Animal Tracks. Performed by Laura Doherty. CD. 34 min. CDBaby. 2016. $14.99.
K-Gr 3–Doherty’s lovely vocals perform 13 original songs in folk/pop, bluegrass, rock, Latin, and jazz musical styles. The backup musicians harmonize beautifully with her and give excellent performances on guitar, mandolin, upright bass, keyboards and percussion. Three songs are new on this album: “Animal Tracks,” “I Am a Turtle,” and “Early Bird & Night Owl.” The other 10 songs—“Hello Hippopotamus,” “Woolly Woolly Bear,” “Kitty Cat” (who waves through the window at other animals), “Rockin’ at the Zoo,” “Jake the Snake” (who wants only a hug), “Domingo the Flamingo” (cute play on English/Spanish words, because Sunday is his favorite day of the week), “Butterfly,” “Jazzasaurus,” “Firefly,” and “I’m a Little Fish”—were previously released on her other three albums. VERDICT Little ones will enjoy dancing and singing along with these great songs.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
Arriba Abajo. Performed by 123 Andrés. CD. Approx. 53 min. Salsana Records. 2016. $15.
PreS-Gr 2–123 Andrés, or Andrés Salguero as he is commonly known, returns with his second album for little language learners. The album begins with 10 songs in Spanish that cover topics such as singing the musical scale in “Vamos a cantar,” learning the vowels in “Dame una A,” and counting to 10 with “Diez pajaritos.” Andrés takes the lead on all of the vocals, with backing vocals and instrumentation provided by a variety of talented performers. Nowhere is this more evident than on the very entertaining tune “Cielo, suelo,” which explores the concept of up and down in such a fun way that listeners won’t want the song to end. The second half of the album is the same 10 songs performed in English along with the bonus track “Colorin, Colorado.” VERDICT Recently nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Latin Children’s Album, this is a solid addition to any collection where bilingual music is in demand.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL
Be Kind. Performed by Jammin’ Randy. CD. 28 min. CDBaby. 2016. $10.
K-Gr 8–Music teacher Randy Sauer performs nine original songs in rock, pop, funk, and rap musical styles. Three of the songs, “Be Kind,” “Cool To Be Kind,” and “KINDNESS,” urge listeners to treat others gently and with respect. In “I Need a Friend,” performed by Natalie Metcalf, a lonely child wants someone to like her for who she is. “The Person I Want To Be” strives to be courteous and considerate of others. The final songs encourage listeners to participate with various movements. “Pencil Tap Rap” has kids tapping pencils rhythmically on desk, chair, and body. “Hop Hop Shake” exhorts listeners to play air guitar and dance along with the music. “Rusty the Robot Gets Fit” urges youngsters to exercise along with him and then cool down. “Bean Bag Freeze” has listeners moving a bean bag in various ways and then freezing. This is repeated four times in increasingly rapid tempos. VERDICT This fun and upbeat album will be useful in libraries and classrooms as well as at home.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
Boom! Performed by Jump with Jill. CD. Approx. 20 min. Note to Health. 2015. $9.99.
Gr 4-6–Jill Jayne, a registered dietitian and musician, has another hit on her hands with her third health-concept album. Taken from her rock and roll nutrition show, this heart-pumping technopop dance music will get kids dancing and moving from the album opener, “Boom!,” to the closing number of these nine original songs. A classical introduction gets down and dirty as it moves into a driving beat tune when children are encouraged to “put your hands together” and “Wash My Hands.” A marching call-out to get my “F-I-B-E-R” gets “my day in motion.” Encouragement to eat fruits rather than candy in the rap “The Sweet Beat” segues into a big band sound filled with horns and saxophones that get funky and work with the kids as they agree to try new food in “Listen to Your Body.” The album closes with a reprise of “Boom!” VERDICT Fans of Bruno Mars and Selena Gomez will find these songs a surefire way to get boys and girls up and moving.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Bubble Wrap. Performed by Eric Herman and the Thunder Puppies. CD. 43 min. Butter-Dog Records. 2016. $12.99.
Gr 2-6–Herman’s eighth album features guest musicians Keith Grimwood & Ezra Idlet of Trout Fishing in America, Roger Day, and Mister G. The vocalists and musicians are excellent, performing on guitar, piano, organ, bass, accordion, drums, and percussion in pop, rock, blues, Latin, and reggae musical styles. “Bubble Wrap” has a very catchy tune and concerns a child who neglects homework, chores, and pets in his obsessive desire to pop all the bubble wrap. In “Where’s Saturday,” a boy is blue because it’s Monday and he’s in school. A child is frustrated because all the adults are constantly on the “Phone.” Everyone has “Fun Times” at the amusement park. “Everybody’s Watching” features a child who, as a bee in the school play, has stage fright. “I Wanna Be That Guy” who is reliable and dependable. It is “Okay” to cry when something sad happens. Other songs include “You Are What You Eat,” “Sunflower Seeds,” “What I Want,” “Take a Bath,” and “Hello.” VERDICT With its fun and catchy tunes, this is music both children and parents will enjoy.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
Camp Songs, Vol. 1. Performed by K.B. Whirly. CD. Approx. 29 min. K.B. Whirly. 2016. $11.99.
PreK-Gr 3–Boston-based musician Whirly has gathered 14 classic and original songs kids often learn at camp and invited a handful of kindie musicians to help him put together this snazzy, jazzy collection. On the peppy “Camp Song,” Bill Novak provides New Orleans jazz clarinet music. The disc continues with a trumpet-infused “Reveille,” a mournful rendition of Allen Sherman’s classic “Hello Muddah,” a bluesy New Orleans original tune, “Not Goin’ Swimmin,” and a chorus of children (The Holliston Crew) singing the classic “The Princess Pat.” Other updated classics include “Hole in My Bucket” (a duet with Jazzy Ash), “The Littlest Worm,” “The Bumblebee Song” (with Dean Jones on trombone), “Ricky Ticky Tumba” (a chant performed by The Holliston Crew), and “Say Say My Playmate” (an energy-infused Caribbean arrangement featuring Alastair Moock and the Kindie Chorus). Whirly’s gravelly voice is suited to each song and well matched with smooth backing vocals on several songs, including “Peter Pipers Pickled Palace.” VERDICT Slick and well-produced, this family-friendly album will be a welcome addition to summer reading programs about camps and camping.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Club Called Awesome! Performed by The Singing Lizard. CD. Approx. 38 min. AlphaBeat Records. 2016. $15.
PreS-Gr 3–On her third album, San Francisco–based singer Liz DeRoche offers 13 original family-friendly tunes filled with fun messages in a style she calls “Electro-Kindie.” Opening with a joy-filled “Club Called Awesome” (a song exuding friendship and playfulness), DeRoche conquers space in the ballad “Up, Up and Away,” celebrates life in the techo-pop “Growing Up,” plays games with her kids in the funky “I Spy,” and zips around on the magic expressway in “Space Race.” Other topics include balloons, taste-testing food, being yourself, feeling blue, and peace. Most tunes have a dance groove to them—whether funk, rock, or Caribbean beat—and are sure to get youngsters up and moving. DeRoche plays all instruments and sings all vocals with sweet harmonies, all done beautifully. VERDICT The album’s happy vibe gives it the potential to lift spirits with light lyrics and lively tunes.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Drum Factory. Performed by Cory Hills. CD. Approx. 34 min. Sono Luminus. 2016. $13.99.
K-Gr 5–Hills’s second album demonstrates his skill of percussive storytelling. He does a spectacular job of spinning classic stories and making them his own. “Drum Factory” (a variant of “Button Factory”), “I’m My Own Grandpa,” and “Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” each incorporate a variety of percussion instruments as an essential element throughout the story. Hills also weaves percussion into stories loosely based on other tales: “Bright, Green Leaves” and “Harumph!” (from Rudyard Kipling’s “How the Camel Got His Hump”). Finally, he does the same for his own original material: “Black Bear and the Mountain Lion” (created for the National Park Service) and “Hatchling.” Rounding out the lineup, Hills includes two tracks of just percussion instruments: “Drum Interlude” and “Metal Interlude.” VERDICT Never talking down to his audience, Hills delivers stories with an endearing childlike quality that are worth a listen.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Earth: Songs for the Earth and All Beings. Performed by Charity and the JAMband. Approx. 41 min. MusiMatics. 2016. $14.99.
PreS-Gr 3–Turning a corner, San Francisco–based Charity and the JAMband here focus on celebrating Earth. With 10 original songs by Charity Kahn, the album opens with a song about trees (“Keep a Green Tree in Your Heart”), shares love and intentional living (“Share Your Love,” “We Love Everyone,” and “Little One”), and celebrates the seasons (“Sing a Summer Song”) and the planet itself (“Earth Day,” “We Speak for the Earth,” “I Am the Earth”). Each song is filled with encouragement for families to take action on behalf of our planet, pointing out that everything is interconnected. This message is delivered through song using tight harmonies and spoken word, via acoustic music, rhythm, and lovely keyboard work, with both soft rock and driving rock as the means. VERDICT This family-friendly album will bear repeated listening as Kahn continues to spread her musical wings as she and the band explore their surroundings.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Every Day’s Your Birthday! Performed by Miss Nina & the Jumping Jacks. CD. 38 min. Packaroonus Publishing. 2016. $12.
PreS-Gr 1–Nina Stone’s musical influences on her third album include 1960s and 1970s pop and rock music such as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and 1980s hip-hop and rap. The 12 original and traditional songs are also in jazz, folk, doo-wop, and country and Western styles, which Nina’s versatile voice handles with aplomb. Her backup musicians make beautiful music on guitar, bass, violin, piano, organ, synthesizer, trombone, trumpet, sax, drums, and percussion. “Every Day’s Your Birthday” so celebrate every day. “This Song” is just for you, so hum or sing along. “My Freeze Dance” and “Up & Down” encourage listeners to participate in the songs’ movements. Miss Nina chants, then sings “Five Little Pumpkins” and adds some silly verses to “Wheels on the Bus.” In “Subway,” the lyrics are taken from Anastasia Luen’s book of the same name. The remaining songs include “Colors of You,” “Sunshine Blue Skies,” “Every Hero,” “Let’s Go Home,” and “DJ in My PJs.” VERDICT This lively, bouncy album will get young ones up and dancing around.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
Explorer of the World. Performed by Frances England. CD. Approx. 30 min. Redeye Distribution. 2016. $12.99.
PreS-3–England just gets better and better with each recording she releases. This one is tied together by the theme of what it means to be a kid exploring his/her “world,” that is, their own neighborhood. Opening with the very singable “Explorer of the World” (filled with a solid piano beat, great harmonies, marimba, and a great message), England shares that the “City Don’t Sleep” (highlighted with spot-on harmonies accented with syncopated handclaps and horns), all the things that she can “See What We Can See” (punctuated by a breezy beat and horn), and “All the Things I Found” (a peppy tune with the strumming guitar beat). Other highlights include “Street Life” (describing what people who live in the city do), “Closer to You” (a duet about two people doing “just about anything to get together”), and “Ballad for a Beatboxer” (a song about a street performer, featuring a real beatboxer). VERDICT England has another winner on her hands, and it appears the Parent’s Choice concurs, as they gave this album a 2016 Gold Award.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Happy Beach. Performed by Perry Springman. CD. 35 min. CDBaby. 2016.
PreS-Gr 3–Springman is not new to performing—he traveled the world for almost 20 years with his band Perry and the Poorboys—but he is new to children’s music. On this, his first album for children and families, Springman takes the lead on the majority of the songs, singing about things like “The 3 Minute Clean-Up,” which makes cleaning up the house a fun challenge that will make mommy happy, and the perfect day that a child gets to spend with his pet dog in “Me and Buddy.” Springman exhibits a playful side in the friendship-themed “Chimichanga,” set to a salsa beat, while “My Ukulele” brings to mind the warm breezes and white sands of Hawaii. The song “Mommy and Daddy” is a pleasant surprise in the middle of the album, with a chorus of children taking the lead vocals to sing about how special Mommy and Daddy are. Springman’s clear vocals and spot-on lyrics are backed by a group of talented musicians and will have listeners coming back again and again. VERDICT With God being mentioned in many of the songs, this album would work best in a public library collection where music with a Christian foundation is in demand.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL
Hello Friend! Performed by The Hollow Trees. CD. 40 min. Hollow Trees Records. 2016. $11.99.
PreS-Gr 2–On their fourth album, Gregory and Traci Hollow Tree (aka Greg McIlvaine and Traci Green) present 14 original and traditional songs and cover a few obscure gems. All the songs have an old-fashioned, down-home feel, performed in folk, bluegrass, jug band, Western swing, country, blues, and jazz musical styles. Terrific performances on guitar, bass, mandolin, bouzouki, banjo, ukulele, kazoo, jug, accordion, and drums enhance the musical excellence of the album. “What Do You Want on Your Taco” empowers children to make choices. “The Whole Thing” presents vocabulary words such as part, sliver, quarter, etc. “Backward Bill,” based on a Shel Silverstein poem, is a chant, accompanied by drums and percussion, that describes a backward shack with the front porch out back and the cellar on the top floor. Four bears watch the sun go down while their twilight harmonies fill “The Harmony Hills.” More songs include “Merry Go Round,” “My Dog Has Fleas,” “I Can’t Dance (I’ve Got Ants in My Pants),” “Hello Friend,” “My Metaphor,” “Guitar You Going To Sing Along,” “Poor Papa” (because Mama gets the best of everything), “She’ll Be Coming ’Round the Mountain,” and “I Like To Draw.” VERDICT A fantastic album with which to introduce young ones to some old-fashioned music.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
In My Dreams. Performed by Dean Jones. CD. Approx. 35 min. Dean Jones. 2016. $11.99.
PreK-Gr 3–Dog on Fleas leader Jones has released another solo album of 13 original songs that explore the imagination with young listeners. The disc opens with the upbeat “What Kind of Fruit?” as Jones muses about what one might be if one were something other than a human. Several songs use rhythm to create a hypnotic feeling that will mesmerize listeners; on the techno-pop “Humans Are Still Evolving,” it’s a repetitious guitar lick; on “Animal Collective,” it’s a synthesizer that makes your head spin; and on “Do You Talk to Yourself?,” it’s the steel drums beating with precise beats. Mixing it up, “Monkey C. Monkey” is a funky rumba with funny lyrics that will have kids moving with its groove. Listeners will tune in to hear their dog’s breed listed in the title song “In My Dreams (I Have a Dog).” All instruments are played to perfection by Jones, with cameos by Morgan Taylor and Rachel Loshak (“Swiss Cheese Angels”), Michael Napolitano (“Do You Talk to Yourself”), and Frances England (“Nighttime”) adding depth and interest for all ages. VERDICT A welcome addition to every collection.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Love Bug! Performed by Valerie Smalkin. CD. 24 min. Small Kin Music. 2016. $15.
PreS-Gr 2–Ventriloquist and composer Smalkin, one of the writers and performers of an Emmy Award–winning television program in Baltimore called “It’s Kindertime,” here performs 12 original and traditional songs in pop, rock, folk, funk, jazz, and reggae musical styles. She has a lovely, light, clear voice that handles all the music expertly. “How Do You Do,” “Love Bug,” “Funky Monkey,” “Sloth, Three-Toed,” “Down Diddley Down,” “Tingalayo,” “Hey, Betty Martin,” “Birdie,” “Bumblebee,” and “Touch the Ground” all have participatory movements. “Zoo ‘n’ Doo Dah” and “Barnyard Song” encourage listeners to imitate animal sounds. The CD is accompanied by a spiral-bound songbook that not only has the lyrics for all the songs but also contains suggestions for movements. Several of the songs also feature other related activities, such as a coloring page or a craft activity. VERDICT This album will be a great enhancement for classroom teachers and library storytimes or toddler dance programs.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
Mindful Moments for Kids: 30 Simple, Quick Ways To Help Children De-Stress, Calm Down, and Focus. Performed by Kira Willey. CD. Approx. 40 min. Fireflies Records. 2015. $12.99.
PreS-Gr 3–Winner of a Parents’ Choice Gold Award, this is a collection of breathing exercises led through voiceovers by Willey as she accompanies herself with original melodies played on guitar. Simple exercises help children learn to be calm (“Candle Breath,” “Hot Chocolate”), focused (“Listen to the Bell,” “Be a Bumblebee”), inspired (“Clouds,” “Imagine You’re a Tree”), energized (“Bunny Breath,” “Twister”), and de-stressed (“Get Your Grumpies Out,” “Do Nothing Moment”). Willey’s calm, low-toned voice is very smooth even as she instructs listeners what to do and how to self-check to be sure they are performing the action correctly. Music is unremarkable, as it is largely moved to the background so listeners can hear Willey’s instructions. VERDICT This would be a great tool to use with youngsters, as it is just what many kids need in order to slow down, cool down, and relax.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Novelties. Performed by Recess Monkey. CD. 39 min. Amazon Music. 2016. $12.99.
K-Gr 4–Recess Monkey, the trio of Drew Holloway, Jack Forman, and Korum Bischoff, return with an album of 14 new songs on which they employ their quirky blend of rock and pop styles from across the decades to draw listeners into silly songs about things like a unicorn who is in love with a narwhal, a “Sweaty Yeti” who was seen running through the forest, and the mustaches of the world being set free. With a sound often compared to that of the Beatles, the group do a great job of mixing silly subjects with topics that children can easily relate to, such as the joy of a piggyback ride, playing music on pots and pans, show and tell at school, and trying to get even with an older brother. It may take a couple of times through for listeners to fully absorb the lyrics, but when they do, they will enjoy the songs even more. VERDICT Kids and parents will have a great time listening to this album together again and again.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL
One. Performed by Aaron Nigel Smith. CD. Approx. 28:30 min. Aya World Productions. 2016. $9.99.
PreS-Gr 3–Smith here proves that while reggae is a genre not often found in children’s music, it should be. With gentle, easy beats and lyrics to soothe the soul, it’s the perfect music for children of all ages. Included in this 10-song collection are themes of love, family, and community. Original songs by Smith include “Dance to the Reggae Rhythm”; the title song, about how it takes only one person to make a change; and “Natty Dreadlocks,” about a man with dreadlocks, why he has them, and how children and adults react to his hair. Things slow down with the beautiful “Seasons” before picking up again with “Clouseau,” about a neighborhood cat. Also included is a traditional folk song from Liberia, “Take Time in Life,” as well as “Hammer,” a well-crafted reggae version of “If I Had a Hammer,” and a cover of the Harry Belafonte and Irving Burgie tune “Island in the Sun.” VERDICT Excellent instrumentation and vocals combine with the themes of love and peace, making this an important album for every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL
Ora de despertar. Performed by Sarah Aroeste. CD. 25 min. Aroeste Music. 2016. $9.97.
PreS-Gr 3–Writing in Ladino (a fading dialect of Judeo-Spanish), Aroeste intends this album for children and families interested in world cultures and fun lyrics set to catchy tunes. The 11 original songs follow a typical day and include “Ora de despertar/Time To Wake Up,” “Las komidas/Mealtimes,” “Mi famiya/ My Family,” “Saludos/Greetings,” “Las manos/Hands,” and “Nochada Buena/Goodnight.” Two songs cover concepts for youngest listeners; “Kuantos animales/How Many Animals” features animal sounds, and “Si yo era el sielo/If I Were the Sky” describes colors found in nature. A seven-piece band backs Aroeste, with backing vocals and a choir of children’s voices adding depth. Musical styles vary by song, fitting each seamlessly. A booklet with lyrics in both Ladino and English completes the package. VERDICT While an admirable effort, this will ultimately end up as a niche purchase for a few libraries.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Phineas McBoof Crashes the Symphony. Performed by Doctor Noize and others. 2 CDs. 1:04 hrs. Doctor Noize Inc. 2015. $19.99.
Gr 3-7–Phineas McBoof, a rock star monkey and member of the touring Band of Misunderstood Geniuses, eventually finds the crowds too unwieldy, so he sneaks away. The other band members, including Backbone the Octopus, Bottomus the Hip Popotamus, Riley the Robot, Lenny Longtail, Sidney the Beak, the Ooh Gah Boo Gus monsters, Placido Flamingo, Luciano Frogerati, and Dr. Noize, go looking for him and find him conducting an orchestra. So the band members decide to join the orchestra as well. Phineas and the orchestra members have to overcome obstacles such as interfering parents and levitating instruments on their way to putting on their concert. This two-act musical comedy features Grammy-winning stage singers Isabel Leonard and Nathan Gunn, the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Colorado Children’s Chorale Symphony. Opera and show tunes dominate the musical styles. During the course of the story, the orchestra explores types of music from different eras: early (Gregorian chant), baroque (Bach), classical (Mozart), romantic (Chopin), and contemporary (jazz). They also play and discuss Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. The brainchild of composer/performer Cory Cullinan (Doctor Noize), this musical fulfills his goal of bringing challenging, sophisticated music to children. VERDICT A must-have for every collection.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
The Playground Zone. Performed by Alphabet Rockers. CD. Approx. 17 min. School Time Music. 2016. $7.
PreS-Gr 3–The Oakland-based duo Alphabet Rockers (Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd Jr.) want to make learning positive behavior fun. Hip-hop tunes with positive lyrics bring to life their vision of empowering children with the desire for change, peace, acceptance, and a more inclusive world. The six songs are set on a playground, a place where kids are all equal. Each song should have great kid appeal, especially to those who love hip-hop. The album opens with a song of suggestions for how to play together in “Player’s Game,” then listeners will play a game of introductions in “That’s Your Name, Wear It Out!,” talk about how we are all different in “Oddball,” and learn more about diversity in “Gimme Some Skin.” The duo change things up in the middle of the recording with the technopop tune “Wiggle Jiggle” as they “rock it, don’t stop it.” The disc closes with a show-stopping ballad, “Change the World,” that features harmonies, contrapuntal canon, rhythms, and sweeping broad passages. VERDICT This is important music to help kids relate to one another and themselves.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Playtime. Performed by Istvan and His Imaginary Band. CD. Approx. 20 min. Emphasis Entertainment Group. 2016. $12.
PreS-Gr 3–Playtime is the third full-length children’s album from Istvan and His Imaginary Band. It is clear from the very beginning of the opening song, “Opposite Day,” that Istvan Balazs “gets” kids. He knows how their young minds work and skillfully weaves the highly relatable lyrics of these 10 original songs into complex, high-energy instrumentations. Whether Balazs is singing about the little spider in the house that you like but mom might not enjoy so much, the child who has finished dinner and wants dessert, or a rescued stray dog, each song tells a short story. While some of the selections are just for fun, “Pennies, Nickels, Dimes and Quarters” and “Possum” teach listeners facts set to music. Many of the songs’ choruses feature phrases that are repeated multiple times, making it easy for children and adults to sing along. VERDICT Families will enjoy these thoughtful songs that not only are fun to listen to but can also spark conversations. A solid addition to every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library, IL
Pop! Goes the Easel. Performed by various artists. CD. Approx 31 min. Museum Music, Inc. $21.95.
Gr 3-8–Broadway meets New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in this fantastic compendium that was commissioned by and produced for MoMA. Each of the 12 songs is delightfully adapted from classic children’s songs to highlight some of the most famous works of art at the museum. The album opens with the wonderful Ben Vereen singing about Monet’s water lilies in “Down by the Lily Pads” set to the tune of “Down by the Riverside.” What follows is a who’s who of Broadway stars, including Aladdin’s James Monroe Iglehart, Sutton Foster, Kelli O’Hara, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’s Jessie Mueller, as well as Andrea Martin, Richard Kind, The Texas Tenors, and Dulé Hill. The instrumentation is superb, and the lyrics are clever and perfectly match the newly imagined arrangements, as in “Cancan Dancers,” where Dee Dee Bridgewater sings the chorus “Oh, Toulouse-Lautrec!/Oh, Toulouse-Lautrec!” to the tune of “Camptown Races,” with a clever break in the middle where John Leguizamo (who played Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge) joins in with a Cancan Rap. Other artists to whom the album pays homage include Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, George-Pierre Seurat, and Salvador Dalí. The accompanying packaging is the size of a DVD case and includes the lyrics to each song and, on the facing page, the piece that inspired the song as well as brief information about the artist and the techniques used. VERDICT This album is the perfect way for parents and teachers to introduce art and artists to children. A must-have for every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL
Press Play. Performed by Brady Rymer. CD. Approx. 41 min. Bumblin’ Bee Records. 2016. $11.99.
PreS-Gr 3–The eighth recording for kids by Rymer jumps out of the gate with the title song, an R & B tune that features vocals, piano, and horns. Rymer and the Little Band That Could keep things cooking with 11 more original songs that reflect a range of American musical styles. After the rocking “Don’t Knock It Till You Try It,” they continue with the folksy “Me on the Map” (a learning experience of seeing one’s geographical relationship to others) and “Switcheroo Day.” They then move on to big band numbers “I Survived Myself” (a challenge to attempt things not done before) and “Chain Reaction”; slide into country tunes with “It’s a Beauty” (a celebration about a 1933 pumper fire truck), “Dress in Blue,” “One Day by the Riverside,” and “Hold This Home Together”; and finally slow it down for ballads “The Only One” (a song about maintaining individuality) and “Your Love Turns the World Around.” In the closer, “One Day by the Riverside,” Rymer and the band look forward to getting together in the future. VERDICT Offering catchy tunes, meaningful lyrics, rich harmonies, lush instrumentation, and pitch-perfect arrangement, this will be a winner with kids and families.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Ranger Rick’s Trail Mix, Vol. 1. Performed by The Whizpops! CD. Approx. 36 min. Stretch McCoy Records. 2016. $9.99.
K-Gr 5–The National Wildlife Federation and Ranger Rick teamed up with eco-minded The Wizpops! for an album chock-full of facts about endangered animals in North America. The original songs in this collection are about animals such as swift foxes, black-footed ferrets, bison, and wolverines. Whether they are singing about the daily life of a walrus in “Everything’s Better with a Mustache (Walrus Song)” or the complete life cycle of a “Monarch,” The Whizpops! skillfully combine a variety of musical genres (country, reggae, 1970s pop, and rap) with lyrics that are both clever and highly informative. While the songs include facts about the animals’ physical attributes, habitats, and feeding habits—and don’t shy away from using terms such as carrion, chrysalis, and metamorphosis—they never feel didactic. The 11th song, “Extinction Really Stinks,” begins almost like an arena rock anthem, then slides into the feel of 1980s songs like “We Are the World.” Guest artists such as John Wicks (Fitz and the Tantrums), Bill Harley, Recess Monkey, and Aaron Nigel Smith add to the delight of each song. VERDICT Great for family listening or in classroom units about animals.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL
Run Free. Performed by Animal Farm. CD. Approx. 26 min. Animal Farm. 2016. $8.
K-Gr 3—Seth Adams and David Ladon make up the Animal Farm band. Here they perform eight original songs in country, bluegrass, folk, and rock styles. Their sounds are harmonious and energetic. The backup musicians make beautiful music on guitar, ukulele, mandolin, violin, banjo, bass, keyboards, sax, drums, and percussion. Song titles include “Animal Farm,” “Glitter Bug,” “The Hippo Song,” “Shed Your Skin,” “When Pigs Fly,” and “Run Free.” “Why Be a Pigeon When You Can Be a Peacock?” celebrates colors in life. “The Vegetarian Spider” may give children an inaccurate view of spiders’ nutritional needs, but the song does extol the health benefits of vegetables. VERDICT These silly and whimsical songs will appeal to children.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
Saddle Up. Performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers. CD: approx. 42 min; DVD: 44 min. Okee Dokee Music. 2016. $20.
Gr K-5–The Okee Dokee Brothers, Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander, eschew modern transportation and saddle up for a trip from Arizona to Wyoming along the continental divide. Their voices blend beautifully together to create lovely harmonies for these 15 original and traditional songs. Drawing on folk, country Western, mariachi, and bluegrass styles, the musicians give outstanding performances on banjo, guitar, fiddle, upright bass, autoharp, piano, trombone, accordion, harmonica, drums, and percussion. Unusual instruments include wheelbarrow, washboard, coconuts, cardboard box, bottles, tin can, and jaw harp. “Saddle Up” celebrates songs and stories about mountains, rivers of gold, tall tales, and legends. The Brothers cover Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In,” about riding free. In “Cow Cow Yippee,” the cowboy loves his cows and they love when he feeds them. In “Jackalope,” The Brothers hunt for that fictional animal. “Sister Moon and Brother Sun” is a Navajo creation story with a Navajo chant opening and closing the song, performed by the Benally Family. Nine other equally terrific songs round out the album. The accompanying DVD is a video log of the Okee Dokee Brothers’ travels. It opens with Herman Cody, a Navajo singer and horseman, talking about the importance of caring for one’s horse. The Brothers talk about their trip, learn fly fishing, chat with a Navajo woman who explains Navajo beliefs, and sing six songs from the CD. VERDICT This outstanding third album in the Grammy Award–winning “Adventure Album” series will appeal to the entire family.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
Spinach Dip Pancakes. Performed by Kevin Kammeraad & Friends. CD. 61min. Cooperfly Creative Arts. $14.95.
K-Gr 3–Kammeraad has put together an eclectic selection of songs and spoken poems; the 26 tracks are performed as a contemporary vaudeville and variety show, the goal of which is to inspire creativity in young listeners. Kammeraad and his sidekick Sibley are joined by guest musicians Roger Day, Scribblemonster, Danny Adlerman, and 123 Andres. The songs and background music use a variety of musical styles: various styles of rock, bluegrass, blues, gospel, funk, Motown, pop, folk, calypso, jazzy Latin, and polka. The background musicians give excellent performances on guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, piano, violin, keyboards, synthesizer, organ, piccolo, flute, clarinet, saxophone, tuba, trumpet, drums, steel drum, percussion, handbells, chimes, conga, and accordion. The tracks include “Ain’t It Great To Be Crazy,” “Pickle Low” (a piccolo playing high and low notes), “Anything Is Possible” (sung four times in different musical styles, once in Swahili, and once in Spanish), “Zeedle Ziedle Zoo” (nonsense words), “Game,” “Who Found It,” and “Spinach Dip Pancakes.” The final tracks feature Kammeraad’s Grandma DeMaat on accordion (“His Eye Is on the Sparrow”) and his Great-Grandpa Brandt on trumpet (“This World Is Not My Home”). VERDICT This fun and sometimes silly album is a treat for the whole family.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
Storytime Singalong, Vol. 1. Performed by Emily Arrow. CD. approx. 30 min. Emily Arrow. 2016.
PreS-Gr 5–Singer/songwriter Arrow shows her love for children and children’s literature in this delightful collection of 11 original tunes. Seven of the songs are part of a new genre of children’s music that Arrow calls “Kidlit Tunes.” With permission of the authors, Arrow and her cowriters have created songs based on picture books such as Peter H. Reynolds’s The Dot, Ashlyn Anstee’s Are We There, Yeti?, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld’s I Wish You More. Each song is enjoyable to listen to on its own but may also be used in conjunction with the book upon which it is based. The first song on the album, “Books! Books!,” would be a great opening song for storytime, while “Poem in Your Pocket Song,” which includes breaks where children are invited to come up with words that may rhyme with the words they just heard, would work well when introducing poetry or rhyme. VERDICT Arrow’s crystal-clear voice, supported by premier instrumentation, makes this beautiful debut album a must-have for every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL
Striking Up Gold Mountain: Stories & Songs of the California Gold Rush. Performed by BZ Smith. CD. 1 hr. 58 min. CDBaby. 2015. $20.
Gr 5 Up–Seasoned storyteller Bettizane “BZ” Smith has paired up with musician Peggy Reza to weave a series of stories and songs that tell the history of California up through the Gold Rush. Smith opens the first disc by describing the creation of the land (“Golden Mountains”) with music playing in the background. Stories that follow highlight the various groups of people who lived in California: Native Americans (the Yokut tale “Coyote Rescues Salmon” serves to represent all California Indians), Spaniards and Mexicans (“Great Sails Unfurl & Cultures Collide”), the throngs who came with the discovery of gold and the Gold Rush (“Lost Cows”), Chinese workers (an adaptation of a Chinese myth honors their contribution), and women who worked in mining camps (the legend of Marie Suize). A second disc contains “Overland Girl,” a story by Smith, about the journey a family of four makes with other pioneers headed west to California. The evocative tales—some traditional, some original—are accompanied with appropriate background music. Smith and Reza are both very talented in their respective fields (storytelling and music); together, they are a dynamic duo. The addition of other musicians playing instruments (percussion, flute, guitar, fiddle) sprinkled throughout fills out the sound. VERDICT This should be considered essential for libraries in the Golden State but is probably an additional purchase for others.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Sugar Free Allstars. Performed by Sugar Free Allstars. CD. Approx. 35 min. Wiser Music. 2016. $12.
K-Gr 5–These 11 lively, energetic songs in rock, funk, jazz, barbershop, and 1980s rap musical styles will have children bopping and dancing. The Sugar Free Allstars, Chris “Boom” Wiser and Rob “Dr. Rock” Martin, acknowledge that their music is influenced by the sounds of the 1970s and 1980s and by performers such as Prince, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin. The band and their guest musicians give excellent performances on guitar, piano, violin, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, tuba, synthesizer, drums, percussion, tambourine, cowbell, beat box, and vocoder. Backing vocals and speaking parts by guest adult and children vocalists are also excellent. Song titles include “Monster Truck,” “Grumpopotamus and the Crankosaurus Rex,” “I Can See It Now,” “Can You Picture That” (a cover of a song from The Muppet Movie), “Upside Down Town,” “If I Didn’t Have You,” “Mr. DJ,” “ One Verse Song,” “Breakdancin’,” “My Dog Pete,” and “BunnyBot.” VERDICT Both adults and youngsters will enjoy this rollicking album.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library
Wake Up & Sing. Performed by Red Yarn. CD. Approx. 33 min. Red Yarn Productions. 2016. $11.
PreK-Gr 5–What started out as a trip to the East Coast to find inspiration from his musical heroes turned into the third album by Portland, OR–based Red Yarn, aka Andy Furgeson. Here he revisits six traditional songs, four original tunes, and the Woody Guthrie classic “Wake Up.” Listeners will clap and stomp along with “Clap Your Hands”; bob along with banjo picking and fiddling on “Fourth Day of July”; hop, climb, and run during “Hop Little Squirrel”; and sing along with “By the Light.” Other highlights include “Hound Dog Song” and “Molly Cottontail.” Furgeson’s voice is bright and folky; his wife Jessie Eller-Isaccs’s harmonies serve as the perfect match on songs like “I Had a Rooster.” Among the other guest musicians are Morgan Taylor (backing vocals on “Wake Up”), Mo Phillips (harmonies on “Clap Your Hands”), and Jane Scarpantoni (cello on “Welcome to the World”). VERDICT The album was produced by Dog on Fleas leader Dean Jones (who adds his talents of percussion, trombone, keyboards and back vocals), and the pacing and order of songs are spot-on. Will be enjoyed by listeners of all ages.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
We’re All in This Together. Performed by Two of a Kind. CD. Approx. 42 min. Magillacutty Music. 2016. $14.98.
K-Gr 3–Two of a Kind, the husband-and-wife duo of David and Jenny Heitler-Klevans, return with a collection of 15 songs that entertain and educate at the same time. The theme of helping one another is one that is woven throughout the album and is particularly highlighted in songs such as “I Want To Be a Superhero” and “Even When No One’s Watching,” which encourages listeners to do things like turn in a lost wallet or be honest on a take-home test even when no one else is around. The song “Leave It There” teaches children the very important lesson about not touching things such as poison ivy, gasoline, a red-hot stove, someone’s pills, or a gun, because, as they say, “It’s not safe, so leave it there.” Also included are two songs that give glimpses into the music of other cultures. In “Oh Guanaco,” about a mammal from South America, the pan pipes provide an air of being in the Andes, while “Out in the Outback” features the haunting tones of the didgeridoo. Two of a Kind does a skillful job of incorporating meaningful lyrics into melodies that can be driven by a wailing guitar on one song then soothed by a flute on another, smoothly switching from rock to pop to jazz and back again. A charming children’s chorus joins the pair on many of the songs, adding to the depth of each tune. VERDICT A solid addition to any collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL