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Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (A Poetry Speaks Experience) Hardcover – October 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4–8—This anthology highlights the use of rhythm and vernacular in hip-hop, rap, and African-American poetry. The 51 pieces—which also include a passage from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech—use gospel rhythms, "hambone" rhythms (which Giovanni explains in her informative introduction), jazz and blues rhythms, and language from the fields and the city streets. Artists range from Langston Hughes to Kanye West, from Eloise Greenfield to Queen Latifah. Much of the subject matter focuses on hope, self-esteem, respect for the past, and determination to make a better future. A few selections are more playful, like an excerpt from "Principal's Office" by Young MC. The accompanying CD enables readers to hear many of the pieces spoken or performed by the artists. Meanwhile, a team of five illustrators provides colorful, lively pictures that add atmosphere and personality (without a lot of depth, however). This volume is much denser than it first appears, and will provide classroom teachers with a substantial amount of material. The fact that an important historical writer like James Weldon Johnson appears in the same book as contemporary musician Lauryn Hill may help some kids see the older writers with a fresh eye, and may also introduce today's artists to teachers and librarians. Granted, not all of the rap and/or hip-hop verses have the concise nature of what has been considered "real" poetry, and, in this context, some of them work better in audio than on the printed page. Still, this is an interesting, worthwhile collection.—Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* In this slamming cousin to Poetry Speaks to Children (2005), editor Giovanni states, “Poetry with a beat. That’s hip hop in a flash,” and she goes on to link hip-hop to grand opera and present a capsule history of African American vernacular music. This features a wide-ranging selection of 51 entries, plus a CD with new or previously released recorded versions of 29, some with music. The poets range from Langston Hughes and W. E. B. DuBois to Kanye West, Mos Def, and Queen Latifah. In keeping with hip-hop tradition, many of the selections are self-referential; others take on a variety of topics, from Gwendolyn Brooks’ celebration of “Aloneness” to James Berry’s inspirational “People Equal.” Calef Brown’s “Funky Snowman” is more about medium than message: “Turn up the music / with the disco beat, / when you’re in the groove, / you don’t need feet.” Similarly, on the CD, some presentations are straight readings, and others evoke jazz, rap, pop, and field- or pulpit-style chanting. Although created by five illustrators, the art shares both vibrant colors and a dancing, free-spirited look that matches the general tone of the poetry. With appeal for preliterate children, their great-grandparents, and every generation between, this will be fun for families to share as they get their groove on. Appended notes tell more about the contributors. Grades 3-5. --John Peters

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 and up
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Series: A Poetry Speaks Experience
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; Har/Com edition (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402210485
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402210488
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 9.8 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Pohren VINE VOICE on September 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Hip Hop Speaks to Children is a delightful and enlightening collection of poetry from various Poets, several performed by the authors themselves, on the included audio CD. With beautiful pictures depicting the poems and the contagious beat that the words pound out, this is a collection sure to capture the interest of all ages. Geared toward the 9 - 12 age group, this easily goes beyond that. As an adult, I greatly enjoyed each poem and as I read them out loud to my 6 year old daughter, she bopped around to the rhythm of my voice just reading the words. She was delighted with the rhyming, which easily draws the reader into the words.

While some of the poems within Hip Hop Speaks to Children are fun and playful, others speak of deep emotion. One that I found especially fun is as follows:

Funky Snowman
by: Calef Brown

Funky Snowman loves to dance.
You'd think he wouldn't
have much chance
without two legs
or even pants
Does that stop
Funky Snowman?

Turn up the music
with the disco beat,
when you're in the groove,
you don't need feet.
Crowds come out
and fill the street.

Kick it.
Funky Snowman!!


Another favorite that is more on the serious side and geared toward helping a child's self esteem, I feel, is as follows:

The Rose that Grew from the Concrete
by: Tupac Shakur

Did u hear about the rose that grew from a crack
in the concrete
Proving nature's laws wrong it learned 2 walk
without having feet
Funny it seems but by keeping its dreams
it learned 2 breathe fresh air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else even cared!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Credit Sourcebooks Jabberwocky with knowing a good thing when they see it. When Poetry Speaks to Children came out it was a brilliant collection of poems for kids with an accompanying CD of poets, both alive and deceased, reading their poetry straight out. And in this day and age if you put out a book of poems for kids then it shouldn't be that much more difficult to put out a book of hip hop and rap as well. Or, as the new collection Hip Hop Speaks to Children calls it, "poetry with a beat." Collected by the eminently skilled and knowledgeable Nikki Giovanni (activist, poet, multi-award winner, etc.) the book establishes a rock solid connection for kids between the rhythms they hear on their radios and MP3 players and the poetry they encounter in books. Drawing upon both history and contemporary stars (and with an accompanying CD to boot), Giovanni's collection is the best book of its kind for a younger readership/listenership at this time.

In the introduction to this book "Stories in Rhythm", Nikki Giovanni writes, "Thirty years ago, kids invented a new sound. They took old music, added their own new poetry, and found a way to have their creative voices heard. The Hip Hop Nation was born, sharing a courageous story of their hopes and promise with the world. And is the world evermore glad." Right from the start Nikki Giovanni is looking parents, librarians, teachers, and other skeptical adults in the eye and saying that this is important. This matters. This is art. The introduction sweeps through the African and African-American history that led to contemporary Hip Hop. Everything from caps to the Harlem Renaissance to hamboning.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Deltareviewer VINE VOICE on September 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Hip hop is more than gangsta rap. Hip hop is rhythm. Hip hop has soul. Hip hop will be here forever. Giovanni captures the essence of hip hop in this collection of "poetry with a beat". The poems are skillfully illustrated. There are over 30 performances recited by the poet on the accompanying CD. The poets include: A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Sugarhill Gang, James Berry, Queen Latifah, Nikki Grimes, Jill Scott, Mos Def, Common, Gwendolyn Brooks, and many more. Young and old alike will identify with the poems that flow like lyrics on top of beats that will make you groove. A few favorite poems are: Dat Dere, The Rosa Parks, and Hip Hop Rules the World. There are also a few excerpts from some of our favorite rappers.

This is definitely a book for everyone. There are more than 50 poems written by 42 different poets along with 30 performances on the CD. Share your past with your kids, by giving your children the opportunity to hear real lyrics and experience poetry at its finest. This promises to be the BEST Children's books of the YEAR!

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on July 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was a cool book because you could read along with the CD that came with it. The book has many cool poems in it from Ham 'N' Eggs to Funky Snowman to Real Life Stuff like accepting who you are and understanding others.
I would suggest this book to people who like poetry with A Beat. One thing that I didn't like about it was some of the poetry didn't go with the beat so you thought it was going to the next line and it dosen't. The poem that I liked most was "From Principal's Office". The illustrations in this book were cool.
Joseph the 11 year old critic.
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