This is a fun picture book biography about one of the first hip hop DJs. It shows how DJ Kool Herc grew up in Jamaica, moved to the Bronx, and found a...moreThis is a fun picture book biography about one of the first hip hop DJs. It shows how DJ Kool Herc grew up in Jamaica, moved to the Bronx, and found a way to make dance parties even more fun. DJ Kool Herc was more of a facilitator and less a musician, but he definitely made important contributions. He introduced a new way to spin records, making the breaks last longer for "break" dancers and he popularized something DJs in Jamaica were doing: "toasting" or chanting over the beat when they played records, which evolved into what we call rapping.
There's an author's note in the back with a timeline that will put Herc's story in context for young readers. I guess I do have one criticism, which is the author's examples of how popular hip hop has become:
"...no one could have imagined that a few desperately poor kids would reinvent American culture. Who could have imagined that a hip hop/jazz infusion group called The Roots would become the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon? Who could have imagined that rap would fuse with African High Life into an all-new musical form called Hip Life? Who could have imagined that a rapper would be invited to perform at the White House?"
Hip hop is insanely popular and the best examples the author could come up with are the house band on a late night TV show and a musical form I've never heard of? Come on! The White House example is excellent. The other two, not so much. He should have picked more meaningful examples, like how Jay-Z has had more number one albums than any other solo artist in U.S. history. Kids are not impressed by Jimmy Fallon or Hip Life (whatever that is).
I really loved the first 90% of this book, and then felt a little let down by the ending. It's not that the ending was bad, but I had built up certain...moreI really loved the first 90% of this book, and then felt a little let down by the ending. It's not that the ending was bad, but I had built up certain expectations during my reading that weren't met. I don't think it's quite a spoiler to say that I wanted to know so much more about the Night Gardener himself. As I've said in many a review, a shallowly developed villain character always gets my goat. If an author takes the time to flesh out the villain, to give him a compelling back story, it takes a book to the next level (Voldemort, am I right?).
Still, it's a great scary read for kids. The mood reminded me of the fabulous Splendors and Glooms, but is more likely to gain a wider readership because it's not as dense or stylized.
I'd love to share this with my young readers club someday because Molly, Kip, Penny, and Alistair are all such interesting kids. It would be great to hear what the kids think about how they change and what motivates them. Also, the quote about the difference between stories and lies (stories reveal the truth and lies hide the truth) has a lot to unpack.
Also, in closing, I must say that this is basically Faust for kids. (Only Faust is a tree.)(less)
I had a hard time getting into this book because I knew what was coming (Hurricane Katrina) and all the pre-storm plot seemed slow and cruel to me. Th...moreI had a hard time getting into this book because I knew what was coming (Hurricane Katrina) and all the pre-storm plot seemed slow and cruel to me. The beginning of the book is actually really heartwarming for the most part, but that's what makes it cruel. You see Armani's loving, happy family gathering for her tenth birthday and you just know that they are going to suffer.
And suffer they do. Once Katrina hit I barely put the book down. Survival stories have always held appeal despite how difficult they can be emotionally. I think it's because we long to see our hero triumph in the end, even when it seems impossible. Armani, as the narrator of the book, is sure to survive, but her friends and family? The same can't be said for all of them.
Armani's eventual "triumph" is definitely bittersweet and, in my opinion, truncated. I desperately wanted an epilogue or at least a glimpse into the future, but I didn't get one. The reader is left to imagine what will ultimately happen to Armani and other Katrina survivors.
Though I'd have to go back and reread it to be sure, I think I prefer Ninth Ward to this. They're both good, but Ninth Ward's more poetic style drew out the surreal quality of surviving the storm. Also, there were big moments in this book that fell a little flat for me. I'm seven months pregnant and apt to cry when I hear a sad song on the radio, and this book didn't squeeze a tear out of me. That is unusual. Even when I'm not pregnant I'm a crier! I definitely felt for the characters here, but the flow of the plot and the style of the writing kept me at a bit of a distance. (less)
1. This is like Rebecca Stead lite! And I mean that as a compliment! Stead's books explore themes in interesting and...moreMy thoughts upon finishing this:
1. This is like Rebecca Stead lite! And I mean that as a compliment! Stead's books explore themes in interesting and sophisticated ways. This explored a theme (the impacts of science on nature) on a bunch of levels in a way that is (probably) easier to grasp for most young readers. I'm very excited to talk to kids about this one.
2. Man, I love this idea of a teenage grandparent. So funny. There was something about it that was familiar to me, but I can't put my finger on where I've seen it before. It begs to be a movie with a great young actor playing Melvin with his scrunchies and polyester pants. Now, I will admit that so much of the Melvin story stretches logic past its breaking point, but I don't care. The story was realistic where it needed to be, and not so realistic in other places. I thought it all flowed beautifully in service of the story.
3. I wish I had read this earlier so I could have booktalked it at my school visits last spring. Our Summer Learning theme is science and this book pushes science in a really fun way. Ellie feels left out of her mom's theater world and her friend's volleyball world, but finds she belongs in the world of scientists.
4. I love Jenni Holm! I've never read anything by her I didn't like. The only thing that keeps me from giving this five stars is the title--well, really, the whole goldfish metaphor. It seemed a little tacked on and unnecessary, like driving home a point that's already been made, which is sort of like talking down to your audience. The only off-key note in an otherwise perfectly pitched middle grade novel. (less)
I agree with another reviewer who found it difficult to get past all the birth art stuff. If you're interested in unlocking your subconscious thoughts...moreI agree with another reviewer who found it difficult to get past all the birth art stuff. If you're interested in unlocking your subconscious thoughts about birth through art, then this is the book for you. (As you can see by my rating, I am not super into drawing pictures that unveil my hidden feelings.)(less)
Reminiscent of All the Broken Pieces and other novels in verse about children experiencing incredibly difficult circumstances (also Never Fall Down, w...moreReminiscent of All the Broken Pieces and other novels in verse about children experiencing incredibly difficult circumstances (also Never Fall Down, which isn't in verse but I thought of it as I was reading this). The history of Guatemala was somewhat known to me, but a first-person account of a tragedy such as this makes it visceral. I felt strongly for Carlos, his mother and his village. The poetry used not only words but shapes and spaces to convey meaning. (less)
We're doing this for book club next week and I'm so excited! I'm not going to let the kids say more than three words at a time. It will be an enormous...moreWe're doing this for book club next week and I'm so excited! I'm not going to let the kids say more than three words at a time. It will be an enormous challenge for some of them. [Insert evil laugh.](less)
A sweet book about a girl who's perfectly happy to live in a trailer home until some meanies call it a "tin can" and make her feel ashamed. Luckily, s...moreA sweet book about a girl who's perfectly happy to live in a trailer home until some meanies call it a "tin can" and make her feel ashamed. Luckily, she meets some sweet kids who think her home is cool and that lifts her spirits.(less)