Crayon Kids, is exactly the kind of album we’ve come to expect from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band – a party for the whole family. Led by super duo Diaz and his wife Alisha Gaddis, each of the nine tunes has its own unique melody, story, and sound while the energy and high production level provide the album with cohesiveness. There is a richness to the collection with a blend of songs like the title track “Crayon Kids” and “Dedos” that feature things like electric guitars, drums, and saxophone while “Letter C” has a retro 70s vibe with electric keyboard taking center stage and “Sábado” which adds a ska beat to the mix. Add in the slower, stripped down feel of “Another Day” and the dulcet tones of the closing track “Better Together,” featuring Frances England, and you’ll find that there is a little something for everyone. Crayon Kids is a true reflection of how kids are currently moving through life, facing all the challenges that are thrown at them today yet always looking forward to tomorrow. Pick up Crayon Kids and get ready to dance your way through the summer.
Earlier this month Lucky released his first picture book, Paletero Man. Like the song, the book puts the reader in the Eighth Street neighborhood of Los Angeles from which Diaz drew his inspiration. Illustrations by Micah Player perfectly pair with the text giving readers the sense of urgency and joy a child experiences when looking for their favorite summer treat. During these dogs days of summer, after reading Paletero Man, you’ll be wishing for an ice cold paleta to enjoy with your neighborhood friends. Lucky Diaz kindly took the time to answer a few questions about this new venture.
1. You have a fairly deep catalog as a family music artist. How did you decide that Paletero Man was the right song for your first picture book?
Like many of my songs, the inspiration for my book Paletero Man actually came from my family’s real life experiences. My daughter Indy and I traversed to visit the paletero at our local park in Koreatown, Los Angeles, almost daily. On one occasion, she was enjoying her paleta on a hot day and she accidentally dropped it. Seeing this disaster the paletero quickly came to rescue with a fresh paleta, no questions asked. The unsung heroes of our community are really what my story is about.
2. The words and illustrations go together perfectly. Was this a collaborative process?
Thank you! Yes! Micah Player and I have a friendship of well over a decade. We seem to finish each other’s sentences so often! There’s a natural sense of collaboration in our friendship that spills over to our creative work. We’re always riffing on ideas. I will say that Micah really took the lead on his illustrations of Paletero Man. I see Micah telling his own LA love story in the pages of Paletero Man. It’s very special
3. Are there more picture books in your future? If so, will they be based on one of your family songs or be a brand new story?
¡Claro que sí! I’m already working on several other picture books. Like Paletero Man, they’re based on their own original narratives and stories. I’m happy to keep my songs separated from the creative process of writing children’s books. I’m having a fun time exploring this new medium of art for children and families.
I just listened to this album three times in a row while I tried to figure out how I wanted to describe it. Did I want to start by saying this album is light and airy? Or maybe filled with infectious melodies? How about a showcase for Alina’s lovely soprano? After several stops and starts, I think the best way to start is by saying, Love Is Te Quiero is all of these things, but most importantly, it is music to make you smile. From the opening notes of “Love Is” through the closing chords of “Los Pollitos,” listeners will feel their spirits lift while their and minds and bodies fill with joy.
Alina Celeste’s Cuban-American upbringing is evident throughout the entire album as she deftly weaves bluegrass, Caribbean, and Latin American sounds together to create a delightful tapestry of songs. The eleven tracks are artfully arranged to smoothly flow back and forth between those performed in English and those in Spanish. Featuring repeated lyrics set to catchy tunes, every song invites listeners to join in no matter their native language. Standouts include the 1943 Spanish children’s song “Vaca Lechera” and “Baila Conmigo.” If you are looking for storytime songs, try “Coquinas” which will have children counting to ten in Spanish, while “Clap Your Hands” will get children up and moving. (The words mama and papa in this song can easily be changed to suit your audience.)
Love Is Te Quiero will find a home with families and storytime presenters alike. For a taste of Alina Celeste’s style of music, take a peek at her vast catalog of videos on YouTube.
In ¡Alegría! the follow-up to her wonderful album, Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León to the New York Island, Sonia De Los Santos explores the theme of joy and happiness. The term ¡Alegría! literally means joy and in the album’s liner notes De Los Santos brings even more depth to the term by explaining, “In some parts of Latin America it is often used to cheer someone up. We say ¡Alegría! to remind each other that there is something to be happy about. I find this so beautiful.” So do I. Throughout the twelve songs on this album, Sonia reminds us to find the happiness in both the exciting times as well as the quiet moments in the day.
Eight of the songs are originals and feature Latin American rhythms like cumbia, curralo and huayno. A whole host of traditional instruments make appearances as well, like the gaita flute from Colombia which features prominently in “Mariposa Montuna,” that celebrates the incredible migration undertaken by monarch butterflies each year and in “Mi Papa Va a Comprar” that mentions the conga, trumpet, accordion, jarana and kalimba. Complex vocals are woven together with fast moving melodies to create gorgeous musical tapestries in songs like, “Calibri Amarillo” and “Los Pajaritos.” De Los Santos strikes a well-chosen balance between the quick moving songs and quieter moments by including tracks like “Amopolita” and the English lullaby, “Daisy Mae” featuring beautiful harmonies performed with Elizabeth Mitchell.
Additional songs performed in English include the playful tune “Hey Little Bunny!” featuring Caridad De La Luz aka La Bruja and “Songs for the People,” based on a poem written by African American poet Frances Ellen Watkins in the 1800s, with Dan Zanes and Claudia Eliaza taking lead on the vocals. “Donde Tú Estés, Wherever You Go” is the sole bilingual tune on the album. Originally written in English by children’s folk icons Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, De Los Santos has added Spanish translations to the lyrics and the three perform the song together to close out the album.
*A 32-page booklet of liner notes is included with the album. De Los Santos includes an introductory note to each song along with complete lyrics, helping to further enrich the experience of ¡Alegría!.
Experience a taste of the joy from this album with the video for the title track, “¡Alegría!” below.
I love books. I love music. And I really love books and music when they are joined together. Here are a few newer items that will definitely make you smile.
Laurie Berkner’s latest picture book adaptation is for her song, “Monster Boogie.” The song lyrics encouraging children to be the monster and have fun dancing and wiggling are perfectly paired with illustrations by Ben Clanton, who also illustrated Laurie’s last picture book We Are the Dinosaurs. In his lively illustrations, Clanton finds just the right balance between scary and fun that children will enjoy. Monster Boogie is a complete story that can be read all on its own or paired with the song. *A very clever book design allows for the sheet music to be included on the back cover of the book under the book jacket.
If you’re not familiar with The Secret Mountain, a publisher based out of Montreal, who specializes in original picture books that are accompanied by full-length music CDs, then you are in for a real treat. A wide variety of authors, illustrators, and musicians from all around the world contribute to this series of books. Their latest offering, The Hummingbird Sings and Dances, which is scheduled to be released next month, is completely comprised of lullabies and nursery rhymes from throughout Latin America. Each of the 19 Spanish language songs is given a two page spread that includes beautiful artwork from illustrator Mariana Ruiz Johnson, a note about which country the song comes from, and the lyrics to one of the song’s stanzas in both Spanish and English. The accompanying CD contains all 19 songs performed by the talented Mexico City-based Grupo Cantaro. The full lyrics for all of the songs, in both Spanish and English, are included at the end of the book. Hummingbird Sings and Dances would easily fit into bilingual storytimes and lessons about other cultures.
GRAMMY Award winner Tim Kubart released his first picture book in May. Oopsie-Do! is a delightful story about a young girl who rather than fretting when things go wrong proclaims, “Oopsie-Do!” and with the help of her friends and the grown-ups in her life work to make the things going wrong, go right. Lori Richmond’s charming illustrations include a diverse cast of characters that embody all of the ups and downs that the children go through in a day. This is a great storytime book as well as a good title to share one-on-one. Pair this with Tim’s adorable full-length video for the song version of Oopsie-Do!
While each of these titles is completely different, they would all be right at home in any collection.
Mister G won the 2015 Best Children’s Album Latin GRAMMY for Los Animales and his latest album Mundo Verde/Green World should land him on the short list of nominees once again. From the first notes of the title track to the last dulcet tones of this almost 30-minute journey, the over-arching theme of protecting all the wonders of our Earth is lovingly explored.
The first few songs of the album are filled with fast-paced Latin beats that will get listeners up and dancing while also talking about important issues such as the water that our planet is made of, recycling and the wide variety of animals who deserve our protection and concern. The music – featuring such performers as Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco, Peruvian bassist Oscar Stagnaro, Brazilian vocalist Mari Nobre and Cuban vocalist Estrella Acosta – goes full tilt with songs such as “Patas en el Aire/Paws in the Air” and “El Coqui/The Frog,” then strikes a quieter note with songs like “Cuantos Peces/How Many Fish,” the Carlos Santana inspired “Si Se Puede/Yes We Can,” and the lush instrumentation and vocals of “Las Estrellas.”
Mundo Verde/Green World is a bilingual album from start to finish. Mister G and his many guests seamlessly transition between Spanish and English both during the interludes between the songs as well as within the songs themselves. Enough of each language is spoken or sung so that no matter the native tongue of the listeners, they will still get the gist of the lyrics and enjoy each tune. This album could easily be used in the classroom, in storytimes or for family listening. Pure joy from beginning to end!
Take a peek below…