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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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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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*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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