Friday, November 21, 2008

Poetry Friday: Hip Hop Speaks to Children

Hip Hop Speaks to Children with CD: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (A Poetry Speaks Experience) edited by Nikki Giovanni. Sourcebooks. 2008. Copy supplied by publisher. Sample pages and audio are at the publisher's website.

Poetry Friday roundup is at Holly Cupala's Blog.

Hip Hop Speaks to Children is from the same publisher as 2005's Poetry Speaks to Children (Book & CD) (Read & Hear).

Poetry and lyrics are presented with brightly colored, vibrant, and sometimes haunting illustrations. Many of the selections are also on the enclosed CD; some with music. Most are read by the person who wrote them.

The Good:

Giovanni's introduction reads like poetry: "When humans were beginning to develop our own language, separate from the growls and howls, separate from the buzz and the bird songs, we used rhythm: A sound and a silence. With no silence, the sound is cacophonous. With no sound, the silence is a lonely owl flapping her wings against the midnight sun seeking a careless mouse."

The poets in this book, I knew. But the musicians, not so much. I'm just not a music person. My brother-in-law, on the other hand loves music, especially Hip Hop and Rap. When he saw this on my table, he hounded me until I had finished reading it, listening to the CD, and writing this review.


He wanted it. He wanted to use it to help explain Hip Hop to his daughter and son. And just as I went "ooh ahh" over the index of authors who are poets, he nodded with familiarity at Mos Def (who I knew only as an actor) and Common.

In showing the historical and literary origins of Hip Hop, Giovanni has created a sure fire hit for both music lovers and poetry lovers.

So what is Hip Hop? I came away with more knowledge than I had from a brief listen on the radio or seeing musicians at award shows. It is "bold, boastful and brave." I loved the poems; the illustrations; but most of all, I loved the combination with the audio CD, as the words came alive. I have to confess -- the brother-in-law had to wait an extra couple of weeks for the book, because I was listening to the CD over and over during my commute. I opened my iTunes to download some songs, and will be borrowing some of my brother-in-law's CDs.

I liked the inclusion of both well-known poems (Gwendolyn Brooks' We Real Cool) and ones that are less familiar (Langston Hughes' Harlem Night Song: Come/Let us roam the night together/Singing/I love you).

Giovanni's own work is included, with my current favorite:

Ego Tripping.
I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad.
This is a must-own, both in libraries and for personal collections of poetry lovers and music lovers. The holidays are coming up; this would make a perfect gift.

Fun bonus feature:

Video clip, by publisher. Nikki Giovanni speaks about the book:

This book is a gem, but hardly a hidden gem. There have been a ton of great reviews. so I'll just list a few:
Omnivoracious (using this book to teach poetry to children)
Poetry for Children
A Wrung Sponge
A Fuse #8 Production at SLJ
A Year of Reading

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