Questlove Announces Children's Book Debut with Middle-Grade Time Travel Novel 'Rhythm of Time'
Questlove hopes to "plant the seed" of creativity and possibility with readers and their parents in his debut children's book, a middle-grade novel titled The Rhythm of Time
By Angela Andaloro Published on November 17, 2022 12:59 PM
Questlove is sharing his love of time travel and hip-hop with a young audience.
The multi-hyphenate — born Ahmir Thompson, originally known as the drummer for iconic hip-hop band The Roots — is releasing his first children's book, a middle-grade novel titled The Rhythm of Time, set to release in April 2023. Co-authored with New York Times bestselling and award-winning author S.A. Cosby, the series opener is published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.
The book follows best friends Kasia and Rahim, two nerdy Black teenagers trying to navigate time travel, family and friendship in Philadelphia, the author/filmmaker's hometown.
Speaking with PEOPLE exclusively about his upcoming release, Questlove, 51, explains that what started as a pandemic project has grown to encompass a lot of his favorite things.
"During 2020, I had a lot of time on my hands to tackle bucket list things I wouldn't have had time to otherwise. I had this burning desire, as a time travel obsessive myself, to knock this out," he shares.
Teaming up with Cosby to write the book, a friend whom he'd wanted to collaborate with, was an "easy decision."
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
"I wanted to work with S.A. Cosby, who had been having a great year. We have a lot in common, so I felt that was like a natural fit for him to be the guiding light and help me," he says, adding that Cosby was the "adult in the room" when it came to the book's more technical details. "Because the one thing I wasn't too confident about, as much of a nerd as I am, I don't know the proper technical terms of time traveling."
The book's action sees Rahim and Kasia's parents involved in the action as well. It was important to Questlove to speak to both parents and kids through those characters.
"For a lot of kids of color, when you were growing up in the city, it's almost impossible to not be in a constant state of fight or flight," he says, referencing his own experiences having to "learn survival rules" growing up in Philadelphia in the 1980s.
Questlove notes that as a result of these upbringings, "parents might have a tendency to be very strict, just in the name of survival, for safety's sake."
"When you're living for safety, you're basically living a 24-hour existence, like, 'Okay, I made that 24 hours now. Next night? I made that one.' And as a result, it really doesn't leave much space for the idealized way that we see child-rearing in media. I wanted to have a kind of revision," he says.
In the book, Rahim and his father butt heads over the younger's love for his favorite hip-hop group, a situation Questlove recalls from his own childhood.
"As much as I grew up in a musical household, there was definitely a time when my dad and I would have constant squabbles about the music I was getting into once I was a teenager, once I started listening to Public Enemy and LL and a lot of old school hip-hop," he shares. "He was like, 'ah, man you were so good when you were listening to John Coltrane.'"
Questlove hopes that through Rahim and his dad's connection, he can "plant a seed for parents," as well as readers.
"Because when you're writing kids' books, it's not just the kids that are in the room. There's also an adult in the room as well," Questlove adds. "I really wanted it to set an example for communication, for finding commonality among the two, like the parents in the book realize how much they have in common with their kids."
With The Rhythm of Time, Questlove hopes to instill some of the common themes he carries through music, filmmaking and his other creative endeavors.
"One is that creativity is key. I feel like creativity is the portal, the release and the world of magic that oftentimes kids — especially kids that look like me — really don't have the luxury to indulge in," he notes.
"I also want to instill confidence in people to reimagine things that we were 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 to learn the lesson."
"It wasn't my intention to preach to the kids, but for me, this is the creative way that I can show people where my life is and also plant seeds in their lives as well," he adds.
The Rhythm of Time hits bookshelves on April 18, 2023.