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The Crossover Hardcover – March 18, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—Twins Josh and Jordan are junior high basketball stars, thanks in large part to the coaching of their dad, a former professional baller who was forced to quit playing for health reasons, and the firm, but loving support of their assistant-principal mom. Josh, better known as Filthy McNasty, earned his nickname for his enviable skills on the court: "…when Filthy gets hot/He has a SLAMMERIFIC SHOT." In this novel in verse, the brothers begin moving apart from each other for the first time. Jordan starts dating the "pulchritudinous" Miss Sweet Tea, and Josh has a tough time keeping his jealousy and feelings of abandonment in control. Alexander's poems vary from the pulsing, aggressive beats of a basketball game ("My shot is F L O W I N G, Flying, fluttering…. ringaling and SWINGALING/Swish. Game/over") to the more introspective musings of a child struggling into adolescence ("Sit beside JB at dinner. He moves./Tell him a joke. He doesn't even smile….Say I'm sorry/but he won't listen"). Despite his immaturity, Josh is a likable, funny, and authentic character. Underscoring the sports and the fraternal tension is a portrait of a family that truly loves and supports one another. Alexander has crafted a story that vibrates with energy and heart and begs to be read aloud. A slam dunk.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal.
The Bell twins are stars on the basketball court and comrades in life. While there are some differences—Josh shaves his head and Jordan loves his locks—both twins adhere to the Bell basketball rules: In this game of life, your family is the court, and the ball is your heart. With a former professional basketball player dad and an assistant principal mom, there is an intensely strong home front supporting sports and education in equal measures. When life intervenes in the form of a hot new girl, the balance shifts and growing apart proves painful. An accomplished author and poet, Alexander eloquently mashes up concrete poetry, hip-hop, a love of jazz, and a thriving family bond. The effect is poetry in motion. It is a rare verse novel that is fundamentally poetic rather than using this writing trend as a device. There is also a quirky vocabulary element that adds a fun intellectual note to the narrative. This may be just the right book for those hard-to-match youth who live for sports or music or both. Grades 6-12. --Gail Bush
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These kids were immediately sucked into the story. They loved the dynamics between the twin brothers, and the confidence of the narrator. They loved the father's pride in his son and that the father's language and taste was cheesy and dated.
I can't thank the author enough for writing something that sounds so real, so relevant, so current, for boys who want to recognize themselves and their families on the page. It's not easy for an adult to write authentically for children using current language and icons that appeal to children. The boys in my group didn't know all of the basketball stars in the book - I needed to tell them who Magic Johnson was, for example - but they are a bit younger than the intended audience.
At the beginning, the boys get really mad at each other whenever they have to do something together because they feel like they always have to be together since they are twins. One example is that Josh and J.B. don’t like passing to each other in basketball.
Josh and J.B. feel like real people that kids can relate to. The boys act like real kids throughout the book. They do things like Play Madden, take tests, and get in trouble with their mom.
In the middle of the book, Josh and J.B are shooting free throws. J.B. makes 41 in a row and Josh doesn’t make any. Their Dad says, “Josh, J.B is putting on a free throw clinic,” which makes Josh upset. This shows how competitive the boys are and how much they care about basketball. Both of these things, middle school readers are able to identify with.
The fast-paced free verse and hip-hop poetry continues to wow readers throughout the book. The boys continue to grow and learn new things about themselves and their relationship to each other. In the end, the boys learn to work together to win their basketball game and appreciate each other.
Readers can learn to follow Josh’s Basketball Rules of life as they enjoy the Crossover. The rules include Basketball Rule #1 which is, “In the 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.”
The Crossover is a fantastic book that middle school kids will enjoy! A great read!
I'm not the intended audience for this book -- I don't particularly like basketball, I'm well past school age (by a lot), and I'm not really all that fond of poetry -- so I had reason to suspect that I might not like this book. However, I'm an omnivorous reader, and appreciate good writing of all sorts, and by the end I found that I enjoyed it a lot. I do think it’s a rather strange choice for the Newbery, although it is very creative. So it’s a very different book, but the story itself is universal. I’m glad I read it.
Dads, brotherhood, basketball, and music are a blockbuster combination for middle grade readers. The fast-paced novel-in-verse format is perfect for this exciting story sure to be a winner with a broad audience including athletes. The rhythm of the story, music, sports, and even health all play a role. While sports plays an important role in the story, important themes including jealousy, sibling rivalry, and heart health are the key to the book’s success.
The author’s unique approach to the novel-in-verse format serves as an exciting way to introduce verse to youth. Consider a literature-circle with other 2014 stories in verse including BROWN GIRL DREAMING and THE RED PENCIL.
Use THE CROSSOVER to introduce youth to other sports-related books for middle grades and young adults.
To learn more about the author, go to his website Book In A Day at http://www.bookinaday.org/.
Download the Educator’s Guide for lots of curriculum connections at http://www.fcps.edu/fairfaxnetwork/mta/kalexander/TheCrossover_BG.pdf.
This book belongs on the Newbery shortlist!