It’s been a great year @ Itty Bitty! I appreciate all of you who continue to follow my blog. Now it’s time to take a respite and devote my time and energy to my family for the next few weeks. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season.
If I could choose any “dream job” with the natural talent to pursue it, it would involve singing and playing jazz. Fortunately, dreams don’t always demand pursuit, and I can just enjoy an occasional fantasy while working my other dream job of being a children’s librarian.
But local mom and musician Lori Henriques is living the fantasy. If you don’t know about her, you need to. This singer/songwriter/pianist was recently given an ASCAP Foundation award for her song, “Something You Learn” (Learn more about that here).
Her new album- “The World Is a Curious Place to Live” released this summer- gives breath and melody to hefty subjects such as science, math, nutrition, and language. Reminding me of the familiar “Why?” stage all young children experience, it’s fueled by the concepts of curiosity and wonder. Aptly, her first song, “Curiosity” pays tribute to a joy of learning and discovery:
“Curiosity- I love to be under your spell
Curiosity- yes I can see you work so well
Question pops into my curious mind, I start to research ‘cause I’ve just got to find
Another pattern, another answer…the rings of Saturn, a cure for cancer…”
These seventeen tracks make for a fun listening session with your favorite school-age kid. Henriques sounds like a jazzy Julie Andrews and her classical and jazz influenced vocals and piano technique are a delight to listen to.
The best songs on the album are those that don’t force a specific lesson but allow Henriques to express deep feeling and heart along with the subject matter. As a casual listener, I favor her ballads more than the counting songs like “Let’s Count By Two’s” although I see how useful those are from a teaching perspective.
Here are some of my favorites:
Dinosaur (#2) is a soulful ode to dinos, describing both admiration and wonder:
“Gotta say- you were so cool/a little creepy/and so old-school…hard to imagine you walked on this same land/and quite possibly you touched this rock with your 3-fingered hand”
Everlovin’ Water (track #4) A song praising the benefits of water, describing the physiological process water has on the body, while using clever rhyme and rhythm. Impressive!
When I Look into the Night Sky (track #6) This haunting tune describes the night-time wonder of atoms, stars, planets, and a large universe:
“Every atom that’s inside us, used to live inside a star/We sparkle and we marvel, what is near has come from afar/Whatever may be out there, whatever may be true, the beauty and the wonder, how it moves me through and through”
The World Is A Curious Place to Live (#17): A beautiful, sweet ballad describing things we learn about (music, science, language, math) as well as human relationships ( “we’ve got family, we’ve got friends, we’ll find more along the path”) I just wish there were more verses to this one.
I’m really looking forward to hearing more from Lori in the future!
There are so many wonderful books to share during the holiday season. I could come up with a huge list, but today I’m highlighting some that my kids and I have been enjoying this year. These cover a range of ages, from toddlers to preschoolers and beyond. Happy holiday reading!
Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner
We Love Christmas! by Marilyn Janovitz
If You Take a Mouse to The Movies by Laura Numeroff
The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
The Night Before Christmas (Classic Edition) by Clement C. Moore/Illustrations by Charles Santore
Jingle-Jingle is one of my favorite holiday books, with a similar storyline as Clip-Clop, another favorite by the same author. Mr. Horse is back–this time he’s giving rides in his sleigh and our friends Cat, Dog, Pig and Duck are excited to go along for the ride.
“Jingle-jingle, crunch-crunch. Jingle-jingle, crunch-crunch.”
They decide to slide down a steep, snowy hill and- you guessed it- fly through the air and land in a snow drift. “Wheeeeeee!” This is a simple story, with some fun vocabulary (swoosh, plop, crunchy) Two’s and older will appreciate the sound effects and humor in this one.
(Disclosure: I received a promotional copy of this album for review)
Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a place for traditional nursery rhymes and groups like The Wiggles. But to sustain my sanity with two young boys, I need albums easier on my ears. Fortunately, Portland-based kindie-rock duo Johnny & Jason exists.
Musician dads Johnny Keener and Jason Greene have been performing together for several years. Their first album “Go, go..go,go,go” earned well-deserved attention and provided a great alternative to annoying kids albums. Willamette Week recognized the duo as “Best Kid’s Rock” group in 2011. In an interview, Keener said “There’s a place in the world for music everybody can dig.” I couldn’t agree more.
Their new album “Be Alive!” is another welcome gift for families with young children. This playful upbeat indie rock collection offers respite from the grating music (snooze-ick) we tend to associate with the toddler/preschool crowd, replacing it with a lively and satisfying menu for little (and big) ears.
There are 9 original songs with a strong indie rock flavor just waiting to be danced to. Lyrics celebrate kids’ experiences and milestones- whether it’s playing at the park, finally reaching a bookshelf, or making big messes. The first track “Up Up Up” is energetic, feet-stomping, hand-clapping fun. That energy sustains through the entire album. From the carefree, rhythmic organ accompaniment in “Let’s Play” to the dreamy, laid back tune “Lollipop Trees” there isn’t a single song you’ll want to skip past. One cover song, Bob Dylan’s Walkin’ Down the Line” is a pleasing bonus in this fantastic set of compositions.
I highly recommend adding this album to your personal collection. If you’re local, don’t miss their CD release show TOMORROW (Sat, Dec.7) at Mississippi Studios. They’ll be performing along with another wonderful musician, Mo Phillips.