Monday, February 22, 2016

Music for kids from Africa and the African diaspora

I love to do the standard American favorites, Head, shouders, knees and toes, Five little monkeys etc. etc. Sometimes depending on my audience, the event or my mood I may switch up a song, use a different beat or sing a song a different way. It is always good to try new songs, listen to different cds and explore what's out there. I think that kids especially need to be exposed to different cultures to develop an appreciation for them.

I remember when I discovered Asheba. Not only was I surprised that there was a dreadlocked dude doing Caribbean versions of classic children's rhymes but he is also from my homeland of Trinidad. Here is his version of Five little monkeys. Be warned that this version is very upbeat!  If you are looking for an African-themed call and response song though, try this song from South Africa. Featuring instructions such as to the left", "to the right" and "wiggle your tail in the moonlight" this song is sure to make it onto your playlist.

I frequently refer to the now defunct Noggin tv station. The more I think about it, that station was aimed directly at Gen X parents who had grown up on certain types of music and may have wanted to share it with their offspring. Bob Marley for example is perhaps everyone's favorite reggae singer. And in this video the animation truly gives the song a different dimension. Gee, I wish Peter Tosh, Jacob Miller and others had more children's songs.

When Noggin became Nick Jr they introduced many children's shows featuring diverse casts. One of them was Gullah Gullah island a terrific little that show featured a ton of good songs such as the West African influenced Fungal Alafia shown below. The version below is a little less percussion heavy but I found another version of the song as performed by this  group and it is fantastic. It is a great intro to a Black History Month or Kwanzaa program.

If you never knew Kermit was cool, know that he once did a sing/rap of the alphabet together with with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Check it out, it is mellow and catchy at the same time. I used to watch it growing up and can still remember it after all these years.

Finally what's better than a song that's catchy, has simple lyrics and incorporates simple movements to keep the kids engaged. I present to you the Zimbole song. The video shows kids from all over the world performing it and I must say that it gives me hope for the future. Enjoy!  Bye!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Night on fire by Ronald Kidd

It is amazing how a well-written story can enable one to see how a point of view that we now know is wrong could have seemed right not too long ago. This book is told from the perspective of a southern Caucasian girl during the heady 1960s and I like the fact that it does not shy away from introducing tough questions. I think sometimes children know more than we think they do  and to shelter them from life's injustices is perhaps not good for their development.

A spirited young girl called Billie Sims lives a typical life in Alabama in the 1960s. The family's longtime maid is called Lavender and although she doesn't always receive the best treatment from them, they would not be able to function without her help. Billie is just at that age when kids begin to question the world around them and she begins to wander into different parts of town despite her parents' admonitions...and much to Lavender's chagrin. This is how she discovers that Lavender has her own life...and her own family.

Fiction such as this is necessary because despite what some would have you believe discrimination is not a thing of the past. This book looks at a time when discrimination was de jure and tries to show the kind of thinking that perhaps still exists in some quarters. Every time I hear someone make a disparaging remark about one ethnic or racial group or the other I am reminded how such thinking is still prevalent and we must do all we can to educate people.
Another positive aspect of the book was the use of non violent protests to achieve aims, very important to remember especially when civil rights for certain groups in our nation are being infringed upon. This book's cover image is very compelling and makes this book perfect for displays and hand selling in the library. In terms of the book itself I recommend it for children ages 9 and above.  This is a good read for African American History Month in particular.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Losers Take All by David Glass

9780374301361_FC.jpg (1400×2100)Wow, wow wow is what I kept saying to myself after reading this novel. Mr Glass has put his finger on something that has been brewing in the American psyche for years.

Jack Logan's dad used to be called the Logan Express back in his day as a student at Fremont High. Fremont, also known as Muscles High is a place where jocks rule and have ruled for decades. Jack's two older brothers were also football stars at the school and his dad has always tried to encourage his sons. Jack, like most sons, desperately wants his father's approval.

When a drill sergeant principal is appointed principal things get weird for Jack and his athletically challenged friends as they are forced to join a sports team. They choose soccer and soon are the talk of the town. There are some at the school who don't take kindly to the lovable losers however and that is when things get really exciting.

I for one like football and cheer my beloved Denver Broncos (Super Bowl 50 champs!) on weekly but I would never allow my sons to play the game and many of the parents I know feel the same. Though soccer is portrayed in the book as a sport that is manly than football those who play it know that this is not necessarily true (Google Football's wildest tackles and fouls if you don't believe me).

 This book is a not so veiled commentary on American sports culture and I can see it being discussed in many schools across this country. People on both sides of the spectrum will of course have differing views but no one deny that sports, important as they are just games at the end of the day. Producing students with big character should be the focus of high school sports programs because as has been mentioned time and time again only a small portion of these athletes will go on to play in college and an aeven smaller amount will make the pros. Good food for thought. I recommend this novel for ages 13+.