The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

A More Diverse Universe 2015 I am writing this review for the A More Universe Diverse 2015 event. For links to other reviews from this year’s event, click on the button to the left.

The Crossover

This isn’t the book that I was supposed to read and review for the event. That book was A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn, which was good (more on this in a footnote on this post), but then I happened by chance on this one on Overdrive at The Free Library of Philadelphia and was so bowled over by it that I have to write about it.

Let me start by saying that I had no idea when I began reading The Crossover by Kwame Alexander that it was written in verse. Or that it was National Poetry Day on Thursday (October 8) when I read it. All I knew was that it was a middle school book that looked good (um, yeah, won the 2015 Newbery Medal, dudes). And when I found out that it was poetry, part of me was filled with a little trepidation because I had taken contemporary poetry classes in college and I am not a fan of (a lot of) rhyme. But another part of me also was excited because of the way the book began with the first two poems street-ball rap, slam poetry, at its finest as we are introduced to our protagonist, seventh grader

Josh Bell

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.

But I’ll be honest that it was the start of the third poem that had me completely hooked:

How I Got My Nickname

I’m not that big on jazz music, but Dad is.
One day we were listening to a CD
of a musician named Horace Silver, and Dad says,

You’ll have to read the book to see what Dad says on Silver and jazz, but his words as well as those of Josh, his twin brother Jordan, who likes to be called JB, and their mother, who is the assistant principal at the school the twins play basketball, are so well-crafted by Alexander that you won’t want to stop reading until you’re done. I know I didn’t. I started this Thursday morning and didn’t even stop for breakfast as I quickly


through this book.

As for what Josh and JB’s dad say on basketball and life, here’s a small sample:

Basketball Rule #4

If you miss
enough of life’s
free throws
you will pay
in the end.

And life isn’t as easy, as players like Michael Jordan made a crossover look, for Josh and his family, on and off the court, as they deal with all the struggles of youth, especially love and death. But Alexander, of course, makes it look easy as like Josh, Alexander is

and dipping

with words that, to paraphrase Josh and Alexander himself only slightly from the first poem in the book “Dribbling,” will

leave you


on the floor, while he
to finish with a fierce finger roll…
Straight in the hole:

for the best book I’ve read so far this year, hands down.

beautifulplace_ebookA Beautiful Place To Die by Malla Nunn, meanwhile, was a good book and a good start to the series about South African police detective Emmanuel Cooper in the 1950s. I would like to read more of the series in the future as I think it will only get better. While I liked the story, I didn’t love it and would have liked an afterword that explained a little bit of the history during the time period as in other crime fiction novels set in countries with which the reader is not familiar.

So whatchya reading this week, yo? Anything good?

Seeking ideas for gift-worthy children’s books

E.B White collectionThis past Friday my niece Grace Elizabeth celebrated her first birthday. Even though I know she can’t read yet, I got her this set of books from our library’s book sale earlier this summer:

  1. Charlotte’s Web
  2. Stuart Little
  3. The Trumpet of the Swan

all by E.B. White, and two of them favorites of mine when I was a child. I’ll be honest that I’ve never read The Trumpet of the Swan.

I believe I once got this same collection for a cousin for Christmas when she was younger. I’ve always liked giving books as presents for Christmas or birthdays to younger cousins and my sister and now I’m continuing the tradition with my niece. I sadly don’t remember if I gave any books to my nephew Jonathan as presents for either his birthday or Christmas. Luckily, he’s young and I still can continue the tradition later with him if I didn’t (which, according to my sister, I didn’t).

Hobbit_coverMy sister said she already has The Chronicles of Narnia for him and I’m thinking about The Hobbit for him for later. I’m not sure about this year, but if any of you have ideas for a third grader, let me know.  I found a list on Goodreads, but it’s a long list and some I don’t think he’s ready for yet. I’ll be honest I don’t remember much reading from when I was in third grade. I think when I was in fourth grade, our teacher read The Hobbit to us, but I’m not sure.

Besides books for third graders, what other gift-worthy children’s books do you recommend I start getting or storing up for my nephew and niece?

As for what I’ll be reading today, it probably won’t be anything as we’re going to my parents for my niece’s birthday party. However, tomorrow, I’ll probably start reading the book I bought for #Diversiverse as I mentioned Wednesday.

Also: I recently restarted a Tumblr I have. FYI.