The Crossover Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
African American
Social Justice
by Kwame Alexander - A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this novel. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of themselves and others, as well as, exploring the idea of resilience.

Josh and Jordan Bell are brothers on the court and off the court. The boys navigate life as student athletes, while also learning how to overcome obstacles without letting those obstacles ruin their relationship. As part of the community we have to learn to traverse relationships and learn to forgive and understand others. This book is written in verse. It is a mix of poetry and hip-hop like lyrics.

Literature Guide by Kaitlyn Pressnall

Before Reading

Ask: What is a crossover in basketball? What does the word crossover mean? Read the back of the book (or inside cover). What would you like to ask the author?

Show: Looking at the cover, what do you think the book will be about? 

Connect: This book looks at our roles and supports in family relationships. Do you have siblings? If so, what is your relationship like? If not, what would you want your relationship to be like? Does the topic of this book remind you of anything in your life? 

  1. What are different family makeups?
  2. How might we support people who have different family makeups?
  3. How might someone thrive in different dynamics?
  4. How can we advocate for each other if/when our family dynamics are challenged or questioned?

During Reading

Ask: Describe Josh. Why is he different when he is “Filthy McNasty”?

  • Do you think Josh only cares for himself, why or why not?
  • How does Mr. Bell’s health affect his family?
  • How does Josh cope with the losses he endures during the book? How does the basketball community help him?
  • How does the use of verse affect the story?

Show: Visualize Josh and Jordan in your head, who do you relate to? If you were their friend, what could you do to help them? 

Connect: How do the rules in the Bell house relate to the rules in your life?

  • How would you respond to an adult if you overheard them saying teenagers only care for themselves.
  • How do extracurricular activities (sports/student activities) affect your life and path in school?
  • Have you ever had to forgive someone you love? How’d you do it? What are the elements of an apology and forgiveness?

After Reading

Ask: Overall, did you think it was a book well worth it? Why or why not? Did you like that the book was in verse? How did verse support the story?

Show: Look back at the cover, have your thoughts changed on what the book is about?

Connect: What surprised you about the book?

  • What did you learn about yourself while reading this book?
  • What did you learn about others while reading this book?
  • What lessons can you take from this book and apply to your community? What is the role of the community in a story like this?


  1. Write a poem about a significant event in your life. Share with your friends or community to help them understand others.
  2. Basketball is a large part of the novel. Create a list of 5-10 basketball vocabulary words with definitions. For example, the first vocabulary word could be crossover. Then make a graphic to help teach younger kids basketball terms. You could give these to PE teachers.
  3. Create a bottle biography project on one of or as many characters as you’d like out of a recycled bottle.
  4. Author Study: Create a project that chronicles the life of the author.
  5. Visit a basketball game in your community, create signs to cheer on the players.
  6. It can be hard to forgive people and move on from loss. Write a journal entry that only you can read about forgiveness and/or loss. You may choose to forgive someone or you may need to ask for forgiveness. 
  7. Make a music playlist with songs that remind you of the Bell brothers.
  8. Create a casting list of hollywood stars that you think would be a good fit for each character if the book was made into a movie.
  9. Listen to Kwame Alexander's inspiring TED talk "The Power of Yes."