Kwame Alexander is a critically acclaimed writer of children’s literature, poetry and more who won the Newbery Medal for his middle grade novel the Crossover in 2014. I first learned that Kwame Alexander was about to release a new a picture book from Matthew Winner’s excellent children’s literature podcast Let’s Get Busy. After listening to the show, I immediately added Surf’s Up (illustrated by Daniel Miyares) to my library queue so I’d be at the top of the list when the book was released on February 1.
I was absolutely not planning to review this book since you can learn about it in depth from Alexander himself on Let’s Get Busy. But then I read the book to Lu and Bean. And now I have to tell you about it.
The first reading went like this:
Me: *Finishes reading*
Lu and Bean: We don’t get it.
Me: *Explains that the story was about two frog friends named Dude and Bro, who were debating whether books or surfing were cooler, and that throughout the book they were discussing another book called Moby Dick.*
Lu and Max: *Blank stares*
They didn’t follow. The book was too complicated, too many moving parts, and the girls have no idea what Moby Dick is. (Also, I admit: reading Surf’s Up is the closest I have come to reading Moby Dick.) Anyway, I was disappointed.
At bedtime that night, Bean requested a second reading. This time, Luke was with us so we decided to alternate reading the frog parts, doing our best Surfer Dude accents. Luke also chimed in with a Movie Trailer Guy voice to differentiate between the frogs and the Moby Dick parts. The second time went more like this:
Me: *Can’t read my part because I’m laughing so hard*
Luke: *Starts out strong with the accent, quickly devolves into a bad impersonation of an Australian. Claims I, too, am mixing Surfer Dude and Outback accents. Also laughing uncontrollably.*
Lu and Bean: Moremoremore! Read it again! Switch parts! No, go back again you were funnier the first time! Yes, that’s better! Again again AGAIN!
Once we read this with two readers, the girls totally followed and loved the story. I honestly can’t remember the last time our family has laughed this hard together. Surf’s Up was quickly added to our book wish list and so far we have read it at least one time every night we’ve had it on loan. I’m still not convinced it makes sense if you’re a solo reader (at least the first time) but if you have the luxury of two available readers this book is a gem. And the bonus is that the text is simple enough that Lu, who’s in kindergarten, can read it along with me if Luke isn’t available.