cover image Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat

, , illus. by Kristen Balouch, Michele Noiset et al. . Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, $19.99 (72pp) ISBN 978-1-4022-1048-8

Like its companion volume, Poetry Speaks to Children , this eclectic collection is accompanied by a lively CD; the focus is on hip-hop, broadly defined as “poetry with a beat.” In practice, Giovanni’s definition yields a diverse crop of poems chiefly by African-Americans. Not all the works have a strong beat: the quiet lyricism of Hope Anita Smith has little in common with the pronounced rhythms of the Sugarhill Gang. The volume includes not only contemporary artists like Mos Def and Queen Latifah but poets from the Harlem Renaissance, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Elizabeth Swados. Even an edited version of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is offered. Altogether, there are 51 selections from 42 poets, with about 30 performances on the CD, some original to the collection. The illustrations, by six different artists, compete for attention in a crowded design; readers may be better off availing themselves of the CD, which, with its archival recordings of poems read by the poets themselves, reminds everyone that poetry springs from an oral tradition. Ages 6–up. (Oct.)