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LL Cool J reads and rhymes. (celebrity children's books).

And the Winner Is ... by LL Cool J, illustrated by JibJab Media Scholastic, September 2002, $13.95 ISBN 0-439-38911-9 (Book & CD) Ages 4-10

In today's media-driven culture, many of our children can rattle off the verses of their favorite rap tunes long before they can recite their ABC's. Toddlers sing Jay-Z's or Ja Rule's lyrics like old pros, sometimes only having heard the song once or twice. So why not learn while they rhyme?

LL Cool J (James Todd Smith), actor, father, husband and the best-selling rap artist of all time, has collaborated with Scholastic Inc. to help instill the love of reading in children through rap music. His new children's book, And the Winner Is ..., is one of two titles launched for HipKidHop, a new series of books and accompanying CDs from Scholastic with rap artists. The second title is Think Again by rap icon Doug E. Fresh.

And the Winner Is ... tells the story of a young basketball player and his reactions to both winning a basketball game and losing one. Cool J's message on sportsmanship teaches children to believe in themselves whether they win or lose, a good lesson to follow throughout life. JibJab Media s colorful collages blend the cutout image of Cool J's face with vibrant action illustrations.

The accompanying CD has two tracks. After reading and rapping along with Cool J on track one, children are invited to show their skills on track two--the remix. It contains all the instrumentals and hooks, but Cool J's lead vocals are absent allowing children to be creative and express what they've learned. Cool J's lively voice along with the catchy hook, "I never give up, I never give up," will have young readers and their parents singing hip hop's praises.

--Mondella S. Jones is BIBR's senior editor.

What made you decide to write a hip-hop inspired book for children

LLCJ: I think that there's room for something positive in hip hop and someone had to have courage and step up and say, "I care about kids," and not be afraid to make it sound simple, to slow it down, to clean up and do something that's really going to educate the young kids. I think they need to be influenced in a positive way and hip hop is such a powerful medium. It has been such a powerful influence in my life, and to not use it for this type of good would be totally wrong.

What did you like best about the process of writing this book?

LLCJ: Just the whole idea of being creative--the editing process, making sure that it's grammatically correct, because you can't take the creative license that you can when you write a rap record.

How did the idea for this book come about?

LLCJ: I actually had a meeting with Karyn Rachtman (music supervisor for HipKidHop) and she talked to me about the series, and I suggested to her, maybe we could do a CD for the book.

What messages do you hope your book will teach children?

LLCJ: I hope that they learn how to be graceful and humble but strong. And I hope that it raises their self-esteem to a level that is healthy. I hope it teaches them to be confident but not arrogant, and at the same time when they lose, not to be down on themselves either--know that each step in life is just a step that leads to the next step. So whether you win or succeed or fail, it's just an opportunity for you to move forward.

What is the biggest hope for your children? What is your biggest fear?

LLCJ: My biggest hope for my children is that they'll do what makes them happy. Do what leads them to a positive existence. Do more than what's necessary in order to be happy and be contributing citizens in America and do something positive with their lives and pursue their dreams.

I don't have any fears. I don't cater to fears. When you cater to your fears, they become a reality.

--Interview by Scholastic.
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Title Annotation:And the Winner Is ... ; includes interview
Author:Jones, Mondella S.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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Next Article:The Lees do the write thing. (celebrity children's books).

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