At the top of the key, I’m
MOVING & GROOVING,
POPping and ROCKING —
Why you BUMPING?
Why you LOCKING?
Man, take this THUMPING.
For the perfect way to introduce poetry to boys, or any young teen for that matter, pick up Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover. He has written an epic poem to basketball and brotherly love and heartbreak. I swept through this in one sitting, and am in awe of his style and prose. It was visual and visceral and punched me right in the stomach.
Each chapter is written in different styles of verse, and the whole book reads like a rap song.
It is a basketball story, but is so much more than that: friendship and family and courage and sportsmanship and academics and fairness and tears and more.
Josh and Jordan, Filthy and JB to their friends and family, are twin middle school basketball stars. Their father was a star before them, playing in the NBA and Europe, before a knee injury ended his career. His memories of the glory days inspire and drive his boys to excel.
Alexander’s voice as Josh is amazing. He is real and vulnerable, confused and angry, impulsive and resentful, and everything else that is a 13 year old boy.
is my name.
But Filthy McNasty is my claim to fame
Folks call me that
’cause my game’s acclaimed,
so downright dirty, it’ll put you to shame.
My hair is long, my height’s tall.
See, I’m the next Kevin Durant,
LeBron, and Chris Paul.
Filthy and JB have always been two halves of the same whole, doing everything together their entire lives. But now things are changing, JB is more interested in girls than basketball, and Filthy feels left behind. Add in family conflicts and frustration and helplessness, and Alexander has written a story that you will not be able to set down.
This book is perfect for middle school kids, and is an unintimidating introuction to poetry, grabbing the reader from the first page onward. The chapters are short, just scenes from the Josh’s daily life, and will speak to anyone, sports fan or not.
And the number of awards it has won or been nominated for? The Newbery, for example. The Coretta Scott King. So many more. And so worthy of them all. It is an incredibly powerful read.
Be prepared for tears. They will happen at the most unexpected times. You will be floored.
The Crossover is published by by Harcourt Brace and Company