Middle School

The Crossover

Kwame Alexander
2014

Courage

Resilience

Teamwork

Basketball. Competition. Family. Health. Poetry.

Kwame Alexander weaves all these all elements together in his Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winning novel in verse, The Crossover.

OH, WOW – DID YOU SEE THAT NASTY CROSSOVER?
Now you see why they call me Filthy.
Folks, I hope you got your tickets,
Because I’m about to put on a show.

Josh and Jordan are identical twin 12-year old boys who don’t just love basketball – they live basketball. They anchor their school team with Josh (aka Filthy McNasty) as forward and Jordan (aka JB) as shooting guard. There’s lots of good-natured taunting between the brothers, but when it is game time, they are all business, guided by the Basketball Rules of their ex-pro ballplayer father, Chuck “Da Man” Bell.

Basketball Rule #1
In this game of life
your family is the court
and the ball is your heart.
No matter how good you are,
no matter how down you get,
always leave
your heart
on the court.

Josh serves as the narrator for the novel with brash rhymes that match his bravado and tender rhymes that touch the heart. Through Josh’s words, we learn about basketball lingo, middle school crushes, family loyalty, and fierce competitiveness.

But this book is not just about free throw battles in the driveway and pick-up games in the local gym. Chuck Bell has been neglecting his health despite his wife’s pleas and his family history of heart disease. When the novel reaches the fourth quarter, Josh and his family face the consequences of that neglect when Chuck suffers a heart attack while driving to the hoop. Kwame Alexander lays bare all of Josh’s pain, confusion, fear, and anger in stark verses that go straight to the reader’s heart.

Basketball Rule #10
A loss is inevitable,
like snow in winter.
True champions
learn
to dance
through the storm.

A novel in verse is an invitation to discover the transformative power of well-chosen words. Thanks to carefully honed language and plenty of white space on the page, poetry provide a welcoming place for even the most reluctant readers. The Crossover is full of compelling and sympathetic characters and scenarios and the chapters are quick, rich poems. Kwame Alexander joins Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Sharon Creech in encouraging readers by serving up just-right words in perfect doses of verse.

No Pizza and Fries
The spinach
and tofu
salad
Mom packed
for my lunch
today is cruel,
but not as cruel
as the evil look
Miss Sweet Tea
shoots me
from across
the cafeteria.

Invite your students and families to share The Crossover and see if it animates some new readers in your school. Once your readers fall for Kwame Alexander, they can read Booked and Rebound and find more about sports and life delivered via novels in verse.