The Crossover

by Kwame Alexander (2014)

An African-American teenage narrator.  Basketball.  And poetry.

These are the elements that Kwame Alexander weaves together in his Newbery Award-winning novel, The Crossover.

Josh is a young man who loves basketball.  He loves playing it with his brother, JB.  He loves competing with JB, and he loves playing with him as a teammate.

His father, an ex-pro now consigned to being a spectator with bad knees, loves basketball, too.  He teaches Josh the lingo, the pride, yes, the trash-talking, and the moves.  Like the crossover dribble, designed to fake out a defender so the man with the ball can go speeding past him to the basket.

Alexander uses actual poetry to articulate not only the poetry of basketball – but the poetry of Josh’s mixed feelings as a teen-ager.  In The Crossover Josh must grapple with girls, and mis-understandings over girls; the stress and pressure of injuries in competitive, championship sports; the pressure of expectations and support from his well-meaning parents; differences of opinions between his parents about what’s best for Josh; and the demands of his teachers and peers.  You know, all the typical stuff American teen-agers have to deal with!

These components make The Crossover a fascinating middle school opportunity for exploration via One School, One Book.  Imagine reading it as a community, students talking about Josh’s perspective and decisions, students bringing some of Josh’s questions – or his parents’ answers – home to discuss with their parents.

These are the elements that make One School, One Book tick.  And in The Crossover, they’re presented in quick, lucid, rich chapters as poems – choice language for your students, teachers, and families to experience and relish and share together.