Cover image for The crossover
The crossover
Publication Information:
Target Audience:
Grade 3 - Grade 4

MG/Middle grades (4th-8th)


Newbery Medal, 2015

Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, 2015
2015 Newbery Medal Winner 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor Award Winner "With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013). Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader Grades 5-8 4.3 2 Quiz 164734 English fiction.
Electronic Access:
Click to access digital title.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Internet Site XX(1160460.1) 1

On Order



New York Times bestseller ∙ Newbery Medal Winner ∙ Coretta Scott King Honor Award ∙2015 YALSA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults∙ 2015 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers ∙ Publishers Weekly Best Book ∙ School Library Journal Best Book∙ Kirkus Best Book

"A beautifully measured novel of life and line." -- The New York Times Book Review

"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering, " announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Josh Bell, known on and off the court by the nickname Filthy McNasty, doesn't lack self-confidence, but neither does he lack the skills to back up his own mental in-game commentary: "I rise like a Learjet-/ seventh-graders aren't supposed to dunk./ But guess what?/ I snatch the ball out of the air and/ SLAM!/ YAM! IN YOUR MUG!" Josh is sure that he and his twin brother, JB, are going pro, following in the footsteps of their father, who played professional ball in Europe. But Alexander (He Said, She Said) drops hints that Josh's trajectory may be headed back toward Earth: his relationship with JB is strained by a new girl at school, and the boys' father health is in increasingly shaky territory. The poems dodge and weave with the speed of a point guard driving for the basket, mixing basketball action with vocabulary-themed poems, newspaper clippings, and Josh's sincere first-person accounts that swing from moments of swagger-worthy triumph to profound pain. This verse novel delivers a real emotional punch before the final buzzer. Ages 9-12. Agent: East West Literary Agency. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Middle schooler Josh "Filthy McNasty" Bell, along with his twin brother Jordan "JB," is a star basketball player. JB's romance with a new girl at school provokes a growing rift between the brothers, but a greater loss in the family ultimately unites them in grief and healing. Narrator Allen's heartfelt performance of Alexander's Newbery-winning verse novel highlights the verses' rhythmic cadence and their seemingly effortless rhyme without sacrificing fluent storytelling. megan dowd lambert (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

The Bell twins are stars on the basketball court and comrades in life. While there are some differences Josh shaves his head and Jordan loves his locks both twins adhere to the Bell basketball rules: In this game of life, your family is the court, and the ball is your heart. With a former professional basketball player dad and an assistant principal mom, there is an intensely strong home front supporting sports and education in equal measures. When life intervenes in the form of a hot new girl, the balance shifts and growing apart proves painful. An accomplished author and poet, Alexander eloquently mashes up concrete poetry, hip-hop, a love of jazz, and a thriving family bond. The effect is poetry in motion. It is a rare verse novel that is fundamentally poetic rather than using this writing trend as a device. There is also a quirky vocabulary element that adds a fun intellectual note to the narrative. This may be just the right book for those hard-to-match youth who live for sports or music or both.--Bush, Gail Copyright 2014 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

JOSH AND JB ARE TWINS, double trouble on the basketball court, almost 13 years old. When we first encounter them in Kwame Alexander's beautifully measured novel of life and lines, "The Crossover," they are deep into a year when everything changes. The story is written in verse, but have no fear: Here, poetry is in service to the interior and exterior worlds of Josh, who plays forward to JB's shooting guard. Besides being an inch taller and the one with dreadlocks to his neck, Josh is also the brother with the larger vocabulary - by the novel's end, he will define 12 important words and terms. Josh and JB's world is one in which both parents are professionals. Their father is a former European league basketball player, and their mother is an assistant principal at the boys' junior high school. The fact that the twins are both college-bound is an understated given. That this is a portrait of a successful, close-knit African-American family in the Obama era also seems to be a part of that understatement. "The Crossover" doesn't ignore contemporary issues involving race. There is a traffic stop on the way to a game, in which the boys' father (like many an African-American man) is pulled over for a minor infraction; Josh is warned by his mother about what happens to young black men who let their tempers get the better of them; his parents fight not over money or fidelity but over diet and hereditary hypertension. Alexander doesn't seem to be pushing a social agenda so much as throwing light upon what must be, in the world of children's literature, a very undertold story. The novel focuses on how the twins come into their own and how their bond weathers all the changes and challenges the year bears upon it. Basketball is the novel's red-hot engine. It is the glue connecting the sons and source of the wisdom their father passes down. Alexander takes great delight in borrowing the energy of rap and hip-hop to translate the game's heat, speed and joy of motion to the page: ... A bolt of lightning on my kicks... The court is sizzling My sweat is drizzling Stop all that quivering Cuz tonight I'm delivering. Alexander uses free verse to equally good effect to convey the quality of Josh's observations: My twin brother is a bailer. The only thing he loves more than basketball is betting. If it's ninety degrees outside and the sky is cloudless, he will bet you that it's going to rain. A third narrative mode is the "play by play" announcer's voice Josh speaks in his head when he's on the court during games: first play of the game. The hopes are high tonight at Reggie Lewis Junior High. The dozen aforementioned vocabulary words and the 10 Rules of Basketball are also expressed in verse: Rule No. 1: "In this game of life/your family is the court/and the ball is your heart." And finally, Alexander incorporates the near-haiku feel of fractured text messages, mainly from the boys' mother: "7:48/if you lose. LOL." Josh will need all his gifts - of family love, friendship, education, athleticism and poetry - because Alexander has written a year of hard surprises for both brothers, but especially for Josh, whose life lessons pile on quickly. The biggest surprise of "The Crossover" is that, for all the bells and whistles of a young man's game, it is most boldly and certainly a book about tenderness. It's the trigger that causes a rift between the brothers, and what will ultimately heal them. More important, readers should observe the careful way Alexander builds the small moments between the brothers; between the brothers and their father; between father and mother; the way teasing breaks sometimes to anger, then back to teasing again, the way they refuse to let go of each other, regardless. "True champions / learn / to dance / through / the storm," Josh notes in Basketball Rule No. 10. By then a reader will be dazzled by the bright ways Kwame Alexander has been singing the changes. The Wildcats have it, CORNELIUS EADY holds the Miller chair in poetry at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-Everything seems to be going right for Josh "Filthy McNasty" Bell. His life has always been defined by two things: being a twin and being a great basketball player. When his brother Jordan gets a girlfriend, the boys' relationship becomes strained. To make matters worse, Josh is suspended from the team, and their father's health starts going downhill. With his life falling apart, Josh starts doing a lot of soul searching and wondering if there is more to life than basketball. Narrator Corey Allen brings a unique dimension to Alexander's (He Said, She Said) tale. Although Allen's poetic pace takes a little getting used to, his intonation gives realistic, unique dimension to the voice of a teenage boy. Other voices are easily distinguished and seem fitting. The plot, though relatively simple, is well developed and full of energy. Jazz, reading, hip-hop, and school life are blended together with finesse and engage the listener. Avid and reluctant readers who like sports, coming-of-age stories, and realistic fiction will enjoy listening to this work.-Kira Moody, Whitmore Library, Salt Lake City, UT (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives. Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story. Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Dribbling At the top of the key, I'm MOVING & GROOVING, POPping and ROCKING -- Why you BUMPING? Why you LOCKING? Man, take this THUMPING. Be careful though, 'cause now I'm CRUNKing Criss CROSSING FLOSSING flipping and my dipping will leave you S L I P P I N G on the floor, while I SWOOP in to the finish with a fierce finger roll . . . Straight in the hole: Swoooooooooooosh. 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. Remember the greats, my dad likes to gloat: I balled with Magic and the Goat. But tricks are for kids, I reply. Don't need your pets my game's so fly. Mom says, Your dad's old school, like an ol' Chevette. You're fresh and new, like a red Corvette. Your game so sweet, it's a crêpes suzette. Each time you play it's ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLL net. If anyone else called me fresh and sweet, I'd burn mad as a flame. But I know she's only talking about my game. See, when I play ball, I'm on fire. When I shoot, I inspire. The hoop's for sale, and I'm the buyer. 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, Josh, this cat is the real deal. Listen to that piano, fast and free, Just like you and JB on the court. It's okay, I guess, Dad. Okay? DID YOU SAY OKAY? Boy, you better recognize greatness when you hear it. Horace Silver is one of the hippest. If you shoot half as good as he jams-- Dad, no one says "hippest" anymore. Well, they ought to, 'cause this cat is so hip, when he sits down he's still standing, he says. Real funny, Dad. You know what, Josh? What, Dad? I'm dedicating this next song to you. What's the next song? Only the best song, the funkiest song on Silver's Paris Blues album: "FILTHY McNASTY." At first I didn't like the name because so many kids made fun of me on the school bus, at lunch, in the bathroom. Even Mom had jokes. It fits you perfectly, Josh, she said: You never clean your closet, and that bed of yours is always filled with cookie crumbs and candy wrappers. It's just plain nasty, son. But, as I got older and started getting game, the name took on a new meaning. And even though I wasn't into all that jazz, every time I'd score, rebound, or steal a ball, Dad would jump up smiling and screamin', That's my boy out there. Keep it funky, Filthy! And that made me fee real good about my nickname. Excerpted from The Crossover by Kwame Alexander All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.