God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Marla Frazee
Taken from Rylant’s previous book of poetry, God Went to Beauty School, this smaller collection is completely disarming and dazzling. Repackaged for a younger audience, this book celebrates God in a wonderfully homely and down-to-earth way that manages at the same time to make Him/Her all the more wondrous. In a series of poems, God goes to beauty school because he loves hands so much. She goes for a ride in a boat for the first time and gets an entirely new perspective on water. He goes to the doctor. She tries out a desk job for awhile. He visits India. She writes a book. They are small moments, small things to do, but in the end they are all profound and beautiful.
As someone who is trying to slow down and enjoy the small things in life, this book truly speaks to me. It is about God himself doing exactly the same thing. Rylant injects each of the poems with a lovely quiet humor and a softness that enriches each moment. Her poems are completely relatable, understandable by elementary children but also deep enough to be appreciated by adults.
Frazee was the ideal person to illustrate this book. With her soft colors and natural humor, Frazee captures these moments in God’s day. Each is beautifully set up, but also simple and honest. They are singular but also create a lovely whole.
Smart, funny and above all kind and radiant, this book will make a great holiday gift for all ages as well as a wonderful way to start talking about spirituality. Appropriate for all ages.
Reviewed from library copy.
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
Clive had loved music since he was a child. He lived in Kingston, Jamaica and loved to listen to DJs at the parties in his neighborhood. He was too young to attend, but he watched them set up before the parties and dreamed of becoming a DJ himself. When he was 13, Clive moved to New York City with his mother. That was where he started to play sports and got the nickname “Hercules” due to his size. He was soon known as Kool Herc. When his father got a sound system, Kool Herc became a DJ at a party he threw with his sister. Herc noticed that people loved to dance during the parts of the songs with no lyrics, so he found a new way of playing the records that extended that part of the song. He started calling out the names of his friends in the crowd. Soon he was creating the music that led to a new style of dance: breakdancing. And that’s how hip hop was born.
Hill tells this story of a legendary DJ with a mix of straight forward tone and rhythmic writing. There is nothing overt in his rhythm, just a wonderful beat that the entire book moves to. Hill clearly ties DJ Kool Herc to the entire hip hop movement from the very beginning of his book through to the end. He traces the connections and makes them clear and firm, just like Herc did with the connections to the giant speakers to get them to work.
The illustrations have a wonderful groove as well. This is Taylor’s first picture book and I hope he does more. His images have a wonderful richness of color without being dark at all. They also merge strong graphic qualities into the images, making them really sing.
A great nonfiction picture book biography, this book will help fill in gaps in library collections and will speak to the history of the music kids are listening to right now. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.