BookPage Children's Top Pick, April 2014

“Work smart / Live smarter / Play hard / Practice harder / Love, Dad” The Crossover is a novel-in-verse, with long flows of prose that spill out a tale of family, love, loss and basketball.

Josh and his twin brother Jordan live for the game and plan to play at rival colleges. Their mother is tough but fair with the boys, but she tries in vain to persuade their father to make healthier choices. An ex-player whose pro dreams faded after an injury, he lives through the boys’ achievements while wolfing down Krispy Kremes. One crisis leads to another, and soon the family is mourning an irreplaceable loss.

The Crossover will appeal to basketball fans, and it will likely grab reluctant readers with its quick wordplay, deft rhymes and kinetic, poetic take on the game. “The bass booms. / The crowd looms. / There’s music and mocking, / teasing nonstop, but / when the play begins / all the talk ceases.” Author Kwame Alexander has made a gift to teachers with this book: References to classical and jazz music (Josh’s dad nicknamed him “Filthy McNasty” after a Horace Silver song), probability (Jordan places bets on nearly everything) and the geometry of the game open up plenty of study topics without ever losing a step. Jordan’s fledgling romance and the strain it puts on the brothers’ relationship will draw sympathy from anyone who has ever felt deserted by a friend.

The title refers to a move made on the court, but The Crossover is destined to reach—and touch—readers who never gave basketball or poetry a second thought until now. It’s tough, muscular writing about a tender, unguarded heart.

 

Heather Seggel reads too much and writes all about it in Northern California.

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