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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Early Chapter Book Review: Little Shaq

This high-quality early reader is strongly recommended for 1st-3rd graders who enjoy basketball or struggling readers from higher grades.

Little Shaq, written by Shaquille O’Neal, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
Bloomsbury Children’s, New York, 2015.
Early Chapter Book autobiographical fiction, 73 pages
Lexile: 520L
AR level: 3.4 (worth 0.5 points)

I got this book as a gift from a list of requests I made.  Husband and I are either indifferent to or dislike most organized sports but the kids love basketball, so I added this title without knowing too much about it.

This book is the first in what is now a series of early chapter books by famed NBA player Shaquille O’Neal (so famous even I have heard of him).  Originally I was surprised not to see a ghostwriter or a co-author credited on a book by an athlete, but upon reading the conclusion, I was happy to see that Mr. O’Neal has an MBA and a P.Hd. in education.  He also has been heavily involved in the Boys and Girls Club and has children of his own, so he is undoubtedly familiar with the limited books available for early chapter book readers of color.

This book focuses on Shaq and his cousin Barry, who also happen to be best friends.  Sure, Shaq might be better at basketball, and maybe even a little better at their favorite video game.  But as neighbor Rosa is quick to point out, that doesn’t mean Barry shouldn’t get a chance to shoot for a basket or his turn to be player 1.  When the video game breaks during their disagreement, the boys have to figure out a way to earn enough money to buy a new one.

little-shaq
Little Shaq, the first in a series of high-quality early chapter book readers from an amazing team.

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