Here is the good news/bad news again: There are loads of great CDs being released for children, but I would need a weekly column to get to all of them. With that in mind, I'll call your attention to three outstanding new releases.
MY TRAMPOLINE, by Peter Himmelman, Minivan Productions, $14.95, www.minivanproductions.com; ages 5-10.
I have loved every family music CD that Peter Himmelman has released. And "My Trampoline" is no exception. The reason is simple: Himmelman is an accomplished songwriter who uses his observations and sensibilities as a parent to create songs that are unique, clever and memorable.
Because Himmelman is such a fanciful wordsmith and creative musician, his songs always feature fabulous stories and musical excursions perfectly suited for children. As a parent and educator, I appreciate his style mainly because it gets kids thinking about who they are and how they fit in the world. And to be honest, I just really love his wacky and zany approach to writing songs for kids.
I have always maintained that the best songs for kids are the ones that use storytelling to get the point across. Instead of preaching, songwriters such as Himmelman realize the power of this strategy.
Be sure to go to www.peterhimmelman.com and click on the KIDS link to see his previous children's music CDs, listen to some songs and view videos. Then go to www.minivanproductions.com to get more information about "My Trampoline."
FAMILY PHOTOGRAPH, by The Dreyer Family Band, Mighty Toad Music, $14.98, www.DreyerFamilyBand.com; all ages.
I often find great kids and family music by reading some of the bloggers who specialize in children's music, and one of my favorites is Warren Truitt, a children's librarian in New York City. His blog is called Kids' Music That Rocks and you might enjoy reading it, too, at kidsmusicthatrocks.blogspot.com. Warren's blog is where I first heard about "Family Photograph" by The Dreyer Family Band.
I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. As a parent it made me smile, as an educator it reminded me about the power of song as a storytelling tool, and as a reviewer it rekindled my belief that there are extremely talented and artistic people creating great music for kids and families.
Though I could write in detail about the great qualities of each song, "Mad" is one that really stands out and represents what is best about this CD-the real-life situations that give these songs their strength.
I also enjoy the fact that, stylistically, this recording runs the gamut from "Appalachian mountain jams to funky urban grooves to campfire music to playground patty-cake songs."
Do yourself a favor and check out "Family Photograph." You won't be disappointed.
KIDS IN THE CITY, by Laura Doherty, Laura Doherty Music, $13.99, www.lauradohertymusic.com; ages 3-7.
I also enjoy recommending new artists, especially when they are Chicago-based. If you are familiar with the early childhood Wiggleworms program at The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, you are already familiar with Laura Doherty. She is the director of Wiggleworms and has been teaching there for more than 10 years.
Her new CD is wonderful and as her press materials state, this CD is for the "urban toddler," though children and parents everywhere will delight in these songs. Using Chicago as her inspiration, the CD is filled with fabulous songs about skyscrapers, the L and the zoo.
The first time I heard "Kids In The City" it reminded me of a cross between Laurie Berkner and Ella Jenkins. Pick up the CD, give a listen and see if you agree.
Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an award-winning music educator, recording artist and producer. His Web site, BestChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children's music. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred Koch writes about music every month for Chicago Parent.
See more of Fred's stories here.