Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (A Poetry Speaks Experience) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-12-06 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 48 user ratings

" Excellent for Poem In My Pocket Day. Rappers Delight by Sugarhill Gang; Ladies First by Queen Latifah. CD is incredible. " said.

" Wow! This was a great jumping off point for a unit on Hip Hop for my 6th graders. It makes poetry cool and relevant to them. Best part--analyzing a Tupac poem with heart and accuracy. " said.

" Delightful book made even better by the included audio CD. Great variety of artists included, great way of sharing cultural history and poetry.Featured on No Extra Words podcast episode 109. " said.

" its gives a very sense of different poem that in the book with very detailed color and understanding the words especially for kids age very easy to read and take a sense of it. very recommend it for children they will like it " said.

" The poems are about a variety of subjects, many of which have a powerful and meaningful message. The poems are written by a very diverse group of people. I feel the reader will be encouraged to put their words into poetry and beats after being inspired by these poems. " said.

"Hip Hop Speaks to Children a poetry collection edited by Nikki Giovanni that collects poems “with a beat” from many different poets and topics, including many famous African American poets, musicians, and celebrities including Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Jacqueline Woodson, Tupac Shakur, Kanye West, Mos Def, and many others. Poem topics range from familiar scenes of school age children to poems of African American life and history in the U.S. An audio CD is included with the book to listen to some of the poems and songs The illustrations are of varying styles by various illustrators from cartoonish to more realistic to heavily stylized the illustrations are influenced by the theme and emotions each separate poem is meant to convey. However what they all have in common is colorful, action filled scenes that will draw in the attention of its young readers. This book is excellent for middle and upper elementary students who would appreciate the familiar topics, variety of poetry, and colorful illustrations. " said.

"Copyright- 2008
Number of Pages-72
Book format-hardcover
Reading Level-3 and older GR Level- N/A
Genre- Fiction
Lit. Requirement- Poetry- Anthology

Hip Hop Speaks to Children is a collection of poems about African American cultures. Some are about the history of African Americans, slavery, or music. All of the poems are by famous African American poets such as Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou and even famous singers and musicians such as, Kanye West, Queen Latifah, Tupac and many more. The poems are edited by Nikki Giovanni and her illustrations capture each poem's message so well. It was a brilliant collection of poems showing struggles of African Americans and triumphs. The last few pages were parts of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech. This book did not have a specific grade level but I could see it being for a wide range of children. Some of the poems are simple and rhyme, and others are longer and take more time to understand. It comes with an audio CD which can help readers understand it more by listening to it, or help them if it is harder for them to read. I really enjoyed this collection of poems and I would recommend it.
" said.

"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. 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 20th 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.

Ages 6 and up.
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