Simon B. Rhymin’ by Dwayne Reed, illustrated by Robert Paul, Jr.

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Simon B. Rhymin': Reed, Dwayne: 9780316538978: Books

Summary:  When Simon’s new fifth grade teacher begins the first day of school by jumping on his desk and rapping about being a scholar, Simon is excited.  An aspiring rapper himself, he sometimes struggles with being brave enough to speak or rap publicly.  When Mr. James announces a class project that involves a presentation and picks Simon to go first, school suddenly doesn’t seem so exciting anymore.  Simon decides to research homelessness, and his dad introduces him to Sunny, a homeless man who helps keep their street clean.  As Simon gets to know Sunny better, he learns that there’s a lot more to him than being homeless.  Sunny helps Simon find his voice and the courage to do his presentation, which in turn leads to new ways for Simon to help Sunny and other homeless people in his community.  240 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  Debut author Dwayne Reed is also a rapping teacher who seems to have a good understanding of the kids from his Chicago community.  Simon’s raps, interspersed through the text, are a fun addition that also help move the story along.  Although the tone is light, some serious issues are addressed at a level that is just right for the intended audience.

Cons:  It was clear that Bobby, the class bully and Simon’s nemesis, was having a tough time at home, but there weren’t enough details given to make him a more sympathetic character.

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