When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc & the Creation of Hip Hop

WhenthBeatWasBorn

Image Credit: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids), Laban Carrick Hill/Theodore Taylor III

 

When the Beat Was Born is the perfect example of how a “picture book” can be used to explore current events, modern history and socially relevant topics. Laban Carrick Hill gives us just enough to peak our interest in hip hop history.

The story begins in Kingston, Jamaica in the 70s with Clive Campbell’s budding passion for music. Though he was too young, he wanted to go to the awesome house parties thrown by DJ King George. He also admired his enormous records collection. Soon he moved to NYC with his mom and though he didn’t fit in at first, he was great at sports, grew to be a large boy and gained the nickname “Kool Herc.” His dad bought an impressive sound system for the house and he began spinning and filled the Bronx with his sound. Next thing he new, he was throwing parties and people were coming from all over NYC. People danced during the breaks (break dancing) and soon enough, he was a DJ…and hip hop was born!

At the back of the book, Hill adds his own reflections and personal experience with the early days of hip hop. This personalization really adds something special to the book. There’s also a nifty hip hop timeline that puts everything in place historically; there were multiple players who contributed to the creation of hip hop as we know it today. Theodore Taylor III’s illustrations are funky and bold and bring the parties to life. The dark colors he uses create the feeling of a nighttime party and a dark, thriving club scene.

When the Beat Was Born is great for hip hop heads, for hip hop heads who just had a baby, for hip hop head teachers who want their kids to learn about the origins of hip hop and for any person who wants to learn something new! 🙂  The possibilities of this book are endless for any history and music lover. Check out this book and be inspired to look up the origins of hip hop!

Recommended for: 2nd Grade and up
Great for: History, Diversity, African-American, We Need Diverse Books, Music, Hip Hop, DJ, Music History, Social Issues, Community, Pop Culture, Biography, Non-Fiction
Book Info: When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill/Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, 2013 Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids), ISBN: 9781596435407

Mole Music

MoleMusic2

Image Credit: Square Fish (Henry Holt and Company (Macmillan)), David McPhail

We may doubt ourselves and our abilities BUT, someone may be watching, learning and being inspired by what we do. We never know the effect we have on others.

In Mole Music, Mole is a proper mole (he digs and digs) but his life is rather mundane; he becomes lonely and searches for something new. On TV one night, he sees a man playing violin and decides that he wants to make beautiful music too. After many sour notes and years of practice, Mole becomes an extremely talented and beautiful musician but he thinks his music will never reach anyone. Little does he know his music soothes. He has a power that he doesn’t even realize; a power to unite people through music! Maybe one day he’ll leave his hole and see how much good he brings the world. I certainly hope he does and I hope he continues to make his music for himself as well.

McPhail’s watercolor and ink illustrations are lovely and I love Mole’s rotund body, cute snout and his fat fingers. The illustrations show two worlds at once to make one story. As we see Mole’s life, we can also see the effects his music has on the world above him. A sapling grows into a mighty tree and animals and humans are drawn to that spot. This is a great book for music lovers and is also a great reminder of the power we all hold inside ourselves!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Animals, Diversity, Music, Discussion, Inspiration
Book Info: Mole Music by David McPhail, 1999 Square Fish (Henry Holt and Company (Macmillan)), ISBN: 9780805067668

 

A Handful of Stars

Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Cynthia Lord

Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Cynthia Lord

Sweet Summery Goodness is the best way to describe this novel. Cynthia Lord creates a story of friendship set in the backdrop of a blueberry field. It’s a quick read and like the star of a blueberry, this novel is star.

Lily lives with her grandparents and helps them out in their general store. Her dog Lucky is going blind but she desperately tries to save money to get his eyesight back. Her personality is a little uptight and she is doggedly (ha!) focused on her goals. One day, Lucky romps through a blueberry field and almost runs into the busy road but Salma, a young migrant worker, lures him back to safety with her sandwich. The friendship between these two young girls begins with Lucky and he binds them together.

I enjoyed this book so much because in addition to encouraging readers to step outside of their comfort zones/be more open-minded, it also discusses Mexican migrant workers and the troubles that families have settling into new places. Salma desperately wants to feel like she belongs, to establish roots and to have real friends. Lily learns how to view the world more vibrantly though her friendship with Salma. Their worlds combine and they are both better for having found each other.

Recommended for: Ages 11 and up
Great for: Friendship, Community, Diversity, Tween Life, Social Issues
Book Info: A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord, 2015 Scholastic Press, ISBN: 9780545700276

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Harper Teen, Patrick Ness

Image Credit: Harper Teen, Patrick Ness

Warm fuzzy socks. That’s how The Rest of Us Just Live Here made me feel when I finished it. It left me with a comfy feeling because Ness does an amazing job of characterization. I love his characters so much! Onion. That’s how I’d describe this novel due to its layers. On the surface, it’s an action-packed/end of the world thriller but more importantly it’s a coming of age novel. Their world is coming to an end and the “Indie Kids” (they fight the bad guys, are hipster and antisocial) are running around fighting evil while the normal kids try to make sense of everything that’s happening. They just want to graduate high school before the Indie Kids blow up the school…again.

The four main characters Mikey, Jared, Mel and Henna become wrapped up in the middle of all the disturbing events going on in their town, but as they learn more about what’s going on, they learn more about themselves, their relationships and how powerful they are. This novel is really about friendship. Sure we follow the action-packed scenes of the near apocalypse and wonder if another Indie Kid will die, but the heart of the story is how close the friends are and how real their love for each other is. Ness really delves into questions about first love, infatuation, sexuality, mental health, family life, trust and forgiveness. This one will stay with you.

P.S. The U.S. cover glows in the dark…Say What??  😉

Recommended for: Teens aged 14 and up
Great for: Friendship, Mental Health, Diversity, Coming of Age, Sci-fi, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Community, Family
Book Info: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, 2015 Harper Teen, ISBN: 9780062403162

People

Image Credit: Doubleday Books for Young Readers, Peter Spier

Image Credit: Doubleday Books for Young Readers, Peter Spier

People takes a snapshot of the world. This book has a lot of emotional meaning for me because it was one of my favorites as a child. I still have my original copy from 1980. Look what I wrote inside the front cover:

Image for People

I’ve always loved meticulous illustration and Peter Spier doesn’t miss any details. His bold and colorful illustrations of peoples, towns, foods and traditional games are amazing. People is essentially about cultural diversity. His simple sentences prompt reflection and discussion about our similarities and differences. Children learn about tolerance, humanity and how varied our cultures are. As I read through this book again, I thought “Well goodness, he taught me about cultural relativism!” I’m pretty certain that this book is one of the reasons why I studied cultural anthropology in college. It sparked an early interest in learning about all types of people.

Though there are many great things about this book, there are some problems. Some parents and teachers might not like that Adam and Eve are the first people in the book. Spier does a fair amount of cultural stereotyping with his illustrations and the book is rather dated in many ways. So why am I recommending this book? I’m recommending it because I believe that it’s still an excellent book that people of all ages can learn from. For his mistakes, he has many more successes and a book like this one is still a good resource for a curious child. Parents and teachers can use these stereotypes (ex. Native American houses in USA are teepees/The Japanese family always wears Kimono) as learning tools. By encouraging questions and prompting discussion about these issues, children can take away more valuable lessons. A teacher or parent can also challenge their children to “update” this book by having them choose a culture featured and research how they live today.

**I reviewed the 1980 version but there is a more updated version now available. Information below

Recommended for: 1st Grade and Up
Great for: Cultural Diversity, Cultural Relativism, Discussion, Anthropology
Book Info: People by Peter Spier, 1988, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780385244695

Maddi’s Fridge

Maddi's Fridge

Image Credit: Flashlight Press, Lois Brandt/Vin Vogel

Childhood hunger is a huge problem in the U.S. In 2014, 15.3 million kids lived in food insecure households; read more about it here. This is why books like Maddi’s Fridge are important. They are conversation starters and get kids thinking about how they can be more informed and how they can help those they care about. Diversity in children’s books, in my opinion, also includes books that “expand minds” and teach children about social issues. In many classrooms around the country, there are children like Maddi and close friends like Sophia. Brandt addresses these issues and includes helpful information at the end of the book about childhood hunger and how to help.

In Maddi’s Fridge, Maddi and Sophia are best friends but one day Sophia notices Maddi only has a bottle of milk in her fridge and a loaf of bread. Maddi is embarrassed and makes her promise not to tell anyone. When Sophia gets home, she can’t help but look at the abundance of food in her fridge and think about her friend’s situation. Sophia keeps trying to bring food to school for her friend but…some foods aren’t meant to be kept in a backpack all day! Maddi also helps Sophia in the best way a friend can; through encouragement and support. This is one of my favorite books about friendship because it is quietly powerful and memorable. Vogel’s bright comic-style digital art illustrations add a charm to the book. Teachers and parents, keep an eye on this book for your little ones.

Recommended for: All ages especially 1st grade and up
Great for: Social issues, Discussion, Diversity, Classroom, Volunteering, Friendship, Poverty, Homelessness, Sharing
Book Info: Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt/Illustrated by Vin Vogel, 2014 Flashlight Press, ISBN: 9781936261291