Monday, February 23, 2009

Review: Hip Hop Speaks to Children

The tagline of Hip Hop Speaks to Children describes the book perfectly - A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat. Edited by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by a team of five illustrators, this treasury is a feast of color and sound.

An audio CD is enclosed that features a range of poets reading their work from Langston Hughes to Queen Latifah. There are so many excellent poems, it is hard to choose a favorite. Often when you read poetry, you wonder if you are reading exactly what the poet intended. One of my favorites, "Books" by Eloise Greenfield is read by the author in the exact way I imagined it would be.

I've got
books on the bunk bed
books on the chair
books on the couch
And every old where
But I want more books
just can't get enough
want more books about
All kinds of stuff, like

Jackie's troubles. Raymond's joys
Rabbits, kangaroos, Girls and Boys
Mountains, valleys, Winter, spring
Camp fires, vampires

Every old thing
I want to
Lie down on my bunk bed!

Lean back in
my chair
Curl up on the
And every old

From recognized and honored poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and W.E.B. DuBois to today's musical artists such as Tupac Shakur and Stetsasonic, the range of experience captured by these African American writers is varied, rich, and deeply personal.

The book and CD culminate in Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech which we've heard much of recently during Barack Obama's election. It had been awhile since I'd heard the speech almost in its entirety. It gave me shivers. It was followed by a wonderful performance piece by Nikki Giovanni, Oni Lasana and Val Gray Ward based on the same speech.

This is a book that deserves to be pulled off the shelf again and again. The layers of meaning to these poems will unfold as a child grows older and more sophisticated. The book and CD together make a wonderful resource for home, school or library. It is truly one of the best books I've read this year.


Laura said...

Love it love it love it! I'm so glad I had a chance to read this one before we put it into circulation - I have a feeling I'm not going to see it again for a while.

Annie said...

Thanks for your comment, Laura. This book will do wonders for your circulation numbers.