Songs from the Monkey House Performed by Jack Forman

Jack Forman, of Recess Monkey fame, strikes out on his own with his debut solo album, Songs From the Monkey House. If you’ve ever listened to Jack’s weekday show “Live From the Monkey House” on Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live you know that his show is high-energy and filled with conversations between Jack and kids from across the country. It is questions from his listeners as well as from Recess Monkey fans and his own family that are the basis for the twelve high octane songs on this album.

 

Each song is filled with clever lyrics that cover a wide array of topics from the variety of cheeses one may encounter in life, including an ode to that stinky ole blue cheese, to a dog’s point of view at the dog park, to the meaning of the phrase, “I lost my lunch.” Many of the songs are multilayered and provide levels of fun for kids and adults alike. Older kids and grown-ups will especially enjoy “Yodeling Yoda” a fantastic love song to Star Wars, “Candy Tour” which retells the tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and “No Name” about a band with plans to make it big until they name themselves Minecraft and receive a cease and desist letter. Jack Forman wrote, provided all the vocals, played all the instruments, and produced and engineered this entire album, proving that he really is a one man powerhouse. Forman’s debut album is a hoot to listen to and one that families with kids of all ages will return to again and again.

Fids and Kamily Awards 2017

It’s that time of year again. Time for the “Best of…” lists to start appearing. First up in the land of children’s music is the 12th annual Fids & Kamily Music Awards. Voted on by a stellar collection of folks familiar with the fantastic offerings from the children’s music industry, this list of the Top 10 albums of 2017 for kids and families is a list of “must haves” for every collection. Don’t forget to take a look at the Honorable mentions, they are great ones to have as well. Keep an eye out next month for the GRAMMY nominations for Best Children’s Album and coming in December, School Library Journal’s 10 Best Children’s Albums of the year for teachers, librarians and families. Are there any albums you wished had made the Fids and Kamily list?

Rise Shine #Woke Performed by Alphabet Rockers

Until now, social justice and children’s music aren’t something that I thought went together. But I was wrong. After listening to Rise Shine #Woke, the newest album from Alphabet Rockers, on repeat for the last two weeks, I am a firm believer that children’s music – children’s hip-hop in particular – is exactly where lessons on social justice belong.

Written by Alphabet Rockers main duo, Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd, the music on this album takes on the big themes of inclusion, racism and lifting one another up and makes them accessible to children and families. Timely lyrics about things such as building walls between one another, as well as Michelle Obama’s important message, “When they go low, we go high,” are combined with tight beats to make each song unforgettable. Several of the songs have almost a 1990’s mainstream hip-hop feel (heartfelt rap lyrics combined with beautiful vocals) which makes them perfect for grade school listeners. The lyrics are powerful but never preachy nor didactic. One of my favorite songs is “What Are You?” which highlights the gorgeous vocal stylings of Kimiko Joy singing the refrain, “When they ask you what you are, you respond I’m a star, They don’t really know what they do, It’s no secret that you are you.”

In addition to Goings, this collection of songs features talented guest stars including Cactus Skidoo, Aaron Nigel Smith, Genevieve Goings, and Juan Amador. It’s not just the adults who are sharing the message though. A group of skilled kids rap on several of the songs making them instantly relatable to listeners. The album opens with the impactful interlude “Don’t Wait” which reminds us that we don’t need to, nor should we, wait until children are teenagers to start teaching them these important lessons. After listening to Rise Shine #Woke during these weeks of great discord in our country, it’s very clear that the time to teach these lessons to children of all ages is now.