Book review: The Crossover; 5 out of 5 stars #bookaday

The crossover book coverby Kwame Alexander
Novel in verse; chapter book
Newbery Medal, 2015
Interest level: 5-8
Reading level: 4.3
5 out of 5 stars

From front to back cover, I was completely captivated by Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover. The stark white background of the cover makes the black silhouette of the basketball player and orange lettering of the title really stand out and catch your eye. The basketball balanced on the player’s finger is composed of words from the story. As a bonus, if you remove the dust jacket, the orange and black hard cover of the book contains the hexagonal pattern found on basketballs. This attention to detail, which can be found in all aspects of The Crossover, makes this book worthy to bear the Newbery Medal.

The Crossover is a well-written novel in verse. Alexander has utilized figurative language and precise word choice in his poems that invites readers into the life of 13-year-old Josh Bell, who plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and be the next NBA phenom. The poems that are about playing ball are visually exciting and are written in a hip-hop/rap rhythm.

But The Crossover isn’t just a story about a boy who loves to play basketball. This is also a story about growing up and the changes that come into his relationship with his twin brother when a girlfriend enters the picture. Most of all, this is a story about family. The Bells are all very close and it hurts to watch them deal with their father’s health issues.

Alexander has crafted a very real and believable family, and the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and interaction between the characters is both believable and interesting. There are some wonderful insightful moments in the story that make the reader pause and think about the life lesson that has been imparted. These moments flow well within the plot and do not feel forced or preachy. Many of them come in the “Basketball Rule” poems that come from Josh’s father:

Basketball Rule #1 (p. 66)
In this 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.

I would recommend this book to students in 5th grade and up. The issues of first girlfriends and the father’s health will be appreciated and understood by the more emotionally mature reader. For students who balk at the novel in verse format, there are two YouTube videos that will sell them on this book.

Kwame Alexander talks about the difference between “novel in verse” and “book of poetry.” Alexander is way cooler than I am, so he can win readers over!

Kwame Alexander beatboxes the poem from page 30, “The Show.” He truly shows how cool his novel in verse is!

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