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"The sky is your limit, sons. Always shoot for the sun and you will shine,” Chuck “Da Man” Bell. —The Crossover (Graphic Novel)  

The Crossover (Graphic Novel)

by Kwame Alexander
AR Test, Diverse Characters, Graphic Novel

At A Glance
Interest Level

Reading Level
Number of Pages

Twelve-year-old Josh and his twin JB Bell are the kings of the basketball court. Untouchable and unstoppable—the sons of former professional basketball player Chuck “Da Man” Bell couldn’t be anything less than excellent. But when Alexis walks into the twins’ lives and steals JB’s heart, Josh is left without his best friend by his side. Meanwhile, the boys’ father’s health is on the decline, despite Chuck’s utter denial. Josh and JB must deal with the consequences of everyone’s actions—including their own.

The illustrations in the graphic novel, The Crossover, bring the story to life. Illustrator Dawud Anyabwile’s comic book style illustrations match the high-pace action of the novel, especially during the basketball scenes. Most of the illustrations are in black and white with detailed shading, but Anyabwile frequently utilizes orange to help features pop off the page. The text changes in size and shape which helps to capture the rhythm of the poem. Even though this is a graphic novel, the poetic language makes The Crossover a good choice to read aloud.

The pages vary in the amount of text and pictures. Some pages have full-bodied scenes with a few sentences, while others have smaller pictures with mostly narration or dialogue. Alexander’s free-verse poetry moves very well and, thus, lends itself to these variations in page styles. The text placement only serves to emphasize parts of the story. Even though the graphic novel has some difficult vocabulary, the words are often defined and the repetition of the words allows the reader to understand the term. Readers will learn new vocabulary, but the more advanced vocabulary is balanced with realistic dialogue and trash talk during the basketball scenes.

The words themselves rarely vary from the original book, though the verse orientation on the page serves to emphasize different phrases. Those who have read the original text will still find that the graphic novel conveys characters’ moods and personalities in different ways due to the addition of illustrations. Josh, JB, and their friends and family are all vibrant characters and the pictures give them new life and add to the reading experience.

The Crossover was already a moving story, but the story benefits greatly from the addition of illustrations. The illustrations enhance the characters’ emotions and the story’s stakes feel heightened. The story speaks truths about grief, love, and basketball, and the pictures serve to bring those wonderful themes to another dimension. Newcomers and fans of the original story will find this edition to be a worthy addition to their shelves.

Sexual Content

  • Josh and JB’s dad, Chuck “Da Man” Bell, tells his sons about how back in the day, he “kissed/ so many pretty ladies.”
  • Josh says that the only reason why JB has been “acting all religious” is because classmate “Kim Bazemore kissed him in Sunday/ school.”
  • Josh does his homework while “Vondie and JB/ debate whether the new girl/ is a knockout or just beautiful,/ a hottie or a cutie,/ a lay-up or a dunk.”
  • Josh teases JB and asks if “Miss Sweet Tea” (Alexis) is his girlfriend. JB dodges the question. However, it is clear that he likes her a lot because “his eyes get all spacey/ whenever she’s around,/ and sometimes when she’s not.”
  • Chuck faints, and his wife, Crystal, demands that he see a doctor. Chuck refuses, and they argue. In an attempt to diffuse the tension between them, he says, “Come kiss me.”
  • After Crystal and Chuck stop arguing about Chuck’s health in the bedroom, Josh narrates, “And then there is silence, so I put the/ pillow over my head/ because when they stop talking,/ I know what that means./ Uggghh!” This happens a couple times throughout the book, though it is never illustrated.
  • Alexis wants to know “am I [JB’s] girlfriend or not?”
  • Josh likes Alexis romantically as well, but JB doesn’t know that.
  • JB and Alexis walk into the cafeteria, and she’s “holding his/ precious hand.”
  • JB and Alexis kiss in the library, and Josh sees them. The kiss is illustrated.
  • JB tells Alexis “how much she’s/ the apple of/ his eye/ and that he wants/ to peel her/ and get under her skin.”


  • JB plays with Josh’s locks of hair. Josh “slap[s] him/ across his bald head/ with [Josh’s] jockstrap.”
  • JB accidentally cuts off five of Josh’s locks of hair. Josh gives JB several noogies over the course of a few interactions.
  • Josh nearly breaks JB’s nose with a hard pass during a basketball game. He does it on purpose because he’s upset with JB, and Josh is suspended from the team. The description is only a couple of words long.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Crystal’s younger brother “smokes cigars.”


  • There are a few rude terms used occasionally by the younger characters. Some terms include crunking, stupid, and jerk.
  • When Josh narrates his plays in games, he talks big about his game and this leads to him occasionally threatening physical contact during the game. For instance, Josh says in part of his beginning speech, “Man, take this THUMPING.”
  • Josh’s nickname is “Filthy McNasty.”
  • JB suggests a bet against Josh. Josh responds with, “You can cut my locks off,/ but if I win the bet,/ you have to walk around/ with no pants on/ and no underwear/ at school tomorrow.”
  • JB responds with, “if you win,/ I will moon/ that nerdy group/ of sixth-graders/ that sit/ near our table/ at lunch?”


  • None

Spiritual Content

  • JB only went to one basketball summer camp because “he didn’t want to miss Bible/ school.”
  • The Bells go to church on Sundays before basketball. Josh says, “When the prayers end/ and the doors open/ the Bells hit center stage,” meaning the basketball court. Josh sometimes mentions team prayers or praying to win games.

by Alli Kestler



Other books by Kwame Alexander
Other books you may enjoy

"The sky is your limit, sons. Always shoot for the sun and you will shine,” Chuck “Da Man” Bell. —The Crossover (Graphic Novel)  

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