Friday, February 3, 2017

LS 5663.20 Review: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander

Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. New York: Hmh Books for Young Readers, 2014. Print.

Poetic Elements: The meaning of this book can carry so much for students, especially those in middle and high school, the relative age of Josh Bell, the protagonist in the book. Josh is a basketball star, as is his twin brother, Jordan. Their father was an Olympian in basketball as well, so it definitely runs in the family. The book is so much more than a "sports book." In fact, I don't really enjoy sports (definitely not basketball), and I still found this book excellent and inspiring. It is about basketball, but it's also about family and relationships, making decisions and dealing with consequences, and growing up. It is something our students can relate to.

This book is also interesting because the format of the poems differ chapter by chapter. Some of them have interesting format and spacing, some of them have rhyme, and some of them focus much more on telling a story than worrying about the poetic devices. This makes the book more interesting and keeps the reader moving quickly through the story. The poems that rhyme are fun to read, and the emotion behind the story-like poems is amazing. The language also offers a great deal of imagery for the reader, making it easy to picture Josh and the situations that he is conquering.

Appeal: This book certainly appeals to young adults, especially kids that are in the preteen to teen ages, where they will more easily relate to the circumstances that the protagonist are dealing with. Because of the sometimes strange and interesting formatting and spacing, and the different font types and sizes, the story will certainly appeal to a younger audience. It will keep them interested to move forward and see what the next poem may look like. It is also helpful that the story includes many situations that they will recognize and connect to. The boys will be thrilled to have the imagery and details of the sport, while the relationships and conflicts will appeal to all readers.

While the poem offers a lot of information that students will understand and relate to, I do believe that the book will also push them out of their comfort zone. For those unfamiliar with basketball, some of the terminology used might be new to them. Some of the terms I was unaware of myself, so I either did research or asked my father about the details and what the certain moves or terms actually mean. Even for those invested in the sport, there are terms and vocabulary that will push our students, and that is always of immense benefit.

Overall Quality: The overall quality of the book is very good, and I believe even readers who are not fans of poetry will agree. The quality of the poems carries throughout the whole book, even as the formatting changes. The poems do seem to reinforce the purpose of the book. When the elements are lighthearted, the poems are formatted in a more interesting way; there is spacing and different word positioning. When the subject is more serious or important, the text is more in line with prose.

The Poets: This book is one with a single poet, in which much of the poetry is similar to one another, and it tells a complete story. It is apparent that the poems are by the same writer, even if they occasionally look a bit different from the others. I would not say that the poet is exactly notable, but I do believe that many people would be invested and interested in this book, and any other that he would write if the quality was the same.

Layout: As for the layout of the book, I believe it is one of the most interesting qualities of the book. It is not just another book of verse. Despite not having pictures, there is interest. The first poem you open to is formatted in an interesting manner, and keeps things interesting right from the very beginning. What is even more intriguing is the way that the poems shift back and forth between a standard format, and one that is abstract. The book does not include a table of contents or index; however, there are title pages before separate sections of the book, dividing it into different parts. There are also no pictures or illustrations in the book, but it does not take away from the impact of the story.

Spotlight Poem: 


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
and my dipping will leave you
              G   on the floor, while I
to the finish with a fierce finger roll . . .
Straight in the hole:

I do not think that I would do much introduction to this poem. Instead, I believe that I would read it to my students without any information, and then ask how they feel about it and what they notice. In my classroom, we use a strategy called WWAM to annotate poetry:

W-What is it about?
W-What's weird about it?
A-Author's Tone/Attitude

This would mean students would be completing the second W, in which they determine what is strange or weird about the poem. They would most likely point out the spacing and way the text looks. They would discuss the different texts and how it is all mixed in together.

For a follow-up activity, I would have students circle all of these things (like the alliteration of finish with a fierce finger) and determine why the author would include these things in the poem. They would then work on their own personal poem, using some of these same formats and changes.

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