Analysis of the Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Analysis of the Crossover by Kwame Alexander

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Analysis of the Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover is a book about a teenage boy Josh Bell. Josh Bell is 12 years old and a basketball player. The novel follows Josh’s life from the time he was in seventh grade at Reggie Lewis Middle School. Jordan Bell “JB” is Josh’s identical twin. Both Josh and JB love basketball. However, it is Josh who is more passionate about it because he follows his father’s footsteps as he wants to be like him. Josh considered basketball not just as a way of gaining fame in school or future fortune, but instead, he loves and got great passion for the game. He got love for every member of his family, and he loves how things are going for him. This essay will analyze symbolism, allegory, motifs, metaphors, similes, irony, irony, and imagery as used by Alexander in his text.


From the novel, the author uses symbolism to produce an impact, signify ideas by giving them symbolic meanings (Aldama 2019). For instance, in the Crystal Bell’s text which is towards the end of the novel, the symbolism used is the “crossover.” When Josh’s mother and father are together, his mom sends him a text message. At the end of the message, the word “crossover” gets its message. His mother is referring to Josh performing well on his crossover in the field. However, the word being separate symbolizes Chuck’s “crossing over” to death as his son Josh is doing his crossover in the court. The author succeeds in showing what the word crossover implies, that is the occurrence of events at the same time.

 Josh’s hair is also used in the novel as a symbol to signify Josh’s identity and power. Josh loves his Samson-like dreadlocks, and when gone, Josh feels like he has lost his “wings.” He starts to stumble in life and makes several mistakes. By losing his dreadlocks, Josh has symbolically lost his identity, and he must struggle to find it. The author successfully shows how josh’s hair is his identity and power, and he is no longer the same without it in a poetic manner instead of saying it outright.


The author uses allegory to add several other meanings to the basketball game, so as it stands out to mean something more substantial than just the game (Krulatz, Steen-Olsen and Torgersen 2018). The author uses basketball as a fruitful allegory of life several times in the story. In basketball, just like in life, one makes mistakes, and one has successes too. One needs to work with others, but one could still succeed personally. One could trip, get hurt or mess up, but it’s essential for one not to despair but keep moving forward. At the end of a game, there is always a winner, however winning from a game is not as important as learning the game of life that is perseverance, teamwork, self-worth, and hard work. Through allegory, the author manages to show how the basketball game is similar to life itself.


The author uses the motif as a way of trying to deepen the significant theme of the story and enable the reader to understand things better.  One of the motifs used by the author is vocabulary. For instance, through the novel, Josh defines words and terms both for the reader and himself: churlish, pulchritudinous, myocardial infraction, calamity, and others. Josh is studying vocabulary in school; therefore, these words are important in his education. These words also assist him in understanding his life and himself as a person. Understanding what something means helps him understand things better. For instance, by getting to know the definition of churlish, Josh is able to understand the way people or things in his life correspond to the word. For example, when his mom calls him Churlish, Josh looks up for the word, and he realizes that it fits him and that it’s suitable for him to change.  Therefore, through different words, Josh is able to navigate a world that has always been confusing and imprecise for him (Fenner 2018). Through this, Alexander enables the reader to understand that understanding the meaning of a word is very important.


The author also uses metaphors to show the variation of various emotions, experiences, and even images that do not have one specific vocabulary. Alexander makes use of various metaphors while explaining the experience of one playing or watching basketball. Josh says, “See when I play ball, / I’m on fire. / When I shoot, / I inspire./ The hoop’s for sale,/ and I’m the buyer”. Josh says that he is “on fire” (Alexander 2016 p.5) to show that he is aware of his fierceness and that his performance in the field is excellent. He then continues to say that the hoop is “for sale” and that he is” the buyer.” This is a unique way of indicating that he is the owner of the hoop because it was through his prowess that he managed to buy it. Through this, the author is able to express Josh’s feelings without having to use one word.

In yet another of Chuck’s basketball rules, the author uses metaphor to show how life is and how one should live. Chuck says,“If you miss/ enough of life’s / free throws/ you will pay/ in the end” (Alexander 2016 p. 71). The metaphor here claims that in life, there will be moments of “free throws” given to a player.  Chuck advises his sons to take these chances because if they don’t, then they will regret in the end for having wasted themselves and even suffer as a result. In the text, this metaphor could be referring to Chuck’s ignorance of his health condition, which leads to his death. The author here manages to make the reader understand the concept of life that is to utilize every life opportunity.


The author also uses similes to make his writing more interesting and spark the reader’s imagination and, at the same time, relay his message. For instance, at the time that Josh feels like JB is going astray, he asks his father to talk to JB and his new girlfriend Alexis and remind him that he’s neglecting his family. His father laughs and answers him saying, “Filthy, talking to your brother / right now/ would be like pushing water uphill/ with a rake, son” (Alexander 2016 p 91).  The act of trying to push water with a rake up a hill can never be completed. This suggests how useless it is for Chuck to try speaking to JB. Just like the water passes through the rake’s rungs, so would Chuck’s words fall on Jordan’s deaf ears. The author here successfully shows how useless it would be for Chuck to try to advise JB.


The author uses irony as a way of pointing out the discrepancy of how things happen as compared to what was expected to happen. The author uses situational irony in the case of Josh’s anger. Because of his love for basketball and competition, Josh becomes jealous when JB lags and starts dating Alexis. Josh, however, wants also to have a girlfriend, but he can’t because he is spending most of his time on sports. Josh is suspended from the team when he aggressively throws the ball at JB.  Josh ends up losing what he loves doing most because he ironically tried to hold on to it by trying to control JB’s behavior. (Coats 2014).  Here the author successfully shows how ironic it is for Josh to be suspend ended from the game instead of him being praised for trying to uphold his brother. 


The author also uses imagery to create an image of a scenario in a reader’s mind. For instance, Alexander succeeds in creating images of the basketball field together with the basketball players dripping, running, shooting, doing dazzling, maneuvers, and shouting at one another. Alexander uses clear descriptions and places his words and lines in a way that implicates movement, disorder at the gym, and the players’ elation as they perform the activities they love. For instance, one can create a picture of Josh playing as displayed by Alexander’s writing;

“Cause now I’m CRUNKing



And my dipping will leave you

SLIPPING” (Alexander, 2016, p. 9). The author successfully creates this picture of the players and the pitch in the reader’s mind.

The author also uses imagery when describing how the boys were when they were babies’.Chuck happily remembers the twins when they were babies, having a bottle in one hand and a ball in the other. Through this image, Alexander shows how basketball is a significant part of the boys’ lives because they are introduced to basketball even when they are just babies.  The image is beautiful, but it shows how Chuck believes that the boys must play and continue his legacy.  This makes it possible for one to wonder what would have happened if one or both of the boys refused to play or if one or both had not been good at it.

 The author also creates another imagery through the use of the backboard, as described by Josh. When Chuck experiences a heart attack and is hospitalized because of it, Josh becomes utterly bereft.  Josh thinks that he does not want to be around the hospital and that “the only thing that matters is swish,” but “our backboard splintered.” The critical image of the splintered backboard is an indication of destruction, loss, and fragmentation. However, in this case, the backboard symbolizes that Chuck’s family is fractured after Chuck’s death. The author successfully creates the image of a splintered backboard in our mind enabling us to see how destroyed Chuck’s family is.

The last imagery used by the reader is in “Free Throws,” where Josh is shooting free throws while thinking about his father and is joined by Jordan. Both Josh and JB makeup after being estranged for a long time. They both come to terms with the loss of their father. Josh hands the ball to JB and says,” I watch / the ball/ leave his hands/ like a bird/ up high, / skating/ the sky, // crossing over/ us” (Alexander 201 p.237). It’s not easy for one to know if Josh made it, but one can imagine the ball up in the air; moving is a slow pace “crossing over” them like it’s their father’s spirit. This image is both beautiful and dreadful. Here the author successfully creates the image of Josh throwing the ball in the air and back in our minds.

The author’s primary goal in writing diversely was so that he could allow children to figure out what they were interested in and improve their appreciation of language and literature. Being a foreign language, teachers should aim at promoting insight to both its theoretical and practical aspects while teaching just like it was done in Norway (Fenner 2018). For teachers to be able to accommodate children from diverse cultures and languages, then they need to help them in understanding the common language of English through various means (Krulatz, Steen-Olsen, and Torgersen 2018). Thus, enabling children to communicate in different languages.


Alexander uses various figures of speech while writing his novel. The different styles are with the inclusion of metaphors, similes, motifs, allegory, and irony. These distinct figures of speech enable the reader to enjoy the book. Through irony, for example, we are able to see how Josh’s aggressiveness results in him being suspended from the team that he loves so much. This is ironic because while he is trying to save the team by retaining JB, he gets suspended for it. All these figures of speech are significant as they make reading enjoyable.


Aldama, F. L. (2019). Interventions: An Interview with Kwame Alexander. American Book Review40(6), 31-32.

Alexander, K. (2016). The crossover. Ernst Klett Sprachen GmbH.

Coats, K. (2014). The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books67(6), 303-303.10. 1353/bcc.2014.0113

Fenner, A. B. (2018). Teaching English in the 21st Century: Central Issues in Didactics. Fagbokforlaget.

Krulatz, A., Steen-Olsen, T., & Torgersen, E. (2018). Towards critical cultural and linguistic awareness in language classrooms in Norway: Fostering respect for diversity through identity texts. Language Teaching Research22(5), 552-569.

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