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Review: The Crossover

In 2015, Kwame Alexander “picked up” a Newbery award for his groundbreaking title, The Crossover. The book had everything in it: Verse, basketball action, heart, and soul. It was really no wonder it was chosen for the most esteemed award in children’s literature. But I wondered how this title would look as a graphic novel.

The Crossover
By Kwame Alexander. Illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23.99 hc
Grades 5 and up

13-year-old twins JB and Josh (known as Filthy) are excellent basketball players who may have inherited some of their skill from their father, who retired professional play due to an injury. They live an idyllic life. Mom is the principal in their middle school. Dad is retired and spends time with them. They are financially comfortable. The boys are busy with basketball and school. But Josh is jealous of his brother, who recently started to see a girl. Their father has clear signs of health issues but refuses to see a doctor, because doctors killed his own father. Will basketball be a cure all for everything?

My first impression when starting this adaptation was how the words became part of the artwork. The text whistles and swishes like a basketball. The words jump off the page, adding to the action as much as the text. The color tones of black, white, and orange immerse the reader in an action-packed basketball vibe.

But ultimately, I didn’t feel like I was reading a comic. Rather, I was reading an illustrated novel. There are no word or thought balloons. There are no panels and certainly no gutters. This is most likely due to the novel’s original form – verse. And the author and artist truly keep the novel’s original intent and text. But this isn’t a “standard comic.” I don’t know that it’s a negative….

I think the cover, which sports a young boy dribbling a ball will ensure that this title, if face out, will jump off of shelves. I think that visual learners will absolutely love this adaptation, and I will be highly recommending it to students — even if I can’t categorize it as standard. After all, who or what is standard?

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.


  1. Incredible graphic novel adaptation of a student favorite! I know this will be another book I just can’t keep on the library shelves. Ages 10 and up. Shelves: young-adult, experimental, loss, life-in-high-school, quick-reads, published-2016-2019, 2019

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