Walking Around with Giants performed by The Dilly Dallies

The Dilly Dallies, the California based duo of Steve Slater and Jenn Ekman return with a second album filled with songs that parents and children can relate to and the whole family can enjoy. New moms (or all moms and dads really) will be touched by the song “Little Tiny Toes” which talks about a parents’ love for a baby from head to toe. This song would make a nice intro or exit song to a Baby and Me type program. With repeating lyrics and easy to follow melody, caregivers will be able to sing-a-long in no time.

 

Parents will find the situations described in “I Get Up” very familiar. Told from a child’s perspective, it addresses the age old problem of a child not wanting to stay in bed at bedtime. Another song that provides the child’s point of view is the fun title song, “Walking Around with Giants” which gives the kids-eye-view (which in this case is knee height) when walking down a street filled with adults. Most of the songs are upbeat but the slower ones such as the pretty lullaby “Dreams Await” and “You Are Me and I Am You” showcase the complex harmonies created by Slater and Ekman.

 

All 13 of the songs on this album were written by Steve Slater. He and Ekman provide the lone vocals. The duo also plays all of the instruments – including the ukuleles and glockenspiel, carefully choosing those that best support the vocals on each song. Walking Around with Giants is a good album for family listening. The Dilly Dallies include on their website all of the lyrics and chords to every song on the album giving it an additional level of usability in storytimes and early childhood programs.

Backyards & Home Fronts performed by Steve Pullara & His Cool Beans Band

The first time I listen to a new album (I generally listen to each album at least 3 times), I like to go in “blind.” I don’t read the liner notes or any of the accompanying PR. I just listen. This was true of the first time that I listened to Backyards & Home Fronts. With barely a glance at the packaging, I popped the CD in, pressed play and bopped along while I sorted the mail and straightened the kitchen. At the end, I thought, that was nice. Kids will like the song about using your imagination while drawing on the car window with your finger. They’ll be able to relate to the song about playing with a refrigerator box. Many of them will understand the song about the child who is growing older along with a pet.

 

Then, I read the liner notes and visited Steve Pullara’s website and realized I had it all wrong. So, I listened to the album again. And again. And again. While it is true that the album has universal themes that children can relate to, at the heart of this album lies a beautiful tribute to the children whose moms and dads are in the military and are away from home on deployment. This is an album filled with songs about missed birthdays, wishes and dreams, letters and care packages, and grandmas and grandpas who step in to help fill the void. While the subject matter may pull at the heart strings, the songs are all upbeat and joyous, employing a little bit of country and a little bit of old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll to convey its message.

 

Many of the songs on this album could be used in lessons or programs about different types of families. This is a welcome addition to all music collections, but is a must have for those libraries and classrooms that serve families in the military. Check out the video below for the joyful final track of the album, “Guess Who’s Coming Home.”

*make sure to have a tissue handy

 

 

Kids Music Takes New York City by Storm!

Last weekend the GRAMMY awards left the sun and warmth of Los Angeles to celebrate the big 6-0 back home in New York City. Throughout the City that never sleeps the return of the awards were celebrated and it seemed like everywhere you went, there were announcements for concerts being held during the weekend featuring everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Childish Gambino. But it wasn’t just musical acts for grown-ups in town. NYC was also alive with the sound of children’s music.

 

The first of the two children’s music concerts that I was able to attend over the weekend was held Friday morning at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Sponsored by Kids Rhythm and Rock, Chicago’s own Wendy & DB performed two concerts to benefit the museum, VH1 Save the Music and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots. These engaging, interactive performances had children up and dancing as they heard songs including, “Pink Flamingo,” “Watersong,” “Girl Superhero,” and the blissfully exhausting “HopScotch.” I don’t know about the little ones, but after those high energy performances, I was just about ready for a nap.

 

 

The second children’s music concert was on Saturday at New York’s Symphony Space as part of their “Just Kidding!” series. This concert, “Best of Family Showcase!” featured live performances by four of the five nominees for the Best Children’s Album GRAMMY. Hosted by Sirius XM’s Kenny Curtis and Mindy Thomas this hour-long musical extravaganza was a true delight from beginning to end.

 

 

Up first was everyone’s favorite drop of sunshine, Gustafer Yellowgold. Aided by his human friend (and creator) Morgan Taylor on guitar and vocals, Gustafer’s escapades from Brighter Side were brought to life for all to enjoy. Those awful “Hot Nights” and how fun it is when “I Jump on Cake” were just a few of the insights shared into Gustafer’s one-of-a-kind life.

 

 

 

Switching gears a bit after Gustafer and Morgan came a pre-recorded message from Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Nominated for their album Songs of Peace & Love for Kids & Parents Around the World, the group expressed their gratitude for the nomination and performed the song, “Everything is So Stupid.”

 

 

 

Next up was Chicago-based Justin Roberts. Accompanied by producer Liam Davis, Justin performed the very relatable “Must Be This Tall” and “Dodgeball” before inviting Jason Rabinowitz from The Pop-Ups and GRAMMY winner Tim Kubart on stage to join in the title song from Justin’s album, Lemonade.

 

 

 

 

Lisa Loeb, who would go on Sunday to win the GRAMMY award, gave a lovely performance of several of the songs from Feel What U Feel including “Say Hello” and “Moon Star Pie (It’s Gonna Be Alright)” while accompanied by her co-producer Rich Jacques and her keyboardist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final performance of the all-star concert brought the crowd to their feet when Alphabet Rockers took the stage. This Oakland-based crew fundraised so that all of the kids who appeared on their nominated album, Rise, Shine, #Woke could make the trip to perform in New York. And perform they did!

 

 

This Best of Family Showcase! was filled with energy and a love and understanding of all those things big and small that are important in the life of a child. It’s impossible to predict what performers will appear at the showcase next year, but the one thing you can guarantee, is that when it comes to children’s music, whoever gets nominated will be absolutely amazing.

 

Last year was full of fantastic, smart, entertaining music for children. If 2018 is even half as good, it’s going to be a great year. Thank you New York City for embracing children’s music and giving it such wonderful places to shine!!

Disney Learning “Explore Music” Series

As librarians and early childhood educators who do storytimes and music programs on a regular basis, we are often on the lookout for new, interesting, interactive ways to do our programs. But they can’t be just any old activities. They have to be activities that fit into the goals of early childhood literacy as well as child development. This can be a time consuming pursuit. Time that we don’t always have. And that is what makes this new series so great.

Launched in 2017, this three book Disney Learning “Explore Music” series from Disney and Hal Leonard is aimed at children ages 4-8. Based on an early childhood music curriculum and featuring well known Disney characters, all of the hard work and research is already done for educators by a team of experts and presented in a program ready package.

 

Mickey’s Found Sounds – A Musical Exploration Storybook

This book begins with a brief story. When the Main Street Parade is rained out, Mickey and all of his friends return home where Mickey proposes they put on a parade of their own by creating their own marching band. Following the story, easy-to-follow instructions show how to make a bucket drum, oatmeal conga drum, plastic bottle shaker, tube kazoo and glass jar xylophone using common household items. Clear photos accompany the instructions.

 

 

 

Moana: The Beat of Your Heart – A Musical Exploration Storybook

This entry into the series introduces readers to Moana and her family and friends. The concept of rhythm is woven throughout the book as children are encouraged to find the beat within themselves, learn pati and po clapping and are instructed in making and playing a lali, a fala and a pahu.

 

 

 

 

Tangled: It’s Better When You Sing It – A Musical Exploration Storybook

Tangled-inspired story is used to show all of the ways that sounds and music surround Rapunzel wherever she goes. Woven into the story are “It’s Better When You Sing It!” tips and suggestions for trying out new ways to express yourself with your voice.

 

 

 

Each book comes with an online component that includes a video read-along, an audio sing-along and additional activities and music to go along with those introduced in the book. There is enough activity and story in a single book to build an entire program around, or you can pick and choose activities to incorporate into your already existing programs. This well thought out, sleekly produced series is a must have for anyone who shares the love of music with the children in their lives.

Welcome 2018 with Dolly Parton’s I Believe in You

Hello 2018! I have to say, after the hustle, bustle and general stressfulness that comes with the holidays or as the song says, “the most wonderful time of the year,” I was really looking forward to the calm and quiet of January. I don’t generally do new year’s resolutions, but I did make a promise to myself that I would be kinder in thought and reaction toward those around me. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has made keeping that promise a wee bit difficult. Much of the country has been dealing with weird weather the last few days and in Chicagoland, it has been no different. We’ve been in an extreme deep freeze since before Christmas, there was snow, wind and today, ice. With each day like this that passes, I’m finding it more and more difficult to keep my promise of kindness. And that’s what makes Dolly Parton’s latest album so timely.

It’s hard to fathom that in a career that spans five decades, I Believe in You is Parton’s  very first album for children, but it is. The 13 songs in this collection are all written by Parton and many are inspired by books like The Little Engine That Could, which are distributed through her Imagination Library program. In a time where bullies abound and people of all ages are speaking harshly and disrespectfully about one another, songs such as those found in this collection are definitely welcome. This album is filled with themes of friendship, acceptance, having confidence in yourself and others, and love. Included are songs such as “Responsibility” and “Makin’ Fun Ain’t Funny” that teach young children important life lessons as well as the upbeat “Chemo Hero” which tells what life is like having cancer from the point of view of the child. It is an empowering song that is important for not only children who have cancer to hear, but for their friends and family as well. Also included is a track of Parton reading her book, “Coat of Many Colors,” as well as a new recording of the song with the same name.

True country music is not a genre often found in children’s music, which makes Dolly Parton’s album a welcome addition to library collections and family listening. In addition, all proceeds benefit Dolly’s Imagination Library, which over the past 22 years has sent over 98 million free books to over 1 million children in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. For more information, visit Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

 

School Library Journal’s Top 10 Music of 2017

School Library Journal’s Top 10 Music of 2017” is out and it’s another great list (even if I do say so myself!). Unlike the GRAMMY nominees and some of the other best of the year lists which include musical releases between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017, the SLJ list only includes musical releases from 2017.

The criteria used to compile this list is slightly different as well. Along with the best overall quality, musicality and kid/family appeal of an album, the SLJ reviewers also look at selections from the point of view of librarians and teachers and recommend the best albums of the year to use in programs or the classroom.

This year’s Top 10 is varied enough to have a little something for everyone. Each album deserves a space in every library collection. Did your favorites make the list?

Revvin’ Up the Reindeer performed by Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe that Christmas is only two weeks away. It feels like we were just getting ready for Halloween and now 2018 is just around the corner. So, with the holiday season quickly approaching, the final children’s album that I would like to shine a spotlight on is Revvin’ Up the Reindeer from Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could.

This collection of 13 all original songs is a joy to listen to from beginning to end. The amazing musicianship of Rymer and the band is evident in every song as they bring a rock feel to songs such as “Revvin’ Up the Reindeer” and “Hanukkah Rocks,” a little bit of Americana to “Trim the Tree,” and an almost old school country/western vibe to “Peace Be to All.” Delightfully, the lyrics are as well written as the music with “Christmas Peace” retelling the Christian story of Christmas, “Rainbow Candle” capturing the quieter moments of Hanukkah, and “Baby New Year” introducing listeners to that pudgy little baby who wears a top hat, diaper, and a sash.

While this album wouldn’t work in most school or library program settings, it is a must have for all libraries that have circulating holiday music collections. This new set of holiday songs are tunes that families can enjoy listening to together and parents won’t mind visiting again and again. For a little taste of what to expect, check out the video below or visit Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could on YouTube to see additional videos from the album.

 

Best Children’s Album GRAMMY Nominees

This past year was another amazing one for children’s music. Whether you like the more traditional kids music, jazz, rock, folk, EDM, pop, world music or the blues, there was something for every family. To be considered for the 60th GRAMMY awards, albums had to be released between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017. Below are the five albums that are nominated for Best Children’s Album (click on the blue titles to see my reviews). The GRAMMY awards will be announced on Sunday, January 28.

Brighter Side performed by Gustafer Yellowgold

Feel What U Feel performed by Lisa Loeb

Lemonade performed by Justin Roberts

Rise Shine #Woke performed by Alphabet Rockers

Songs of Peace & Love for Kids & Parents Around the World performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo

The Mitzvah Bus performed by Mister G

Latin GRAMMY winner Mister G brings his unique blend of musical genres, languages, and education to The Mitzvah Bus. Originally released in 2015, this high energy, Jewish-themed celebration is definitely worth a second (or if you’re like me, a first!) look.

Mister G’s trademark clever lyrics are evident from the very first song, “Challah-lalala” and continue through a menu of delicious foods in the songs “Latkes for Breakfast” and “Matzah on my Mind.” The education continues with the funk-filled “Flood’s Gonna Come,” a  retelling of the story of Noah and the Ark, “Purim Party Song” and the ska-inspired “Hanukkah,” which delve into the history and traditions of the holidays. The title song, “Mitzvah Bus” tells a tale of good deeds and helping others while “Bevakasha” places emphasis on the power of the word “please.”

One of Mister G’s unique strengths is his ability to weave different languages together into a seamless, beautiful song. On The Mitzvah Bus, he combines not two, but three languages (in this case English, Spanish, and Hebrew) into lyrics that tell of a dance-party filled with friends in “Hola Shalom” and the glorious wonders of nature in the beautiful “Naturaleza.” In Mister G’s hands, the flow from language to language is seamless making each song a lyrical masterpiece.

Surrounded by a group of talented musicians, Mister G and his acoustic guitar breathe an unusual blend of funk, jazz, rock and world music into the album. While many of the songs on this album can’t be used in library programming, the songs about food could easily be used in programs about family traditions. The Mitzvah Bus would be a great addition not only to collections where Jewish-themed music is in demand, but also in collections where world music and family traditions are emphasized. In order for us to gain a better understanding of one another, it’s important to learn from each other and The Mitzvah Bus is a great place to start!

It’s the Holidays! Performed by Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the time of year when the stores put all of the Thanksgiving items on clearance, the pre-Black Friday sales begin, and local radio stations start playing Christmas music. And all of that before the family has even arrived to enjoy the abundance of deliciousness known as Thanksgiving dinner. So, since all signs point to it being “that time of year,” over the next month I’ll be highlighting several new family albums that celebrate the holidays.

First up is the delightful It’s the Holidays! from Brooklyn-based Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats. This collection of five jazz age inspired originals celebrates the holidays between Halloween and New Year’s. The album kicks things off with the clever “My Mommy is a Mummy” (keep this one in mind for Halloween 2018) and is followed by “Grateful,” a rare song about Thanksgiving. This is a lovely tune about family and food, but also about the importance of putting aside our differences and acknowledging those things in life for which we are grateful. Take a listen.

Just as the seasons transition from fall to winter, so do the songs on this album. “It’s Snowing” gets listeners thinking about how fun it is to get all bundled up to go outside and of all the exciting things children can do in the snow when they get there. This fast-paced song would work great in winter-themed storytimes as kids dance to the various activities described in the song like stomp, jump, run, slide, and climb. “It’s Snowing” also acts as a nice bridge to the final two songs on the album.

The title track, “It’s the Holidays!” is a bouncy celebration of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and a lovely New Year. The refrain, “It’s the holidays in our community/we celebrate all in unity,” encourages listeners to take the time to honor our differences. Finally, the album is capped off with “That’s a Wrap!” a short (1:37 min.) tune that tells listeners “Let’s wrap up this year and say goodbye” and would be a great addition to any New Year’s Eve programs.

While shorter than the average album, Kalantari, backed by a group of amazing musicians, has created an album that families will listen to again and again. It’s the Holidays! is the perfect start to “the most wonderful time of the year.”

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