There are very few books that aren't non-stop action that my 15-year-old son will pick up and read cover-to-cover.
So when I come across one that he did pick up and read start-to-finish, I mention it. It's noteworthy. That author captured my son's imagination and reading interest, and that's so remarkable, I can't help but crow about their books.
Kwame Alexander is one such author.
My son picked up The Crossover, first as the graphic novel. He devoured it. I don't believe we knew it was written in verse.
Then I found the free verse version at my library, and checked it out before the corona virus hit. And he read it AGAIN. Yep, folks, he read it a second time. That's just...amazing.
Now, he's half-way through Rebound. My daughter, the soccer player in the house, picked up and read Booked in one sitting.
And...we're hooked! We love his books.
Review: The Crossover, graphic novel and free verse book, by Kwame Alexander
Let me just say, the graphic novel, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile, left all of us in tears. It was that good.
Twins Josh and Jordan Bell are unstoppable on the basketball court in their 8th grade year. But then Miss Sweat Tea walks between them, and suddenly all the rules the brothers have always played by are thrown out out the window.
In the background, their parents start fighting over their father's fainting spells, but soon that conflict takes center court -- and one twin goes with their father to the hospital, while the other stays on the court to play in a championship game.
The outcome is gut-wrenching.
Like I said, it left us all in tears. I will not spoil how it ends; read it for yourself. You'll be glad you did, whether you're a basketball fan or not (I'm not -- but still I loved this book).
Review: Rebound, by Kwame Alexander
If you've read the first book, this is equally as moving. I'll try to write this without spoiling The Crossover.
This is the story of Josh and Jordan's father, Charlie "Chuck" Bell, and how he acquires his amazing vocabulary and basketball skills, which he passes along to his sons.
It's the story of their father's 12th summer, after losing his father and working through his grief -- on the court with help from an awesome cousin (a girl), and with his grandparents, who are still grieving for their son.
He makes some phenomenally bad choices, but in the process learns what's important in life -- family, and being a full team member to your family.
It's funny how the "team" member metaphor works out in this book. It resonated with us very strongly, as that's what my husband's always emphasized with our two children -- we're all on the same team, and go out every day and fight for each other, to the best of our abilities. Sometimes that "fight" means heading to a job you hate and sometimes that means you're there for your teammates (family), when it's needed. But you've always got each others' backs. Always.
An excellent prequel book, for anyone who loved The Crossover.
There are some pages in graphic novel format, featuring Dawud Anyabwile's artwork, that are also amazing!
Review: Booked, by Kwame Alexander
My daughter, who's the soccer player in the family, said she "appreciated it was about soccer, of course."
Nick Hall is a star player on his school and club soccer teams. Sure, he and his best friend have to avoid the Langston Hughes Middle for the Arts bullies Dean and Don Eggleston, who are fast on their ways to becoming juvie delinquents.
But on the soccer field they're unstoppable.
Until Nick's parents announce they're separating, and his appendix bursts, which requires surgery and takes him off the soccer field.
As his world crumbles, he finds pillars of support in some unlikely places: the rapping school librarian, The Mac, Mr. MacDonald, who has a dragonfly box on his desk he won't let students touch, much less reveal what's inside; April, a fellow classmate who ropes him into an all-girl book club; and the English teacher, Ms. Hardwick, who introduces him to books written in verse (wink, wink).
I won't spoil how it ends, just know, this one carries an emotional punch, perhaps not as strong as his other books. But then, the stakes aren't quite as high, nor the outcome as tragic, and sometimes, that's the kind of read you need, too.
I feel like I should mention Kwame Alexander's teaching resources for his books, Page to Stage Writing Workshop Curriculum. However, they are difficult to find, being older at this point, and exceptionally expensive. I visited Barnes & Noble, his author web page, and Scholastic looking for it, and it was no longer listed for sale at any of them, although he does offer information about the teaching resource package on his author webpage.
There was one Amazon link to a bundled package for more than $200, which is outside what most cash-strapped teachers are willing or able to spend, so unfortunately, I'm not recommending teachers teach these books. And I'm not posting the link.
There are several free resources to teach The Crossover listed at my favorite pay-for-teaching-materials source, Teachers Pay Teachers. Expand the price range to $15, and you'll find even more. Rebound only had one free resource, as did Booked.
Without Common Core standards correlated, free resources to teach a novel, it's too expensive and / or time consumptive to create materials for a novel from scratch.
But these are great books to have on your classroom bookshelf, guaranteed to capture some of your students' interests, and are well worth investing in a copy or two.