The Games In Which We Compete: A Review of ‘The Crossover’ and ‘Booked’

“Continue, dear young men, to give the best of yourselves in sports competitions, always remembering that the competitive spirit of the sportsman, though so noble in itself, must not be an end in itself, but must be subordinated to the far more noble requirements of the spirit. Therefore, while I repeat to you: be good sportsmen, I also say to you: be good citizens in family and social life, and, even more, be good Christians, who are able to give a superior meaning to life, in such a way as to be able to put into practice what the Apostle Paul said about athletes to Christians of his time: ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it … They (athletes) do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable’” (l Cor 9:24-25).—Saint Pope John Paul II from his address to the Bologna Soccer Team, December 9, 1978

The Crossover

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Review and Thoughts

Kwame Alexander’s book The Crossover would’ve made my basketball-lovin’ heart oh so happy back when I was in middle school.  Alexander uses poetry to write so passionately about the sport and brings in a close family to add to the drama of the novel.

The story follows twin brothers who play for their middle school basketball team.  Both brothers are excellent players, but Josh, or Filthy McNasty as he is commonly called, is most passionate about the game.  Struggles come as the brothers make each other mad and Josh has to deal with his anger and jealousy.  He struggles to understand his brother’s new attitude toward girls and their slowly growing independence from each other.  The end of the novel is difficult when Josh’s father becomes ill.  It adds to the pain of his hurt relationship with is brother, but eventually aids in the healing they need.

The Crossover offers middle-schoolers the topics that so many are interested in: sports, jealousy, girls, family relationships, and drama.  It is no wonder it appeals to so many young people right now.

I recommend this book, especially if you have reluctant readers.  It’s simple, dramatic, passionate, and it exposes kids to great literacy in many different forms of poetry.

Possible Concerns

  • Josh makes two references to his parents having sex.
  • Josh mentions his brother taking two showers a day now that he has a girlfriend. Some kids may glance right past it, but others will get the innuendo.


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Review and Thoughts

Much like The Crossover, Booked tells the story of a young man who is an athlete in love with his sport.  In this book, the sport is soccer.  Nick loves the game and puts most of his focus and dreams for the future into soccer while his dad hopes he will become someone who is well read with a large vocabulary.

Nick must deal with a lot of things that young people do.  His parents separate and then decide to divorce, he feels neglected by his mother, he is trying to impress a girl, and he must stand up to some bullies who are constantly giving him trouble.  Through all of this, he feels he has soccer he can turn to until even that gets taken away for a short while because he becomes sick. I feel as though a lot of students will be able to connect with Nick.  His struggles seem real and many middle-schoolers will be able to connect with him because of that.

I really loved that this book introduced so many new and rare vocabulary words for young readers.  The book also mentions other novels which could pique the interest of young readers and get them reading other novels.  Nick is a boy who doesn’t enjoy reading at the start, but then finds his niche in the reading world and doesn’t look back.

I understand that The Crossover won the Newberry Medal in 2015, and it is a great book, however, I feel that Booked may be easier for a lot of young readers to connect with.

Possible Concerns

  • His teacher mentions the book Tuck Everlasting and Nick mentions that he “swears he heard an ‘f’ in there.”
  • Nick’s mom leaves the family for a new job and he is destroyed because of her decision.
  • Some of the boys in the school get into a fight and some racial slurs are used.
  • His parents eventually get divorced.

Further Discussion

  • What is sportsmanship?  How can athletes improve sport by being good sportsmen?
  • The characters in our books have difficulties with others in their families.  How do they handle these difficulties?  What could they do to deal with these relationships in a healthier way?  In a more Catholic/Christian way?

Catholic Resources        

General Teaching Resources





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