February 11, 2015

The Crossover, Newbery Winner for 2015

By Karen L. Totten, RSSAA Librarian

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Two 12-year-old basketball playing twins are at the heart of The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, the 2015 winner of the John Newbery Medal of literature for children.

Announced on February 2nd, by the American Library Association’s Newbery nominating committee, the book, written by poet and author Kwame Alexander, tells the story of brothers Josh and J.B.. They are middle school students who are, Alexander explains to journalist Christina Barron, “dealing with all the woes and wonders of the tween and teen years.” The story, Alexander notes, is about “friendships, loyalty and love” told in the vocabulary of “LeBron James and Kevin Durant.”

Alexander adds, there was another purpose to the book, “to show boys and girls that poetry [can] be cool.” The book is written in verse, but readers wary of poetry need not worry. Alexander’s verse is clear and accessible. Here is a passage from the book on playing basketball: 

. . . a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .
the court is SIZZLING
my sweat is DRIZZLING
stop all that quivering
cuz tonight I am delivering.

Cornelius Eady, in a New York Times review of the book, writes that “for all the bells and whistles of young man’s game, The Crossover is most boldly and certainly a book about tenderness.” 

We recently added a copy of The Crossover to the Ellie Klopp Lower School Library collection of Newbery Award-winning books.

John Newbery - Father of Children's Literature
The Newbery Medal is named for John Newbery, a British bookseller in the 18th century (1713-1767). He was, according to the Encyclopedia of World Biography, the first to create books specifically tailored to the needs and interests of children. His work reflects changing attitudes in that period about children, who were beginning to be seen as more than little adults. Newbery published works to educate and delight that took into account the reading levels and interests of young people.

Newbery's first big success, after smaller publications, was a high quality publication that was a colorful, entertaining and quite popular work entitled A Pretty Little Pocket Book.

The idea for a medal in honor of Newbery was first presented to the American Library Association (ALA) in 1921 by Frederich Melcher. The Medal is given to an American book for children published in the previous year. The Story of Mankind, by Heinrich Willem van Loon was awarded the first Newbery Medal. The Story of Mankind explains briefly, in short chapters, the history of western civilization. Van Loon writes that he selected what to include or exclude by subjecting all facts to one question: Did the person or event discussed act in such a way that without his actions the entire history of civilization would be different?

To be judged a Newbery Medal book by the selection committee, a children's book must meet certain criteria. The work is not judged by its didactic content or popularity, but rather demonstrated excellence in the following:
  • interpretation of theme or concept
  • development of plot
  • delineation of characters and setting
  • appropriateness of style
  • presentation of information in an accurate, clear and organized manner
The Newbery Award has been given since 1922 and Ellie Klopp Library has most of the over 100 books in either our Fiction (hardcover) or Paperback sections, including more recent winners like When You Reach Me (2010 Newbery) by Rebecca Stead or last year’s winner Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, known for her 2001 Newbery Honor winner Because of Winn Dixie, and her 2004 Newbery Award winning book The Tale of Despereaux. We have many Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor books on our shelves ... Come check them out!

Click for links to online catalogs:  Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor books at the Ellie Klopp Library.

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