cover image Simon B. Rhymin’

Simon B. Rhymin’

Dwayne Reed with Ellien Holi, illus. by Robert Paul Jr. Little, Brown, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-316-53897-8

On the West Side of Chicago, Black fifth-grade rapper Simon Barnes, 11, also known as Rhymin’ Simon—or, as he’d prefer to be called, the Notorious D.O.G.—decides to focus on housing uncertainty for his back-to-school oral presentation at Booker T. Washington Elementary. After encountering Sunny Jackson, a kind elderly Black man who often sweeps trash outside Simon’s building, Simon begins to wonder more about the lives of the unhoused people in his community. With the support of his new teacher, the cheerful Mr. James, and his best friends, bespectacled Afro-Latina Maria Rivera and tall, anime-loving C.J. Jones, Simon starts visiting a nearby shelter to interview grandfatherly, always cheerful Sunny, once the lead singer of a blues band. Though Simon struggles with nerves and school bullies, his love for rap eventually empowers him to create positive change. Known as “Chicago’s rapping teacher,” Reed writes his characters with compassionate and keen insight, effectively conveying the transformative power of art, storytelling, and community. Simon’s freestyle rap lyrics, and grayscale cartoon-style illustrations of the cast by Paul, are interwoven throughout, adding layers of emotion, wit, and levity to this accessible debut. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Elizabeth Bewley, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Mar.) [/em]