Friday, March 13, 2015

The Crossover

I'm not much of a sports-book person.  Even if I did read something sporty, it would probably be about football, since I hail from Wisconsin and really, that's the only sport that truly matters here.  However.  As a children's/teen librarian, I try to read the Newbery winners and honors for each year, just so I know how to direct parents or teachers who may be looking for them.  Plus, hey, a committee of librarians decided that these are the best books of the year.


I was really excited when The Crossover won the Newbery.  Not only does it completely support what We Need Diverse Books has been saying: diverse books are needed, necessary, and totally awesome, but it's also a verse novel.

Some readers, and perhaps even authors, might look askance at the thought of a novel in verse.  Ellen Hopkins proved that teens would totally read verse novels when she wrote Crank.  Nikki Grimes is another stellar verse-novel writer.  Alexander incorporates elements of concrete poetry in The Crossover, which fits in perfectly with the intensely physical aspects of basketball.  You can see the flashing of sneakers in the words zigzagging from one line to the next.

Josh and JB are twins.  JB masters the free throws while Josh flies across the court with a wicked crossover and a power slam dunk.  They love the game and they know that this year, it's their time to win the championship.  Plus, with an ex pro-baller for a dad, basketball is all around.

Josh, the narrator, gives a very realistic experience of "a year in the life of."  The Crossover has multiple ups and downs, crises and triumphs.  JB gets a girlfriend, and this strange splitting of the twins throws Josh off his game.  JB and Josh worry about their dad's health, but are wary of speaking of this aloud.

Alexander manages to deliver a whole lot of emotion in comparatively few words.  That takes skill and dexterity, just like a crossover.  This is absolutely a winner and the Newbery was well-deserved.  Kudos.

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