Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Sensing The Beat Of Centuries

We should never underestimate the power of music.  It is timely and timeless.  We make it any way we can.  It mirrors our emotions.  It lifts us up and shifts us into sadness.  It sings from the souls of individuals, groups, countries or entire cultures.

The popularity of particular songs and the rise of genres reflects our histories.  The Roots Of Rap: 16 Bars On The 4 Pillars Of Hip-Hop (Little Bee Books, an imprint of Bonnier Publishing USA, January 8, 2019) written by Carole Boston Weatherford with art by Frank Morrison is a poetic, pictorial presentation of a music and its musicians.  As we learn, an understanding and appreciation grows as does a steady and strong cadence.

Folktales, street rhymes, spirituals---rooted in spoken word.
Props to poets Hughes and Dunbar; published. Ain't you heard?

James Brown, known as The Godfather of Soul, releases "Say It Loud---I'm Black And I'm Proud" in 1968.  He is a proponent of funk, a form of music for dancing with a heavy emphasis on electric bass and drums.  Although the beginnings of rap are older it rises to prominence during the 1970s.

A musical composition is manifested in the art form of graffiti.  If a surface is available it calls to creators; creators willing to get the word out, regardless of the consequences.  Boroughs in New York City burst with color, words and design.

People carry boom boxes vibrating a specific beat.  Crowds gather on city streets as break dancers' feet, arms and bodies whirl and twirl with marvelous motions.  Deejays in Jamaica known for toasting develop dub, remixing rhythms.

DJ Kool gives birth to hip-hop, paving the way for other names like the Sugerhill Gang, Run-DMC, and Biggie. There is Ice Cube, Eminem and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.  Have you heard "The Message"?

Female groups and individuals rise to the top.  Queen Latifah sings for feminist sisters and children imitate her style.  Started in centuries past roots of rap and hip-hop spread from a city to a country to all parts around the world.  It's still growing.

First you read it silently.  Then you read it aloud because it asks this of you.  You read it silently again.  When Carole Boston Weatherford writes, this is what you do.  You will find your toes tapping, your head nodding and your body swaying if her book is about a music.  Her carefully chosen words make a song akin to that about which she writes; the last word in two phrases rhyming.  Here is a passage.

Dropping, scratching, beat juggling/matching wax on wheels of steel.
Wordplay, rhyming, triple-timing, keepin' the lyrics real.

When you open the matching dust jacket and book case musicians whose names are leading in the genre are superimposed on a brick wall around the title text like a glorious display of graffiti.  The golden glow of the letters is reflected in the light of the six faces.  Realistically depicted, you expect them to begin singing at any moment.

To the left, on the back, the right side of an interior double-page illustration is featured.  A youth, close to us, is standing in front of a row of buildings.  His hands clasp either side of backpack straps.  His T-shirt reads


He looks right at readers determined and proud.

On the opening and closing endpapers artist Frank Morrison has painted in great detail two turntables side by side.  Between them are all the controls, dials and gauges.  The title page is done in black and white with a figure MCing in the middle.  The design favors art deco.

Each picture, including the one of Swizz Beatz accompanying his introduction to readers, spans double pages, single plus pages crossing the gutter to make a column for text, or full-page images, edge to edge.  They are bold, vibrant and focus our attention on the people within them.  We are aware of the setting in which these people are placed but our eyes always return to the people.  It's as if these are frozen moments in time.  At any second the animation will breathe and move again.

One of my many favorite pictures is on a single page.  We are looking down on a scene.  The center of attention is a break dancer, balancing on his hands, feet in the air.  He is on cardboard for his platform.  In the upper right-hand corner is a large boom box.  Around him on three sides, two and sometimes three-deep, are supporters, an appreciative audience.  The colors of their clothing supplying a frame for his performance.

The Roots Of Rap: 16 Bars On The Pillars Of Hip-Hop written by Carole Boston Weatherford with art by Frank Morrison is an essential title for your professional and personal collections.  It furnishes readers with a wonderful introduction, inspiring and encouraging further research.  Both Carole Boston Weatherford and Frank Morrison write notes at the end.  This is followed by a listing of terms and a HIP-HOP WHO'S WHO.  (Boom box, folktale, turntable and vinyl are among those words described.)

To discover more about Carole Boston Weatherford and Frank Morrison please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Carole Boston Weatherford maintains an account on TwitterFrank Morrison has an account on Instagram.  At a publisher's website you can view interior images.  At author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, you can view other interior images including the breakdancing view.

You'll want to stop by Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to see the selections made this week by other participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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