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[Nonfiction Wednesday] When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

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Fats here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

“Hip hop is the voice of this generation. Even if you didn’t grow up in the Bronx in the ‘70s, hip-hop is there for you. It has become a powerful force. Hip-hop binds all of these people, all of these nationalities, all over the world together.”Kool Herc

Last week, while doing the morning pull list in the library, I happened to look at the new nonfiction titles in our Children’s Department. A copy of When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill and Theodore Taylor III was displayed on the shelf.


When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

Written by: Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrated by: Theodore Taylor III
Published by: Roaring Brook Press (2013)
Awards received: Coretta Scott King (John Steptoe New Talent) Award
Book borrowed from Wayne County Public Library.
Book photos taken by me.

When the Beat Was Born tells the story of a young boy named Clive before he became known as DJ Kool Herc. Clive was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He loved music for as long as he could remember. His inspiration was a guy named DJ King George who liked to throw house parties in the neighborhood.


At the young age of thirteen, Clive moved to New York City and lived in the Bronx with his mom. In 1973, Clive and his little sister Cindy rented the rec room on Sedgwick Avenue, passed handwritten invitations to the people in the neighborhood, and threw their own party using their dad’s sound system.


The name “Kool Herc” was a combination of two nicknames that Clive called himself when he moved to the Bronx. He named himself “cool as Clyde” after his favorite basketball player, Walt “Clyde” Frazier. The kids he played basketball with called him “Hercules” because he had grown to six foot five inches tall during his teen years.


When the Beat Was Born received the 2014 John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Theodore Taylor III’s stylish illustrations captured young Clive’s journey into the world of hip hop as DJ Kool Herc. This is a great picturebook biography for music lovers.


You may read more about the history of hip hop here.

6 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

  1. This looks like a great title! I missed it when it came out. I’ll need to look for it.


  2. This is a great one! Thanks for sharing it.


  3. I haven’t seen this one, either, Fats. It looks great, and will go well with all the other music books that have come out these recent years. Thanks.


  4. Looks like something to could definitely appeal to young readers, particularly boys. Thanks for sharing!


  5. I remember being taken aback when I read this: this is history? The 1980s? But, of course, it is. And in a way harder to write than something more distant–hard to get distance to interpret the significance of something. This book does a great job of it, though.


  6. crbrunelle

    I have shared this with students and it was a hit.


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