The Crossover

By Kwame Alexander

Publishing Info: Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

ISBN: HC: 9780544107717

Pages: 237

Ages: Grades 6-10

Annotation: Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.

Summary:  "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.

Book Talk: "The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering." Just like their father, 12-year old twins Jordan and the music loving Josh have always lived and breathed basketball. Together the have been unstoppable, and figure that is the way it will always be. Jordan and Josh. Kings of the court.. But what happens when life threatens to get in the way of their basketball dreams? When one of them seems to notice a girl more than the game? When their father seems to be keeping secrets, and their mother starts acting strangely? Can Jordand and Josh keep it together and stay as strong off the court,as they are when they're when they are on the court? 

Book Trailer:

Extended Book Trailer/Interview created by Kwame Alexander

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

  • Novels in Verse
  • Basketball Stories
  • Twins--Juvenile fiction
  • Brothers--Juvenile fiction
  • Fathers and sons--Juvenile fiction
  • African Americans--Juvenile fiction

Selected Reviews & Awards

Booklist, April 2014, (starred)
Kirkus Reviews, January 2014, (starred)
Publishers Weekly, January 2014, (starred)
School Library Journal, March 2014, (starred)
VOYA Reviews, August 2014

Newbery Awards, 2015 (Winner)
Coretta Scott King Awards, 2015 (Honor book)
Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books 2014
School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 2014

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the meaning of the title The Crossover? Does it have two meanings?
  2. There are ten poems in the book called “Basketball Rules.” Discuss these poems and how they fit into the overall story.
  3. Why did the boys’ father not want to go to a doctor? How did you feel about that decision?
  4. Discuss the importance of sports in the lives of the Bell family. How did playing basketball help each person become who they are or want to be?
  5. A lot of Josh's poems use different font types, sizes, styles. Why do you think the author did this? Did it add to the story, or did you find it distracting while reading?
  6. Many people expect twins to be exactly alike. Is that the case with Josh and Jordan? How are they similar? How are they different? Which one would you most want to be friends with and why?
  7. Between his brother, his father, and his mother, Josh has a lot of people influencing his life in different ways. Who do you think has the most influence on him? Is it good or bad influence?

Related Websites:

For curriculum related questions and activities, check out the online Educator's Guide:

Visit for author interviews, lesson plans, audiobook excerpts, and more!

Author 2015 Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Award Banquet Speech

Read A-Likes:

All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg, 2009
Basketball (or Something Like It) by Nora Raleigh Baskin, 2005
Fast Break by Mike Lupica, 2015
House Arrest by K.A. Holt, 2015
Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes, 2011
Pop by Gordon Korman, 2009

Selected Other Works by Author:

Booked, 2016
He Said, She Said, 2013
Crush: Love Poems, 2007

About the Author:

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including THE CROSSOVER. Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.