cover image Hip Hop Dog

Hip Hop Dog

Chris Raschka, , illus. by Vladimir Radunsky. . Harper, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-123963-2

Raschka (John Coltrane's Giant Steps ) supplies the verbal beats and Radunsky (What Does Peace Feel Like? ) sets the gritty scene in this story of a down-and-out dog made good. Like many hip-hop heroes, Hip Hop Dog reports a hardscrabble youth: “I come free, but no one needs me./ ... When I'm hungry, no one feeds me.” Wearing white judo pants and a black ball cap with the brim turned back, the scruffy gray-brown mutt paces among apartment buildings. He strikes a wide, threatening stance as showy dogs circle nervously: “When I spot a Weimaraner,/ Cocker spaniel, and a Shih Tzu,/ Taller, higher, smarter, blonder,/ Makes me bite and I could spit, too.” Yet he thrives on street life, and his improvised barks, growls, and break-dances earn respect. Like visual shouts and whispers, the emphatic sans serif typeface grows, punches, shrinks, and spirals on the pages. Raschka's edgy wordplay shows the dog's aimless anger shifting to a more optimistic focus as he finds his voice, and Radunsky's crude paint scribbles convey the proud dog's defiance. Readers seeking upbeat, noncorny children's hip-hop should sample these rhymes. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)