Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander -- a powerful, booming novel in verse (ages 10-14)

WOW oh WOW. When a book hits a sweet spot, it zooms from one student to another. As soon as I read the opening lines of The Crossover, with its basketball cover and bouncing rap beat, I just knew I had to read it aloud to my 5th graders. But nothing prepared me for how it hooked them. To say they are loving it is an understatement. Fifth grade boys are just about wrestling each other to see who's going to get it next--jostling each other over a poetry book!
The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Your local library
preview available here
ages 10-14
*2015 Emerson Mock Newbery*
*best new book*
For Josh Bell, basketball and his family are everything to him. He pushes himself to excel, but he loves every minute he spends with the game--especially the way he plays it with his twin brother Jordan and his dad. Kwame Alexander captures Josh's voice and the power of basketball in a way that comes alive for my students. They love the rhythm and pulsing movement, the attitude and sass in Josh's words. Just look at this first page:
The power of this novel comes not only from Alexander's language but also from the characters and their emotions. As Josh and Jordan (JB) near the championship playoffs for their school's division, friction develops between the brothers and trouble is brewing with their father. Josh starts to resent the fact that JB is spending too much time with his new girlfriend. I love the relationship Josh has with his dad. They tease each other, push each other, question each other in a way that feels so real.

Alexander engages kids on so many different levels. I especially like the Basketball Rules that Josh's dad shares with his sons. How is basketball like life? That's something all sorts of kids can think about, in a way that takes layered meanings to a different level.

Our whole class is having a blast reading this aloud. I am projecting it on the screen so we can see the words dance on the page as I read it aloud. I want to try to create some audio recordings with kids reading it, because I know they'll bring so much to it. We already have four copies at school and the books are bouncing from one kid to another.

I can't wait to show the kids this video that Kwame Alexander made to share The Crossover with librarians. I just hope parents and teachers can find it in their local bookstores.

Best new book? You betcha. It's already gotten five starred reviews. My favorite review comes from Guys Lit Wire. Here's what they have to say:
If you haven't heard of The Crossover yet, you're officially on notice. Here's your chance to read this book before the awards talk. And, yes, there should be serious awards talk about this book and not just because it has already received five starred reviews but because it is a breath-taking and dazzling fast break work of art. So, forget the awards talk (though it will certainly be warranted) and believe me: you should know this book because you'll want to put into kid's hands and share it with them.
I couldn't agree more. I also want to put this into every 5th & 6th grade teacher's box across the country. Please share this with a teacher, a kid, a family you know and love.

The review copies came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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