Discussion Guide: The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
- What technique does the author use to compare basketball to jazz music?
(Poetic phrasing, type font, and word placement is used to visually compare the artistic theater of basketball to the dynamic expression of jazz music)
- Why does Josh’s father call him Filthy McNasty?
(A fan of jazz music, the dad compares Josh to a famous song by Horace Silver, the legendary American jazz pianist. Dad says that Josh is “fast and free” like Horace Silver on the piano.)
- The author occasionally gives us basketball rules. Are they strictly meant as rules for playing basketball?
(No, they are life lessons)
- With dad as a retired basketball player plus a twin brother who is also exceptional at basketball, what complications arise for Josh?
(Pressure. He lives with the pressure to live up to his dad’s reputation and standards, but also has to deal with competition from his twin. There is the need to be seen as an individual but also to exceed already high expectations placed on him socially)
- Give some examples of intentional double meanings that the author employs to make an impact:
(chapters titled “the nosebleed section”, “storm” , “man to man”, chapter ending in “game over”, and the book title “crossover” to name a few)
- Josh and his brother experience conflicts with each other. How does the author convey Josh’s feelings about their struggle?
(pg. 156 “Sometimes it’s the things that aren’t said that kill you.” JB gives Josh the silent treatment and won’t accept his apology. Josh begins to feel very alone and alienated without his brother’s support. We see this in the letter Josh writes to JB on pg. 159 and many other chapters as well.)
- Josh had to learn CPR in gym class and rolled his eyes over the whole experience. Was it a waste of time?
(the father’s health fails and Josh has to perform CPR on him. Thankfully, he recalls his training during this very stressful scene.)
- The doctor encourages Josh to speak to his father who is in a coma. Did it help?
(Immensely. First, Josh is able to speak from the heart without pressure. When he opens up, he asks his father when he decided to “jump ship.” Once awake, the father replies, “Filthy, I didn’t jump ship.” His father did, in fact, hear Josh – and the message was clear.)
- The championship game and the father’s failing heart take place at the same time. What feelings come to the surface for Josh?
(Guilt, because he was playing basketball with his dad when the heart attack happened. Loneliness, because his brother is still angry with him and barely speaking to him. Jealousy, because his brother has a new girl and Josh has no one. Frustration, because his parents removed him from the team as a punishment and now he has a chance to play in the big game, but his dad is terribly unstable at the same time. Scared, because he doesn’t know how they’ll be a family without their dad. Unprepared to face his father’s death. Plus many more feelings, I’m sure.)
- Why did the parents allow Josh and his brother to play the championship game if their father was on his deathbed?
(Perhaps the father didn’t want his sons to see him weak and dying. He wanted to protect them. Also, they technically had an opportunity to say their goodbyes to him when he was in and out of a coma. Going to the game gave them a chance to do something about their situation: to pay tribute to their dad’s legacy and to move on with their lives in a positive way.)