Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for most distinguished contribution to children’s literature, and deservingly so. The Crossover is filled with lots of rhyme and reason.This poetic and lyrical novel written in verse is a tale about a pair of 13-year-old identical twin basketball stars, and their relationship with their father, who once had a chance to play for the NBA.
The story is narrated by Josh, the twin with a head full of dreads—the main attraction on and off the courts. This intellectual poet is known for his “fresh and sweet” dribbles, comparing himself to the likes of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Chris Paul. Josh’s style earned him the nickname “Filthy McNasty,” from distinguished jazz musician Horace Silver’s 1961 Filthy McNasty album. "Josh," his father says, “listen to that piano, fast and free, just like you and JB on the court.”
Jordan, the twin with the better jumper, goes by JB; his favorite NBA player is Michael Jordan. Like most preadolescents at the onset of puberty, his interest in girls is increasing, and, thus, he changes the trajectory of his once-inseparable relationship with Josh.
Alexander has beautifully woven across chapters themes of pre-adolescence, brotherhood and fatherhood, basketball, health awareness, and crossing over. From a “teaching” children’s librarian's perspective, Alexander’s ability to provide the reader with strong vocabulary and then, without interrupting the flow of comprehension, give meaning by way of syntax, is genius. His quality of language provides a special aesthetic and intensity that the reader will find hard to put down and will miss when the story ends.
The Crossover is definitely written to last. It has style and plenty of swag—it just might be the jumpstart a reluctant reader needs to become a lover of books.
This month’s children’s book review is written by Robin Muldor, Library Supervisor/Children’s Librarian of Overbrook Park Library.
Have you read The Crossover yet? What did you think?