I choose the character and book for many reasons, but primarily because I work in an urban school where over 98% of our student population is African-American. My students, particularly my boys, want books that reflect their lives and dreams -- not a rehashing of historical events (though I love historical fiction), not the stereotypes often portrayed on the news (which should not ever be published).
Contemporary and realistic, The Crossover features a great family and twin boys with a passion for basketball who are trying to find their way to their dreams through the ups and downs of everyday life. It's a beautiful book and I loved Josh for all his strengths, weaknesses, and passions.
I only had one problem. Do you know it's practically impossible to find a wig or headpiece that looks like dreadlocks (though if Josh had worn an Afro, I would have had better luck)? I ended up creating "dread locks" with some fake Jack Sparrow hair cut and taped to the inside of a baseball cap. I completed my ensemble with a Duke "warm-up jersey". warm-up pants, and I carried a basketball with me all day.
I had the greatest time all day long as my costume was met with double-takes and stares. Students had no idea it was me in the costume, nor did they have any ideas about who my character could possibly be. Once students figured out who was beneath the fake "dreads", the first question asked was,"Mrs. Carter, WHO ARE YOU and what's the title of the book? I think I want to read that book."
While I don't have Josh's basketball skills, I am as passionate about reading as he is about basketball. I had bought several copies of The Crossover hoping that my costume would generate interest in the book. By ten that morning, it was obvious I had a winning costume. Even my reluctant readers were asking about the book, especially after I read a few of the poems from the book. My copies were soon handed out with a waiting list for the book. I have the feeling that next year there may be several Josh and JB Bells represented at our Read Across America Day.
Note: Pictures were taken, but not on my phone. I'll have to see if I can get one from one of my friends. :)