Author: Kwame Alexander
Published March 18th, 2014 by Harcourt Brace and Company
Goodreads Summary: “With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.
Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.
My Review: Wow. What a powerful piece of narrative and poetry. Any poem from Josh’s story could easily be taken out of context and used as a piece of exemplar poetry writing. In addition to the amazing writing, Josh is a kid that is so easy to connect with. He is so real. You love him (even if he is a little cocky). By the end of the book, you feel like you are part of Josh’s family, and you don’t want to leave.
And to top it all off: one of my reluctant readers grabbed this book and zoomed right through it. It quickly became one of his favorite books! I love when the Newbery Medal winner is accessible to students. Now to just get more students to read it and experience the awesomeness.
(Also, Kwame was one of my favorite presenters at ALAN, and he was such a pleasure to meet!)
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I cannot wait to have my students make vocabulary poems like Josh does. Such a fun way to play with words. Additionally, like I stated above, any poem in this novel could be used in a poetry unit. I’d also love to have students come up with rules like Josh’s dad did for basketball and have them write them in verse.
Discussion Questions: Why is Josh so impacted by Jordan getting a girlfriend?; Who do you think influences Josh more: his dad or his mom? Explain.; Within his poems, Josh uses formatting, bolding, and different fonts to put emphasis on certain words. Why does he do this?; Josh uses figurative language throughout his poems. Find an example and share why you think Josh used it.; How are Josh and Jordan similar? Different?
Read This If You Loved: Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott (YA), The Sports Pages edited by Jon Sciezska, The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks, Summer Ball by Mike Lupica