Brooklyn Baby! performed by Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights

Joanie Leeds is back and better than ever with her eighth (8th!!) children’s/family album. While the album as a whole is an ode to Joanie’s beloved Brooklyn, the majority of songs can be enjoyed by listeners, no matter where you live. From the opening line of “Ferry Nice,” /It’s ferry nice, It’s ferry good/, the lyrics will get in your head and have you singing along (I woke up with the song “Subway” rattling around in my head just this morning).

Mixed in with the songs that celebrate the things that make Brooklyn so great, are tunes about topics such as children gaining their independence in “By Myself,” all the great things you can learn in your “Library Book,” and eating food that is good for you in “Apples in my Apples.” Joanie has a lot of fun with lyrics and genres on this album on songs such as the punk infused “Rainbow Bagels from Outer Space,” the hilarious “Hipster in the Making (Remix),” and the Yiddish filled “Shayne Punim.”

Her softer side comes out on the beautiful song of acceptance, “Love is Love” as well as her cover of Lou Reed’s “Sunday Morning.” Backed by the Nightlights, Joanie creates a delightful album about a place that she loves that families wherever they may be will want to listen to again and again. Check out the video for “Ferry Nice” below.

Dana’s Best Jump & Jam Tunes

Just in time for planning summer programs comes Dana’s Best Jump & Jam Tunes. This high octane album is filled with songs that would be perfect during library storytimes, summer camp dance breaks or just getting the wiggles out at home. Dana Cohenour’s 20+ years of experience working with children is evident in the way that she crafts each song to engage children from beginning to end. The opening track, “Jump and Jive” is perfect to get kids up and moving while songs like “Jumping Beans,” a fun freeze dance will keep the kids (and you!) jumping to the beat for almost three full minutes. The only song not written by Dana is the traditional, “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” which in this case is set to a rousing bluegrass beat. Also included are the story song “Fish Tale” and the beautiful closing track, “I Love Mommy” which sends love to all members of a child’s family circle.

There are several songs from this album that would be great additions to storytimes. My favorites are, “Follow the Leader” which gets kids moving like a wide variety of animals, and “Legs,” a funky tune that has kids counting the legs and moving like a different group of animals than are found in the previous song. (With a running time of 4:10 min. you might at first worry that this is too long for storytime, but never fear, it keeps kids very engaged and waiting to find out what the next animal is going to be.) Also on the album is a new shaker song, “Shakin’ Things Up.” It has a moderate tempo which helps children follow the instructions, and works to get much of the body moving. Finally, there is “Wiggle Workout.” This may be a bit much for storytime, but could work well in a home or exercise/movement class setting. Take a look below.

Dana’s Jump & Jam Tunes is an excellent resource for librarians and teachers and would make a great addition to circulating children’s music collections.

Lard Dog’s Song for April

Did you know that Lard Dog & the Band of Shy is releasing one new song a month during 2017? Take a listen to their song for April, “Don’t Let the Boogah Bug You Out!” And what exactly is a Boogah? According to Lard Dog, it’s “anyone or anything that gets you down. It might be a not-so-nice friend, a not-so-helpful coworker, a not-so-fun tax season, or a not-so-honest politician.  Or, it might be a sticky booger you can’t get off your finger or that nuisance of a pebble that’s stuck in your shoe.” While you’re there, catch up on the songs already released this year. Learn more about Lard Dog at www.houseoflard.com.

My First Raffi Concert

I have to admit, I didn’t listen to Raffi as a child. Somehow his music didn’t make it to our tiny corner of the world so I was raised on a steady diet of Sesame Street and Broadway musicals. Once I became a librarian though, I quickly became acquainted with storytime staples like “Shake My Sillies Out” and “Down By the Bay” and was soon a Raffi fan. Over the years I have enjoyed each of Raffi’s albums and appreciated the way he has always remained true to himself and his style of music. Then, last year I interviewed Raffi via phone for School Library Journal and my admiration for him only increased. Raffi is not just an amazing musician but a strong advocate for children and childhood and being able to have a conversation with him was a great honor.

At this point in my career, I’d listened to Raffi’s albums and talked to him on the telephone (not the bananaphone), but had never seen him perform live. Until this past Sunday. It was a beautiful spring day in Chicago and Raffi was in town as part of his 40th Anniversary tour (yes, 40 years of Raffi!) and I was fortunate enough to get a couple of tickets. Not having any small children to accompany me to the concert, I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and took my 76-year-old dad with me. And what a great time we had.

Before the concert, mothers and fathers could be heard throughout the theater saying, “Raffi’s going to sing,” “Raffi’s coming out soon,” “Are you excited to see Raffi?” And then, at ten minutes after 1:00, there he was, the man we had all been waiting to see. The only things on the stage were a stool, a chair, a glass of water, a microphone, a guitar stand, and some bananas, but from the moment Raffi stepped on stage he had the attention of every big one and little one in the house. He jumped right in with some traditional songs weaving his own songs in as well. He sang all his classics including “Apples and Bananas,” “Baby Beluga” and “Love Bug” and with every song, the audience sang along. At one point, my dad leaned over and said in awe, “The children know all of the words.”

There were a couple of really poignant moments during the concert. The first being when Raffi paid tribute to his friend Pete Seeger with a beautiful rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” He sang the first stanza using the landmarks of Canada (Raffi calls Canada home) and the rest of the song using the traditional American landmarks. The second moment was when the whole building quieted down while he sang “Thanks A Lot.”

The concert ended with a quick zip through any of his classics that he hadn’t already performed and a rousing singalong of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” The concert may have only been an hour long, but it was by far, the best hour of the whole week.

I was very fortunate on Sunday because my Raffi concert going experience didn’t end there. I had the great honor of participating in the meet and greet following the concert. My dad and I stood in line behind a couple of dozen families as they each took their turn meeting their idol. Raffi’s meet and greet is a very personal experience. He doesn’t sit behind a table putting a barrier between him and you. He sits in a chair with another beside him for all of his new friends. He takes time to talk with each family, give hugs where they are wanted, signs books and CDs and poses for pictures. Raffi is soft-spoken, humble and kind. It was such a pleasure to meet him. Much like my first concert, my first Raffi concert is filled with memories I will never forget.

HomeEarth by Wendy & DB

Out just in time for Earth Day program planning, HomeEarth by Chicago duo Wendy & DB, is a real treat. The album opens with the title song “HomeEarth,” a fun introduction to the planets and the galaxy, then takes listeners to ground level where the importance of living things is explored. “Olly the Orca,” “Bugs That Give Hugs” and the joy of growing a garden and giving to others in “Plant a Seed” are all given their moment to shine in the sun.

Many of the tunes on this album could easily be incorporated into programming or storytimes. The songs “Buzzin’ Bee Be Happy” and “I Like Bees” would be great tunes to build a bee awareness program around. After sharing information about bees, attendees could make bee themed shakers then “perform” to one or both of these songs. Need to get the kids up and moving? Try “Hopscotch” which pays tribute to the classic children’s sidewalk game, or “We Bop” which instructs listeners to Take two steps hop one back/Turn it around jump off the track/and STOP We Bop. Quick tempoed, these songs will help children get the wiggles out and be ready to listen.

Also included in this collection are several songs that would work great as conversation starters in classroom or family settings. “Water Song” talks about the importance of the availability of water and digging wells around the world while the themes of diversity and acceptance are emphasized in “People are People” and “It Takes All Kinds of Trucks (Folks).” On a very basic level, “It Takes All Kinds” is a comprehensive list of the wide variety of trucks that are used throughout society and will be of great interest to those really young ones who are going through a truck phase. At a higher level, older listeners will hear the message of acceptance woven in among the trucks.

The upbeat tempos, catchy melodies and smart lyrics highlighting the importance of loving the Earth and everything on it, makes this an album that librarians, teachers and parents will all love.

Rock & Roll Party performed by Wayne Potash

Boston-based Wayne Potash may not be new to the children’s music game (his first album came out in 1989), but his music still sounds fresh and fun. His newest album, Rock & Roll Party, features a combination of original tunes as well as covers of songs such as George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” and John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” but with updated, kid-friendly lyrics. Children will relate to the variety of subjects covered in this album, including everything from having a sweet tooth, to the adventure of going to a baseball game, to a train heading down the track. Several very special creatures are featured in their own songs as well, including, “Boris the Spider,” “Clawzy the Sea Monster,” and “Willy the Woolly Mammoth.” Preschoolers will love dancing to the rock and roll beat while younger grade schoolers will enjoy the clever, catchy lyrics which tell a different story in each song. There’s a little something for everyone on this album from “Bobcats” which adeptly combines both the animal and the construction vehicle into one song as well as “I’m a Little Princess,” (performed by Hannah Lizotte) about a little girl getting ready for her princess party. The majority of the album has an energetic, upbeat vibe and would be fun to use in programs where a dance break is needed. With a rock and roll sound and choruses you can’t get out of your head, parents will quickly find themselves singing along, even when there aren’t any kids in the car. The adorable, eye-catching cover art makes this a rock & roll party that patrons are going to want to go to. A great addition to library collections.

Keep On by Miss Ann and Amy D

Chicago-based Little Miss Ann and Amy D (or Ann Torralba and Amyliza de Jesus as they are known in their daily lives) have teamed up on their first album together and I, for one, certainly hope that it isn’t their last. Keep On is a great combination of new songs and old, many of which are perfect for storytime. Songs such as “Ube” about a purple yam and “L.O.V.E.” will get little ones singing and dancing the wiggles out while “Shake and Sing” would work as an energetic clapping/shaker song and “Hill and Gully Rider,” which features 123 Andres on clarinet, is a really fun tune to get storytime participants moving and interacting with one another. In addition, the delightful “The Senses Song” assigns a letter to each sense along with things that start with that letter. Hear is the letter “M” and some of the things listed that may be heard are music and mama’s voice. Taste is the letter “H” which includes hot chocolate and horchata, See the letter “B” for butterflies and bumblebees, Smell is the letter “L” for lemons and lychee, and Touch and Feel the letter “G” for green grass. This song could easily be used with the flannel board where each item is added to the board as it is mentioned in the song.

Other songs included on this album are a cover of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” a pretty straight forward version of “Where is Thumbkin?” and the original tune, “The 606” which Chicagoans will recognize as an ode to an innovative area in Chicago which connects four neighborhoods and incorporates the arts, bike and trail paths, and event spaces.

Little Miss Ann and Amy D have a wonderful sound with voices that blend beautifully and much of the instrumentation is provided by power producer Dean Jones. Each song stands on its own and with so many that would work for storytime, this is a must have for anyone who presents programs for little ones, or just spends a lot of time with them.

“Countin’ On Me” by The Okee Dokee Brothers

Nature and all of the wonders of the great outdoors have always been a keystone of the music that The Okee Dokee Brothers make, and today’s debut of the single “Countin’ On Me” was no different. As part of their ongoing partnership with the Minnesota Zoo, the musical duo has written a gorgeous song about conservation. Evoking images of the grasses on the prairie, bison herds, flowers and critters in the forest, The Okee Dokee Brothers combine beautiful instrumentation and subtle animal sounds with lovely lyrics like the chorus, “They might seem small, but when you look at them all, their message is bigger than it’s ever been, we gotta build this home again” to create a song that you will want to listen to again and again. Available on iTunes, all the proceeds from the song’s sales will go to the Minnesota Zoo’s conservation efforts. A beautiful song for a beautiful cause.

March Books from Your Favorite Children’s Musicians

What a great month March is turning out to be for the release of picture books by the fantastic folks in children’s music. On March 7, we said hello to Thousand Star Hotel by the GRAMMY winning duo The Okee Dokee Brothers. This retelling of “The Fisherman and His Wife” illustrated by Brandon Reese features Mr. and Mrs. Muskrat who live near a big river. An accompanying CD includes the audiobook for the story as well as 11 songs performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers.

 

 

 

 

 

Also making a splash on March 7 was Dive In! by 2017 GRAMMY nominee Recess Monkey. Illustrated by Rob McClurkan, this interactive undersea adventure will delight young ones as they participate in the escapades of Burt the Blobfish and Sir Sebastian Stockingbottomham.

 

 

 

 

 

Mark your calendars! March 21 is the date for the release of the amazing Laurie Berkner’s new book, We Are the Dinosaurs. This combination of the lyrics from Laurie’s hit song “We Are the Dinosaurs” and adorable illustrations by Ben Clanton is sure to be a hit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in a #FBF Flashback Friday, I’d like to highlight Zar and the Broken Spaceship by children’s music extraordinaire, Dino O’Dell and illustrated by Santiago Germano. This is the story of three friends who meet the alien Zar, learn a lot about team work as they help him fix his spaceship and make a new friend along the way. One of the librarians who works with me has been using this book in her preschool visits this winter. The fun, interactive aspects of the story have made it such a hit with the preschoolers that it quickly became the finale of each storytime.
Do you have a favorite picture book by children’s musical artists that you like to use for storytime or in the classroom?

Junie B. Jones The Musical Cast Album

Are your students fans of Junie B. Jones? Do kids ask you daily where to find her books? If so, then this is the musical for you. Adapted, with input from author Barbara Park, from four of the Junie B. books, these adorable, rollicking songs grab your attention from the first note to the last. Whether spunky Junie B. is singing about her “Top Secret Personal Beeswax” journal or the news that she needs glasses, this top notch production will have listeners grinning from ear to ear. Throughout the musical, Junie B. makes a new friend, gets excited about playing in a kickball tournament and is over the moon because of a new lunch box. Herb and Sheldon are each highlighted in a number, but it is the showstopper, “Gladys Gutzman, Queen of Snacks” that really brings the house down. A fantastic cast backed by an excellent orchestra make this a hit. Coming in at only 30 minutes the entire cast album could easily be used in a classroom as part of a lesson or in a library setting where one or two songs are incorporated into a program. This is a real delight that teachers, librarians, parents and most of all – kids will love!

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