Kwame Alexander: The Crossover

I must first admit, “I am not a basketball fan,” but after reading Sherman Alexie, and understanding the importance of the game to my students, I figured I’d tackle some of the basketball books for the course.  As my kids say, “Ball is life!”

Anyhow, as I am not a fan, my jargon for the game isn’t exactly what it was when Jordan and Bird played.  I quickly fell in love with this book.  Kwame Alexander uses an excellent mixture of writing styles to help readers learn more about the mindset of the narrator.  For example, Josh’s love of English has him define certain words and use them in complete sentences while his love for rap has him reciting personal rap songs about his basketball prowess.  As stated earlier, I was thrilled with the way Alexander wrote The Crossover because he would often define the terminology he was using — the crossover is a basketball term for rapidly changing the ball from one hand to the next.  Stephen Curry demonstrates in the following video.

I found myself needing to look up a few terms but I know that my students are very familiar with the dialect of basketball.  I feel that the language Alexander uses will hook several of my students.

Josh “Filthy McNasty” Bell narrates the story of two identical twins growing apart over the course of a basketball season and how the loss of a family member brings them back together. Along the way Josh learns of his father’s health condition and why he did not continue his career as a professional basketball player.

There are several higher level thinking projects and activities that students could engage in to demonstrate comprehension of the text.  However, there are also many more important conversations that my students could have about adolescence, jealousy, consequences, responsibility, and grief.

Students could also create there own form of writing that is broken down into the format of a game that they like, like Alexander did with a basketball game to drive his story.

In learning more about the author, I am going to drop some not-so-subtle hints that my school should try to participate in his Book-In-A-Day workshops.


One thought on “Kwame Alexander: The Crossover

  1. I wasn’t a basketball fan until I started teaching on the reservation and my students kept demanding more books on basketball. The most popular books in my classroom library were probably biographies of Kobe, Michael Jordan, and Allen Iverson. One book that really helped me learn to love the game was David Halberstam’s Playing for Keeps, about Michael Jordan. I could never persuade any of my students to read this book–it’s a fairly complex story–but I was enthralled by it.


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