Album Spotlight – “Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful” performed by Mr. Jeff

When Mr. Jeff, aka Jeff Klemm, introduced his song “Loud in the Library” to the crowd at the Children’s Music Network conference last November and announced that the full album wouldn’t be out until spring, it felt like that day was eons away. Well, the album finally debuted last week and let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait! Filled with 13 energetic, imaginative tracks, Mr. Jeff’s pop/rock sound, combined with very catchy, singable lyrics is exactly what you need to get moving and grooving.

The title track, “Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful” kicks things off and sets the tone for a truly wonderful album. Klemm’s experience as a Pre-K teacher, songwriter and musician are on full display, capturing the essence of messages and activities that have kid appeal and setting them to beats that they won’t be able to resist. For those who do storytimes or oversee early childhood classes, there are several must-have songs to add to your playlists. These include the fast-paced “Poppin’ Bubbles” which works perfectly with a bubble machine, “Race Car” which gets kids moving very fast, going round curves and turning left and right, and “The Jellyfish Dances Like This.” Other highlights (although they are all highlights) include “It’s Your Birthday,” which is the perfect tune to wake your kids up to on their special day, and “Mr. Jeff’s Numbers Song” a clever new take on counting from 1-20. The album wraps up with a gentle tale of friendship told in the lovely song, “Sleepover.”

Mr. Jeff’s debut children’s album Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful is available on all the usual streaming platforms and his videos are available on his website and YouTube page. For all the library folks, check out the video for “Loud in the Library.” A huge thanks to Mr. Jeff for all the library love he shares at the end of the video!


Video Spotlight – “My Darling Daffodil” performed by Kelli Welli and Red Yarn

We are officially hopping into Spring in just a few minutes, so what better time to celebrate the first flower of the season (at least in Illinois) than right now? In “My Darling Daffodil,” two of Portland’s children’s music stars, Kelli Welli and Red Yarn, team up on a delightful new duet. After many long months away from one another, the dandy dandelion and the darling daffodil sing about longing to see one another again in this thoroughly engaging tune. The charming mixed media video perfectly captures the light and joy that come along with the return of Spring and the love between the two flowers. Take a peek below.

Confidence Juice performed by Miss Tutti and the Fruity Band

When Free to Be…You and Me came out in 1972, there was nothing else like it. An album for children that celebrated acceptance and challenged gender stereotypes was absolutely unheard of and remained a pretty unique concept for decades to come. Over the past few years however, a very welcome trend has emerged in children’s music where songs, and sometimes even entire albums, celebrate self-love, confidence and inclusivity. The most recent entry in this important space is Confidence Juice from Miss Tutti and the Fruity Band.

Inspired by what she was seeing in the body positive movement, Miss Tutti, aka Gracie Nash, set out to write a collection of songs she wished she could have heard when she was a child. The result is eight tracks of joyful love for oneself and for others. Filled with retro sounding tunes, Confidence Juice inspires children to have confidence in themselves, not because of who they see in the mirror but because of the beautiful person they are inside. Throughout the album, children are encouraged to be themselves, take up space, wear what makes them feel good, and be ok with their bodies because as the “Belly Song” enthusiastically proclaims, we’ve all got bellies and and every belly is fine. Positive affirmations such as “I am worthy of the day today,” are woven throughout “Figg’s Song” and the supposition that “maybe normal does not exist,” in “What is Normal?” reminds listeners that everyone has a different way of living, doing, and believing and that should be celebrated. The album’s penultimate track, “What Love Can Look Like,” is a groovy, beautiful tribute to all the ways that love can look, highlights the LGBTQ+ community, and features queer youth advocate and singer-songwriter Emma Jayne.

Confidence Juice entertains and affirms from beginning to end, creating a delightful listening experience. Watch the psychedelic video below for the album’s opening track, “Take Up Space.” For additional albums that encourage confidence, and celebrate self love and inclusivity, try Calming a Panic by You and Us and What Does Love Look Like? by Strawbitty Yops.  


Video Spotlight – “I Am Love, I Am Light” performed by Fyütch and Aura V

Cover art with Fyutch and Aura VIt’s hard to believe that it was just three short years ago that Fyütch first landed on my radar with his video for “Black Women in History.” Since then, he has had a lasting impact on children’s music both as a solo performer as well as a collaborator with other artists such as SaulPaul, Alphabet Rockers, Divinity Roxx, and Joanie Leeds. All of those performers, however, pale in comparison to  Fyütch’s latest duet partner, his six-year-old daughter Aura. 

On their new song, “I Am Love, I Am Light,” this dynamic duo shares affirmations set to an energy-filled beat that encourage listeners to echo confidence-packed phrases such as “I am brave,” “I am worthy,” “I am grateful, “I am kind,” and “I love me.” Fyütch brings a shining light to everything that he does and combined with Aura’s joyful spirit, the feeling of love in each word wraps itself around the listener. In a world that at times can feel a little dark and overwhelming, “I Am Love, I Am Light” is a beacon to be shared and celebrated by children and adults alike. Spread this heartfelt message not just during the month of love, but throughout the entire year!

Halftime Show Adjacent

In case you haven’t heard, tomorrow is the Super Bowl. It seems like that is the only thing anyone is talking about on daytime shows, nighttime shows, entertainment shows, political shows. While one singer’s possible appearance to watch her boyfriend play in  the game seems at times to be eclipsing the Super Bowl Halftime show’s headliner, it’s Usher that I want to talk about. Well, it’s actually Michael Jackson that I want to talk about, but that will bring us back to Usher.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately, and hands-down, one of my favorites of the past couple of months is Thriller 40, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of the iconic album from Michael Jackson. What I liked most about the film was that while it touched oh, so briefly on Michael Jackson’s relationship with his father and his brothers, the true focus of the film was the evolution of Jackson as a performer and the creation of this seminal album. The documentary doesn’t shy away from showing Jackson as someone who wants to be on top, and stay on top, and includes many examples of how that drive, combined with Jackson’s unending creativity, continues to put its stamp on music today.

The majority of the film is centered on creating Thriller and the immediate impacts that had on Michael Jackson, and in turn, he had on much of the world. Chock-full of archival audio, film footage, and present-day interviews, the documentary takes a deep dive into the album’s music- from the creation of iconic musical progressions and hooks to the concepts behind some of the best known videos. John Landis gives a very entertaining look at the creation of the iconic Thriller video, and there are interviews with celebrities sprinkled throughout. What I found most interesting though were the interviews with the people who were intimately involved in the creation of the music. The engineers, the musicians, and the backup singers. I also found the inclusion of interviews with choreographers Rich and Tone Talauega and dancers like Misty Copeland and Usher (told you we’d circle back) gave the story of Thriller even more depth. So many years out, we forget that before Michael Jackson, no one had taken the vast array of dance steps and genres and combined them the way that he did, and in a way that performers continue to do today.

His incredible talent as a dancer was on display when Michael Jackson headlined Super Bowl XXVII’s 1993 halftime show (you can find this performance online) and I imagine we’ll see reflections of that when Usher takes the stage tomorrow night. Jackson’s personal struggles may have eclipsed some of his musical brilliance in later years, but Thriller 40 was an enjoyable reminder that before all that, there was a young man with a creative vision for his music, his videos, and his career and he wasn’t going to let anyone stop him. Check out Thriller 40 and to paraphrase the immortal words of Vincent Price, “No mere mortal can resist the “music” of the Thriller!”

Video Spotlights: A Couple of Real Turkeys

Ahh, it’s November. That glorious time of year when the temperature drops, the leaves fall off the trees and we prepare for one of the most celebrated meals of the year – Thanksgiving dinner. While tables will be filled with sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, carrots, green beans, and mashed potatoes, the star of many of these meals is the turkey. But what if the turkeys don’t want to come to dinner? What if the turkey is too busy working as a private investigator? These questions and more are answered in delightful new videos from Stacey Peasley and Todd ‘n’ Tina.

First up, in Stacey’s “The Turkeys Run,” children will get rid of their wiggles as they act out the adventures of the turkeys who don’t want to end up on your plate for Thanksgiving Day. The adorable animation perfectly captures the spirit of these wily turkeys as they race to escape capture. Then, in Todd ‘n’ Tina’s new video, “Undercover Turkey,” Penny the turkey certainly won’t have time to come to Thanksgiving dinner because she is busy working undercover and trying to catch the town’s bagel thief. The simple puppetry and amazing turkey hat will have viewers chuckling as they enjoy this exciting tale. 

Watch these videos while making whatever delectable morsels you’ve chosen for the big meal and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!! 

Best Children’s Album GRAMMY 2024 Nominees

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the GRAMMY® Award Nominations! The 66th annual GRAMMY® award nominations were announced on Friday. To be eligible for the award, a children’s album must contain at least 75% playing time of new musical or spoken word recordings that are created and intended specifically for children and released between October 1, 2022 and September 15, 2023. The depth and variety of children’s music this year was truly incredible. Congratulations to all of the nominees and to all the artists who created such amazing music this year. The GRAMMY® Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 4.

Ahhhhh! Performed by Andrew & Polly

Ancestars Performed by Nnenna Freelon and Pierce Freelon

Hip Hope for Kids! Performed by DJ Willy Wow!

Taste the Sky Performed by Uncle Jumbo

We Grow Together Preschool Songs Performed by 123 Andrés

Song Spotlight: “So Glad You’re My Friend”

Released on World Mental Health Day, “So Glad You’re My Friend,” written and performed by Laura Doherty and Reggio “The Hoofer,” is an important song any day of the year. The lyrics call out a whole list of things that you can do when you’re feeling down including – think of a happy place, put on a favorite song and sing along, and make a friend and walk together and talk together. Friends since their earlier days as teaching artists at Chicago’s famed Old Town School of Folk Music (Laura teaching music classes, Reggio sharing his talent as a master tap dancer), this is the duo’s second collaboration. Featuring Laura’s signature folk-pop sound, “So Glad You’re My Friend” combines Laura’s soft, crystal clear voice with Reggio’s slightly gruffer tone to create a soothing song that leaves the listener feeling cared for and loved. While the message of the single is mainly directed at the person feeling low, it’s also the perfect reminder that you never know what someone else is going through, so never be afraid to reach out and say, “So Glad You’re My Friend.” Take a listen.

Album Spotlight: Aqua Phonic performed by Marko Polo

One of the many great things about children’s music is how it can make learning fun. Sometimes it’s little things like ABCs or counting to 10, but other times, it’s bigger things, like scientific concepts. Over the next two album spotlights, I’m focusing on amazing albums that take science and make it fun. First up is the water-themed album, Aqua Phonic, from Marko Polo. In his second album for families, Marko Polo, aka Mark Pagano, a teaching artist based in St. Louis, takes listeners from the smallest drop of water to the greatest oceans of the world.

The eight tracks in this collection are equal parts informative and entertaining with each having a tone that perfectly matches with the song’s subject matter. The album opens with “We Are Water,” teaching children the properties and science of water before digging into some of the inhabitants of this incredible resource. This is followed by the rock-tinged “Axolotl” a tune crafted by Pagano and a group of middle schoolers about the oddly adorable amphibian before turning to a reggae-infused beat to tell the tale of the “Sirenia,” the manatees who were mistaken for mermaids. This is followed by the psychedelic world of the “Coral” before introducing everyone to “Walrus Sings,” a pop tune based on an article from National Geographic.

Along with the animals, Pagano also focuses on water as place. He takes listeners to the deepest depths where everything glows at the “Bottom of the Ocean” before taking them back into the light with “Follow the Water.” This lovely duet with New Zealander Claudia Robin Gunn features a melody and lyrics that eddies and flows just like the current of the water. The album closes with the beautiful, “Drip Drop.” This final track, so skillfully designed, aptly details the water cycle while also speaking to the experience of parents and caregivers – “Time keeps moving like a river/Feels like it’s going quicker as I watch you grow.”

Pagano’s mastery as a songwriter is clear throughout the album as he elevates each tune, sharing facts while setting scenes and telling stories. He is occasionally joined by guest vocalists, but it is his voice that remains front and center, often reminiscent of the vocal stylings of Justin Roberts.  Aqua Phonic would be a great addition to science units or family playlists.

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