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 11th annual Fids & Kamily Music Awards. Voted on by folks familiar with the fantastic offerings from the children’s music industry, this list of the Top 10 albums of 2016 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 School Library Journal‘s 10 Best Children’s Albums of the year. Are there any albums you wished had made the list?
Last week I asked some friends and colleagues for their favorite Halloween/October stories, songs and fingerplays. Below is a sampling of what was shared with me. I would love to hear from you. What are some of your favorites?
Creepy Carrots! By Aaron Reynolds
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
The Rabbi and the 29 Witches by Marilyn Hirsh
“Spider on the Floor” performed by Raffi – hand out rubber spiders for children to use during the song
“Monster Mash” (your favorite version) – dance with scarves or march with musical instruments
“Have You Seen the Ghost of John?” – perfect for those old enough to want to be scared but young enough to find singing about a chilly bunch of bones to be scary
Boo, Cackle, Trick or Treat album performed by Sue Schnitzer
Fingerplays/Flannel Stories/Movement Activities
“In a Dark, Dark Wood” this can be told as a story on its own, or as a flannel story. Adjusting the story to your environment can be a fun way to draw children in.
“5 Little Pumpkins”
Jbrary on YouTube is great for songs and chants anytime of the year. Here is just one of their offerings for fall/Halloween storytimes.
Sing-a-Long History, Vol. 2: The Rocket Went Up! performed by The Deedle Deedle Dees
Target Audience: Grades 3 and Up
Returning with their first album in five years, the Deedle Deedle Dees created another great collection of songs that are not only fun to listen to, but also teach something along the way. The 16 original songs in this collection span a variety of musical genres while celebrating real-life heroes. These heroes include Houdini, Ada Lovelace – the world’s first computer programmer, and swimmer Diana Nyad, as well as Charles Darwin and the early human, Lucy. Joining in on the fun is an ode to 3.14 in “Pi,” a fun sing-a-long honoring female astronauts in “The Rocket Went Up!,” and a rap battle for the ages in “Tesla v. Edison.” The songs on this album could easily be used as conversation starters, writing prompts or an introduction to the subject matters.
Ranger Rick’s Trail Mix Vol.1 Performed by The Whizpops!
Target Audience: Grades K to 5
While the focus of The Deedle Deedle Dees album is real-life heroes, The Whizpops! concentrate on songs filled with facts about some of the endangered wildlife of North America. Known for their science based music, The Whizpops! put their songwriting skills to work on 11 original songs that highlight animals such as the California condor, bison, the bull trout and the polar bear. Each song tells the story of a different animal, such as “Everything’s Better with a Mustache (Walrus Song),” with clever lyrics that weave facts about the animal’s habitat, life cycle and eating habits in in a way that feels like fun exploration. Adding to the revelry are several musical genres including a Bee Gee’s vibe on “Black Footed Ferret” and the reggae sounds detailing the life cycle of the “Monarch.” While this album is chock-full of facts and doesn’t shy from using words like carrion, metamorphosis and chrysalis, it never feels the least bit didactic. This collection would be a lively, informative addition to classroom units about animals.
Here are a few albums that will be out in the next couple of weeks.
Sing-A-Long History, Vol. 2 performed by The Deedle Deedle Dees
Feel What U Feel performed by Lisa Loeb
Lemonade performed by Justin Roberts
Wonderful YOU performed by Vanessa Trien & the Jumping Monkeys
Live in Colour performed by Marlowe & the MiX
Justin Roberts Greatest Hits performed by…Justin Roberts
Target Audience: PreS-Gr 3
Two time GRAMMY nominee, Justin Roberts, has been thrilling young audiences for almost two decades. With each album, he’s refined his power pop sound while crafting songs that are both silly yet relatable to young listeners. Whether it’s the child playing baseball who easily gets distracted by all the other things around him in “Pop Fly” or the children in the classroom who are eagerly awaiting that moment when the bell rings for “Recess,” Roberts perfectly captures the way young minds work. Listeners who have younger brothers or sisters will appreciate songs such as “Meltdown” where an older sibling “innocently” borrows the younger brother’s favorite crayon while others may enjoy a sibling puzzling over a younger brother who is “Obsessed by Trucks.” With Halloween quickly approaching, children will also enjoy the building excitement in “Trick or Treat.” If you’re not familiar with Justin Roberts, this album is a great introduction. If you are familiar, but can’t afford the eight albums these 16 original songs come from, this is the perfect way to add him to your collection.
Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León to the New York Island performed by Sonia De Los Santos
Audience: All Ages
Sonia De Los Santos, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, does a wonderful job of taking listeners on a tour of Spanish speaking countries in this, her first solo album for families. This collection of twelve songs includes music from Mexico, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and even a Venezuelan song derived from a Puerto Rican poem. De Los Santos opens the album with the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land is Your Land,” which she skillfully translated into Spanish and performs as “Esta Es Tu Tierra.” Dan Zanes and Friends join her on the original “Tan Feliz” as well as a translated version of Pete Seeger and Lee Hays’s “If I Had a Hammer,” here named “El Martillo.” Also included are songs such as the traditional Mexican rhyme, “Chocolate,” which would be perfect for storytime, “La Golondrinas” a lively original tune about animals that are sometimes referred to as immigrant birds, and a tribute to De Los Santos’s beautiful hometown, “Monterrey.” Sonia De Los Santos is joined by a host of talented musicians from around the world who accompany her on instruments such as the jarana, guitar, violin, maracas and bongos. While all of the songs are sung in Spanish, listeners do not have to speak Spanish to enjoy them. Beautifully illustrated liner notes contain the lyrics as well as a note in English from De Los Santos giving some background to each song. Any of these songs could easily be incorporated into programs or lesson plans about music, dance, families or other cultures. A must have from the newest performer on the children’s Spanish language music scene.
Forest Friends’ Nature Club Album performed by Ginalina
Target Audience: Preschool to Grade 3
My favorite time of the year to take long walks in the great outdoors is in the fall, when there is just the beginning of a crispness to the air and the leaves are changing colors and drifting to the ground. It’s during September and October when those hurried footsteps of summer begin to slow down that I take a deep breath and really enjoy all that is around me. Tonight, I realized as dusk began descending so much earlier than I thought it should, that autumn is really not that far away. And it was then that I remembered this lovely CD that first came to my attention in the spring.
Canada-based singer/songwriter Ginalina perfectly captures the gentle, awesome wonders of nature in Forest Friends’ Nature Club Album, her second album for children. A couple of years ago Ginalina, along with her three young children, spent weekly adventures in the forests of British Columbia’s Pacific Spirit Regional Park. It was these walks in the woods that became the inspiration for the 15 original songs in this collection. Ginalina’s beautiful soprano blends perfectly with among other instruments, banjo, violin, guitar and in one case kazoo, on these folk/pop/country infused tunes. Included on the album are two French language songs. “La Vie est Belle” which has such a catchy melody that even listeners who don’t know any French will find themselves singing along and “Play…Jouer,” a bilingual echo song that children will enjoy participating in. Songs about friendship and love (of one another and blueberry pancakes) are in this collection as well.
There are also several fact-filled songs that are so well written that children won’t realize how much they are learning. “Rainbow” teaches listeners about the colors and science that make a rainbow, while “Honey; We Love You” is a great ode to the honey bee. In addition, “Shapes are Everywhere” is filled with beautiful harmonies that describe all the shapes that can be found in nature. The delightful video below could easily be used in storytime, in the classroom, or before a family walk as an introduction to this concept.
In this world where everyone, no matter how young, is always plugged in, Forest Friends’ Nature Club Album is the perfect reminder to take time, relax, and enjoy the amazing beauty that is all around you.
With school starting in many areas this week, I thought I would highlight a couple of albums that have come out within the past year – one for the preschool set and one for those in grade school.
One of my absolute favorite albuims for preschool teachers and parents is Lisa Loeb’s latest, Nursery Rhyme Parade! As stated in the Public Library Association (PLA) and Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) initiative Every Child Ready to Read, beginning at birth, singing is one of the key activities for parents and caregivers to do with children everyday to help develop early literacy skills. What better way to do that than with nursery rhymes? For the last few years we have noticed that more and more of the parents coming to our storytimes and early childhood programs have no knowledge of nursery rhymes, which is why Lisa’s album is so important. In this collection, 35 nursery rhymes are treated to Loeb’s beautiful, clear voice. Backed only by soothing acoustic accompaniment, the words and rhymes are allowed to shine. Everything is here from Mother Goose favorites such as “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” “Peter Piper” and “Humpty Dumpty” to classic children’s songs like “This Old Man,” Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Every preschool teacher, librarian and parent should have a copy of this CD.
For the older set, Dan Crow’s latest album, Concoctions is a solid choice. While there are only five original songs in this collection, they are written more for a grade school audience with an overarching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) theme. With high energy melodies, Crow delivers rousing tunes such as “Science Science Science” which emphasizes the fact that science is everywhere, in the sky, on the ground and all around. “Technology” talks about what technology is and how it has evolved. Here is a cute video to go along with the song. And “You’re an Engineer” touches on the many, many ways that you can be an engineer. The song “Seven” is an ode to that luckiest of numbers while “Franklin D. Dime & Abraham Penny” is about, you guessed it, the coins in your pocket. The unique thing about this album, which would make it useful in a classroom activity, is that the last half of the album is karaoke versions of these five songs. What a fun way to introduce students to the general concept of STEM!
Two time GRAMMY nominee Justin Roberts is back! For his newest album for children and families, Justin Roberts is going back to his acoustic roots with Lemonade. Check out his new crowdfunding venture which gives funders exclusive behind the scenes access to the making of the album. Sounds like Lemonade is going to be a rollicking good time!
Beehives and Bedheads performed by Duke Otherwise
Audience: Preschool to Grade 5
Wisconsin based Duke Otherwise, or Noah Riemer as he is commonly known, returns with another successful, off the wall outing. All twelve of the original songs on this album are filled with fun, imaginative word play set to melodies that will keep listeners thoroughly engaged. While some of the topics are just plain silly like a dancing pig, what your nose and ears would be like if you lived a thousand years, and poor Kitty Wampus, the school bus driver who is always getting lost, others have enough of a grain of truth to them to make them relatable. Little boys who are at the stage where taking a bath is a horrible thought will love all but the ending of “So Good at Smelling Bad” about a boy who hasn’t taken a bath in five years while both parents and children will enjoy the song “Don’t Say What Daddy Says,” which talks about the times in life when Daddy may say a bad or mean word but ends with the important lesson that children shouldn’t repeat those same words. Most of the songs have upbeat tempos that keep things moving along, like “What Kind of Hairdo Do You Do?” which mentions over 30 different hairstyles from the beehive to a comb-over to a Princess Leia all in under two minutes. No matter the subject of the songs, Riemer’s rich baritone always conveys the lyrics clearly while supported by various combinations of instruments covering a variety of musical genres. This is a great album for family listening but could also be used in the classroom as an example of how to take every day situations and make them fun and silly.
Note: I have seen Duke Otherwise perform. It’s a fantastic, fun, interactive show that also contains some awesome tap dancing. Well worth taking a look if you’re ever in the Midwest and can catch a show.