The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

2p_THE CROSSOVER jacket.inddTitle: The Crossover

Author: Kwame Alexander

Publisher: New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Genre: Middle Grade fiction in verse

Audience Age: 9 to 12 years

Themes/Topics: basketball, parent/child relationships, brothers, illness, loss

Opening Sentences:


At the top of the key I’m



Why you BUMPING?

Why you LOCKING?

Man, take this THUMPING.

Synopsis: You might be surprised to find a book about basketball on this blog that mainly focuses on the arts, but there is definitely music in this book – there’s a strong rap and hiphop rhythm in the words and the beat of the free verse text.

The Crossover is told from the point of view of Josh, aka Filthy McNasty because of the way he plays the game. His twin brother, Jordan, also plays basketball, as did their father.

The book is about growing up, Josh dealing with his brother having his first girlfriend while Josh has to walk home alone; about basketball and all the things the boys learn about life when they’re out on the court dealing with the game; and about dealing with a sudden shocker of a check, when their dad gets sick.

The different forms and formats of the poems in the book enhance the story and propel it forward, going from the sharp staccato of Basketball Rule #2 in which the words

Run fast

Change pivot

Chase pull

Aim shoot

are so vivid that you can practically hear the squeak of the player’s sneakers on the polished hardwood of the basketball court as he pivots on his toes before shooting for the basket, to the dirge-like slowness of

This Christmas was not

Merry, and I have not found

joy in the new year

with Dad in the hospital

for nineteen days and counting.

The boys’ lives change forever by the end of the book, with the hardest crossover of them all.

For Further Enrichment: Kwame Alexander was awarded the Newbery Medal for this book. You can learn more about him at his website.

There are interviews with the author at the TeachingBooks website, as well as a link so that you can hear his Newbery acceptance speech.

What is a novel in verse, anyway? Author Caroline Starr Rose gives an excellent explanation on The Children’s Book Review website that includes these words: “The verse novel is a condensed blend of poetry and story that flows from one word to the next. It shows the reader how to listen, how to see more sharply, how to emotionally connect. And somewhere in the journey we are changed.”

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