The Crossover

by Kwame Alexander (2014)

A Middle School selection. 

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 teenager. In The Crossover Josh must grapple with girls, and misunderstandings 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 teenagers have to deal with!

These components make The Crossover a fascinating opportunity for exploration as a schoolwide read-aloud. 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 our programs 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.