Leave it on the court: The Crossover

Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 237 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN  978-0-544-10771-7; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-48985-855-9


TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes


Genre: Sports Novel/Novel in Verse


Part of a series? No, but Alexander’s Booked is similar in style and content for readers who want more like this book.


Plot Summary:

Josh (Filthy McNasty) and Jordan (JB) Bell are twins and stars of their middle school basketball team. Their father Chuck Bell, former basketball star, helps them prepare for their goals of eventually playing on all-star college teams. When Josh loses a bet, his bald-headed brother gets to cut off a precious lock from Josh’s hair. Joking around, JB doesn’t pay attention to his cutting and ends up chopping off five locks, forcing Josh to get his hair cut short. Deprived of his prized hair, Josh’s mood can only worsen when JB falls for the new girl in her pink Reeboks; with both his hair and the company of his brother taken from him, Josh loses his temper during a game and hits his brother in the face with a ball so hard he nearly breaks JB’s nose. Their mother suspends Josh from the team, leaving him more free time to worry about his father’s failing health — and the fact that his father refuses to see a doctor.


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Alexander’s poetry flies across the page. Moments can be slow and contemplative, or words can explode, grow, smash together, and slide around as Josh describes the game he plays. The story progresses at a good clip, and the passage of time marked by holidays and the food shared is a powerful way to return readers to the thought of food and how it affects the family.


This is a fantastic book; writing a novel in verse is not easy, and this book is gorgeous. The action, the thought behind those actions, and the characters themselves are brought to life. I would recommend this to any reader; sports fans may love the play-by-play details, but anyone can enjoy the poetry.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be fantastic for a poetry unit. Readers can also make poems out of alphabet soup and cookies, adding a 3-D level to the poetry creation. Students can also go out into the school community for fifteen minutes and just listen, then come back and write a poem incorporating when they heard on campus; Alexander uses this onomatopoeic technique frequently, and those are always exciting poems to read. (Ideas from myself).


Grade Level: 5-8


Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2015

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 2/1/14

Coretta Scott King Author Honor, 2015

Kirkus Reviews starred 1/15/14

Library Media Connection starred 8/1/14

Newbery Medal, 2015

Publishers Weekly starred 1/20/14

School Library Journal starred 3/1/14

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 8/1/14


Reviews referenced:

Clarke, T. (n. d.). The crossover (Review of the book The Crossover). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Kirkus Reviews. (2013, Dec. 18). The crossover (Review of the book The Crossover). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from

Vardan, E. (2015, Apr. 26). The crossover by Kwame Alexander  |  Book review (Review of the book The Crossover). The Children’s Book Review. Retrieved from


One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garica

Williams-Garcia, Rita. One Crazy Summer. Amistad, 2010. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-06-076088-5; Tr. $4.54, ISBN 978-0-06-076090-8; PLB 1 $12.81, ISBN 978-0-329-96783-3; PLB 2 $16.89, ISBN 978-0-06-076089-2


TL;DR: Do I recommend this? YES! Absolutely.


Genre: Historical Fiction


Part of a series? Yes — Gaither Sisters series.


Plot Summary:

Delphine Gaither and her sisters Vonetta and Fern are in for a rough summer. Their father has decided it’s time they got to know their mother who left the family seven years before. In order to get to know her, they have to fly cross-country by themselves to Oakland where she now lives. It’s 1968, and their grandmother, Big Ma, is not thrilled about sending her granddaughters to “a pot of trouble boiling.” Even so, they go. Cecile — called Sister Nzila by the members of the Black Panther Party who visit her home and run the People’s Center — wants nothing to do with her daughters’ visit. She sends them to Black Panther summer camp a few blocks away. Will Delphine be able to protect her sisters from the trouble around them? Will she become part of the revolution?


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This story is completely engaging. Delphine is a fantastic narrator, utterly relatable and forced to be wise beyond her eleven years. She doesn’t take trouble from other people, and she is a wonderful filter for the events of the summer of 1968. I really enjoyed reading this book


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

It would make a strong book club choice or reading to go along with a unit in American History or literature. Activities for this book could include ones that were listed in the “Extras and Activities” section at the back of the copy I received from the library. Each of the activities looks interesting, but I would perhaps choose the first activity in which students would put together a playlist of songs from the 1960s that reflect the era as well as scenes from One Crazy Summer. As the activity directs, I would have students play a minute of their songs and explain A) what moment it’s for, B) what aspect of the era it is meant to convey, and C) anything else about the music they like. I might also try activity two in which kids “adopt” a poet of the sixties and read their poetry as well as writing poetry themselves. I would skip the last performative prompt, however, as I am not comfortable directing kids to do that one their own (even asking for parental permission).


Grade Level: 5-8


Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2011

Booklist starred 2/1/10

Christian Library Journal starred 11/1/14

Horn Book Magazine starred 3/1/10

Library Media Connection starred 3/1/10

Parents’ Choice Gold Award 2010

Newbery Honor, 2011

School Library Journal starred 3/1/10


Program Ideas from:

Williams-Garcia, R. (2010). One crazy summer. New York: HarperCollins Children’s.


Reviews referenced:

Breck, K. (n. d.). One crazy summer (Review of the book One Crazy Summer). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Bird, E. (2010, Feb. 2). Review of the day: One crazy summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Review of the book One Crazy Summer). School Library Journal. Retrieved from

Kirkus Reviews. (2010, Dec. 22). One crazy summer (Review of the book One Crazy Summer). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from



Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

Graff, Lisa. Lost in the Sun. Philomel Books, 2015. 304 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-399-16406-4; Tr. $7.69, ISBN 978-0-14-750858-4; PLB $13.81, ISBN 978-1-51810-658-7


TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? Yes


Genre: Realistic Contemporary Fiction


Part of a series? No.


Plot Summary:

Trent Zimmerman has a lot on his mind. His dad has started a new family with his second wife Kari, and they are expecting a baby almost any day now. Meanwhile, it feels like Mr. Zimmerman is doing his best to tick Trent off. Trent’s fuse is shorter than usual, too, due to the fact that no one wants to talk to him anymore. After a tragic accident the school year before, Trent finds himself overwhelmed with guilt over the death of a peer, and it appears that the town agrees with him that he is at fault for the boy’s death. To make matters worse, Trent can’t try to play sports again to mend those friendships because any athletic activity makes him go clammy, remembering that February hockey game. Friendless and feeling attacked at home (first by his father’s attitude, then by his siblings’ insistence that Trent visit his dad anyway), Trent begins acting out. Fallon Little doesn’t seem to mind, but she’s weird. Could they become friends?


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:


This book is fantastic. Graff does a fabulous job describing Trent’s “fire” that erupts in his chest and forces him to blow up when he is angry. Trent does his best to control his impulses, but sometimes (often, early on, he cannot control them at all) they get the better of him, costing even more trust in the community.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This book would be a great book for a student dealing with anger management issues or who is interested in reading about this topic. It could also be a great book club book — there is a great deal of potential discussion that could be had when considering Trent, Fallon, and their classmates. A fun club activity would be to watch one of Fallon’s movies and look for the continuity errors. (Idea from myself)


Grade Level: 3-6


Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 3/15/15

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 9/1/15

Kirkus Reviews starred 3/1/15

Publishers Weekly starred 3/16/15

School Library Journal starred 4/1/15


Reviews Referenced:

Eisenhart, M. (n. d.). Lost in the sun (Review of the book Lost in the Sun). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Publishers Weekly. (2015, March 16). Lost in the sun (Review of the book Lost in the Sun). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from