The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover is a book about twin 12-year-old boys who love basketball. My boys are 11-year-old twins who love basketball. They’re also always complaining that they can’t find any good fiction about basketball, so when I saw a teaser on HMH’s Twitter feed, I knew my kiddos’ brains would basically explode. My only concern? It’s written in verse, and I had no idea what they’d think of that.

They both finished The Crossover this week, and I sat down with them yesterday afternoon to ask them what they thought of it. Everybody, say hi to Jonah and Aidan!

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Fefferbooks: So, Jonah and Aidan, talk to me about The Crossover–you just finished it, right? Tell me what you thought of it, overall.
Aidan: It was funny, it was dramatic, it was…
Jonah: It was about our hobby…
A: peaceful!
J:—because, yeah, you know, it’s basketball, that’s,—
A: It was competitive!
J: our favorite sport, that’s our favorite outside—
A: And very descriptive.
J: Yeah! Very!
A: I could understand what was going on.

(Yes. My children talk over each other ALL THE TIME. 🙂 Allow me to edit some of the interruptions from here on out so it’s readable English!)

A: And it was kind of like a weird poem or something? And, like, sometimes if it said “crossing,” the words would be spelled in a diagonal form.
F: Oh, that’s pretty cool. What did you think of the fact that it was in poetry form? Did you like it like that?
A: Yeah! It wasn’t exactly in poetry form. Sometimes it would rhyme, but usually it was in like three-sentence paragraphs. Or sometimes six sentences.
F: That’s called free verse. What did you think of the fact that it was written like that instead of like a normal book?
J: Basketball just doesn’t seem really like the normal thing an author would do, and so why would you write a totally normal book about basketball? Basketball is supposed to be interesting and competitive, so using figurative language and smack talk made sense.
F: Oh, interesting insight, Jonah. So, who’s the main character in the book?
J&A: Josh Bell.
A: Sometimes he talks about Jordan, and sometimes there are quotes about Jordan, but it’s not really much about Jordan.
J: Josh is the narrator. It’s kind of one of those “in my mind” things.
F: Got it. So what’s his relationship like with Jordan? Does he get along with his brother?
J: Well…they never get along when it comes to Jordan betting.
A: That’s his favorite thing to do—
J: —besides basketball.
F: What does he bet on?
A: Jordan bet that if he made a game-winner, then he would get to cut one or two of Josh’s hair strands (he calls them his wings) off. And he managed to make a game-winner and he accidentally cuts 5 of them off.
J: So then he couldn’t really dunk because he uses his long hair like wings.
A: Well, actually, he still can dunk.
J: Yeah, but just not far.
A: That’s how his dad died. His dad had a sprained ankle and some heart problems? But he took so much pressure trying to dunk and he was so nervous that he might miss that his heart started racing too fast. And sooner or later he died.
F: Was his dad a professional basketball player?
A: No, he played in an Italian league.
J: Yeah, but he was awesome.

F: What was the main plot of the book?
A: Mostly, that Josh loved his family and he loved basketball. And mostly he talks about how Jordan doesn’t pay any attention to him and too much attention to his girlfriend named Alexis.
J: Josh nicknamed her Miss Sweet Tea.
A: One time, Josh got so tired of him focusing too much on his girlfriend that, both accidentally and purposely, as the time almost ran out in a game, he looked at Jordan and passed it and leveled it, and it hit his face and he got a bloody nose.
F: Because he was upset at him?
A: Yeah. But also, he didn’t really mean to do it.
F: Oh, he didn’t mean to hurt him?
A: In his brain, he was kinda thinking, “Should I hit him on purpose because I’m mad? Or should I just lay off? It’s a game. It’s a game. Come on, we’re about to lose.”
F: I see. So was there a main problem in the book, like near the end or anything?
A: Yeah, near the end their dad was dying, and they were scared. Josh had come into the starting line-up because Jordan was on the bench, and Josh was driving, and they were slowly counting down from 5 and he was saying “I’m crossing over,” all the way down to 1, and he said, “I take my shot.” And then it said, “Swish—Game…” and then it said in small words: “over.”
F: Why do you think it said game over like that, in small letters?
A: His Dad died right after the basketball game. So probably it was kind of a thing like he was speaking, like: “game…over.”
F: That’s really interesting, the way it sounds like the author is using the typography to convey movement and emotion?
J: Yeah. Exactly.

F: What do you think Josh learned in the story? In the end, do you think anything changed?
A: When his dad played in the Italian league, he had one championship and he had a championship ring in his closet. So when he died, Josh was shooting free-throws, and Jordan came out and was like, “Look, here, you have this.” His dad’s nickname was “Da Man,” for some reason. And Jordan said, “Looks like you ‘Da Man’ now,” because he’d made a championship-game-winning shot.
J: And Josh instead said, “We ‘Da Man.’”
A: And then he passed the ball to Jordan, and he took a huge shot, and then it said, “It was crossing us over.”
F: What do you think that means: It was crossing us over?
J: Suddenly they’re being friends, so it’s like crossing over?
A: Yeah, it’s just like when you cross over, it’s one side to the other. So they’re going into a new life, maybe?
J: A good life? Trying not to be as upset about their dad dying as they can, maybe?
F: I think those are both good ideas! If you had to give me one sentence that sums up what you thought of this book, what would you say?
J: I loved it because it had most of the stuff I like: basketball, drama, and twins!
A: I would say exactly the same thing!

Clearly, my boys were enamored of this book. I haven’t read The Crossover yet, but my kids burned through it in about three days, and one of them is a reluctant reader. I’m pretty sure three days is a record for him, so I’m thrilled. We’ll be looking for more from Kwame Alexander, for sure.

My boys say this one’s clean, and they rate it 5 stars. The Crossover is on shelves now!

5 Stars

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