Questlove Announces Children’s Book Debut ‘Rhythm of Time’

Questlove shares his love of time travel and hip-hop with a young audience.

The multi-hyphenate – born Ahmir Thompson, originally known as the drummer for the iconic hip-hop band The Roots – is releasing his first children’s book, a middle grade novel called Team Rhythme, to be released in April 2023. Co-authored with New York Times Best-selling and award-winning author SA Cosby, the series opener is published by GP Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.

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The book follows best friends Kasia and Rahim, two nerdy Black teenagers trying to navigate time travel, family and friendship in Philadelphia, the writer/filmmaker’s hometown.

Speaking exclusively to PEOPLE about his upcoming release, Questlove, 51, explains that what started as a pandemic project has grown to encompass many of his favorite things.

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“During 2020, I had a lot of time on my hands to tackle bucket list things that I wouldn’t have had time to do otherwise. I had this burning desire, like a time travel obsessive myself, to knock this out,” he shares.

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Teaming up with Cosby to write the book, a friend he had wanted to collaborate with, was “an easy decision.”

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courtesy of Penguin Random House

“I wanted to work with SA Cosby, who had been having a great year. We have a lot in common, so I felt it was a natural fit for him to be a guiding light and help me,” he said, adding that Cosby was the “adult in the room” when it came to the more technical details of the book. “Because the one thing I wasn’t too confident about, as much of a nerd as I am, I don’t know the right technical terms when it comes to time travel.”

The action of the book sees Rahim and Kasia’s parents taking part in the action as well. It was important for Questlove to speak to parents and children through those characters.

“For a lot of kids of color, when you were growing up in the city, it’s almost impossible not to be in a constant state of fight or flight,” he said, referring to his own experiences having to “learn rules survive” growing up in Philadelphia in the 1980s.

Questlove points out that as a result of these upbringings, “parents may tend to be very strict, just in the name of survival, for the sake of safety.”

“When you live for security, you’re basically living a 24-hour existence, like, ‘Okay, I did that 24 hours now. The next night? I did that.’ And as a result, it doesn’t leave much room for the idealized way we see parenting in the media. I wanted to have some kind of revision,” she said.

In the book, Rahim and his father turn over the younger’s love for his favorite hip-hop group, a situation Questlove remembers from his own childhood.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

“As much as I grew up in a musical household, there was definitely a time when my dad and I would constantly argue about the music I was getting into as a teenager, once I started listening on Public Enemy and LL and a lot of old school hip-hop,” he shares. “It was like, ‘ah, man you were so good when you were listening to John Coltrane.'”

Questlove hopes that through Rahim’s connection with his father, he can “plant a seed for parents,” as well as readers.

“Because when you write children’s books, it’s not just the children in the room. There’s an adult in the room too,” adds Questlove. “I really wanted him to set an example for communication, for finding commonality between the two, like the parents in the book realize how much they have in common with their children.”

With Rhythm of TimeQuestlove hopes to lay out some of the common themes he carries through music, filmmaking and his other creative endeavors.

Kevin Mazur/Getty

“One is that creativity is key. I feel like creativity in the portal, the release and the world of magic that children often – especially children who look like me – don’t really have the luxury of enjoy,” he notes.

“I also want to inspire people’s confidence to re-imagine things we’ve been taught and reverse them,” he continues. “Failure doesn’t mean that, ‘It’s over and move on to something else.’ Failures, I see them as a way of learning the lesson.”

“My intention was not to preach to the kids, but for me, this is the creative way I can show people where my life is and also plant seeds in their lives too,” he adds.

Rhythm of Time hits bookshelves on April 18, 2023.


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