Beehives and Bedheads

Beehives and Bedheads performed by Duke Otherwise
Audience: Preschool to Grade 5

Duke OtherwiseWisconsin 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.

I Believe in Little Things

I Believe in Little Things performed by Diana Panton
Audience: Preschool to Grade 5
I Believe in Little Things cover art_72dpi

This is one of my favorite albums of the year. Partly because of the nostalgia attached to several of the songs that tugs at my heart strings, but mostly because of Panton’s beautiful voice and the incredible musicians accompanying her. A Canadian jazz singer, Panton has made a career out of performing top notch music for adults, earning many accolades along the way including a Juno award (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy award). In this, her first album for children, she lets her voice shine on fourteen lovely, gentle songs that would be perfect at bedtime as a nice alternative to traditional lullabies, during those quiet moments in storytimes and programs, or just those more reserved times of a family’s day. Included in this collection are charming versions of well known songs, some of which are rarely covered, that I’m so happy to see being introduced to children today. Songs like, “Little Things” and “Sing” from Sesame Street as well as “The Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie, “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio, and “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Panton is also fluent in French and her mastery of the language is displayed in the lovely song “Alice in Wonderland.” I Believe in Little Things is a must have for every collection.

Some of My Favorites

I’ve spent the last month debating with myself over which album would be the best one to launch Kids Rhythm and Rock. It was a really tough decision. With so much great music being produced every month how was I ever going to choose? So, I decided, why pick just one? How about three instead? Here are several of the nominees (one of which was the winner) for the 2016 Best Children’s Album Grammy Award. Their styles are completely different, but each album shines and belongs in every library collection.

 

comebien

¡Come Bien! Eat Right! performed by José-Luis Orozco. 
Audience: Grades K-5
José-Luis Orozco, a bilingual educator and children’s author, has been writing and performing music for children for more than 40 years. His newest album, ¡Come Bien! Eat Right!, provides 19 bilingual songs on the general theme of healthy eating and nutrition. While many of the songs are educational, they are never didactic. The songs and chants are first performed in Spanish with the second half of the album featuring the English versions. Each song is upbeat and engaging. Topics range from the various kinds of milk to wholesome snacks and the importance of water. Some of the songs feature Latin dance styles, as in “The Fruit Conga,” in which colors and types of fruit are celebrated, and “The Dance of the Legumes,” which not only teaches listeners about the various kinds of beans but also gives step-by-step instructions for a cha-cha-cha. Many of the songs, including “Chocolate” and “Tortilla,” ask for audience participation either through call and response or clapping.  Orozco’s charming voice is woven together with beautiful instrumentation that will delight and entertain children and parents alike. Whether you are a Spanish speaker or not, you will find yourself singing along with both versions of the songs.

lorihenriques13

How Great Can This Day Be performed by Lori Henriques
Audience: Preschool – Grade 5
How Great Can This Day Be is a wonderful example of Lori Henriques’s continuing respect for a child’s ability to appreciate the rich, complex arrangements found in jazz music. Much of the original music on this album is built around a full jazz ensemble, with songs crossing from traditional jazz to Dixieland and cabaret and back again.  The subjects range from parks where you can play and harvest edible greenery to how to express joy about the wonderful things in life. One of the highlights is the beautiful tribute to Jane Goodall in “Dream Jane Dream” which Henriques had the privilege of playing for Goodall herself, last fall.  Although most of the songs are single voice, Henriques does include two duets. “Beau Paris” features her young son, who delightfully joins her in singing a variety of phrases in French and the charming ode to friendship, “I Am Your Friend,” on which she and her husband sing a sweet duet. Listeners will love the rich sounds of the moaning trombone, whispering flute and piano.

tim kubart

Home performed by Tim Kubart
Audience: Grades K-3
Tim Kubart is a man of many talents. He’s the host of the Sprout Channel’s morning show, Sunny Side Up, the highly energetic Tambourine Guy for the amazing Postmodern Jukebox and a creator and performer of music for children. And, oh yes. The winner of the 2016 Best Children’s Album Grammy award. And the album that won that Grammy? Home, Kubart’s second album for children. As with his debut, this album is filled with pop songs that will have listeners singing and, in some cases, dancing along. By writing the lyrics from the perspective of a child, Kubart and fellow songwriter Matt Puckett are able to capture the highs and lows of everyday life and convey them in a way that the target audience can relate to. The album is bookended by songs that look at the concept of home in very different ways. “Last Turn Home” emphasizes the fun of going away but recognizes the important feeling of home as the place where you belong. In contrast, the final song, “Moving Day,” shows a different perspective with the acknowledgment that home isn’t a physical place but rather wherever your family is. The songs in between cover topics such as the arrival of a new sibling, the wonders of creating art, the joy of “Dancing in the Kitchen” with your family, and, in “Better,” featuring Laurie Berkner, how much better it is to do things together with those you love. The infectious hooks and melodies will have you singing along in no time. For more about Tim Kubart, check out this interview from the June issue of School Library Journal.

 

Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock!

Welcome! My name is Veronica De Fazio. I started my career as a children’s librarian in public libraries in 1996. In 1998 I began reviewing audiovisual materials for School Library Journal. I reviewed books on tape (yes, they were all still on cassette then), videos which became DVDs and music. Over the years, the focus of the items that I reviewed slowly changed from a variety of formats to just children’s music.

What originally was, almost exclusively, acoustic guitar led folk music, over the years slowly morphed into something that was so much more. It was pop. It was rock. It was alternative. It got new sub-genres, kindie rock/pop/etc. It had electric guitars, drums, brass, jazz piano. It had a reggae, funk, country beat. Children’s music became as rich as any offering for adults. And yet, it was still completely accessible to children.

With the growth in the variety of children’s music came an explosion in new artists and albums. I know that as busy librarians, teachers or parents, you don’t have time to listen to every new release and that’s why I’m here. At least twice a week, I’ll be posting about new children’s albums and how they might best be enjoyed. I’ll also be sharing news from the land of children’s music and hopefully creating a place where we can share suggestions and ideas for using this new music in our early literacy and programming efforts.

I look forward to jamming with you on this new musical adventure!

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