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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
Musician, author and advocate for musical play, Jim Gill returns with his latest album, Vote for Jim Gill. Each of the 14 songs are filled with clever lyrics and amazing musicians. The title tune, “Vote for Jim Gill” is an interesting song that shows how so many parts of the body also sound like campaign promises. While that is a very timely tune, some of the songs have a more classical theme to them like “Conducting Can Be Fun” (I have to admit that I may have conducted this song a couple of times in my living room) and “My Accordion is on the Run” in which a rogue accordion ends up playing snippets from Liszt, Debussy and Ives while teaching children all about the instrument.
What truly makes this album a home run for librarians and teachers though are the songs that encourage interactive music play. Songs like “Bouncing, Hopping and Jumping,” “Hammer and Saw,” “The Countdown” (who knew counting down from 10 could be so fun?), “Play Guitar” and “One From the Left (A Finger Play).” Every one of these songs will get children listening and reacting to the words in the songs and each is perfect for storytime, music classes or just times when you need to get some of the wiggles out. This is definitely another must have from Jim Gill! For more videos like the one below and purchasing information, visit www.jimgill.com.
Forget about Adele and Beyonce and the acts that performed during the prime time GRAMMY’s show. I want to talk about children’s music and the GRAMMYs. This past weekend I had the great privilege of attending the Children’s GRAMMY Award Nominees Benefit Concert in Los Angeles. All five of the performers/groups nominated in the Best Children’s Album category performed during a family concert to benefit the Symphony Jazz Orchestra’s music in the schools program. And what a concert it was!
The show opened with Frances England performing songs from her album, Explorer of the World. Normally, I wouldn’t note what someone was wearing but since you can’t tell from the picture, I want to mention that Frances had on the most adorable dress that looked like maps of the world. Perfect. During her set, Frances brought onstage Carlos Aguirre to join her for “Ballad for a Beatboxer.”
Following Frances England were three time GRAMMY nominees (and one time GRAMMY winner in 2013), the Okee Dokee Brothers. Their set of Americana songs from the album Saddle Up included “Jackalope” and “Somos Amigos” which included special guest and recent Latin GRAMMY winner for best children’s album, 123 Andres.
Things got even livelier when Recess Monkey took the stage. And yes, that is a pink suit that Jack is wearing. 🙂 They played songs from their album Novelties. Four days later and I still find myself singing, “Time to Make the Donuts.”
Then, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo took the stage. The room turned electric as all the kids were encouraged to get up and dance their hearts out to the unique hip hop sounds. The high octane performance contained songs from the album (which would win the GRAMMY the next day), Infinity Plus One.
The final act of the concert, Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could, took the stage and kept the energy going with songs from their latest album to be nominated for a GRAMMY, Press Play. The concert ended with a finale featuring all of the performers gathering on stage for one final song.
What a concert! Can’t wait to see who will be taking the stage next year!!
Are you looking for just the right songs to share in your classroom, during storytime or as a family on Valentine’s Day? From today through Tuesday, February 14 the wonderful variety of songs listed below are available as free downloads. There’s a little something for everyone. Pass along the love and kindness!
“Valentine (I Don’t Want to Be Yours)” – Justin Roberts
“Lovestruck Unicorn” – Recess Monkey (2017 GRAMMY nominee)
“L.O.V.E.” – Little Miss Ann
“Love Bug” – Raffi
“Closer to You” – Frances England (2017 GRAMMY nominee)
“You Can Count on Me” – Lisa Loeb
“Your Love Turns the World Around” – Brady Rymer (2017 GRAMMY nominee)
“Loving and Kind” – Aaron Nigel Smith
“Til There Was You” – Lucky Diaz
“Cancion de Amor” – 123 Andrs
Anyone who thinks rap isn’t for young kids hasn’t heard Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s “Bubble Wrap Rap.” Bubble wrap already has kid (and ok, adult) appeal as proven each year when we put a box with small pieces of bubble wrap in it on the desk at work. No one can resist the perceived forbidden activity of popping the wrap in the library. With a hook that repeats, “Oh snap, it’s a bubble wrap rap,” this song perfectly captures the allure of that mysterious material. And with completely clean lyrics, this song is the perfect way to introduce older kids to the art and poetry of rap.
We Stood Up: Reflections on the Civil Rights Movement
Target Audience: Grades 3 to 6
Students have many options nowadays when learning the lessons of history – they can read a book, a newspaper or magazine article written at the time, or watch a movie, documentary or news clip. Or, sometimes most powerful of all, they can close their eyes and listen to those who lived through that period tell their stories in their own words. And that’s what We Stood Up does – provides students and teachers with the opportunity to hear from those who experienced the Civil Rights movement first hand. People like Congressman John Lewis, former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, Greensboro Four member Franklin McCain and Julian Bond, activist and founding member of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The 41 tracks follow an arc beginning with “The Value of Freedom,” that leads to “Reflections on the Civil Rights Movement” and concludes with “Continuing the Legacy.” Each section contains interviews and first hand accounts, poems and original songs. We Stood Up, along with an educator’s guide, are available as free downloads for teachers and community groups and can be accessed here. We Stood Up is a fantastic resource for classroom lessons, homeschooling families and those who want to learn more. View the trailer for this resource below (Note – the CD was released on iTunes in August).