Newbery Award Winner Kwame: Get a Peek Inside 2014’s Best Children’s Book

Newbery Award-winner Kwame Alexander
Newbery Award-winner Kwame Alexander

When you think of poetry books for children, maybe you think of Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstine. But Kwame Alexander has written a book entirely in verse about, of all things, basketball. And guess what? It’s the best children’s book of 2014. I wouldn’t be so bold as to make such a judgment, but the Newbery Award committee has, and their judgment is outstanding. The Newberry Award is the highest honor a children’s book can receive, and Alexander has officially been chosen as the winner.

Kwame Alexander’s a smart guy. He says, “scientists answer questions; the poets ask.” In this interview with DC’s Politics and Prose you get the idea that this is a book about a lot more than basketball.

Kwame Alexander Reads from The Crossover

It’s always nice to hear poetry as read by the author, but doesn’t it leave you hungry for more? No worries, we have an excerpt from the book. Let this remind you how great poetry can be. And by great, I don’t mean, “obtuse and esoteric” I mean “accessible and fun.” Share your congratulations of Kwame by taking a moment to read this exclusive excerpt.

An Excerpt from Newbery Award Winner The Crossover

Dribbling Kwame Alexander's The Crossover book cover

At the top of the key, I’m



Why you BUMPING?

Why you LOCKING?

Man, take this THUMPING.

Be careful though,

’cause now I’m CRUNKing




and my dipping will leave you








G   on the floor, while I


to the finish with a fierce finger roll . . .

Straight in the hole:


Josh Bell

is my name.

But Filthy McNasty is my claim to fame.

Folks call me that

’cause my game’s acclaimed,

so downright dirty, it’ll put you to shame. My hair is long, my height’s tall.

See, I’m the next Kevin Durant,

LeBron, and Chris Paul.

Remember the greats,

my dad likes to gloat:

I balled with Magic and the Goat.

But tricks are for kids, I reply.

Don’t need your pets

my game’s so


Mom says,

Your dad’s old school,

like an ol’ Chevette.

You’re fresh and new,

like a red Corvette.

Your game so sweet, it’s a crêpes suzette.

Each time you play


If anyone else called me

fresh and sweet,

I’d burn mad as a flame.

But I know she’s only talking about my game.

See, when I play ball,

I’m on fire. When I shoot, I inspire.

The hoop’s for sale, and I’m the buyer.

How I Got My Nickname

I’m not that big on jazz music, but Dad is.

One day we were listening to a CD

of a musician named Horace Silver, and Dad says,

Josh, this cat is the real deal.

Listen to that piano, fast and free,

Just like you and JB on the court.

It’s okay, I guess, Dad.


Boy, you better recognize

greatness when you hear it.

Horace Silver is one of the hippest.

If you shoot half as good as he jams—

Dad, no one says “hippest” anymore.

Well, they ought to, ’cause this cat

is so hip, when he sits down he’s still standing, he says.

Real funny, Dad.

You know what, Josh?

What,  Dad?

I’m dedicating this next song to you.

What’s the next song?

Only the best song,

the funkiest song

on Silver’s Paris Blues album:



At first

I didn’t like the name

because so many kids made fun of me

on the school bus,

at lunch, in the bathroom.

Even Mom had jokes.

It fits you perfectly, Josh, she said:

You never clean your closet, and

that bed of yours is always filled

with cookie crumbs and candy wrappers.

It’s just plain nasty, son.

But, as I got older

and started getting game,

the name took on a new meaning.

And even though I wasn’t into

all that jazz,

every time I’d score,


or steal a ball,

Dad would jump up

smiling and screamin’,

That’s my boy out there.

Keep it funky, Filthy!

And that made me feel

real good

about my nickname.


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