In Simon B. Rhymin’, a young reader novel by Dwayne Reed, Simon Barnes wants nothing more than to be a rapper. He even has a name picked out – the Notorious D.O.G. However, there’s one problem: Simon is shy and hates public speaking. When his teacher assigns an oral presentation, Simon is worried, but soon his project has him connecting with his community and overcoming his fear.

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The summary, from Amazon:

A humorous and heartwarming bounce-to-the-beat underdog story about a young rapper whose rhymes help bring his community together, from America’s favorite rapping teacher.

As featured on Good Morning America!

Eleven-year-old Simon Barnes dreams of becoming a world-famous rapper that everyone calls Notorious D.O.G. But for now, he’s just a Chicago fifth grader who’s small for his age and afraid to use his voice.

Simon prefers to lay low at school and at home, even though he’s constantly spitting rhymes in his head. But when his new teacher assigns the class an oral presentation on something that affects their community, Simon must face his fears.

With some help from an unexpected ally and his neighborhood crew, will Simon gain the confidence to rap his way to an A and prove that one kid can make a difference in his ‘hood?

Dwayne Reed is a Chicago teacher, whose viral back-to-school music video “Welcome to the 4th Grade” took the internet by storm. His debut novel, Simon B. Rhymin’ , inspires young readers everywhere to use their voice to create change within their communities.

Buy Simon B. Rhymin’ here.

Simon struggles with public speaking and even with standing up to his bully, but he dreams of being a rapper. He’s constantly writing rhymes in his head. When his teacher assigns an oral presentation, Simon is worried, but he quickly comes up with a topic. Simon is friends with Sonny, a neighborhood man experiencing homelessness. He sees that the park has become a place where other individuals who are homeless sleep when the shelter is full and begins spending time at the shelter, volunteering and interviewing Sonny for his project.

I loved Simon’s friendships and relationships with his family, especially his father and brothers. I also admired Simon’s sensitivity. When he jokes with Sonny in the shelter, he worries he’ll come across as condescending in front of Sonny’s friends. What was really awesome about this book is that Simon doesn’t just finish his project and moves on. He continues to help out at the shelter to support his community.

I had an ARC of this book, but the illustrations were lovely and I could tell that even though I only had sketches in my edition, they would end up really standing out! This young reader novel does feature older characters and felt borderline middle grade for me. It was a wonderful 5 star read!

Find out more about how I rate books here.

Simon B. Rhymin'Simon B. Rhymin’ by Dwayne Reed
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wish I had checked this out on audio but reading was such a good experience.

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Book Club Questions

  1. What’s a topic related to current events or your community that you care about?
  2. Why are some people wary of Sonny?
  3. Why is it important that Simon kept helping out and spending time at the shelter after his project was finished?

Interested? Buy Simon B. Rhymin’.
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