Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Roots of Rap: Hip Hop & Childhood Meet, by Carole Boston Weatherford (ages 4-14)

"Bro!
This is actually kinda cool -- all about the artists who shaped hip hop.
Oh, it rhymes!
Is this supposed to be a song? a rap?
Bro, that's hecka cool!"
   -- Aya, 9th grade, reading The Roots of Rap
My high school students have loved reading The Roots of Rap. Frank Morrison's dynamic illustrations pull them in, and then Carole Boston Weatherford's text lays down the knowledge. This is a terrific new picture book to share with young readers all the way through high schoolers. I'm honored to have Carole share a little about how rap has inspired her.
The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Simon & Schuster / Little Bee, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-14
“Hip-hop and rap aren’t often featured in children’s books,” Swizz Beatz writes in his introduction. And yet, this music speaks to our children, fills their lives. With this picture book, Weatherford helps children see that their music springs from a long tradition of poetry and music. As Weatherford writes, "hip-hop is poetry at its most powerful."

I am honored to have Carole Boston Weatherford here to share a little about how hip-hop and rap have inspired her, and what planted the seeds for this picture book.

THE ROOTS OF RAP: HIP HOP & CHILDHOOD MEET
reflection by Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator Frank Morrison’s oil paintings in the book have a vibrancy and vitality that borders on virtuosity. He honors hip hop legends and luminaries and shows the four pillars of graffiti, b-boying/breakdancing, emceeing and deejaying. I linger over the spreads showing youthful expression through hip hop, a culture young people are inventing.
Just as my son and daughter (now young adults) reintroduced me in the 1990s to children’s books, they also hipped me to the hip hop of the day on BET and urban radio. At Super Jam, my first rap concert, I tagged along as chaperone to my daughter and her friend. Was I in for a shock!? Unlike the jazz and R&B concerts that I attended, there were no bands at Super Jam--only a deejay scratching and the emcees spitting rhymes.

Then, there were the CDs that son and daughter bought. They’d mute explicit lyrics, so as not to offend their mother. Although their censorship meant that I rarely heard entire songs, I found much to like—especially cuts featuring choruses of children. Some of those pulsate with positivity. Here are a few of my favorites:
Enjoy this trailer for Roots of Rap:
Thank you, Carole, for sharing a little peek into what led to this book. Illustrations copyright ©2019 Frank Morrison, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Simon & Schuster / Little Bee. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Carter Reads the Newspaper, by Deborah Hopkinson -- important and timely picture book biography (ages 6-10)

It is essential that we teach Black History throughout the year, especially celebrating Black History Month in February. And yet, do we stop to ask who had the idea to create this special celebration? I highly recommend sharing Carter Reads the Newspaper with your children, and beginning a conversation about why it is so important to honor and learn about Black history.
Carter Reads the Newspaper
by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate
Peachtree, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 6-10
*best new book*
Carter Woodson is known as the “father of Black history,” tirelessly encouraging others to study the history of Blacks in America. He was the second black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard, after W.E.B. DuBois. In February 1926, Woodson created Negro History Week in Washington, D.C.

Deborah Hopkinson helps young readers see Carter Woodson's journey, helping them relate to his passion for learning. Carter was born on a small farm, and his parents had both been born into slavery. His father made sure Carter went to school and believed in staying informed about the world. Because his father couldn't read, he asked Carter to read the newspaper to him.
"Carter was born on a small farm in Virginia in 1875,
ten years after the end of the Civil War."
When Carter took a coal mining job at age 16, he was inspired by a Civil War Veteran he met there, Oliver Jones, who invited the other workers to come to his home as a reading room. Once again, Carter read aloud to others, informing them what was in the paper. He saw that Oliver was an educated man, even though he could not read or write. And he saw the power of the men's commitment to freedom, equality and knowledge.

After three years working in the mines, Carter returned home to complete high school, go to college and become a teacher. At the age of 37, he earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. "Carter was the first and only Black American whose parents had been slaves to receive a doctorate in history."
Deborah Hopkinson helps young readers see the power of knowledge and the importance of sharing that knowledge, and she makes Carter a relatable character. I especially appreciate how she focuses on the challenges Woodson faced as a young boy, and what he learned from his family and mentors.

Don Tate's illustrations use warm earth-tones tones and the stylized characters convey the humanity of the situations without making the frightening moments overwhelming.

I highly recommend adding this book to your school or home library. It helps begin the conversation about why we celebrate Black History Month. For adults, I also found the following essay very informative: Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future The Continuing Importance of Black History Month, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Illustrations copyright ©2019 Don Tate, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Peachtree. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968, by Alice Faye Duncan (ages 8-12)

As we get ready to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I want to share a powerful new book about his work. Alice Fay Duncan's powerful picture book gives context for King's work, helps explain his assassination, and provides inspiration to keep dreaming big.
Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968
by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Calkins Creek / Highlights, 2018
Amazon / your local library
ages 8-12
*best new book*
We often talk about Dr. King's legacy leading nonviolent protests and fighting for civil rights, but I'm not sure we talk enough about his commitment to fight for workers' rights for fair wages and better working conditions.
"Men, women and children contributed to the strike in 1968. Whole families sacrificed their comforts. They suffered for the cause. However, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paid the highest cost. He gave his life to the struggle for freedom and justice."
Duncan brings young readers into this story centering it on Lorraine Jackson, whose father was a striking sanitation worker. Duncan bases her character on Dr. Almella Starks-Umoja, whose father helped organize the strike. The author deftly moves between helping readers connect to Lorraine and providing information about the bigger issues at stake.
"I remember Memphis and legions of noblemen.
I remember broken glass and the voice of a fallen King."
As the story begins, we learn about the sanitation workers' strike and the tragic deaths of two black garbagemen because of old, unsafe equipment. "Daddy told Mama, 'It ain't right to die like that.' Mama shook her head, and I saw a new storm rising up. I saw it in their eyes." This detail helps young readers feel the tension and understand the injustices. Throughout, Duncan highlights the dedicated efforts of community and the personal cost of striking.
"My daddy marched in that number. He marched for better pay. He marched for decent treatment. My daddy marched for me."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis to help the striking men, inspiring them to keep fighting for better pay and working conditions. Through young Lorraine's voice, Duncan tells about King's "Poor People's Crusade" to fight for the working poor, using the Memphis strike to draw national attention to the larger problems.

I especially appreciate Duncan's poetic language throughout, both in her prose and poems:
  • "But as Daddy's soles wore think on his mountain climb, there came a spark of light. Good news filled the air."
  • "Since Martin had conquered giants in the valley of injustice, Reverend Lawson believed his powerful friend could help the striking men."
  • "I was there on that stormy night Dr. King returned. Clouds blotted out stars in the Memphis sky. Wind whipped through the bending trees."
Illustrations copyright ©2018 R. Gregory Christie, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books