Brothers and Basketball: Why The Crossover Made Me Cry

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

I first saw The Crossover at Barnes & Noble I thought, “This is something I should pick up for the basketball lovers in my class. But I didn’t. I didn’t even take it off the shelf.

I almost bought it when we were on vacation this summer, but then chose Rose Under Fire instead.

So when I saw it when we went on our last library-date I decided to go ahead and pick it up. The library is low risk. It doesn’t speak to me and I return it, nothing lost.

Last night, after finishing the audiobook for Siege & Storm, I didn’t fancy anything heavy. I thought, “A book about basketball will be good.”

First surprise: it’s a novel in verse. In all the times I’d walked past it, I’d never cracked it open. Admittedly, I chose this book because of the cover.

Second surprise: It’s not a light story.

Josh and Jordan are seventh graders, ballers and the twin sons of a famous basketball player whose career was cut short. Josh, nicknamed Filthy McNasty after a character in a  Horace Silver song, is a power forward and Jordan is a shooting guard.  They’re the stars of their team. But when a new girl shows up at school and steals Jordan’s attention, Josh feels a bit abandoned. He has to deal with that, and the fact that their mother is the assistant principal, and that there’s something wrong with his father.

And it was the father’s stubbornness that got me because I have, in the past, tended to be 2014-08-01 08.01.16stubborn in the same way. Well, that got me and other things too. I cried.

I loved the pacing of the verse and how Alexander used font size and formatting to distinguish between Josh’s storytelling and his hip hop. I found these shifts visually engaging; they changed the way I heard rhythm and meter in my head.

There’s also a nice balance of basketball with life. Alexander does a great job of connecting the game with real life and showing how Josh’s life isn’t all basketball and the importance of his relationships with people — his parents, his brother, his teammates, the girl his brother falls for.

As soon as I have a book budget again, this is going in my classroom library. And don’t be surprised if it shows up in a Feature Shelf sometime soon (when it does, there will be a link to that shelf in the Evernote file).

By the way, as I wrote this, I was totally listening to Horace Silver. Reminds me of high school (I have the album linked above, and I obsessively listened to Dee Dee Bridgewater singing Horace Silver songs)

Evernote file with more information about The Crossover

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