Nature and all of the wonders of the great outdoors have always been a keystone of the music that The Okee Dokee Brothers make, and today’s debut of the single “Countin’ On Me” was no different. As part of their ongoing partnership with the Minnesota Zoo, the musical duo has written a gorgeous song about conservation. Evoking images of the grasses on the prairie, bison herds, flowers and critters in the forest, The Okee Dokee Brothers combine beautiful instrumentation and subtle animal sounds with lovely lyrics like the chorus, “They might seem small, but when you look at them all, their message is bigger than it’s ever been, we gotta build this home again” to create a song that you will want to listen to again and again. Available on iTunes, all the proceeds from the song’s sales will go to the Minnesota Zoo’s conservation efforts. A beautiful song for a beautiful cause.
What a great month March is turning out to be for the release of picture books by the fantastic folks in children’s music. On March 7, we said hello to Thousand Star Hotel by the GRAMMY winning duo The Okee Dokee Brothers. This retelling of “The Fisherman and His Wife” illustrated by Brandon Reese features Mr. and Mrs. Muskrat who live near a big river. An accompanying CD includes the audiobook for the story as well as 11 songs performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers.
Also making a splash on March 7 was Dive In! by 2017 GRAMMY nominee Recess Monkey. Illustrated by Rob McClurkan, this interactive undersea adventure will delight young ones as they participate in the escapades of Burt the Blobfish and Sir Sebastian Stockingbottomham.
Mark your calendars! March 21 is the date for the release of the amazing Laurie Berkner’s new book, We Are the Dinosaurs. This combination of the lyrics from Laurie’s hit song “We Are the Dinosaurs” and adorable illustrations by Ben Clanton is sure to be a hit!
And in a #FBF Flashback Friday, I’d like to highlight Zar and the Broken Spaceship by children’s music extraordinaire, Dino O’Dell and illustrated by Santiago Germano. This is the story of three friends who meet the alien Zar, learn a lot about team work as they help him fix his spaceship and make a new friend along the way. One of the librarians who works with me has been using this book in her preschool visits this winter. The fun, interactive aspects of the story have made it such a hit with the preschoolers that it quickly became the finale of each storytime.
Do you have a favorite picture book by children’s musical artists that you like to use for storytime or in the classroom?
Are your students fans of Junie B. Jones? Do kids ask you daily where to find her books? If so, then this is the musical for you. Adapted, with input from author Barbara Park, from four of the Junie B. books, these adorable, rollicking songs grab your attention from the first note to the last. Whether spunky Junie B. is singing about her “Top Secret Personal Beeswax” journal or the news that she needs glasses, this top notch production will have listeners grinning from ear to ear. Throughout the musical, Junie B. makes a new friend, gets excited about playing in a kickball tournament and is over the moon because of a new lunch box. Herb and Sheldon are each highlighted in a number, but it is the showstopper, “Gladys Gutzman, Queen of Snacks” that really brings the house down. A fantastic cast backed by an excellent orchestra make this a hit. Coming in at only 30 minutes the entire cast album could easily be used in a classroom as part of a lesson or in a library setting where one or two songs are incorporated into a program. This is a real delight that teachers, librarians, parents and most of all – kids will love!
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.
Forget about Adele and Beyonce and the acts that performed during the prime time GRAMMY’s show. I want to talk about children’s music and the GRAMMYs. This past weekend I had the great privilege of attending the Children’s GRAMMY Award Nominees Benefit Concert in Los Angeles. All five of the performers/groups nominated in the Best Children’s Album category performed during a family concert to benefit the Symphony Jazz Orchestra’s music in the schools program. And what a concert it was!
The show opened with Frances England performing songs from her album, Explorer of the World. Normally, I wouldn’t note what someone was wearing but since you can’t tell from the picture, I want to mention that Frances had on the most adorable dress that looked like maps of the world. Perfect. During her set, Frances brought onstage Carlos Aguirre to join her for “Ballad for a Beatboxer.”
Following Frances England were three time GRAMMY nominees (and one time GRAMMY winner in 2013), the Okee Dokee Brothers. Their set of Americana songs from the album Saddle Up included “Jackalope” and “Somos Amigos” which included special guest and recent Latin GRAMMY winner for best children’s album, 123 Andres.
Things got even livelier when Recess Monkey took the stage. And yes, that is a pink suit that Jack is wearing. 🙂 They played songs from their album Novelties. Four days later and I still find myself singing, “Time to Make the Donuts.”
Then, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo took the stage. The room turned electric as all the kids were encouraged to get up and dance their hearts out to the unique hip hop sounds. The high octane performance contained songs from the album (which would win the GRAMMY the next day), Infinity Plus One.
The final act of the concert, Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could, took the stage and kept the energy going with songs from their latest album to be nominated for a GRAMMY, Press Play. The concert ended with a finale featuring all of the performers gathering on stage for one final song.
What a concert! Can’t wait to see who will be taking the stage next year!!
Are you looking for just the right songs to share in your classroom, during storytime or as a family on Valentine’s Day? From today through Tuesday, February 14 the wonderful variety of songs listed below are available as free downloads. There’s a little something for everyone. Pass along the love and kindness!
“Valentine (I Don’t Want to Be Yours)” – Justin Roberts
“Lovestruck Unicorn” – Recess Monkey (2017 GRAMMY nominee)
“L.O.V.E.” – Little Miss Ann
“Love Bug” – Raffi
“Closer to You” – Frances England (2017 GRAMMY nominee)
“You Can Count on Me” – Lisa Loeb
“Your Love Turns the World Around” – Brady Rymer (2017 GRAMMY nominee)
“Loving and Kind” – Aaron Nigel Smith
“Til There Was You” – Lucky Diaz
“Cancion de Amor” – 123 Andrs
Anyone who thinks rap isn’t for young kids hasn’t heard Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s “Bubble Wrap Rap.” Bubble wrap already has kid (and ok, adult) appeal as proven each year when we put a box with small pieces of bubble wrap in it on the desk at work. No one can resist the perceived forbidden activity of popping the wrap in the library. With a hook that repeats, “Oh snap, it’s a bubble wrap rap,” this song perfectly captures the allure of that mysterious material. And with completely clean lyrics, this song is the perfect way to introduce older kids to the art and poetry of rap.
We Stood Up: Reflections on the Civil Rights Movement
Target Audience: Grades 3 to 6
Students have many options nowadays when learning the lessons of history – they can read a book, a newspaper or magazine article written at the time, or watch a movie, documentary or news clip. Or, sometimes most powerful of all, they can close their eyes and listen to those who lived through that period tell their stories in their own words. And that’s what We Stood Up does – provides students and teachers with the opportunity to hear from those who experienced the Civil Rights movement first hand. People like Congressman John Lewis, former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, Greensboro Four member Franklin McCain and Julian Bond, activist and founding member of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The 41 tracks follow an arc beginning with “The Value of Freedom,” that leads to “Reflections on the Civil Rights Movement” and concludes with “Continuing the Legacy.” Each section contains interviews and first hand accounts, poems and original songs. We Stood Up, along with an educator’s guide, are available as free downloads for teachers and community groups and can be accessed here. We Stood Up is a fantastic resource for classroom lessons, homeschooling families and those who want to learn more. View the trailer for this resource below (Note – the CD was released on iTunes in August).
When looking through my social media feeds, it looked like the last week or so of December was spent bemoaning how horrible 2016 was as we continued to deal with the results of the presidential election, what felt like the almost daily deaths of our childhood/teen icons and the normal stresses of the holiday season. I admit that I often found myself quickly empathizing during both in-person and online conversations with this feeling of good riddance to a year that couldn’t end soon enough. But was what I was feeling a true reflection of the year I had just had? All it took was a couple of hours of organizing pictures for my yearly scrapbook to realize that I was wrong. I had actually had a really amazing year during which I was fortunate enough to do many really fun, fantastic things with friends and family that I love.
And that’s what I need to remember as I welcome in 2017. That just as there will be times of sadness, stress and upset, there will also be times of happiness, love and joy. At the beginning of December, I was sent an email with the links to a couple of children’s music videos from Canadian artist, Marlowe & the Mix. I didn’t have time to watch them until this afternoon, but I think I’m going to carry one of the songs, the title track from their newest album, with me as a resolution for the new year. In 2017, rather than wrapping myself in those times of gray, I’m going to try and do as this song says and, “Live in Colour.” I think those are wise words to live by, no matter your age, don’t you?
Looking for some kid friendly holiday songs to share during your family gatherings? Try this compilation of four of Laurie’s videos that are perfect for the holidays- “Candy Cane Jane,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “Jingle Bells” and the Laurie and Brady Rymer duet, “Children Go Where I Send Thee.” Do you have any favorite children’s holiday songs?