Stacey Peasley’s fifth album for families, Make It Happen!, is a wonderfully refreshing thirty minutes of music. Backed by popping melodies, each of the ten original songs in this collection tells a story packed with details that children can easily relate to. The first three tracks – “Make It Happen,” “Boo Boo,” and “What Girls Do” – employ lyrics that empower listeners with messages that acknowledge that even though being a kid is hard, they are resilient and are here to do amazing things. With spring and summer sports beginning again, listeners will get all revved up for game day with the anthem “Play the Game,” while “Swimming Pool” will be a good track to share with children who might be nervous about taking swimming lessons for the first time. If you’re looking for new songs to use during storytime, “Choo Choo” is a great fast paced tune to use during a dance break, while “At the Parade” is interactive from beginning to end, inviting listeners to be the instruments, marchers and cheering audience at the parade. Make it Happen! is a joy from beginning to end.
March roared in with the arrival of music from two evergreen children’s performers – Laurie Berkner and The Wiggles. Not one to let something like a pandemic slow her down, on March 5, Laurie released her 14th album, Let’s Go! Filled with her signature style these 16 songs, running a brief 33 minutes total, will not disappoint. Tracks like “When It’s Cold,” “Time to Eat,” and “Jumping Jack” would be welcome additions to storytimes as they encourage children to wiggle, jump, spin, clap, and knock while “Happy New Year” is the perfect way to end this year’s Noon Year’s Eve events. Reminders of the times in which we live are evident in “The Superhero Handwashing Song,” “The Superhero Mask Song,” and the opening track, “Let’s Go!” which celebrates the building excitement as everyone gets ready to go outside. In addition to all of this fun, there are also some quiet moments, times for mindfulness and reflection in “Listen to the Sounds,” and “Beautiful Light.”
March 5 must have been a special day because it also saw the release of We’re All Fruit Salad: The Wiggles Greatest Hits. Featuring 40 of the group’s most popular songs, this super album celebrates 30 years of the iconic Australian children’s group. As the originators of what came to be known as “cradle rock,” the music of The Wiggles stands the test of time and will entertain old and new fans. Enjoy the delightful video for the title track “We’re All Fruit Salad!” – a takeoff on one of their hits, Packed with three decades of music and fun, there is only one thing left to say about this album – yummy, yummy!
I have been a big fan of Suzi Shelton’s latest album, Hand in Hand, ever since I first heard it way back in June. The lyrics are fun and engaging and the instrumentation uplifting. This combination makes many of the songs stick in your head so that you find yourself randomly singing them in the shower, in the car, or even at work (being a children’s librarian, no one even gives this a second glance). One of my favorite songs, “The Grass is Always Greener,” now has a green screen video that was shot at YouTube Space NYC to go along with it. Featuring Suzi, her bandmates and a delightful assist from Tim Kubart, this is the perfect way to start off the week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
In the public library realm of program planning, there are two seasons of programming – all of the programs that we do during the school year, and all the programs we do during summer reading. As our summer reading programs are winding down, I thought it was a good time to turn our attention specifically to storytimes. Many libraries do continuous storytimes, never taking a break (my hat is off to you, that takes a special level of energy and enthusiasm) while others take occasional breaks (often in August, December, and May) for program planning and rejuvenation. No matter where you are in the planning process, here are two new albums featuring songs perfect for use during storytimes.
The first album is Moving to the ABCs from Kansas-based Jammin’ Randy. Clocking in at almost 75 minutes, this album features 26 songs – one for each letter of the alphabet – with titles ranging from “Awesome Alphabet Rap” to “Zany Zebra.” Jammin’ Randy performs this collection of all original songs with just his solo voice set against simple melodies that children will find easy to follow along with. Many of the songs encourage participation either through movement or echo/repeat in the lyrics. Clear instructions to perform various actions like stomp, clap, hop, jump and count to four are given on songs such as “Clap Your Hands,” “Penguin Hop,” “Wiggle Wiggle Waggle,” and the “Egg Shaker Dance.” Additional movements include move to the front, the back, the left, and the right. All movements are developmentally appropriate for the target age group and are set at a pace that most preschoolers will be able to follow with little difficulty. Jammin’ Randy, or Randy Sauer as he is known in his every day life, let’s his experience as a K-6 music teacher shine in the lesson plans that he provides for this album. For each song, he provides suggested art, music and physical education activities making the songs easy to incorporate into the storytime planning process. For more information, or to check out the lesson plans, visit www.jamminrandy.com.
The second album is from Chicagoland-based Jeanie B! Jeanie B! & the Jelly Beans released the album I Love Music this year, but it is Jeanie B!’s solo album, Come Together that I would like to highlight. This album is split into two parts. The first part is “Come Together Songs” and the second, “Classroom Transitional Songs.” Thirteen of the fourteen songs in the first part are Jeanie B! originals. It is clear that she knows her audience because the songs all range in length from 1 to 2.5 minutes, making them perfect for storytimes. Several of the tracks are beautiful songs about nature that are just lovely to listen to, including “How Do You Build a Nest” and “I’m a Little Butterfly.” The rest of the tracks in this section of the album are very interactive including “If I Was An Ant” which gets kids snapping, clapping, and stomping, “Marching On My Feet” which highlights various body parts and “5 Little Pieces of Bubble Gum” which gets kids counting down from five to none. Additional songs include “Mary Had a Little Farm” during which children are encouraged to make the sounds of a variety of animals and “Zim Zamma Zoom” a fun call and response tune. The second part of the album would work best in a preschool environment with song breaks averaging around 30 seconds and covering topics from “Time To Wash Hands” to “Snack Time” and “Right Hand On The Rail.” Jeanie B!’s live shows are always a lot of fun and a real hit with the preschool set. If you find her performing in your area, make sure to check it out. For more information about Jeanie B! and all of her music, visit www.jeaniebmusic.com.
You know when you listen to a Suzi Shelton album you’re in for a good time and Hand in Hand is no exception. A joy to listen to from beginning to end, Shelton’s latest album showcases her own brand of upbeat pop music filled with feel-good melodies and catchy lyrics. Each song is moderately paced allowing listeners to catch every word making each tune highly singable, while the arrangements are sophisticated yet simple enough to allow a variety of instruments (saxophone, electric guitar, trombone) to shine.
Several of the tracks on Hand in Hand would work well in storytime or early childhood programming. The opening song, “Put Your Hands in the Air,” is a great movement song that is performed fast enough to hold the attention of the young participants, but slow enough for them to catch the instructions that take them from making a joyful sound to stomping their feet to jumping up and down. “Ladybugs” could be made into a fun, interactive song using flannel board pieces, ladybugs on sticks, etc. as the participants count down from five to one in this jazzy version of the traditional rhyme. The tune “Blue Fin” would be fun to use with scarves as different colored “fins” are swimming in the water.
Additional highlights include the very poppy “Never Let You Go,” the island vibe of “River Come Down” and “Raindrop” which incorporates a fantastic new version of “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.” Much like most of the songs on this album,”The Grass is Always Greener,” a duet with GRAMMY winner and former Sprout TV host Tim Kubart, will have listeners singing and smiling along.
Hand in Hand is a true delight that should not be missed!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wonderful You Performed by Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys
Target Audience: Preschool – Grade 2
Boston based Vanessa Trien and her band the Jumping Monkeys return with an album that will delight and engage young listeners. Known for an acoustic folk-pop style all her own, Trien crafts songs that tell stories backed by melodies that cross many genres. Beginning with the jazzy title song, “Wonderful You” and continuing on through “All Together Now,” and “Circle of Friends,” this collection of tunes celebrates friends, family and YOU, the listener. Many of the songs, like “Fireworks,” have choruses that are so irresistible, you can’t help but sing along with them. After one stanza, I bet you can’t stop yourself from joining in on Pow pow sizzle sizzle pow pow zoom/Pow pow sizzle sizzle bim bam boom.
There are several songs on this album that would be fun to use in storytime. “Monkey Jump” is perfect for those times when you want the kids to get all the wiggles out. Along those same lines is “Chi Chi Bom Bom” a cumulative tale set to western swing about a child who marches to her own drum. Throughout the song, she counts and she twists and she waits for a bus that is late. Still interactive, but a little quieter is the reggae-style song “Round and Round We Go.” This celebration of the Earth implores listeners to Lift your hands up, make a circle like the sun/Wiggle fingers, shining light on everyone.
Excellent musicianship, smart lyrics and wonderful melodies make this an album that would be a great addition to storytime classes or for family listening.