Simon B. Rhymin’
by Dwayne Reed (2021)
A Sweet Spot and Intermediate Selection
“It’s Simon Barnes here. But everybody calls me the Notorious D.O.G., because I might be little but I’ve got a loud bark. Okay, not true. Nobody calls me the Notorious D.O.G. yet.”
As Simon prepares for his first day of fifth grade, he’s nervous because he’s always had trouble letting his inner voice be heard. Sure, he can rap as well as the Chicago greats, but time and time again, he finds that he can’t speak up. However, a brand new problem presents itself when Mr. James – Simon’s rapping, desk-jumping teacher – announces that the class must create an oral presentation and Simon is first to present.
“Could short little Simon
Ever shine like a diamond?”
Simon only has a week to prepare a “timely” topic, something that goes beyond video games, clothing brands, and the other standard things kids love to discuss. The topic must highlight something that impacts Simon’s community – and that’s where Sunny comes in. Sunny, a neighborhood man who is as bright as his name, spends his days sweeping the sidewalks and singing the blues. He is also homeless, something that Simon knew but… never really paid attention to before.
“I wish people knew we’re not invisible. People walk by and pretend I don’t exist. And I know they have their reasons, but it hurts.”
Once he begins spending more and more time with Sunny, Simon realizes that Sunny’s voice deserves to be heard, too. The oral presentation ultimately becomes so much more than a project, and with the help of his friends and advice from his family, Simon endeavors to help Sunny be seen for the first time in years.
Simon B. Rhymin’ finely balances humor and hope, granting students and teachers the language to discuss a topic that might otherwise remain taboo. Students who may be struggling with their confidence will find themselves encouraged by Simon’s journey. Not only does Dwayne Reed offer an empathetic look into homelessness, he punctuates the novel with Simon’s fun, fast raps and proves that it takes just one voice to leave a lasting impact on an entire community.