Friday, October 31, 2008

Hip Hop Speaks to Children

A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat edited by Nikki Giovanni. Sourcebooks, 2008. Review copy. This is a rich book of poetry with an accompanying CD that includes background explanations, poems read by the original writers, excerpts from storytelling and speeches, blues, song, rhymes and rap. In Giovanni's interview with Tony Cox on NPR a few weeks ago she explains why the book covers such a broad range all under the label of hip hop. She goes back through the history of Black oratory, music, and poetry, showing how hip hop has legitimate roots in the Biblical storytelling of churches and the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. In another interview on NPR on October 13 she says,
"It's not religious what we're trying to do; we're trying to deal with the cultural end of it," Giovanni says. "So if we have a young, Jewish kid in East Point, North Carolina, who has no occasion to go into a black church, they can now begin to understand, 'Oh, this is where that cadence comes from.' That the history is going to be there, and they can enjoy it without having to compromise their religious beliefs."
I've been reading the book and listening to the CD with my sons and we are really enjoying it. I am glad they get the chance to hear the included works by Eloise Greenfield, Jacqueline Woodson, A Tribe Called Quest, Gary Soto, Kanye West, Sugarhill Gang, Queen Latifah, Oscar Brown, Jr., Walter Dean Meyers, and Paul Laurence Dunbar among others. My favorite poem in the collection is not on the CD, however. There are several poems by Langston Hughes that are read by the poet, but this one, which I particularly love, can only be read off the page:

Harlem Night Song

by Langston Hughes

let us roam the night together

I love you.
Across The Harlem roof-tops
moon is shining
night sky is blue
stars are great drops
of golden dew.

Down the street
a band is playing
I love you.

let us roam the night together

This is a really wonderful collection that will be enjoyed for years.

Other reviews:

Nikki Giovanni will be at the Multicultural Children's Book Festival in Washington DC this Saturday, Nov. 1. If you can make it there, GO!

The Friday Poetry round up is over at Poetry for Children today. Enjoy!


Sylvia Vardell said...

I really liked HIP HOP too and planned to post my review on Tuesday-- even though so many great reviews are out there! Thanks for participating in Poetry Friday at PoetryforChildren this Halloween! Stop by any time...

Mary Lee said...

I think I'll be the last person on the planet to see/hear this book! The more reviews I read, the more I know I'm going to like it!