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

UPDATE TIME: 2018-05-23 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 48 user ratings

"I decided to write a review of this book for January because I think it's a great way to return from the holidays and jump into something creative and fun. Sure, National Poetry Month is in April, but most US school systems probably include poetic/figurative language much earlier than that. In our state, we are preparing for the dreaded testing in April, so poetry gets pushed waaayyy back on the burner.

This book includes a CD with some poems read by the original poets, including LANGSTON HUGHES and GWENDOLYN BROOKS! Excuse me for screaming, but how wonderful for 21st century students to actually hear great American poets read from their own work. Not all of the poems in the book are on the CD, which leads to my teaching idea: a classroom poetry slam!

Teachers can allow students to listen to as many poems as they'd like on the CD as a model for "performing" poems. I'd suggest allowing students to either read another poet's work and interpret it OR write and perform their own original poem. While preparing for the poetry slam, teachers should expose students to lots and lots of poetry...this book is a great jumpstart, but inudate the class with lots of poetry books. Make the slam fun with snacks and allow the students to "dress up" in cool hipster outfits if they choose...tams and sunglasses anyone??

Hip Hop Speaks to Children would also make a wonderful supplement and/or jumpstart to Black History Month. The introduction, "Stories in Rhythm," by the awesome Nikki Giovanni is a lesson in itself.

About the only problem I have with this lively picture book is its subtitle, "A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat." Doesn't all poetry have "a beat"? But that's a discussion for adults who write curriculum and define genres perhaps. Children usually find the beat to all types of poems and they'll definitely find the rhythm in these.
" said.

"This book/cd is a must-have! Children will be encouraged to put their words to poetry and beats. Teachers will be encouraged to allow the artists to speak to children. I highly recommend this book, especially for children who are reluctant poetry readers. (I should know, I used to be one of them!) Hip Hop Speaks to Children makes poetry fun, incredibly accessible, and meaningful for children.

Age Level: 8 and up Grade Level: 3 and up


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... (the volume) 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 ... this is an interesting, worthwhile collection.


Art and Music


Collaborations in Poetry Writing: Choose a poem from the book to be used as a "model." Each member of the class should write a line of poetry base on rules set by teacher or class as a whole.

" said.

"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!


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.
" said.

"Junior Book Critique #17

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat
Edited By: Nikki Giovanni

1. Junior Book Genre: Poetry

2. Brief Summary: Nikki Giovanni, a world renowned poet and author, compiles a brilliant selection of poetry that celebrates not only hip hop but the use of rhythm and rhyme in traditional poetry itself. Giovanni gives a wonderful introduction to the history of hip hop and the correlation to the world of poetry. Through the use of vivid and bright illustrations each poem gives life to the world of hip hop and the culture of poetry and expression. Accompanied with a CD that features a number of the poems from the book recorded by the artist or poet himself/herself students have an opportunity to not only read wonderful poems but also hear how the author intended them to be heard! The poems are rich with feeling, culture, life experiences and joy and each represent the remarkable contributions of poets today.
A. Area for comment: There is no question that the poems themselves are the highlight of this book as it features different poems and illustrations that only make the poems stand out more!
B. Professional Evaluation: Hip Hop Speaks to Children is a magnificent collaboration of poems put together by world renowned poet Nikki Giovanni that features nearly 60 poems from a number of famous poets. The poems accompanied with brilliant illustrations all speak to the joy and wonder of poetry and can inspire students to appreciate the works of others. Along with the CD that highlights nearly 30 of the poems read by the artists themselves students have the ability to truly hear poetry the way it was intended to be heard. Overall, this book is not only filled with excellent illustrations but also with the works of great poets making it a must read for all students!
C. Specific Example: The culture of hip hop is one that intrigues most students and Nikki Giovanni does an excellent job at compiling the great works of renowned poets and artists. There are far too many examples of the excellent poems featured in this book but of them all one of my favorites can be found on page 18 entitled “People Equal” by James Berry – the rhythm of the poems is captivating and the message is one of great importance to all students!

4. Curriculum Connection: Since Hip Hop Speaks to Children also features a CD of the artists and poets reading their works it allows students to truly hear the author’s intentions in regards to their poetry!! Students will have the opportunity to experience the true joy of poetry and learn how the rhythm of poems can truly impact an audience. Students can then practice writing their own poems and/or comparing the poems found in the book with more traditional or free verse poetry. Students can also choose a favorite poem and research the poet/artist and present their findings to the classroom.
" said.

"I received Hip Hop Speaks to Children edited by Nikki Giovanni from Danielle at Sourcebooks, and Giovanni continues to make television and radio experiences about the book.

Poetry often has an internal rhythm like everyday speech does, and Hip Hop has taken that rhythm and modified it to create a modern day form of poetry, which engages younger generations and children by making poetry fun.

This book came with an audio CD, which you can use to read along with the book or skip around in the book to a variety of poems, and the CD also includes separate introductions to various pieces.

The book touts the talents of Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks, Eloise Greenfield, Maya Angelou, Queen Latifah, Young MC, and many others. The audio CD has poems read aloud, poems set to music, and some poems are sung. When I first started reading this book and listened to the CD at the same time, I was a bit confused because the poems on the CD were not in sequential order with the book. Then I realized that the poems on the CD have headphone designations and track numbers--check out the sample page to the right.

The beats would make any kid want to get up and dance, and I think the idea of incorporating music with the poetry will keep kids interested. It also makes it easier for children to follow along on their own, which makes this book something parents can sit with their children and work alongside them or set those kids off on their own with the book and CD in hand.

The illustrations are modern, abstract, crisp, and impressionistic and closely relate to the subject matter of each poem. Check out the page for Rapper's Delight, which is a poem/song from the Sugarhill Gang.

The introduction to the poem is read by Nikki Giovanni and helps explain where the inspiration for the poem/song came from. I found that to be the most captivating introduction.

Queen Latifah makes an appearance in the book and on the audio CD as well. One of my favorites from the CD is Dat Dere by Oscar Brown, Jr., which was inspired by is "inquisitive child" asking questions about everything.

We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks is read by the poet, which is followed by a live performance with Nikki Giovanni, Oni Lasana, and Val Gray Ward "hamboning" the poem. I remember the inherent sadness in this poem from middle school, and it still stirs up emotions, particularly hearing it when read aloud.

About Nikki Giovanni: (Picture at Left)

Nikki Giovanni is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. Over the past thirty years, her outspokenness, in her writing and in lectures, has brought the eyes of the world upon her. One of the most widely-read American poets, she prides herself on being "a Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English." Giovanni remains as determined and committed as ever to the fight for civil rights and equality. Always insisting on presenting the truth as she sees it, she has maintained a prominent place as a strong voice of the Black community. Her focus is on the individual, specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus, in the lives of others.
" 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.

"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.

August 2018 New Book:

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