A B to Jay Z / 1 2 3 with The Notorious B.I.G.
by The Little Homie
Chosen by Christopher Ball

My grandmother turns 80 in February. Having now relocated to South Wales (‘Oh it’s lovely Christopher, there are no planes’. Are you sure Nan? None? When you live but 30 minutes from Cardiff Airport?) the only time I seem to hear from her these days are either when her Kindle has frozen or she’s managed to purchase 150kg of cat litter on Amazon (again). However, despite these faults, there is one thing that I will be eternally grateful to my Granny for, and that is the love of reading that she instilled in me from a very early age.

Nothing exemplifies this more than one memory from 1993. At the tender age of 7, I spotted Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park in the local bookstore, which was THE summer blockbuster of the year, and the first film viewed on the silver screen that both excited and terrified me in equal measure. If you’ve never read the original novel then let me assure you that a light read it is not; Crichton’s professional background meant that he had an ability to lose you in deep and complex science ‘stuff’, but you’d plough on knowing that a few chapters later a man would be eaten by a T-Rex whilst sat on a portaloo. Despite this my Grandmother issued a challenge (loudly and publicly, as she was want to do) and declared that if I could read the first paragraph, out loud with clear and satisfactory ennunciation, she would purchase the book for me. And thus, whilst most of my school friends were reading Biff, Chip and Kipper books, I toiled my way through Jurassic Park for the remainder of 1993, taking great delight in pointing out to my classmates any instances of swear words in printed form. “Holy shit, Tim said” was not a phrase you’d find in the Magic Key series of books.

Fast forward nearly 25 years and I now have children of my own, and whilst I’m not at the stage of foisting tales of genetically cloned prehistoric beasts on a remote island off the coast of Costa Rica on them, I’m always keen to seek out books that aren’t ‘of the norm’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of my nightly rendition of ‘The Gruffalo’ (complete with gruff cockney accent for the aforementioned anti-hero) but there’s only so many times that a stroll through the deep, dark wood is an enticing prospect.

I was therefore delighted to stumble upon ‘A B TO JAY-Z’, a hip-hop inspired abc children’s book, and its equally educational follow-up ‘1 2 3 WITH THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.’ There will always be an abundance of books to teach our little humans that a is for apple, c is for cat, etc. but who is going to teach them that ‘R is for Run DMC (and they think it’s tricky to rock a rhyme on time)’ or that ‘Kelis is drinking NINE milkshakes in the yard’? These are clearly the bigger questions in life.

Crowdfunded through Kickstarter by thelittlehomie.com, the books are wonderfully illustrated with all the 90s hip-hop icons that you could shake a polaroid picture at (O is for Outkast). And whilst my sons may, in the years to come, have 99 problems or more, at least I’ve made sure that their ABCs ain’t one.

 

 


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