Books by Laban Carrick Hill

WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN by Laban Carrick Hill
Released: Aug. 6, 2013

"This effervescent celebration of the roots of hip-hop will make readers feel the beat. (author's note, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book. 4-9)"
The origin of one of the most influential cultural movements in recent times—hip-hop—is presented through the story of DJ Kool Herc, the man who "put the hip hip hop, hippity hop into the world's heartbeat." Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2007

Hill follows up his Harlem Stomp (2004) with an equally ambitious (and lavishly laid out) social history of the Boomers' finest decade: "Wilder than Gen X, more activist than Gen Y, these youths changed their world like no other generation has before or since." Though rightly noting at the outset that the noisier members of that generation were never more than a minority, he constructs his central narrative around their exploits. He opens with chapters on the '50s and JFK, closing with the grassroots expansion of the environmental movement, but in between shows a pattern of growth and radicalization in the Civil Rights movement, in campus and hippie cultures, and in the efforts of women, Native Americans, Latinos and gays to define and assert their rights. Period photos and splashes of color add visual interest to every page, though used more as design than informational elements. Some minor errors have crept in (it's Maynard G. Krebs, not "Grebs"), and the author's claim that the SCLC's Project C was deliberately intended "to provoke segregationists into violent acts" is, to say the least, controversial. But in general he offers a coherent, big-picture view that will give young readers plenty of insight into the roots of their own cultures. (timeline, resource lists) (Nonfiction. 12-14)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2005

Two children briefly enter the magical world of surrealistic painter Frida Kahlo in this latest title of the Art Encounters series. Searching for their mother, Maria and Victor arrive in Mexico City on the same day in 1939 that artist Diego Rivera's divorce from Kahlo is finalized. As the homeless children fall prey to an engaging street thief named Oswaldo, Kahlo returns to Casa Azul where she sinks into deep despair, alarming her fantastical companions. Maria and Victor wonder if Oswaldo is friend or foe while Kahlo wonders how she will survive without Rivera as she struggles to complete her strange Self-Portrait with Monkey and Hummingbird. Fate brings the children to Casa Azul where they experience Kahlo's enchanted environment and learn that "life must always be a balance between joy and sorrow." Although there is just too much going on here, Hill's blend of realism, fantasy and Aztec myth nicely mirrors Kahlo's surreal juxtaposition of real and unreal in her lifelong attempt to paint her own reality. Magical realism from cover to cover. (notes, biographical timeline, suggested reading) (Historical fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

As Nikki Giovanni says in her foreword, the Harlem Renaissance was "an American people redefining this great American nation." The rich cultural life of Harlem in the 1920s included the poetry of Langston Hughes, the photography of James VanDerZee, the painting of Aaron Douglas and William H. Johnson, the vocal performances of Paul Robeson. Harlem was the Jazz Age—Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, the Savoy Ballroom. This volume, clearly a labor of love, is a visual treat, from the cover art by Christopher Myers to the pages chock full of period photographs and artwork of the age. The narrative voice, though, is inconsistent, sometimes affecting the ebullient language of the "hoppin'" nightclubs and the "white hepcat from downtown," at other times sounding dry as an old textbook. The big bibliography doesn't reflect the wealth of resources available for young readers, but the volume offers much for browsers and young researchers. (index, credits) (Nonfiction. 12+)Read full book review >