I have to admit, when I think of children’s music, I don’t often (ok, never) think of New Zealand as a place to turn to for amazing performers. Well, that stops now. New Zealand has a beautiful treasure in children’s music artist Claudia Robin Gunn. Her latest album, Sing Through the Year – A Little Wild Childhood, was funded by a Creative NZ 2020 Continuity Grant and is packed with 25 songs that celebrate the seasons, nature, and life in general. Inspired by bright moments and experiences with her children, each track is filled with musical storytelling that just makes my soul happy. Gunn’s indie folk/pop sound is often reminiscent of the Indigo Girls, especially when the uplifting harmonies are given center stage, while still managing to have a modern element that will appeal to all listeners.
Sing Through the Year – the album, is wonderful on its own, but for the full experience, I highly recommend the Sing Through the Year – a Little Wild Childhood Songbook, which is available to American audiences as an ebook. In the songbook, Gunn gives an introduction to each song while Auckland artist Elise De Silva provides charming paintings for each of the tunes. Also included are the lyrics and music/chords for each song as well as a QR code for easy streaming of individual tracks. Whether you choose the album or the entire songbook, Sing Through the Year is just the light summery treat (even when the topic is snowflakes!) that you need.
Claudia, along with many other children’s musicians, will be performing on Saturday, June 5 as part of the SwitchOn Global Telethon to benefit endangered species around the world as part of World Environment Day 2021.
I have been a fan of Laura Doherty since I first heard her charming album Shining Like a Star (2011). From the very beginning, her ability to craft relatable lyrics set to developmentally appropriate tempos spoke to her experience as an early childhood educator, starting with her time as the director of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music’s Wiggleworms program. With each album Doherty has honed her craft as a songwriter and performer resulting in High Five!, her best album to date.
Coming in at a brief 27 minutes, Doherty packs a lot of fun and musical talent into the 10 songs in this collection. Her signature folk-pop style shines along with the light, airy melodies and catchy lyrics of songs that cover a wide variety of topics including – the first day of school, making friends, lucky charms, different types of pasta and Paulette the Purple Dragonette. Wonderful, complex instrumentations support but never overwhelm Doherty’s lovely soprano. A perfect example being the title song, “High Five.” Featuring a really funky groove, this tune lets the brass section shine while Doherty encourages listeners to get up and move while trying out dances like the Locomotion and The Twist.
Other highlights include the earworm song of the record, “Muddy Puddles” (I’m pretty sure I’ll be singing that chorus in my sleep), Doherty’s duet with mutli-GRAMMY nominee Justin Roberts on “Can’t Wait to Turn 8” and the really touching final track, “Wonderful 1.”
Laura Doherty’s albums are the best kind of children’s music – lyrics are sung from the point of view of a child, songs are short enough to use in programs and storytimes, and the tunes are so catchy and well-produced that parents won’t go crazy listening to them again and again. High Five! is a must-have for libraries and family listening!
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.