Dear Former Student Who-is-Now-Teaching and stopped by the Doucette recently,
I’d like to offer you an apology for not having read the novel-in-verse, Crossover by Kwame Alexander sooner.
I just finished reading this year's Newbery winner two days after you came to the Doucette looking for poetry that would engage junior high boys and satisfy the conservative leanings of your school administration and community of parents.
Your idea for using hip-hop sounded very intriguing but I could understand your reluctance to bring it into the classroom because you were worried what the parents of your students would think. I know you felt a little stymied by this, and had hoped that we at the Doucette Library would be able to come up with something else that might work instead.
I, too, felt a little hindered by this though I’m glad you liked my suggestions of two books of concrete poetry by John Grandits, BlueLipstick and Technically, It’s Not My Fault. I love these books and hope that they’ll work for you.
But I really, really wished I had read Crossover just a little sooner. Take a look at the very first page of this story.
Even I, who am totally disinterested in basketball, can feel the movement, passion and intensity this character brings to his game. The formatting is brilliant as it captures the moves of the player when he’s in the zone.
So, Dear Former-Student, I think this book would have fit-the-bill for you. I think the story would engage your grade 9 boys and satisfy the powers-that-be at the same time.
There wouldn't be anything too objectionable in the storyline which is about twin brothers who are slowly coming into their own identities causing rifts between them. Basketball, a passion for the whole family because the dad had been a former basketball star, always drew the boys together. But once one of the brothers starts dating and basketball becomes less of a priority, friction develops. There is a lot of growth on the part of both boys and this family as a whole
Not all the poems are written as dynamically as the one above but a few are interspersed throughout the book and each carries that strong urban, contemporary vibe without becoming too edgy.
Again, in closing, please accept my apologies for not having read this book just a wee bit sooner.