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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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Top Customer Reviews
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:
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
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.
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!
Loneliness, anger and sadness are feelings that every child knows. More often than not, however, a child is not given or taught an appropriate way to express these strong emotions. The written word is a powerful tool ,that perhaps if given to children, would allow them to positively cleanse themselves and possibly even spark that creative fire that smolders within each soul. Hop Hop Speaks to Children is a positive collection of such emotional expressions. It does not matter what color your skin is, what nationality, race, economic position, size or shape a person is, the written word transcends each and every boundary. With Hip Hop Speaks to Children, you can introduce and excite children to celebrate within the written expression and beat and rhythm of words. I greatly enjoyed this collection and highly recommend it to everyone.
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. Contemporary rap videos with their gold chains and loose ladies? Forget `em. That's not the real stuff. The raps found in this book have history, humor, and a delicious awareness of the feel of a word. 51 poems/speeches/raps find their way into this collection with an accompanying CD of some of the hip hop, and an in-depth series of small biographies of all the performers.
Watch someone page through the book and make note of their little reactions. How they offer a little "Hmft!" of surprise when they hit the Kanye West selection (a pity THAT's not on the CD). If they're a librarian they might coo to finally get to hear Calef Brown (an author/illustrator of whom I'm particularly fond) laying down a track to "Funky Snowman". And certainly kids of my generation will do a double take when they get to the selection from "Rapper's Delight". Plucking out "selections" is how the book gets around a lot of the lines in some songs that might be seen as not entirely kid-friendly. But I don't think there's anyone out there who's gonna object to "i dont mean to brag i dont mean to boast / but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast." The beauty of the selection is how it works in contemporary names with historical ones. You might turn the page and find yourself getting down to a little Mos Def right before dwelling on some Langston Hughes. It's not just hip hop artists or poets of the past either. There are people like contemporary poet and children's author Charles R. Smith whole tackles his own poem "Allow Me to Introduce Myself" on the CD. And I was relieved to find that Ms. Giovanni includes a couple of her own near the end as well.
The selections in here are great too. I've heard artist Ashley Bryan do Eloise Greenfield's "Things" and it's a poem that rings resoundingly in the ear. A great way to begin any collection, I can tell you. Then to follow it directly up with Jacqueline Woodson's "Hip Hop Rules the World", a poem that links the beat with the fact that it really IS poetry, that's keen. Really, the pairings here can be inspired. Who else would think to put Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool" alongside Claude McKay's "If We Must Die". Both discuss our mortality, one as a disregard for life and one as a full-throttle objection against death. No one has come up with a truly great Harlem Renaissance compendium for children yet, but if they did they might want to take a page out of Hip Hope Speaks to Children so as to determine which selections to choose.
The selected performers are ideal and really there was only one gap that I could see. I was a little surprised not to see any poems or raps by Sonia Sanchez in this book, truth be told. Hip Hop certainly owes as much to Ms. Sanchez's raw energy and eclectic beats as it does to any Young MC or Tribe Called Quest. Particularly when you take into account Ms. Giovanni's history with Sanchez, it seems a funny omission in an otherwise encompassing collection. Other missing raps are fine by me. I half-wondered when picking this book up for the first time whether or not Will Smith's "Parents Just Don't Understand" would make the cut. Then I remembered the line about the girl in his car moving her hand slowly up his thigh and... riiiiight.
One of the highpoints of any Sourcebooks' title is the accompanying CD. The audible element to the book is integral to the enjoyment. Literature can be an entirely visual experience but poetry, rhyme, and rhythm are best enjoyed when the ears get in on the action as well. The book will say what the track selection is for each poem featured on the disc, which is ideal for both teachers and kid readers alike.
I've discussed books by this company with other librarians in the past and we've all agreed that the only problem with Sourcebooks' titles are the illustrations. They're serviceable, no doubt. Get the job done, they do. But while the illustrators they got for this book are perfectly nice, they don't match the text. You may be reading the sharpest minds and pens of the 20th and 21st century, but they are paired with pictures that are merely nice, not extraordinary. I don't blame the artists necessarily because maybe this isn't indicative of their best work. The problem is that it should be. For future publications I do hope the Sourcebooks put as much effort into the art as the poetry/raps. The pictures here are more reminiscent of an illustrated elementary school Reading textbook than a groundbreaking book for kids.
As rap and hip hop slowly gains acceptance into the school and reading curriculum (I don't think it hurts matters any that the generations that grew up with it is now teaching our children) we need more books that kids can relate to. There are high school teachers sharing Tupac's poems with the students, which is certainly a nice enough start. But I think that it will be books like these that make the most impact in schools and at home. This is a great collection, woven together by an expert, and crafted with the best possible accompanying CD. Purchase of this book isn't optional. It's obligatory. And I, for one, am looking forward to more.
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.
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!