.

In he walks. The crowd goes wild, children are smiling, shaking their parent’s arms, jumping with huge smiles on their faces. You can feel the energy in the room. Mr. Alexander with his friend and guitarist Randy, sets a mood, thanks everyone for being here and then proceeds to talk about his bus.

The bus is a representation of his journey; his own personal story to how and where he is now. From the little boy, who first wrote a poem for his mom for Mother’s day, to the college man writing about his bittersweet relationship with Nikki Giovanni (and the play he wrote expressing his dislike for her as a college professor) to the grown man dealing with his mother’s death. The bus is a physical representation of what he has worked for and where he is going.

This metaphor may have gone over his younger reader’s heads but it didn’t to the adults in the room. You can hear the nods, the gasps of wow from the crowd once Mr. Alexander was done telling the short version of his journey. There was a slight moment of silence as every word that was said sank in and you realized how meaningful these books are.

Deep right? For me, it was surprising. As not having any other interaction with Mr. Alexander outside of his social media pages, to sit there in the front row and listen to this man recite not only the poetry from Rebound, his latest book, but love poems from before he was a children’s writer, was a moving experience. He can write. He can speak spoken word and bring you into his world with well placed imagery and emotion. I was impressed and moved by it.

But as he is currently a children’s writer that uses poetry to tell his story. He also uses sports, specifically for his books The Crossover, Booked and Rebound, to reach his readers. So on this particularly warm evening,  I sit and listen to him interact with the children, their parents and librarians. Answering their questions ranging from who are your favorite authors, what is your favorite sport and team, and then singing “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.  I can’t help but wonder why I haven’t read anything by him.

I’m not above reading children books. I happen to love children and young adult reads more than the average person but I have never sat to read any of Kwame Alexander books. So as I wait in line to have him sign the book, I purchased after listening to him speak, he asks,

Have you read any of my books?

No, I have not.

The surprise on his face was laughable because again, I was the only person in the room that had not read any of his books. So then I say, 

But I will. 

And he smiled and signed my name right on the first try within my new book, shook my hand and said thank you.

An evening with Kwame Alexander, a children’s writer was one of the most interesting and eye-opening experiences that has happened within my book-loving path. Have I read his book since then? Yes and so should you.