Friday, February 27, 2015


(the 2015 Newbery Medal winner, 
a Novel-in-Verse)

     Never mind that I am a poet and adore novels-in-verse, and that I love realistic stories about families that bring me to tears, and that I think Kwame Alexander (click on his name to see him on YouTube) seems like one of the humblest and most enthusiastic authors in kids' fiction; just know that the reason I'm featuring his book here is based solely on its capacity to inspire my writing students. The proof is here, below!

     Here are three poems written by 12-year-old workshop students in response to three different poems in The Crossover. After we read the poems aloud, we discussed the masterful character development of Josh, the narrator, in the first poem, "Dribbling," and the way Mr. Alexander conveyed Josh's passion for basketball. Then we discussed "How I Got My Nickname" and "At First" in terms of the way the author conveyed Josh's introspective growth. I asked the students to write their own personal poems in emulation of Mr. Alexander's attention to word power in his subtle revelation of Josh. I'm so proud of these kids that I shared the poems with Mr. Alexander via email, and he dubbed them, "Brilliant!" I hope you agree--and that you get yourself a copy of The Crossover

Calculating (in response to "Dribbling")
 By D.S., age 12
The figures fly and glide across the page,
Lifting weights and counting stars                                                                
To peel back the cloth from our eyes                                                   
To reveal the universe around us.

As my pencil scritch-scratches across the page,
The figures call to me
As they did to Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Einstien
For without numbers
They never could have changed our world.

Now, as numbers sprawl across my paper,
Using the same numbers that the greats did
Through the tears and the frustration
Problem by problem I am learning to walk
And come from the darkness
Into the light.

The Nickname (in response to "How I Got My Nickname")
By E.Y., age 12

It all happened because of Carter.
This kid is a basketball-playing, mean
friend of my brother.
He thought it was okay   
to make fun of me by calling me
by my last name, Yoon.   
As soon as he started calling out
Li’l Yoon at school,
it caught on and become my
new nickname.
Songs, poems, and stories have been made
because of Carter
and his obnoxious nicknames.
At first, I hated it.
I’m not little, I’m not small.
I’m regular as can be.
But as soon as my friends heard it,
I was Li’l Yoon,
sometimes even Yoonicorn.
And it made me smile.

At First (in response to your poem of the same title)
By A.G., age 12

I didn’t like 
playing the violin
because so many kids
were in band
with an instrument to blow into.

All my friends had either a flute
Or were in percussion,
Where you would slam things.
I had to play complicated notes with a bow.                                         

Eventually I came into middle school
where I had 94 peers in orchestra,
really eager to play
stringed instruments.

I didn’t want to sit and play,
I’d rather march and play,
but I had to follow along.

It was kind of cool
playing with so many people.
The songs were joyous.
Not easy as grade school.

Maybe I wasn’t in band,
but as the strings danced on the violin,
I heard the connections growing around me.
And that made me feel like a greater person.