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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hip Hop Speaks to Children, edited by Nikki Giovanni. Sourcebooks, 2008. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Poetry with a beat. That's hip hop in a flash. One part story, one part rhythm. And just like the church congregations from hundreds of years ago, listening to the "Call and Response," the people embrace the rhythm and remember the stories.

...Today there is hip hop everywhere. All over this world."

I sat in the porch, on a warm sunny day, and listened over and over again to these rhythms collected and edited by the amazing Nikki Giovanni. I thought it would give me a feeling for the hip hop cadence of some of the most notable poets and writers, and I was right! My toes were tapping, my head was bobbing and I was following along, hearing how these poems sound when gifted and talented performers share them. The CD is remarkable!

What an addition to my poetry collection, and it is a book I will share in the classrooms I visit in the coming school year. Many poets are included and the performances are often given by the poets special to hear. The illustrations burst with joy and share the same exuberance and rhythm as the chosen poems. They are meant to be read by middle graders, but go well beyond that and should be shared with both younger and older listeners. I loved the variety in the selections and reading them aloud with family or in classrooms will have everyone enjoying the beauty of the words and the rhythms of the language. They run the gamut from playful delight to sombre reflection and are each worthy of inclusion.

Here's one that I genuinely enjoyed and had not read previously:

"Funky Snowman

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!

Calef Brown"

Many talented poets have a place in this anthology...Eloise Greenfield, Walter Dean Myers, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Nikki Grimes, Queen Latifah and Tupac Shakur to name a few. It is historical, funky, funny, emotional, and it opens our hearts and minds to the sounds of lovely language, the power of the hip hop beat, and the emotional resonance of poetry as a way of expressing ourselves. The back matter provides additional information about the poets and the musicians whose work is included and adds interest.

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