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When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop (Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent) Hardcover – August 27, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 3-5–As a child in Jamaica, Clive Campbell aspired to be a DJ. At 13, he moved to the Bronx, where he gained the nickname Hercules because he grew to be more than six feet tall. He shortened the name to Herc, added Kool, and is credited as a pioneer of hip hop. He created a new art form for his parties when he plugged in two turntables to create longer breaks for dancing and began chanting the names of his friends during the breaks. Hill's descriptive writing is paired with Taylor's vibrant artwork, which features large crowds dancing, close-up shots of breakdancing, or Herc's hands masterfully spinning the dual turntables. This is a fine introduction to the topic, and the extensive time line, which spans from 1973 to 1986, will help students with reports and show them how this American art form was created.–Glynis Jean Wray, Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

This picture-book biography introduces one of the unsung creators of hip-hop, Clive Campbell, who was born in Jamaica in 1955. He was entranced by the massive dance parties thrown by a neighbor, and when his family moved to the Bronx, he took up the name Kool Herc and created the innovative techniques behind hip-hop DJing. Stacking musical breaks on top of each other to fuel long stretches of dancing frenzy, calling the kids with the best moves “break-dancers,” and sending shout-outs to friends and little offhand rhymes over the music—Kool Herc unique and hip-hop wouldn’t exist without any one of these flashes of inspiration. By the time rap music really took off, in the early 1980s, he was already out of the limelight but not without leaving a massive legacy. Aside from the bouncy bio of the book’s star, Hill also highlights the positive social force of hip-hop and the boundless energy of musical joy. It’s all matched by Taylor’s freewheeling artwork. A treat from an underrepresented corner of music history. Grades 2-4. --Ian Chipman
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 10 years
  • Lexile Measure: 910L (What's this?)
  • Series: Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; First Edition edition (August 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596435402
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596435407
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 0.4 x 10.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Denis Vukosav TOP 100 REVIEWER on February 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover
“When the Beat Was Born” written by Laban Carrick Hill and nicely illustrated by Theodore Taylor is a well-made picture book about DJ Kool Herc who invented hip hop back in the seventies in the Bronx.

The main character of this biographical story is Clive, a boy from Jamaica that came to Bronx when he was 13 years old. Clive had a brilliant sense of rhythm and music and vividly remembered the excellent parties back home. When one day his father brought a giant stereo system home, Clive will learn how to set it right in order to get great sound out of it. Together with his sister Clive will rent a recording room and prepare sound system for the following party and thus DJ Kool Herc was born…

Clive will also invent a concept of two turntables that provide an opportunity for DJ to mix music tracks, avoiding breaks between the songs to maintain the same excitement of audience, without need to interrupt their dance. DJ Kool Herc also laid the foundations for rap music by inviting friends to sing rhymes over his beats, just like he remembered the DJs on Jamaica did…

“When the Beat Was Born” is beautifully told story about boy who changed today’s music and opened the door to a number of different music subgenres that have evolved from his ideas. Also, this is also a pretty innovative and unique theme for children's picture book, the first that I know that deals with modern music, and the way in which the topic is presented will ensure its certainly large popularity among older children interested in this kind of music.

The book illustrations are made pencil while Theodore Taylor with its colorful illustrations did the great job in conjuring up the atmosphere and all the events that were happening around Clive.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steve Ramm TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover
At the American Library Association's mid-winter Conference last month I spotted this new children's book on the "true" history of Hip Hop music and rap and recently got a copy.

It's hard to believe that it's been 40 years (!) since a replanted Jamaican kid - Clive Campbell )known to his friends as Little Clive - decided to get two record turntables together (and some big speakers) to spin the instrumental portion of R&B records (known as the "beats") for his friends in his Bronx, NY neighborhood. At the same time he started calling out the kids' names during the music. This was the beginning of "DJ"-ing and Hip Hop (a name coined by DJ Lovebug Starski in that same year. Rap and "Hip Hop" have come a long way (both for good and bad) since then but it started innocently with dance parties to keep gangs off the streets.

The author - Laban Garrick Hill - didn't discover Hip Hop until 1980 but he uses his story to go back to the beginning and obviously did his research. The 10-inch by 10-inch book is slim - at xx pages - but, in addition to the colorfully illustrated story, the author provides a well written tw-page "Author's Note" as well as a detailed "Timeline" of major events from 1973, when high school student Kevin Donovan changes his name to Afrika Bambaataa and forms Zulu Nation to 1988 when the Beastie Boys album took hip hop to the mainstream audience.

Not only will reading - or giving this book - to a child help them understand that "hip hop" was not originally about "commercializing" the culture with clothes and x-rated raps. It was about fun. A lot has changed in those forty years - 40? Really? - but this book takes us back to the beginning. A wonderful volume anf highly recommended.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By alonda on June 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Entertaining and historically accurate. Vibrant illustrations too. Both my son and I enjoyed reading it. My husband loved it too as this is his Era and thought it is important to make sure everyone knows the real hip hop history
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Format: Hardcover
When the Beat Was Born is a surprisingly educational and informative picture book about the early days of the hip hop scene and someone who helped bring together people through a lifestyle. This filled in some gaps in my own understanding of the creation of hip hop, break dancing, and the influence on the current scene. I had never heard of DJ Kool Herc. His personal story is as much hip hop as the music he helped create. The illustrations have the feel of graffiti art fitting to the topic and go with the text well without either feeling out of place or taking over the overall feel of the book. This is a wonderfully informative book that includes a bibliography for people who want to know more and a timeline of important events in hip hop in the 1970s and 80s.
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By Vandella on January 17, 2015
Format: Hardcover
This is the masterfully told story of the kid that popularized hip-hop, DJ Kool Herc. This easy reader is engaging. It tells the life story of Clive, a boy that came from Kingston, Jamaica to New York with an idea of how to express rap, rhyme and break dancing. This book expresses emotions, determination and creativity as Clive is transformed into the kind of DJ he wants to be. From rocking his first party, creating his own crew of rappers, to a national personality and recording artist, there is so much music history on the pages and well characterized in the paintings on every page. The book also contains a chronology of DJ Kool Herc’s hip hop journey and life changing remarks from the author. This book is a Coretta Scott King Award Winner.
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When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop (Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent)
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