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The Crossover by Kwame Alexander


Josh Bell is almost 13 years old and basketball is his life. His identical twin brother, Jordan, whose nickname is JB, is his best friend and co-star on the court. Life as an almost teenager isn’t easy, especially when your brother gets a girlfriend and your father is having health problems. Basketball, however, solves everything and makes everything better. Until it doesn’t. The Crossover is a heartwarming story written entirely in poems that will capture the hearts of both children and adults.

Student Activities for The Crossover Include:



The Crossover Summary

Josh introduces himself as the tall, “older” brother with dreadlocks like wings, whose nickname is “Filthy McNasty”. An unusual nickname for sure, but it was given to him by his dad after one of his favorite jazz musicians. His twin brother, Jordan, whose nickname is JB, is nothing like him, except for one thing: they both crush it on the court.

During halftime of a basketball game, the boys are messing around and JB bets Josh on the outcome of the game; if Josh wins, JB has to walk around the cafeteria in his underwear, but if JB wins, he gets to cut off one of Josh’s locs. Deciding that there is no way for JB to win the bet, Josh agrees. To his complete surprise, JB wins the bet and is giddy with excitement at the thought of cutting his brother’s hair. During all of this excitement, JB accidentally cuts off 5 big dreadlocks, leaving Josh partially bald and having to cut off all of his hair. Josh feels like his identity has been taken.

While Josh is looking for a box to put his precious locs in, he finds a box of his dad’s old things. It includes a letter that invites him to try out for the LA Lakers, which he denies due to a foot surgery that he refuses to have. Josh doesn’t understand why his father wouldn’t jump at the chance to play in the NBA and wonders about it for a long time.

Meanwhile, JB has met a new girl named Alexis, who Josh calls “Miss Sweet Tea”. Josh sees his brother changing; only interested in girls, not around as much, and not as focused on basketball. Josh also overhears his parents discussing his dad’s health. His mom wants his dad to see a doctor about something called hypertension, which is hereditary and dangerous. With a lot on his mind, Josh is grateful for basketball and practicing with his dad.

As JB and Miss Sweet Tea spend more time together, Josh finds himself alone a lot, and feels like everything is changing and going wrong. Josh is late to the next game because his dad gets pulled over, and has to sit out the first half. When he finally gets to play, he gets angry and throws the ball at JB’s face, sending him to the hospital and nearly breaking his nose. Josh is suspended from the team, and JB is not talking to him. Just when he thinks things couldn’t get any worse, Dad’s nose starts randomly bleeding and Mom all but forces him to go to the doctor. He seems to be getting worse, and when Josh finds him on the bathroom floor, he knows something is really wrong.

During the next basketball game, Josh sits with the team even though he isn’t allowed to play. He and JB notice that their parents are not in the stands and exchange worried glances. Mom assures the boys that all is fine, and that Dad was just tired and they went home to rest. A few weeks later, before the holiday break, it seems that JB and Josh are on the mend, and Josh is excited to learn that he will be allowed to play in the championship tournament. However, when Josh and Dad are practicing with a warm-up game, Dad has a heart attack and collapses. Josh tries to perform CPR.

With Dad in the hospital in a coma, the family learns that he has myocardial infarction, which means that he has a blockage in his heart that causes heart muscles to die. Josh is angry. He is angry at Dad, JB, and Miss Sweet Tea. He is angry that JB doesn’t care about basketball or him. He is angry that Dad lied and said he’d be here forever. He’s angry about his hair and that the family’s backboard is splintered. He’s just angry.

When Dad wakes up on Christmas Eve, it seems like things are going to get better. Family visits the hospital from all over, and Josh and his Dad talk about all kinds of things. Josh’s dad wants him to play in the championship game, and wants to hear all about it. As the boys are getting ready to leave for the game, Mom gets a call that Dad has had another heart attack. JB and Mom rush to the hospital, but Josh goes to the game; his father wanted him to play. As Josh makes the winning shot, he sees JB and Miss Sweet Tea sitting on the bench, JB with tears in his eyes.

Dad has passed away at age 39. Devastated, Josh feels detached and alone. Later, Miss Sweet Tea calls to apologize for everything and invites Josh to a basketball game with her dad and JB; Josh feels happy that he will be included. When he goes outside to shoot the ball around, JB joins him and gives him dad’s championship ring. They shoot the ball some more, and cry together.

The Crossover is a story of family, love, dedication, and loss. It is about growing up and becoming a teenager, and all the trials and tribulations that go along with it. Readers will absolutely love the format of the writing, getting to know the characters, and the flow of Alexander’s verse. It is truly an inspirational story that is perfect for class read alouds, small book groups, or independent reading.


Essential Questions for The Crossover

  1. How is the theme of family explored in this book?
  2. How does Josh, the main character, change throughout the story?
  3. How are Josh and his brother similar? How are they different?
  4. What is the purpose of the 10 Basketball Rules?

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