High Five! Performed by Laura Doherty

I have been a fan of Laura Doherty since I first heard her charming album Shining Like a Star (2011). From the very beginning, her ability to craft relatable lyrics set to developmentally appropriate tempos spoke to her experience as an early childhood educator, starting with her time as the director of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music’s Wiggleworms program. With each album Doherty has honed her craft as a songwriter and performer resulting in High Five!, her best album to date.

Coming in at a brief 27 minutes, Doherty packs a lot of fun and musical talent into the 10 songs in this collection. Her signature folk-pop style shines along with the light, airy melodies and catchy lyrics of songs that cover a wide variety of topics including – the first day of school, making friends, lucky charms, different types of pasta and Paulette the Purple Dragonette. Wonderful, complex instrumentations support but never overwhelm Doherty’s lovely soprano. A perfect example being the title song, “High Five.” Featuring a really funky groove, this tune lets the brass section shine while Doherty encourages listeners to get up and move while trying out dances like the Locomotion and The Twist.

Other highlights include the earworm song of the record, “Muddy Puddles” (I’m pretty sure I’ll be singing that chorus in my sleep), Doherty’s duet with mutli-GRAMMY nominee Justin Roberts on “Can’t Wait to Turn 8” and the really touching final track, “Wonderful 1.”

Laura Doherty’s albums are the best kind of children’s music – lyrics are sung from the point of view of a child, songs are short enough to use in programs and storytimes, and the tunes are so catchy and well-produced that parents won’t go crazy listening to them again and again. High Five! is a must-have for libraries and family listening!

Celebrate Mother’s Day with Tour Guide from Cheri Magill

Released on May 4, Tour Guide is a gorgeous ode to motherhood with all of its ups and downs. Written and performed by Cheri Magill, the 30 minutes of music on this album capture those moments that drive a mom crazy like the Legos you step on everytime you turn around and the TV shows you have to watch that can only appeal to the under six set, as well as the joys of being a parent like the cuddles in the morning and the strength that a child instills in a mother. The theme of unconditional love flows throughout the collection, tying everything together. Rich musical arrangements support Magill’s lovely solo voice which is often reminiscent of Sara Bareilles. Her lyrics paint beautiful vignettes from the daily lives of a mother and a child and will touch the hearts of everyone who listens. While mothers are the target audience for Tour Guide, anyone who has ever acted in the role of a parent will find a deep connection to the songs on this album. Just lovely.

Take a listen to the title track, “Tour Guide,” below.


Out Today! La Luna performed by 123 Andrés

For fans of 123 Andrés, Friday the 13th is anything but unlucky! Today marks the release of the new album, La Luna. Filled with lush instrumentations and gorgeous vocals, Andrés Salguero and Christina Sanabria, the husband and wife duo behind 123 Andrés, have hit a new high with this rich collection that takes listeners on an imaginary trip to South America.

Eleven of the twelve songs are performed in Spanish and include a well considered combination of originals, traditional tunes and songs from young composers and cover topics such as counting from one blanket to ten hugs, the various ways the moon is perceived, the flora and fauna saying good night and the end of busy days for children just like those who are listening. 123 Andrés is joined by extremely talented musicians and vocalists like the delightful young sisters Luna and Brisa Beltran, Latin GRAMMY nominees Mariana Baraj, 3 y Cuatro, and Chicago kindie artist Little Miss Ann on a bilingual arrangement of her song, “Fly, Shine, Soar.”

For both Spanish and non-Spanish speakers, La Luna is the perfect accompaniment to those quiet times of the day. To enjoy it, all you have to do is close your eyes and let the music wrap around you like a soft, cuddly blanket while all your worries and cares float away.

Beanstalk Jack performed by Paper Canoe Company

The fairy tale of “Jack and the Beanstalk” has been around for centuries, but this is the first time that it has been presented in such a unique, innovative way. The all-original 16 songs on Beanstalk Jack feature vocals by Paper Canoe co-founders Tami Stronach and Greg Steinbruner, backed by top-notch musicians, and tell the story of a young man bearing a guitar who climbs a beanstalk, meets the Giant, and the Giant’s daughter Harmony. Harmony joins Jack and they run away to follow their musical dreams.


The first half of the album relies heavily on a folk/folk-rock sound, paying homage to the sounds of folk greats like Simon and Garfunkel and Woody Guthrie. Once Jack reaches the summit of the beanstalk, the music takes on an almost musical theater quality to its arrangements, with hints of jazz, 50’s rock, pop and more emerging. Familiar elements such as the cow and Jack’s mother are included as well as a very dark and ominous version of “Fee Fi Fo Fum.”  Each song can be enjoyed on its own, but when put all together, they tell a beautiful, thrilling tale that is perfect for family listening.


Check out this adorable video for “Hey Wow” from the second half of the album, Beanstalk Jack.

Meet Falu of “Falu’s Bazaar”

When you think of children’s music in the United States, you don’t automatically think of Indian music. And when you think of children’s music in other languages, you don’t often think of music sung in Hindi or Gujarati. Well, that is all about to change. Falu’s Bazaar, the debut children’s album from established adult music performer Falu, has arrived and it is so much fun.

The ten tracks on the album follow children on a journey to the Hulululu Bazaar. The journey takes them on the bus where languages from around the world are spoken, through the bazaar filled with spices and foods and to a kitchen where all that goes into cooking is explored. Along the way, listeners are also given lessons in shapes, geography and the colors of the rainbow. Both Hindi and English are featured on the album as well as Gujarati on the final song, “Nishaad’s Lullaby” which is performed by Falu’s mother. Most of the songs are short enough and have enough repetition to be used in storytimes or other programming. With gorgeous vocals, amazing instrumentation and a very high production value, this album is a must have for all libraries.

In January, I had the privilege of getting to meet and talk with Falu just a couple of weeks before her album made it’s debut. Keep reading to learn about this delightful new voice in children’s music.

The main audience of this blog is librarians, teachers and parents. For those who aren’t familiar with your work, would you like to introduce yourself?
My name is FALU (Falguni Shah) and I was born and raised in India. I come from a musical family and finished my Masters in Indian Classical Music in Mumbai. After that I came to US and studied American Music. Before I released my kids album Falu’s Bazaar, I recorded two albums “FORAS ROAD” representing World Music and “FALU” representing a new genre – “Indie Hindi.” After that my son was born and along with him a mother in me was also born. My son Nishaad started asking me questions like what are the names of our spices, pots and pans? Which language do we speak at home? How do we count our numbers in Hindi versus English? Those questions got me thinking about how I can raise awareness of South Asian culture and give my son an identity of what it means to be an Indian American in the US.

Luckily my mom also sings and agreed to sing in my kids album Falu’s Bazaar which made it even more special as now I have my mother, and my son sing with me in this new project. I’ve tried to share South Asian culture and heritage through music and different languages in Falu’s Bazaar (English, Hindi and Gujarati). We have also tried to show our audiences how Indian Music has been passed on from one generation to another for centuries as in this album as three generations from own my family come together and share this experience with our audiences. My mom, passed on this tradition to me and now I’ll pass it on to my son and hope that he passes it on to his children so that this deep rooted tradition remains alive in our family.
What made you decide to make a children’s album?
This album was mainly born due to my son’s curiosity and his questions. But more importantly, I wanted to make sure he creates his own identity in this country. He inspired me to think about what a South Asian child wonders about and how he feels and thinks living an Indian American life here in the US. All these questions created a sense of wonder in me as well, and that really inspired me to make this children’s album.
Tell us about the process in creating Falu’s Bazaar.
I took all the hints from my little son, Nishaad. How he felt when he went to preschool – he saw that he was the only one with black hair and black eyes. How he was hesitant to open his lunch box in front of his friends because the spices made his Indian food smell stronger than a pizza. These incidents made me think about subject matters children can relate to for example, how all the children love rainbow, shapes, colors, riding a bus, picking their own vegetables and fruits from the market, counting numbers. That made me think – why don’t I bring in the educational element of learning South Asian culture through all these fun things that children love, but make them in multiple languages so they could learn counting in Hindi and English or learn the names of spices, pots and pans and colors in multiple languages. How much fun can that be for a child?

The style of music that we have used is North Indian Classical Music where in we teach children in multiple languages, how to count a 7 beat rhythm cycle called RUPAK along with counting numbers from 1 through 7, and stating 7 colors of a rainbow, or teaching about 7 continents, 7 days of the week, 7 oceans, 7 Indian musical notes which are SA RE GA MA PA DHA NI SA just like DO RE MA FA SO LA TI DO.  All these thoughts and topics were the main process in writing these songs. After that it was just a simple formality of arranging the music and going to the studio to record and release this music.

Falu (l) with fellow multi-lingual children’s performer Sonia De Los Santos in New York City, January 2018.

Many of the songs include lyrics in English and Hindi with other languages being highlighted as well. Why was it important to you to make a multi-language album?

India is a land of more than 25 state languages. Gujarat has a language called Gujarati, Maharashtra has a language called Marathi, Bengal has a language Bengali. Now imagine so many different languages spoken in America, for example – California has a different language, Virginia has another language, New York has a very different language than California. How would that work in America? It’s fascinating to me that in India people grow up speaking so many languages. I myself speak 5 different languages (Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, English and Urdu) and sing in many more languages including Sanskrit. So I feel learning multiple languages could be important for a child as it broadens their minds. It was important for me to show kids how so many languages exist in this world, how people can respect other cultures and exist peacefully with each other in spite of our differences. I tried to show it through singing in different languages in the album. More importantly I firmly believe that once a child’s mother tongue is lost, it is very easy for a child to also lose his culture and his roots of where he or she comes from. So at our house we only speak in our mother tongue Gujarati.
Both your son and your mother appear on the album. How did that come about?
My mom is a singer and music runs in my family so my son also got those musical genes. I found out when he was 18 months old that he could sing and he has perfect pitch so I decided to include all three generations in this album, sort of create a family legacy album that my child, grandchildren and great grandchildren can enjoy!
What’s next for Falu?
I’ve too many dreams to name one. I will continue touring with my children’s music in the afternoon and my adult Bollywood Orchestra at night. Since they share the same musicians, we plan to do two sets in any given venue – one for kids and one for grown ups. Right now we are touring with Falu’s Bazaar and Falu’s Bollywood Orchestra and really trying to promote our kids album out there so more and more kids can enjoy diversity in music and learn about different cultures and languages in the world.

The Starlighter performed by Shawn Colvin

Twenty years after the release of her first kids album, Holiday Songs and Lullabies, GRAMMY-winning adult artist Shawn Colvin returns to children’s music with her new album The Starlighter. As she did in 1998, Colvin once again looked to the 1965 children’s songbook, Lullabies and Night Songs for inspiration. Filled with 48 poems by authors such as Lewis Carroll and Robert Louis Stevenson, set to music arranged by Alec Wilder, and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, this book is solid source material for young listeners.

Newly adapted by Colvin, the tracks on this Amazon Original album have a soothing, peaceful air to them. While the 14 songs in this collection are more non-traditional lullabies that lack the warm fuzzy quality of many contemporary lullabies, some of the songs such as “Sleep Baby Sleep,” “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” and “Hush, Little Baby” will be familiar to many adults.  All of the songs feature lush arrangements that support Colvin’s lovely solo voice making them a nice addition to playlists for winding down at the end of the day.

The first video from the album is for the title track, “The Starlighter.” The video is based on Victorian paper theatres with each scene containing over one hundred layered illustrations, making it a true work of art. Enjoy!

Walking Around with Giants performed by The Dilly Dallies

The Dilly Dallies, the California based duo of Steve Slater and Jenn Ekman return with a second album filled with songs that parents and children can relate to and the whole family can enjoy. New moms (or all moms and dads really) will be touched by the song “Little Tiny Toes” which talks about a parents’ love for a baby from head to toe. This song would make a nice intro or exit song to a Baby and Me type program. With repeating lyrics and easy to follow melody, caregivers will be able to sing-a-long in no time.


Parents will find the situations described in “I Get Up” very familiar. Told from a child’s perspective, it addresses the age old problem of a child not wanting to stay in bed at bedtime. Another song that provides the child’s point of view is the fun title song, “Walking Around with Giants” which gives the kids-eye-view (which in this case is knee height) when walking down a street filled with adults. Most of the songs are upbeat but the slower ones such as the pretty lullaby “Dreams Await” and “You Are Me and I Am You” showcase the complex harmonies created by Slater and Ekman.


All 13 of the songs on this album were written by Steve Slater. He and Ekman provide the lone vocals. The duo also plays all of the instruments – including the ukuleles and glockenspiel, carefully choosing those that best support the vocals on each song. Walking Around with Giants is a good album for family listening. The Dilly Dallies include on their website all of the lyrics and chords to every song on the album giving it an additional level of usability in storytimes and early childhood programs.

Backyards & Home Fronts performed by Steve Pullara & His Cool Beans Band

The first time I listen to a new album (I generally listen to each album at least 3 times), I like to go in “blind.” I don’t read the liner notes or any of the accompanying PR. I just listen. This was true of the first time that I listened to Backyards & Home Fronts. With barely a glance at the packaging, I popped the CD in, pressed play and bopped along while I sorted the mail and straightened the kitchen. At the end, I thought, that was nice. Kids will like the song about using your imagination while drawing on the car window with your finger. They’ll be able to relate to the song about playing with a refrigerator box. Many of them will understand the song about the child who is growing older along with a pet.


Then, I read the liner notes and visited Steve Pullara’s website and realized I had it all wrong. So, I listened to the album again. And again. And again. While it is true that the album has universal themes that children can relate to, at the heart of this album lies a beautiful tribute to the children whose moms and dads are in the military and are away from home on deployment. This is an album filled with songs about missed birthdays, wishes and dreams, letters and care packages, and grandmas and grandpas who step in to help fill the void. While the subject matter may pull at the heart strings, the songs are all upbeat and joyous, employing a little bit of country and a little bit of old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll to convey its message.


Many of the songs on this album could be used in lessons or programs about different types of families. This is a welcome addition to all music collections, but is a must have for those libraries and classrooms that serve families in the military. Check out the video below for the joyful final track of the album, “Guess Who’s Coming Home.”

*make sure to have a tissue handy



Kids Music Takes New York City by Storm!

Last weekend the GRAMMY awards left the sun and warmth of Los Angeles to celebrate the big 6-0 back home in New York City. Throughout the City that never sleeps the return of the awards were celebrated and it seemed like everywhere you went, there were announcements for concerts being held during the weekend featuring everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Childish Gambino. But it wasn’t just musical acts for grown-ups in town. NYC was also alive with the sound of children’s music.


The first of the two children’s music concerts that I was able to attend over the weekend was held Friday morning at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Sponsored by Kids Rhythm and Rock, Chicago’s own Wendy & DB performed two concerts to benefit the museum, VH1 Save the Music and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots. These engaging, interactive performances had children up and dancing as they heard songs including, “Pink Flamingo,” “Watersong,” “Girl Superhero,” and the blissfully exhausting “HopScotch.” I don’t know about the little ones, but after those high energy performances, I was just about ready for a nap.



The second children’s music concert was on Saturday at New York’s Symphony Space as part of their “Just Kidding!” series. This concert, “Best of Family Showcase!” featured live performances by four of the five nominees for the Best Children’s Album GRAMMY. Hosted by Sirius XM’s Kenny Curtis and Mindy Thomas this hour-long musical extravaganza was a true delight from beginning to end.



Up first was everyone’s favorite drop of sunshine, Gustafer Yellowgold. Aided by his human friend (and creator) Morgan Taylor on guitar and vocals, Gustafer’s escapades from Brighter Side were brought to life for all to enjoy. Those awful “Hot Nights” and how fun it is when “I Jump on Cake” were just a few of the insights shared into Gustafer’s one-of-a-kind life.




Switching gears a bit after Gustafer and Morgan came a pre-recorded message from Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Nominated for their album Songs of Peace & Love for Kids & Parents Around the World, the group expressed their gratitude for the nomination and performed the song, “Everything is So Stupid.”




Next up was Chicago-based Justin Roberts. Accompanied by producer Liam Davis, Justin performed the very relatable “Must Be This Tall” and “Dodgeball” before inviting Jason Rabinowitz from The Pop-Ups and GRAMMY winner Tim Kubart on stage to join in the title song from Justin’s album, Lemonade.





Lisa Loeb, who would go on Sunday to win the GRAMMY award, gave a lovely performance of several of the songs from Feel What U Feel including “Say Hello” and “Moon Star Pie (It’s Gonna Be Alright)” while accompanied by her co-producer Rich Jacques and her keyboardist.








The final performance of the all-star concert brought the crowd to their feet when Alphabet Rockers took the stage. This Oakland-based crew fundraised so that all of the kids who appeared on their nominated album, Rise, Shine, #Woke could make the trip to perform in New York. And perform they did!



This Best of Family Showcase! was filled with energy and a love and understanding of all those things big and small that are important in the life of a child. It’s impossible to predict what performers will appear at the showcase next year, but the one thing you can guarantee, is that when it comes to children’s music, whoever gets nominated will be absolutely amazing.


Last year was full of fantastic, smart, entertaining music for children. If 2018 is even half as good, it’s going to be a great year. Thank you New York City for embracing children’s music and giving it such wonderful places to shine!!

Disney Learning “Explore Music” Series

As librarians and early childhood educators who do storytimes and music programs on a regular basis, we are often on the lookout for new, interesting, interactive ways to do our programs. But they can’t be just any old activities. They have to be activities that fit into the goals of early childhood literacy as well as child development. This can be a time consuming pursuit. Time that we don’t always have. And that is what makes this new series so great.

Launched in 2017, this three book Disney Learning “Explore Music” series from Disney and Hal Leonard is aimed at children ages 4-8. Based on an early childhood music curriculum and featuring well known Disney characters, all of the hard work and research is already done for educators by a team of experts and presented in a program ready package.


Mickey’s Found Sounds – A Musical Exploration Storybook

This book begins with a brief story. When the Main Street Parade is rained out, Mickey and all of his friends return home where Mickey proposes they put on a parade of their own by creating their own marching band. Following the story, easy-to-follow instructions show how to make a bucket drum, oatmeal conga drum, plastic bottle shaker, tube kazoo and glass jar xylophone using common household items. Clear photos accompany the instructions.




Moana: The Beat of Your Heart – A Musical Exploration Storybook

This entry into the series introduces readers to Moana and her family and friends. The concept of rhythm is woven throughout the book as children are encouraged to find the beat within themselves, learn pati and po clapping and are instructed in making and playing a lali, a fala and a pahu.





Tangled: It’s Better When You Sing It – A Musical Exploration Storybook

Tangled-inspired story is used to show all of the ways that sounds and music surround Rapunzel wherever she goes. Woven into the story are “It’s Better When You Sing It!” tips and suggestions for trying out new ways to express yourself with your voice.




Each book comes with an online component that includes a video read-along, an audio sing-along and additional activities and music to go along with those introduced in the book. There is enough activity and story in a single book to build an entire program around, or you can pick and choose activities to incorporate into your already existing programs. This well thought out, sleekly produced series is a must have for anyone who shares the love of music with the children in their lives.

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