cELLAbration!:A TRIBUTE TO ELLA JENKINS, by various artists, Smithsonian-Folkways Recordings, $12, www.folkways.si.edu; preschoolers.
This is the second year "cELLAbration" is on my favorites list. The reason is simple: It showcases a wide variety of musical styles with passionate performances tucked into age-appropriate, classic songs for young children—all penned by Ella Jenkins. Jenkins, now 81, is an icon in children’s music and a Chicago treasure. This CD (with stellar performances by Pete Seeger, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Tom Chapin, just to name a few) deserves to be in every home and preschool.
LULLABIES WITH MANDOLINS, by Simon Mayor and Hilary James, Acoustics Records, $13.95, www.elderly.com or (888) 473-5810; infants and toddlers.
This English duo is well known in the United Kingdom and their fabulous music is also available in the United States. This bedtime collection of traditional songs and classical tunes, skillfully played on an assortment of acoustic instruments, is the perfect remedy for bedtime restlessness. Whether it is a Vivaldi concerto or a beautiful rendition of a classic such as "Lavender’s Blue," each song is exquisitely performed. With so many lullaby CDs on the market, it is refreshing to hear one so tastefully performed.
THANKS & GIVING: ALL YEAR LONG, by Marlo Thomas and friends, Atlantic Records/Kid Rhino, $17.95, www.stjude.org/thanksandgiving; ages 8-10.
Though the title may sound seasonal, you and your children will enjoy this CD all year long. Once again, Marlo Thomas has put together a star-studded marquee list of performers, including Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Buffett, James Earl Jones, Faith Hill, Robin Williams and others. The songs and stories get children (and their parents) to think about the important issues: How do I fit in? What is my purpose? What can I do to help this world? There is also a companion songbook and a portion of the sales benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This is another CD that should be in every family music library.
SHIP OF CHOCOLATE CHIPS, by Joel Frankel, Crunchy Records, $14.95, www.joelfrankel.com; ages 5-8.
It took Joel Frankel more than a year to record this CD, but it was worth the wait. Frankel, another longtime Chicago favorite, is regarded by many as one of the most gifted songwriters around. His unique sense of humor and attention to production details elevate this recording to the top of my list.
Kids like his zany approach to songs. And adults sense his sincerity—not that he’s a serious chap, but they pick up on the fact that he is really committed to writing songs that stretch the imaginations of children. Frankel’s previous CD, "JoJo’s Barnyard Bash," is terrific, too.
Drum roll, please
Kid culture columnists share their favorites from 2005
Most of us could use a little expert advice in choosing just the right movie, music or book for a holiday gift. So we turned to our experts, Chicago Parent’s Kid culture columnists—Sylvia Ewing on movies, Fred Koch on kids’ music, Judy Belanger on books for young readers and Sandi Pedersen on books for tweens—for help. The following are their picks as the best books, music and movies for gift-giving this year.