English Period 6
Letter Essay #5 (Reed Cooper);
Recently, I finished reading The Crossover, a 237 page poetry novel written by Kwame Alexander. Alexander is a writer of poetry and children’s fiction. The Crossover has won the Newbery Honor Medal. Kwame Alexander is the recipient of several other awards, some of which include: The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Prize, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, and the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. I chose to read this book because I was in search of a Newbery Honor book for English class. It just so happens that the book was really fun to read. There are many lessons taught to the main character, but also to the reader throughout the book.
The Crossover follows the life of a 12 year old boy named Josh Bell. The book is about Josh and his brother, and how their love for basketball brings them together as siblings, but also pushes them apart. The boy’s love for basketball came from their Dad Chuck Bell, a former basketball superstar. Chuck is a real inspirational and admirable figure to the boys and they both want to become like him. Josh and JB’s tight bond starts to vanish when JB gets a girlfriend. Josh is upset and feels abandoned by the lack of time they spend with each other. After losing a bet with his brother, he is forced to cut his precious dreadlocked hair. This only creates more conflict between the two brothers. The Crossover starts to take a tragic turn when the reader is informed that Chuck Bell’s health is not as great as it used to be. Josh’s beloved Dad endures strokes, terrible nosebleeds, and coughs up blood. As a result of all the anger about his father and broken relationship with his brother, Josh decides to releases his anger at JB . . . on the court, which only causes more disturbance between the family. All the reader can do is hope that this broken family is able to piece their lives back together.
I was surprised when Alexander wrote:
“Your decision not to have surgery
Means that realistically,
With patella tendonitis,
You may not be able to play
again,” (P. 47)
What really surprised me about this quote was that Kwame Alexander wanted Josh’s only idol to have difficulty with his health, which could possibly send the family down a long road of grief, if worse came to worst. I was also confused as to why Alexander would write this in. Is this meant to be a bigger idea? Is this supposed to make the boys think differently? He was writing in conflict to the boy’s biggest inspiration without him even leaving a big imprint on their lives regarding the game of basketball.
“And even though we’ve seen Dad
wear it many times,
actually holding his glossy championship ring
in our hands
is more than magical.” (P. 45)
This admiration towards their father’s accomplishment informs us that the two boys really do see their dad as an admirable and inspirational figure. That is why I was surprised when Kwame Alexander tried to write in conflict concerning Chuck Bell.
The theme in The Crossover is family. The book revolves around events and issues that occur within the family, and how they affect Josh in and outside of school.
“Well, our family has a history
of heart problems . . .
so we’re going to start eating better.
Especially Dad. And we’re going to
start tonight with
some hummus and
pita bread” (P. 97).
When Josh’s Mom tells the family this, it will affect how Josh will play on the court, as well as how he will interact with the rest of his family. Although this was a negative event in the eyes of Josh, it still revolves around the theme of family because it is a decision that came from the wellbeing of the family. This quote hints at a bigger issue of Josh’s dad’s health issues, which is when the family is going to need each other most.
‘Help, please’” (P. 195). This also makes Josh upset and angry that the ‘healthy eating’ hasn’t helped his father. Family is an ongoing theme that is demonstrated throughout the course of the novel.
The main character in The Crossover, Josh Bell, is too attached to his brother, JB. When growing up, he and his brother were always very close and both shared similar interests; they did nearly everything together and both love the game of basketball. The reader starts to realize Josh is too attached to his brother when JB gets a girlfriend, and he starts hanging out with Josh less and less.
“Dad, this girl is making
Jordan act weird.
He’s here, but he’s not” (P. 91)
The reader can really tell how jealous Josh is of Jordan in this quote. He is upset that his own brother isn’t spending time with him. This also connects back to the theme of family because it deals with issues that occur within the family and possible future solutions for them. Josh Bell is letting a little difference between his brother and himself take over his emotions and his overall attitude and respect towards Jordan.
“[I] fire a pass
it levels him,
from his nose” (P. 134).
This is when Josh purposely throws the basketball at JB’s face and almost breaks his nose . . . all because he isn’t used to the feeling of disconnection between him and his brother. That is how the Josh bell is too attached to his brother.
I felt a sense of closure when I read this passage, when Josh’s Mom is telling him the consequences of throwing a ball at his brother’s face. Alexander writes:
“Your behavior was unacceptable.
I said I’m sorry.
Indeed you did. But you need to tell your brother, not me.
There are always consequences, Josh.
Here it comes: Dishes for a week, no phone, or, worse
No Sundays at the Rec.
[. . .]
Boys with no discipline end up in prison.
Yeah, I heard you the first time.
Don’t you get smart with me and end up in more trouble.
Why are you always trying to scare me?
We’re done. Your dad is waiting for you.
Okay, but what are the consequences?
From the team.
. . . ” (P. 141).
What made me feel a sense of closure in this passage was that Josh would finally suffer the consequences of deliberately injuring his brother. I agree with Josh’s mom’s decision of suspending him from the team because what he did was wrong and does deserve a punishment. I also liked how the author put an ellipsis symbolizing that Josh didn’t have a response. He was always so quick to answer his mom before, but when she told him he would no longer be playing on the basketball team, he was speechless (and not in a good way). It also hints at future conflict between him and his mom in an sense that Josh might try and reason with his mom. I am glad I read this book. The Crossover is a 5 out of 10.
Here is Kwame Alexander reading a passage from The Crossover and the thinking behind his writing.