Fort Wayne Born Author offers “Book Tastings” of Book She Calls a ‘Handheld Revolution’

Fort Wayne Born Author offers “Book Tastings” of Book She Calls a ‘Handheld Revolution’

Pontiac Library| 2215 S Hanna Street| Fort Wayne, IN 46803
Saturday, March 7, 2020 * 3:30 – 4:30 PM

Wunderkammer Company| 3402 Fairfield Avenue| Fort Wayne, IN 46807
Wednesday, March 11, 2020 * 6:30 – 8:00 PM

I love books like kids love candy.
I love books like beaches love sandy.
I love books like corn loves to pop.
I love books like hip loves to hop

Fort Wayne, IN – On a cool winter afternoon March 7, and on an evening March 11, two institutions in Fort Wayne will come alive with the sounds of music and love for language.  Two women, bodies outfitted in black from head to toe, will lead the singing, rapping, and reciting of songs and texts from a new children’s novel, Darius Daniels: Game On! They will also talk about a revolution as part of the Let’s Talk About It!: Hueman Stories project initiated by Ketu and Rasamen Oladuwa.

The musical rendering of the new novel is part of what the author calls a “book tasting,” and it’s central to a growing movement they are pushing to help change the literacy game for children they call “hungry readers and writers.”

Fort Wayne native Caroline Brewer, author of Darius Daniels: Game On!, has been quietly leading the movement since becoming a children’s author in late 2001, after leaving her job as a newspaper columnist at The Record of Bergen County, New Jersey the previous summer.

The other woman and partner in word artistry, Karen Wilson-Ama’Echefu, is a Harlem-born singer, storyteller, and cultural historian who has studied the poetry flow of African Americans shaped by the language legacy of 400 years of living in the United States.

The book tastings (samplings of the story through readings, reciting of poetry and rhymes, raps and songs) are centered around Darius Daniels: Game On!, a 256-page verse novel about an 11-year-old boy who gets sucked into a video game and is told he can’t get out until he hurts somebody. While the premise is tantalizing to children – and adults — what makes the book especially compelling is that it’s chockful of rhythm, rhyme, rap, and more than 10 forms of poetry, plus history and cultural touchstones, which make it ripe for “tasting.” 

I Love Books is one of the featured raps. The story is set in a fictional town based on Fort Wayne and is meant to inspire a revolution that frees children from literacy failure, so they are more likely to escape the mass incarceration trap that the Hueman Stories project is determined to destroy.

Brewer says the fact that the book is “a handheld revolution,” is what inspired the gatherings, which are part of a book tour across the United States. “I challenge anyone to read this book and remain unchanged. It is within and of itself a revolution. I’m getting reports from teachers already that children are being changed because of this book,” says Brewer, the author of 11 other books, a literacy activist and former teacher. “Every child I’ve ever met has been hungry to be a more capable reader or writer. And yet, for more than 30 years, the majority of American children have entered and exited school reading below grade level. This tour will give children and adults the information, ideas, and inspiration they need to tap into cultural legacies that will allow them to feed their literary appetites and imaginations, overthrow decades of failure, and free them from the snare of incarceration.”

Wilson-Ama’Echefu, an inter-disciplinary scholar who has written on cultural and intellectual history in the 19th and 20th centuries, has just released her first solo book, Christmas Was Just Breakin’, a black Twas the Night Before Christmas.  She notes, “Esteemed scholars, such as Lorenzo Turner, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Geneva Smitherman, who wrote Talkin’ and Testifyin’ 40 years ago, long ago established that African American communities develop linguistic skills that are formidable in both style and substance. Their work and my scholarship document the fact that our people (African-descended people) are natural poets whose facility with language and depth of intellect make them some of the world’s finest thinkers and readers.”

The authors contend in a society where reading and young people are constantly under attack, there is, instead, much to celebrate. “We’re talking about paying homage to children’s brilliance,“ said Brewer. “Whether they come from low-income or no-income homes, whether they have one parent, or are forced to be their own parent, we’re saying pay homage to every child’s ability to thrive. Let that be the foundation for the ways in which we connect with them. Let’s be prepared to leverage their assets for their beautiful, productive, and fantastic futures.”

Brewer cited a few cases of revolutionary experiences with students and literacy:

  • A Virginia teacher said the rhymes in Darius Daniels: Game On! have given her new ways to assess students’ growth in real time; she said students designated for Special Education services, including a boy diagnosed with autism, are demonstrating – just from her readings of the one copy she has– the ability to analyze language in ways that she was told they didn’t possess.
  • A boy entered 3rd grade still learning the alphabet. By January, his school in Prince George’s County, MD had become the third he had attended that year. His teacher helped him learn the alphabet and also taught him and the entire class all the Language Arts state standards using a rhyming book written by Brewer as the textbook. In three months, the boy tested at 3rd grade level and the top of the class. A number of other students had moved up at least one grade level or more in just a few months.
  • Brewer’s 4th grade student in an independent school struggled to read on a first grade level. She preferred picture books and was reluctant to participate in class. She also regularly argued with other students and had difficulty staying in her seat. After Ms. Brewer introduced an early version of Darius Daniels: Game On! and offered exciting ways to engage with poetry and rhymes, the student began to open up, participate, and push herself to complete assignments. She took Darius Daniels home and, on her own, began reading deeper into the book. In a matter of weeks, she surprised Ms. Brewer one day and asked if she could read some of the book to her. She read Darius Daniels fluently, confidently, and with understanding. It was a huge triumph that underscores the truth about every student’s potential and hunger to achieve. The student also transitioned socially and emotionally and became a leading peacemaker in the class.

Excerpt and EARLY PRAISE for Darius Daniels: Game On!

“This is a masterpiece!”

  • Michelle Ajebon, Age 10, 4th grade

“I would tell other kids to read this book because, “Who wouldn’t love going into a video game?”

  • Joshua Ajebon, Age 11, 5th grade

Darius Daniels: Game On! is a unique, beautiful blend of prose and poetry.

The book will not only entertain children, but educate them as well.”

  • Glenn Brewer, Teacher and Award-winning Artist, Illustrator,

  Author and Comic Book Publisher

“Caroline Brewer has written a book that provides the tools that our children need in the language that they can encompass now. Ms. Brewer’s work captures poetic language in all of its rich array of poetic possibilities…not only the rap, but the Pulitzer Prize-winning form. It celebrates haikus, limericks, sonnets, blues, and spirituals, the acrobatics of language rhythm and movement that we showcase in our communities every day. Darius Daniels: Game On! should be in every classroom. I look forward to that day.”

  • Karen Wilson-Ama’Echefu, PhD, Storyteller, Teaching Artist and Singer

“Caroline is a master storyteller; her voice and style are a breath of fresh air! You are going to love Darius and the rest of his crew (including his little sister, Ashanti!) and laugh out loud at all the fun, silly jokes here. Yay for Caroline! Game on, indeed!”

  • Amy Tipton, Former NYT Bestselling Agent, Editor of Feral Girl Books

“Caroline Brewer’s Darius Daniels: Game On! is definitely the power-up that re-energizes the idiom, ‘Life is a game.’ Which it is for Darius, who takes on the pixelated world of his imagination to battle monsters both on screen and internally. This easy-to-read series moves quick. The language is playful and sure to get young people excited about reading.”  – Alan King, author of POINT BLANK and DRIFT

“I don’t usually read books without pictures. But I wanna read this book! I think it’s gonna be very good.” – Zion, 1st grader, who confidently read a page of the 4th grade level book out loud.

“The book was really good and entertaining and I loved it!” – John, 8th grader, who said earlier in the day that he didn’t really like to read.