Summary: Simon B Rhymin‘
Simon B Rhymin’ is the story of 11-year-old Simon Barnes (aka Notorious D.O.G.), a shy kid who loves to rap. His best friend Maria (aka Ri-Ri) is a talkative Latina who often has to stand up to Simon’s bullies. His other best friend, C.J. is mostly chill, but also supportive of Simon. Simon’s parents also support his rapping, but he still doesn’t feel confident about rapping in front of strangers.
Simon is content to stay in the shadows until he meets his fifth grade teacher, Mr. James who wears funky bow ties and tennis shoes — and also RAPS. Mr. James gives the class an oral presentation project and tells them to speak on an issue (any issue) close to their heart. Moved by Sunny a vivacious, homeless man in his neighborhood, Simon decides to look into homelessness and learn more about the people — beyond the “homeless” descriptor. But can he even present… orally?
This book is by American educator, Dwayne Reed — who also raps! Here’s a sample of his work.
As someone who isn’t always a rap fan, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Simon has pretty good lines and a definite way with words. He is also painfully shy, and it’s always amazing to see how much many shy kids have to offer when educators and others in their lives can draw them out effectively.
I liked the realistic depiction of his relationship with his brothers and the way his parents treat him. He also has loyal friends who always have his back. Homelessness is a global issue, but I loved that this book doesn’t employ a “savior” ideology. Rather, it shows that unhoused people are more than just their current homeless status. They have lives — past and present — and deserve respect and to have their dignity preserved. They’re part of our community.
Overall: Simon B Rhymin‘
Simon B Rhymin’ is a refreshing middle grade book with a shy, talented rapping protagonist. However, this book goes beyond entertaining. It tackles a serious issue: homelessness. Readers who enjoy books with a strong sense of community, loyal friends, and Black tweens at the center will enjoy this new release. I’ve heard WONDERFUL things about the audio which is performed by Reed himself.
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I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Have you read this book or listened to the audiobook? What did you think? Were you already familiar with Dwayne Reed? Find more tween books about music here.