The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
I can’t help feeling that if more books were like The Crossover more kids would become and stay readers. This book is easy to read. I don’t mean that in the sense of it being a book without complexity or without depth or without complicated vocabulary, because it has all of those things. I mean that the pages just fly by. That the things that should be hard to follow, like the writing style that flows through many types of poetry, or hard to read, like the frustration of brothers growing apart and the pain and worry for a father whose health is in jeopardy, just aren’t. Reading this, even the parts that make your heart hurt, is pure pleasure. It’s a Newbery that I fully believe kids will read and love. Not one that adults can appreciate but will miss its aim with its intended audience.
Josh Bell, sometimes known as Filthy McNasty, and his twin brother Jordan know their way around a basketball court. Of course they do. Their father is none other than Da Man, Chuck Bell, who once was a championship winning basketball player. His support and encouragement of them is constant, pushing them to succeed now that he can no longer play. Things become complicated between the brothers when Jordan meets the pretty new girl at school. They are also constantly balancing their desire to please their dad with their concerns about his health.
Age Recommendation: Grades 5 and up. I think boys that have some interest in girls/girlfriends will find this a lot more interesting and relevant than those that don’t, but it really doesn’t have a lot of romance in it. There’s some information in the spoiler that may also be necessary when trying to decide if this book is appropriate for a reader. It is foreshadowed throughout, but I don’t think most readers will expect that to be the final outcome.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – He hits his brother in the head with a jockstrap. His dad says that back in his day he kissed a lot of pretty ladies. A teenage boy kissed a girl. Boys discuss if a girl is a hottie or a cutie. Josh hears his parents argue and his father tell his mother to “come kiss me”. Later they stop talking and he writes “I know what that means. Uggh”. That happens more than once. Obviously, some readers may interpret that as intercourse, while younger or more innocent readers might just assume kissing. A boy is frustrated with his brother’s interest in a girl. A boy has a girlfriend. A couple holds hands. The couple kisses. Other boys get girlfriends.
Profanity – Supposedly his grandfather cursed a lot. “jerk”,
Death, Violence and Gore – The boys are told that their grandfather died from a fall (this is a bit that feels off – evidently the grandfather really died of a stroke, but it’s not clear at all why anyone would lie about that to their kids). A boy is hit in the face with a basketball and bleeds a lot. After an outburst a man bleeds from the nose profusely.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Mom’s younger brother smokes cigars.
Frightening or Intense Things – The boys’ father has an episode where he coughs, clutches his chest and can’t speak. Later he vomits and is clutching his chest.