Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander,
Is the 2015 Newbery winner -
The award for best American children's literature.

The book follows Josh and Jordan Bell,
African-American, middle-school-aged twins
Who love basketball,
Their father,
And Sweet Tea.

Except the latter.
That's the nickname Josh gives
His brother's girlfriend.
Josh is none too happy
That a girl has come between them.

Josh also learns that his father,
Who'd played professional basketball,
Quit the game for health reasons
And he won't see a doctor
Despite fainting spells.

Dad blames the doctors
For taking his own father far too young
Instead of the heart disease
He's apparently inherited as well.

Written in verse
But reads like prose
The Crossover is a quick read
But not a simplistic tale.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Love Is a Mix Tape: A Review

image from antonia-monacelli.hubpages.com

I just finished reading the New York Times bestseller, Love Is a Mix Tape (2007) by Rob Sheffield. The book reads like stream-of-consciousness journal entries written by a music fanatic. I can definitely relate. See my reading, Ways to Spot a Music Geek.

As is par for the course, when I review books on my Writ by Whit blog, I am looking for what I can learn as a writer. My closest related work to Mix Tape is my unfinished Music Lessons from the Pit. (See a sample chapter here). The events are inspired by people and events from my coming-of-age years in the 1980s. While highly fictionalized, my goal is to capture real feelings and emotions in the context of the music of the moment. Each chapter comes from a song title, generally under-the-radar indie-rock and alternative-rock hits like New Order's "Blue Monday" or The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go." Check out a sampling of songs referenced in the book here.

Similarly, Sheffield's book surrounds autobiographical events with the music that framed them. Each chapter kicks off with the rundown of songs collected on a mix tape. Sheffield then uses that as a springboard for unfolding his saga, which is mostly about meeting Renée, marrying, and then tragically losing her to pulmonary embolism.

Obviously the death of his wife at such a young age is the overriding theme of the book. However, Rob gives his tragic tale its unique spin by giving the reader insight into how music played into his relationship with Renée - and how he used it to cope with her loss.

Learn more about this book and others written by Sheffield at RobSheffield.com. Here a sample from Mix Tape here: