Author: Alexander, Kwame
Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.
Download a Teacher's Guide
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.30
Points: 2.0 Quiz: 164734
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 4.60
Points: 7.0 Quiz: 63507
Newbery Award, 2015
Coretta Scott King Author Honor, 2015
Common Core Standards
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Craft & Structure
School Library Journal (+) (00/03/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (00/02/14)
The Hornbook (00/05/14)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 02/01/2014 Twins Josh and Jordan have always been friendly rivals on the basketball court, where they are following in their basketball legend father’s footsteps. Over the course of the season, though, Josh finds his world rocked by small and large changes: he loses a bet that results in him having to cut off his lucky locks, he feels abandoned when Jordan starts hanging out with a girl, and his mother and father are fighting. When his anger and frustrations get the best of him, Josh lashes out at his brother on the court, and his mother, a principal at his school, suspends him from the team—and things get worse from there. Alexander fully captures Josh’s athletic finesse and coming-of-age angst in a mix of free verse and hip-hop poetry that will have broad appeal. The lively basketball poems in particular beg for energetic oral performance, while the free verse shows the multidimensionality of a teen wordsmith figuring out the shifting conditions of life on and off the court. The book draws additional strength from the portrait of Josh’s father, a strong but flawed role model who’s so haunted by his own father’s early death that he won’t take steps to guard his health. With pithy poems that use basketball as a metaphor for life lessons off the court, two-voiced poems that highlight the ebb and flow of conversations that say too much and nothing at all, and poems inspired by vocabulary words that require extended definitions to tease out their emotional relevance and force, this will inspire budding players and poets alike. KC - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 03/01/2014 Gr 6–10—Twins Josh and Jordan are junior high basketball stars, thanks in large part to the coaching of their dad, a former professional baller who was forced to quit playing for health reasons, and the firm, but loving support of their assistant-principal mom. Josh, better known as Filthy McNasty, earned his nickname for his enviable skills on the court: "…when Filthy gets hot/He has a SLAMMERIFIC SHOT." In this novel in verse, the brothers begin moving apart from each other for the first time. Jordan starts dating the "pulchritudinous" Miss Sweet Tea, and Josh has a tough time keeping his jealousy and feelings of abandonment in control. Alexander's poems vary from the pulsing, aggressive beats of a basketball game ("My shot is F L O W I N G, Flying, fluttering…. ringaling and SWINGALING/Swish. Game/over") to the more introspective musings of a child struggling into adolescence ("Sit beside JB at dinner. He moves./Tell him a joke. He doesn't even smile….Say I'm sorry/but he won't listen"). Despite his immaturity, Josh is a likable, funny, and authentic character. Underscoring the sports and the fraternal tension is a portrait of a family that truly loves and supports one another. Alexander has crafted a story that vibrates with energy and heart and begs to be read aloud. A slam dunk.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal. - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 03/15/2014 The Bell twins are stars on the basketball court and comrades in life. While there are some differences—Josh shaves his head and Jordan loves his locks—both twins adhere to the Bell basketball rules: In this game of life, your family is the court, and the ball is your heart. With a former professional basketball player dad and an assistant principal mom, there is an intensely strong home front supporting sports and education in equal measures. When life intervenes in the form of a hot new girl, the balance shifts and growing apart proves painful. An accomplished author and poet, Alexander eloquently mashes up concrete poetry, hip-hop, a love of jazz, and a thriving family bond. The effect is poetry in motion. It is a rare verse novel that is fundamentally poetic rather than using this writing trend as a device. There is also a quirky vocabulary element that adds a fun intellectual note to the narrative. This may be just the right book for those hard-to-match youth who live for sports or music or both. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.