The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
January 4, 2017
Author: Kwame Alexander
Publisher: New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Genre: Middle Grade fiction in verse
Audience Age: 9 to 12 years
Themes/Topics: basketball, parent/child relationships, brothers, illness, loss
At the top of the key I’m
MOVING & GROOVING,
POPping and ROCKING—
Why you BUMPING?
Why you LOCKING?
Man, take this THUMPING.
Synopsis: You might be surprised to find a book about basketball on this blog that mainly focuses on the arts, but there is definitely music in this book – there’s a strong rap and hiphop rhythm in the words and the beat of the free verse text.
The Crossover is told from the point of view of Josh, aka Filthy McNasty because of the way he plays the game. His twin brother, Jordan, also plays basketball, as did their father.
The book is about growing up, Josh dealing with his brother having his first girlfriend while Josh has to walk home alone; about basketball and all the things the boys learn about life when they’re out on the court dealing with the game; and about dealing with a sudden shocker of a check, when their dad gets sick.
The different forms and formats of the poems in the book enhance the story and propel it forward, going from the sharp staccato of Basketball Rule #2 in which the words
are so vivid that you can practically hear the squeak of the player’s sneakers on the polished hardwood of the basketball court as he pivots on his toes before shooting for the basket, to the dirge-like slowness of
This Christmas was not
Merry, and I have not found
joy in the new year
with Dad in the hospital
for nineteen days and counting.
The boys’ lives change forever by the end of the book, with the hardest crossover of them all.
For Further Enrichment: Kwame Alexander was awarded the Newbery Medal for this book. You can learn more about him at his website.
There are interviews with the author at the TeachingBooks website, as well as a link so that you can hear his Newbery acceptance speech.
What is a novel in verse, anyway? Author Caroline Starr Rose gives an excellent explanation on The Children’s Book Review website that includes these words: “The verse novel is a condensed blend of poetry and story that flows from one word to the next. It shows the reader how to listen, how to see more sharply, how to emotionally connect. And somewhere in the journey we are changed.”