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.
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
Clarke, T. (n. d.). The crossover (Review of the book The Crossover). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-crossover
Kirkus Reviews. (2013, Dec. 18). The crossover (Review of the book The Crossover). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kwame-alexander/the-crossover/
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 https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/weblog/2015/04/the-crossover-by-kwame-alexander-book-review.html