"The Crossover" by Kwame Alexander was named the 2015 Newbery Medal on Monday. The book is about a middle-school basketball player, and it is written in verse, or poetry. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Local poet and author Kwame Alexander won the Newbery Medal on Monday for “The Crossover,” his book written in verse about 12-year-old basketball-playing twins.

Alexander, who talked by phone from his Reston home, said he reacted to the news with disbelief, humility and gratitude.

“This book is now going to be in the hands of a whole lot of boys and girls who wouldn’t necessarily have had the chance,” Alexander said about what the honor means.

But the author said his first award was kids’ reaction to the book. “One kid said ‘I don’t even like books, and I couldn’t put yours down,’ ” he said.

Alexander said basketball was the key. “If you couch this story of friendship and love and family . . . in LeBron James and Kevin Durant . . . you’ve got your hook.”

Alexander said he “tried to keep in mind what it’s like to be a middle-school student dealing with all the woes and wonders of the tween and teen years — love, loss, friendship, family, school, homework.” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Alexander said besides Josh and JB’s story, the book carried another message.

“I tried to write the book to show boys — and girls — that poetry could be cool,” he said.

KidsPost reviewer Abby McGanney Nolan wrote that the poems are “sometimes fresh and funny, sometimes sad and painful, but always move the story along in a compelling way.”

The Newbery is handed out by the American Library Association and considered the highest award for children's literature. It’s named for 18th-century British bookseller John Newbery.

The ALA handed out 18 other children’s book awards, including the Caldecott Medal for best picture book. “The Adventures of Beekle” by Dan Santat won that prize.

— Christina Barron