2015 Newbery Award Winner

The Newbery Award is the top honor for children's fiction awarded annually by the American Library Association. Looking through the list of past winners, I realized that the 2015 honoree, The Crossover
 by Kwame Alexander, is an unusual choice for a couple of reasons:
       1. It is a sports story.
       2. It is a novel in verse.

This basketball story captures the intensity, rhythm and drive of the action on the court by using font size, typography and imagery to marvelous effect. You could read the first poem aloud to a group of students as an effective "book talk," starting with:
"At the top of the key, I'm
              MOVING & GROOVING,
POPing and ROCKING--"
and ending with:
                  " ...I
to the finish with a fierce finger roll...
Straight in the hole:

What raises this book to award-winning level is the insight into family dynamics that Alexander illuminates with his spare verses. Twelve-year-old Josh (JB) and his twin brother Jordan are already six feet tall and both essential to their school's championship season. Besides their height, they have the advantage of being mentored by their father, Chuck "Da Man" Bell, who came close to playing pro ball. But things change. Jordan discovers girls and Chuck's health problems escalate.

JB writes:

"I don't think I'll ever get used to

walking home from school             alone
playing Madden                              alone

listening to Lil Wayne                    alone
going to the library                         alone

shooting free throws                       alone
watching ESPN                              alone

eating doughnuts                            alone
saying my prayers                          alone

Now that Jordan's in love
and Dad's living in a hospital."

The Crossover has appeal beyond sports fans or poetry fans, and could prove to be a Newbery winner that is popular with young readers.

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