by Alexander, Kwame

Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.

Kwame Alexander is a poet, children's book author, playwright, producer, public speaker and performer. He conducts creative writing workshops in middle and high schools, often reaching more than 500 students monthly. He lives with his wife and two daughters in the Washington, D.C. area. Visit his website at

The Bell twins are stars on the basketball court and comrades in life. While there are some differences-Josh shaves his head and Jordan loves his locks-both twins adhere to the Bell basketball rules: In this game of life, your family is the court, and the ball is your heart. With a former professional basketball player dad and an assistant principal mom, there is an intensely strong home front supporting sports and education in equal measures. When life intervenes in the form of a hot new girl, the balance shifts and growing apart proves painful. An accomplished author and poet, Alexander eloquently mashes up concrete poetry, hip-hop, a love of jazz, and a thriving family bond. The effect is poetry in motion. It is a rare verse novel that is fundamentally poetic rather than using this writing trend as a device. There is also a quirky vocabulary element that adds a fun intellectual note to the narrative. This may be just the right book for those hard-to-match youth who live for sports or music or both. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives. Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story. Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

At the top of the key, I&;m
POPping and ROCKING&;
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 fee
real good
about my nickname.

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