The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Josh Bell is a 13-year-old basketball star along with his twin brother Jordan. They are the sons of Chuck “Da Man” Bell, who used to play European ball. Now their father plays only with them, helping them learn the tricks of being a great ball handler. Josh also has a beat, a rhythm that he patters when he plays, creating rap riffs as he runs on the court. As he tells his story in verse, he also reveals more than just playing ball, he shows how he and his brother are becoming strong young men. It just may be though that the strongest man that they know has some weaknesses of his own, ones that come at a huge toll.
Can I just say how important this book is? It is a verse novel, A VERSE NOVEL, for pre-teens that is about young African-American boys who are being reared by two involved parents in a middle-class home. This book takes stereotypes and turns them on their heads. Then you have the incredible verse by Alexander, capturing the rhythm of basketball and also the beat of an entire family. The writing is so strong, so vibrant that the book can’t be put down.
Josh is a great character as is his entire family. None of them are stereotypes and both boys are different and yet similar to one another too. They both struggle with playing the best, meeting girls, living up to their parents’ expectations, and discovering the truth about their father. This is a coming-of-age story, but one that is dynamic and fresh.
Perfect for sports fans, this verse novel will surprise with its rap feel and its incredible depth. Simply spectacular. Appropriate for ages 11-13.
Reviewed from library copy.
H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers
A basketball court + a ball + two kids = the perfect sum to play horse! When two boys meet at the basketball court, they immediately invite one another to play horse or ghost. It’s the game where one person takes a shot and then the other person has to try to match the shot exactly. It starts out simply enough with a layup with your eyes closed, but watch where this game goes! Filled with a banter that challenges one another to seek an even wilder idea, the two boys quickly start to talk about shooting a basket from the roof of a neighboring building when standing on one toe. The Magellan shot takes it even further, with a jump across the ocean and around the world and a dunk with a tongue! That’s not the end of the game though, you will just have to read it to see the final play.
I love the playfulness of this book and the friendly tone of the banter between the two boys. The fact that not a single shot is actually thrown makes it very funny too. This is not a challenge about sports but about imagination and thinking outside the court. Myers writes with a feel for modern dialogue between teens that doesn’t resort to modern vernacular but instead has the perfect rhythm and posturing. Myers’ art is equally modern with lanky boys against bright colored backgrounds. He also mixes in photographs and builds collages that add texture and pattern.
Great fun to read, it will have you challenged to a game of horse as soon as you can find a court and a ball. My favorite shots were always with my eyes closed and backwards. How about you? Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Egmont.