The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, was unexpectedly marvelous. I loved so many aspects of the book. The story centers on the Bell family that consists of twins Josh, who goes by the name Filthy McNasty, and Jordan. The twins are basketball players at their junior high school, and the backbone of their team. The story is told through the eyes of Josh, who is going through the regular growing pains of entering puberty. He must deal with his brother getting his first girlfriend, Miss Sweat Tea, and his father’s health issues, that remain a puzzle to him for a large part of the story. He lives and breathes basketball, and has acquired his nickname from his basketball skills. The boys’ father, a former professional player, now is a stay at home dad, that also is their role model and, especially Josh, aspires to be like him. Their mother, the assistant principal, tries to keep the boys focused on their education, and constantly worries about her husband. Josh feels his hair, he has long dreads, are a source of good luck for his game, and when his brother cuts off his hair, the conflict that develops between the siblings becomes magnified. Josh becomes jealous of his brother’s girlfriend, and his jealousy leads him to make questionable decisions, one of which gets Jordan injured during a game. He is jealous of Jordan’s newfound relationship because he finds himself having lost his other half, and is no longer a part of the dynamic duo he is used to. He cannot understand why Jordan wants to spend all of his time talking or with this girl.
The most shocking part of the novel, though, is Josh’s secretly ailing father, who has been keeping his condition a secret from everyone, ends up in the hospital, and ultimately passes away. Alexander does an excellent job showing this loss through Josh’s eyes. As the reader, you are truly pained by this reality, and fell for this boy who has just had his life turned upside down.
What was truly amazing about this novel, apart from the beautiful language and great plot, is the poetic form the author uses. It gives the words movement on the page. The rhythm of the words mirrors the rhythm of the ball bouncing on the court. Also, the use of vocabulary words is great. In terms of using this book in the classroom, I can definitely see how the vocabulary can be an essential part of the Unit. I will definitely be adding it to my class library but will also request to have the books ordered for use as a class novel. I can incorporate it in a poetry Unit. As I read I was thinking of activities that I would develop for a culminating activity, and I think that a creative writing assignment would be perfect. I would have the students to write an autobiographical narrative, using the poetic form. The finished works can then be read in class to music perhaps, or shared in a larger grade level assembly. I see a lot of possibilities for this book, and am so excited to have discovered it. I have also recently found out that the novel has won the Newberry Award for 2015. It truly is a winner.