Guest Post: Children’s Music Recommendations

24 May

I’m still checking in textbooks and performing inventory on my library, so today I have a post for you by Julie Jurgens, also known as Hi Miss Julie on the internets. Julie is a children’s librarian and a talented singer-songwriter, so children’s music is a topic near and dear to her heart. Also, here’s a video of her playing the banjo. No other qualifications necessary.

This topic is extremely timely for me as Isobel is showing a disturbing preference for children’s music. Bad children’s music. The kind sung by children. (I blame my mother, who bought her CDs.) She is becoming scarily attached to it. Her other obsession is the Care Bears Big Wish movie, and music in that movie ranges from boring and saccharine to what you find here.  I’m pretty sure that song is the soundtrack to Hell. (Seriously. Check it out. It’s way more demoralizing that you can possibly imagine.) Also, this. There are no words.

On the bright side she’s so obsessed with this movie that she walks around telling people NO! MORE! WISHING! It’s adorable, if confusing to other people.

Miss Julie’s Music Picks for Children

And The Parents Who Have To Hear It

As a kidbrarian and musician, I make it a point to use a lot of music in my programs, and I like to expose my storytime parents to music beyond the usual Raffi and Hap Palmer (who are great, by the by, but sometimes you just can’t take it anymore, you know?) Here are a few of my current musical favorites for your enjoyment:

Pete Seeger American Folk, Game & Activity Songs
For parents who like Wilco, Justin Townes Earle.

It’s Pete Seeger, guys! How can you go wrong? He’s an American classic, like Levis, apple pie, and changing lanes without bothering to use your turn signal. Furthermore, I am hereby predicting that banjo will soon supplant the uke as the hispter alternative stringed instrument of choice, so you might as well get your kids ready now to ride the resurgent wave in twenty years. The banjo is also just inherently awesome and the twangy out of tune-ness of it will make up for the fact that you can’t sing in tune (which kids don’t care about, really, until they are seven or eight and capable of being embarrassed, so until that point, sing while you can, because before you know it little Jimmy will be plugging up his ears and screaming “MOM! FOR PETE’S SAKE STOP YOU’RE MAKING THE DOG FARTOUT OF FEAR.”)

Putamayo Kids
For parents who are into world music, Radio M, and Afropop Worldwide.

Whatever style or genre of music you’re into, there’s a Putamayo release for it. Animal songs, Caribbean, Zydeco, folk music, anything, and chances are high that 90% of each disc will make you just as happy as it makes your kid. This song is my current favorite, and it never fails to work its magic.

Human Tim + Robot Tim
For parents who like Star Wars, Red Dwarf, and Star Trek.

Do you have a love for all things robot but know it’s too soon to introduce your tot to Jabba the Hut?* Then play some Human Tim + Robot Tim for your kid and enjoy some age-appropriate science fiction fun. Human Tim is also a Wiggleworms staff member at the Old Town School of Folk Music, so you know he has some musical chops to go along with his super-cool sci-fi concept.

*Although for some people it is never too soon.

Super Stolie
For parents who like Neko Case, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, and Jill Sobule.

Super Stolie is super adorable and super energetic, and will give your little girls (and boys, hey, I don’t judge; paint little Jimmy’s toenails pink if you wanna!) a non-princess pretty girl to look up to, emulate, and admire. Stolie is always performing live, so if you live in the Chicagoland area, make an effort (you won’t have to try very hard) to see her in person and help create the next generation of live music supporters and show-goers.

Ella Jenkins
For parents who can’t stand treacly, sugary children’s performers, for parents who love(d) Mr. Rogers, and parents who need to learn what authoritative parenting sounds like.

No, seriously, I’m tired of wishy washy and permissive parents. Listen to the way Ella talks to kids, and follow her model. “Kids. I’m going to play the ukulele, and we’re going to sing a song together.” Bam. There you go. I love Ella’s simple and clear presentation. The children’s music equivalent of a scotch, straight up. In, you know, a wholesome way.

Hugh Hanley
For parents who were Classics or English majors in college, who want to be well-versed in classic children’s songs, who drink the house blend at Starbucks, who shop at Etsy.

Hugh Hanley isn’t flashy, but he’s a solid musician and he is on the Ella Jenkins end of the music spectrum. His voice is medium-pitched but bright while also being soothing (like your morning coffee). He has a strong background in early childhood education as well, so everything he does is perfectly attuned for your little ones to dance and move. Don’t be the only Mum or Dad at the block party who can’t bust out “Here’s A Ball for Baby” or “Open, Shut Them.” Hugh also includes handy booklets with lyrics and illustrations, so you’ll be sure to get the words right and you can smugly lord this fact over all the other parents at playgroup.

9 Responses to “Guest Post: Children’s Music Recommendations”

  1. Amanda at 6:20 am #

    Fantastic! Adding Julie to my feed reader. I worked at an amazing children’s bookstore for 2 years and loved the options out there for music. (I’m really fond of Burl Ives). These are great suggestions – I love Pete Seeger & Ella Jenkins! We like Justin Roberts at our house. Have you heard of him? He’s local to Chicago. We are also huge fans of Martin Medesky and Wood’s children’s CD, “Let’s Go Everywhere” and The CD “For the Kids,” which has popular musicians covering both traditional and more modern music.

    • Miss Julie at 10:25 am #

      I like Justin Roberts. He’s playing at the Printer’s Row Book Fair in June, I think. Chicago is apparently a hot bed of hip kid music. I didn’t mention Little Miss Ann, but she’s great, too.

      • Amanda at 12:35 pm #

        Yay for Printer’s Row ~ we saw him there last year, but will miss it this year.

  2. Jupiter at 6:54 am #

    Good suggestions!
    I have a Pandora station called Crankenstein’s Cranktime Mix for my littlest one…it was based on Pete Seeger but I added in They Might Be Giants and even a touch of Laurie Berkner (who I don’t actually mind) and some Ziggy Marley. The resulting station is interesting…and tolerable to listen to 🙂

  3. Dan at 9:40 am #

    For the record: you can add timestamps to Youtube clips. ie

    Also: what the hell is that.

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll definitely be checking out Human Tim and Robot Tim.

    TMBG needs more love! Even if Here Come the ABCs/123s are kinda mediocre. Also, my sister in law gave us a Caspar Babypants cd that I like quite a lot.

    • LittleBig at 10:58 am #

      We love TMBG’s Here Comes Science. You’re right though, they belong on any kids’ music list.

      And I’m totally filing that link away for later. What would I do without you, O Creeper Security Dude?

  4. Miss Julie at 10:22 am #

    That picture of Isobel playing the drums warms the cockles of my cold black heart. So cool.

    • LittleBig at 10:58 am #

      This post warms the blackened cockles of my heart! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. You rock with all due hardness.

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