Review: When the Beat Was Born

“Kool Herc’s music made everybody happy. Even street gangs wanted to dance, not fight.” p. 19

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When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III.
Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2013.
Elementary to middle grade picture book biography, 30 pages.
Winner of the 2014 John Steptoe Award for New Talent
Lexile:  AD910L  (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 0.5 points)

Have you ever heard of DJ Kool Herc?  He was a Jamaican immigrant who was instrumental in the development of hip-hop.  Step into his world and learn how hip-hop came to be with this picture book biography.

When the Beat was Born cover 2

While I’m sure an avid fan of hip-hop would get more out of this book, I was pleasantly surprised by how accessible it was to myself as a not-so-musical person.  Context is given to everything that makes it understandable, and the pictures and words work in beautiful harmony.

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Review: Everything, Everything

Despite the author’s good intentions, this book is definitely not recommended.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.
Alloy Entertainment, Random House Children’s Books, New York, 2015.
YA realistic fiction, 311 pages.
Lexile:  HL610L (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  4.4 (worth 7.0 points)
NOTE: This is a teen read, not intended for 3rd or 4th graders despite the reading level!

Madeline has a rare disorder known as SCID – which amounts to being so allergic to the world around her that she can never leave her house.  And with the internet, books, a nurse who is also a friend, and silly game nights with her mother, she doesn’t need to go anywhere.  Until Olly’s family moves in next door.

everything-everything

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Review: We Can!

The earliest readers need diverse books too! Here’s one appropriate for the beginning reader.

We Can! (also titled If You Can, I Can) by Gay Su Pinnell, illustrated by Barbara Duke.
Scholastic, New York, 2002.
Realistic fiction, 9 pages.
Lexile: BR  (What does BR mean in Lexile?)
AR: not leveled
NOTE: Intended for the earliest beginning readers, a later edition is titled If You Can, I Can.

We Can is the sweet story of two non-white brothers, told in extremely simple words with pictures carrying most of the story, for the earliest of pre-readers and beginning readers.

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We Can! by Gay Su Pinnell, Illustrated by Barbara Duke.

I was delighted to find a nice selection of early readers at a local thrift store.  It is incredibly difficult to find a good batch of books at this level in general, let alone culturally appropriate and diverse books, so I quickly sorted through the stack to find any that had diverse characters.  At a dollar each, this particular store was a little expensive for pre-readers (most places sell used ones for 50 cents down even as low as 10 cents, especially for used books which have writing and highlighting in them as some of these did), so I wanted to only select those that I might not find elsewhere.

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Web: Zero Discrimination Day

Have you heard of Zero Discrimination Day?

It began as a program promoting healthcare access for people with HIV worldwide.

But people were interested and it began taking on a larger meaning, and now is a day aimed at ending all forms of discrimination.  (PDF)

I had never heard of this until a friend shared it with me yesterday, and with today being Website Wednesday, it was the perfect time to share this information with all of you!

zero-discrimination-day

My favorite article is this one from UpWorthy with 19 big and small things you can do for Zero Discrimination Day.  They have a list of recommended children’s books, signs, and information on simple ways to help people being harassed and stand up for diversity.

A new website that I in particular found very helpful and interesting was Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice.  It lists a lot of different ways to advocate for change at various levels and in different areas of our lives.

Of course, one way that bibliophiles can help is by reading diversely, promoting diverse books, and putting our book money towards new diverse books (this is the goal with my Target Picks).

While diversity and discrimination prevention should never be limited to one day a year, I also love days like this that give us opportunities to share resources and reach out to those who might not otherwise be thinking about diversity.

This year for Zero Discrimination Day, my family will be reading books from cultures we’re not very familiar with yet and reflecting on how we can be more inclusive of others this week.

Have you ever heard of Zero Discrimination Day before?  Do you plan to celebrate?

I’d love to hear how your day goes!

Board Book Review: The Snowy Day

Starting our diverse board book library out right, The Snowy Day is our first board book for baby!

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.
Viking, the Penguin group, board book edition 1996.
Picture book realistic fiction adapted to board book format, 30 pages.

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The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Board Book Edition

When we found out about Baby, of course there was a lot to do to get ready.  But one thing stuck in my head, bibliophile that I am – we didn’t have any board books!  Well, a few that the younger ones use for church, but not much for regular reading.  I didn’t quite get it together enough to have books ready before he arrived (practicalities came first), but the first week of the new year, I got busy!

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Review: Extra Credit

An interesting idea but a lackluster novel.

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mark Elliott.
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 183 pages.
Lexile:  830L
AR Level:  5.3 (worth 5.0 points)

Abby is a smart sixth grader who could care less about homework but is obsessed with mountain climbing.  Sadeed is the top of his school in Afghanistan, living right next to real life mountains.  When Abby’s about to flunk 6th grade, she has an emergency project to complete – write to a pen pal in another country.  What starts off as a quick project turns into a real connection.

extra-credit-cover

The premise seemed to work okay, but as I often feel with two-person stories, one side was definitely lacking.  The chapters about Abby had a lot more realism and detail.  Sadeed’s chapters started off strong but while the premise was interesting, seemed to lack the specifics and connection that would have made me care about him.  Even when his village was undergoing a lot of problems, it just felt dramatic and not real.  The scenes with him and his sister were probably the best on his side.

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Catching Up

Hello all,

We had a family emergency, so although I had posts written for the last two Fiction Fridays, I didn’t have them set to auto-publish and wasn’t able to do it in the midst of events.

I’m slowly catching up on all manner of things and trying to decide if I will just start fresh this week or try to backdate some of the posts I had planned for the last two weeks.  If I do, I’ll edit this post to link them below.

Thanks for reading!

Edited to Add:

2/10/2017 – A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane.

2/17/2017 – The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

2/24/2017 – Extra Credit by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mark Elliott.

I decided just to post the Fiction Friday books (since I have a fiction review backlog) and will post the others another time.  The family challenge took another turn so I had to backdate another week.  Hopefully this coming week I’ll be able to post on time, even if I have to schedule it!