Rich, beautiful drawings from Christopher Raschka invite young children into a vividly natural world in Simple Gifts: A Shaker Hymn.
“Bouncing, bouncing, panda on my knee; bouncing, bouncing, 1-2-3!”* I peeked around the doorframe to see my 3-year-old daughter with her stuffed panda, singing it a song I had sung to her and her brother over and over and gently bouncing it on her knee. I was delighted! Not only was she singing, she was playing with the lyrics, making them her own.
Fast forward two years, and I overhear my son singing while he’s playing with LEGOs, “Rain, rain, go away, Mia and Eli want to play…” We are definitely a singing household. I grew up learning folk songs as Dad accompanied us on guitar. My mom sings Christmas carols year-round while she does chores. The kids and I sing songs anytime we are driving in the car. They often request that I play songs by title.
When Farmer Joe goes to sleep, the animals on his farm are still wide awake. They are preparing for their debut show as the rock band Punk Farm!
Each animal has his own instrument, and the barn works well as a practice space. Thankfully, punk rock focuses on sheer animalistic energy over talent, so these hooved and feathered bandmates have little to worry about skill-wise. But wait....did the farmer's bedroom light just turn back on?
"Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!"
Bram Stoker's Dracula
For nearly a decade, Fredericksburg All Ages has been giving teenagers a chance to experience and create live music in a safe, family-friendly environment. Its bands and musicians range from area high schoolers to regional and national acts. The non-profit organization also encourages teens to volunteer, helping to organize shows and take on leadership roles in a creative environment.
The Terrible Two is a devious satire of middle school life where no one is spared. Miles Murphy was the prankster king at his old school, then he had to move to boring, old Yawnee Valley, famous for its abundant cow population. Miles is not happy. He will have to establish his pranking cred all over again.
Of course, the Monster Mash would make for a perfect picture book. The 1962 novelty song by Bobby Pickett has a great story with lots of kooky characters. It rhymes; it is catchy; and, with illustrator David Catrow at the helm, it is wonderfully grotesque.
When the Beat Was Born, by Laban Carrick Hill, is a stunning example of just how wonderfully diverse the world of children's biographies is getting. This picture book offers a look into the life of DJ Kool Herc, one of the founders and innovators of hip-hop music.
Hill's words, when combined with Theodore Taylor III's crisp, colorful illustrations, depict how a boy named Clive left Kingston, Jamaica, for the Bronx. Clive wanted to be a DJ, slinging an arsenal of records and getting crowds amped up at parties.
She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain takes the popular folk song to new heights of silliness. A serenading cactus begins our tune, inviting us to sing along. The "She" in question is a pint-sized cowgirl whose legend grows with the song.
We start normally enough, but when we find out that the six white horses she'll be driving are named "Misty, Moonbeam, Milkshake, Stardust, Silvermane, and Snowflake," we find ourselves riding off the beaten path into hilariously imaginative scenarios involving jelly-juggling and rooftop-dancing.
I have never liked getting haircuts. There is just too much room for miscommunication. Too much of a chance for a top-of-the-head surprise that won’t go away. Recently, I have figured out a way around any chance of miscommunication.
“Just make it look like Elvis.”
Shake, Rattle & Turn that Noise Down! is a beautifully illustrated coming-of-age story by Mark Alan Stamaty. He is best known as a political cartoonist, and here his caricatured drawings serve his personal story of discovering Elvis Presley, to the chagrin of his poor mother.
As the sun sets, the animals in the farmyard should be settling down for the night. But in Lindsey Craig’s Farmyard Beat:
“Chicks can’t sleep. Chicks can’t sleep.
Chicks can’t sleep
‘cause they got that beat.”
And so begins a toe-tapping dance party where each animal’s noisy contribution to the beat wakes up another. The chicks go peep and wake up sheep. Cat’s purr and meow wake up cow. The racket grows until it is so loud that Farmer Sue comes to investigate the noise. Of course, she joins in and the entire farmyard dances to the beat until they “fall in a heap. Asleep.”