In the past few weeks, there has been much written about how to talk about tolerance, kindness, and acceptance with children. Most of what has been written has focused on using books to address these topics. I’d like to offer up the importance of using music as well.
Looking back through the children’s albums that have been released this year, one of the welcome trends is the increased emphasis on not only accepting one another for each other’s differences but also being proud and confident in ourselves and those qualities that make each of us unique. The songs have ranged from silly to serious but all speak to children in a way that they can embrace and understand.
One of the most recent albums that focuses on kindness and acceptance is the newest release from Lisa Loeb, Feel What U Feel. Chock full of beautiful messages that are wrapped in gentle hugs or disguised in upbeat melodies and lyrics, this album is fantastic from beginning to end. The opening song, “Moon Star Pie (It’s Gonna Be All Right,” sets the tone and leads into “Say Hello” a lovely song about how the simple act of being brave and saying hello, or goodbye, or excuse me can be a great show of kindness. From there listeners fall into the groovin’ title track, “Feel What U Feel,” a duet between Loeb and Craig Robinson (from The Office) that lets children know that all those emotions inside them, both good and not so good, are ok. The catchy chorus, “Guess what? It’s okay!/go on and feel what u feel today/Feel what u feel/what u feel what u feel/what u feel what u feel,” will keep the message fresh in listeners minds. Robinson returns with another positive message regarding emotions on the classic tune, “It’s All Right to Cry,” which first appeared on Free to Be You and Me (1972). There are many other great songs on this album, all of which can be shared in a storytime, classroom, or family setting.
With so much music to choose from, I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite songs about kindness, acceptance, emotions, etc. to share with children?
Last week we had the great privilege of hosting Wendy & DB at our library. Back in August I reviewed their album It’s a Doo Da Day for School Library Journal. The album had great empowering messages about being yourself and owning your feelings while at the same time being a lot of fun. At the time, I thought it would be a perfect album for family or classroom listening but didn’t clearly see how to use it in storytime. Then, I saw Wendy & DB perform.
Wow! That’s all I can say. Just wow! Their 45-minute performance was filled with such energy and excitement. Every song had an interactive component, most of which had the kids up and moving. The title track, “It’s a Doo Da Day” has a catchy chorus and wraps around the classic children’s tune, “You Are My Sunshine” making it the perfect way to start the show. Once everyone was warmed up, it was full speed ahead with rocking songs like “I Love My Body” and “Pink Flamingo,” where each child was given a pink sock to use as a flamingo, then invited to act out all of the things that the flamingo does in the song. Things slowed down in the gentle “It’s Ok Being You,” which teaches children that if they are feeling blue or green or red, it’s ok. As each verse introduced a new color, the children were given scarves that color to dance with, creating a delightful rainbow of movement.
All of the songs on It’s a Doo Da Day are a joy to listen to. Wendy & DB are working on their next album, and I for one, can’t wait. Get more information about the duo, as well as listen to a couple of the songs off their album here.
I’m the great-niece of men who served in WWII and Korea. The daughter and daughter-in-law of men who served in Vietnam. I’m the cousin to several who served around the world. I’m the co-worker to those who’ve had loved ones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. I hold so much respect and admiration for our veterans and their families. I will never know or fully understand all that they go through so the least I can do is honor them. Which brings me to today, Veteran’s Day. Today, I’m happy to be able to salute a veteran who has taken a rough return to civilian life and healed through the unexpected power of creating children’s music.
Derek McGee, one of the founders of the band Funkinships, served two tours in Iraq. After that much time living a high tension way of life, returning back home proved to be difficult. So Derek quit his Wall Street job and took a job that allowed him to live and work aboard the Mystic Whaler on the Hudson River, where he taught environmental education to children. It was during his time on the Mystic Whaler that he met musician Charlie Chamberlain and Funkinships was born.
Along with a band of merry music makers, they created their first album, Post Folk Absurdist. This album is filled with fun, wacky, weird songs that will tickle careful listeners. The genres of music switch back and forth and blend throughout the songs, preventing the overall sound from being defined. At first listen, the songs may feel disconnected because of the lack of melodic cohesiveness, but it is in the lyrics where the glue of the album becomes evident. It’s in those words that children will learn that it’s ok if you’re a little weird or different, and who cares what others think. The song titles alone, like “The Platypus and Steve Buscemi,” “Chicken Flap Fly” and “Nightmare on the Kids Menu” will draw children and adults in to find out, “what’s that all about?”
McGee has said of his introduction to creating music, “I had finally stumbled upon the thing missing from my life. I realized that much of the restlessness and angst I felt after returning home from war was a result of being a man without a band.” Well, Derek, I’m glad you found that band. Thank you for your service and for making music that kids will find comfort and joy in.
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 we celebrated Halloween Hits for little ones. Here’s a little something for the older kids. Introducing the first single from Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s new holiday record, “Celebrate This!”
Be safe and happy haunting!!
Looking for a quick dose of Halloween fun? Try Sara Lovell’s new video, “The Skeleton Band” from her Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning album, You’ve Got Me. Take a peek as a young boy sneaks into the woods and comes upon a band made up of skeletons, if you dare.
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.
With the election finally happening in just a matter of days, there’s no better way to celebrate our nation’s capital than with Seattle based kindie rockers The Not-Its! newest video, “Washington, D.C.” In the video, just released this week, the band adds themselves into famous presidential photos and Washington sites while singing about people such as Martin Luther King, Jr., the President and the Secret Service and places such as the Smithsonian, the White House, and the CIA. Throughout the song, they stress the importance of standing up for your rights and letting Washington know how you feel with the rocking chorus, D.C.! Do you hear me? D.C.! Are you listening? D.C.! Are you tuned into me? This would be a fun way to begin classroom discussions about Washington, D.C., the President or the election process.
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.
Lemonade Performed by Justin Roberts
Target Audience: Preschool-Grade School
Justin Roberts’s 13th album for families was released today and it’s another great one. The twelve all new, acoustic songs cover such familiar topics to children as waiting and waiting to be the right height to ride all the rides at the amusement park, being willing to do anything to get out of playing dodgeball, and the simple joy of taking time out from the day to roll down a hill. The title song “Lemonade” as well as “Me and My Kangaroo” and “This is How We Bring in the Sun” invite listeners to sing along with catchy choruses and delightful melodies. Students will love “Valentine (I don’t wanna be yours)” a tale of kids being made to go through the ritual of handing out valentines even though I don’t wanna be yours/And you don’t wanna be mine. The song “Eight-Legged Octopus” about an octopus who is kept as a pet, but is ultimately returned to the deep blue sea will draw children in and have them counting along with the chorus. This song could easily be adapted into a flannel board to use during storytime. Roberts’s view of the world through a child’s eyes combines with a creative mix of instruments from cardboard boxes and paint cans to cello and ukulele in order to create a collection of songs that children will instantly identify with. Several of the songs could be used in programs where participants are dancing or using musical instruments. The subject matter and top-notch musicianship will make this an album that children AND parents won’t mind listening to again and again.