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November 2011

Riverdale Library Puppet Show This Saturday: The Paperbag Princess

November 17, 2011 | Claire | Comments (0)

BagRiverdale Branch presents the Paperbag Princess puppet show this Saturday, November 19th at 2 PM.  Stay afterwards to decorate a paper prince or princess crown of your own!  No reservations required.

Riverdale Branch is located at 370 Broadview Avenue, at the corner of Gerrard and Broadview. 

Phone:  416-393-7720.

Hope to see you there!


Beyond Raffi, Sharon and Bram: Musical Picks for Young Children

November 7, 2011 | Claire | Comments (5)

Babies and music...what could be a more perfect combination?  Parents in every culture on earth sing quietly to their children to soothe them at bedtime and use livelier songs to have fun with them during the waking hours.  Singing and playing music to your child can be creative and fun, and it also helps your child develop their language skills.  Here are a few musicians who have made a career of making music especially suited for young people.

Dreamland Kathy Reid-Naiman is a talented folk musician with an incredible repetoire of traditional songs and rhymes for children.  She has a long association with the Parent-Child Mother Goose Program, where she has used music to facilitate both learning and  parent-child bonding.  Her voice is clear and expressive and lovely to listen to.  Kathy's fourth CD, A Smooth Road to London Town, was chosen by the Ontario Early Years foundation to be part of their Newborn Literacy Kit, but my own personal favourite is On My Way to Dreamland, with its quieter, more contemplative song selection.  Kathy's wonderful version of Great Big Star echoes in my head for days whenever I hear it.  For francophone babies, Kathy's daughter Hannah Naiman's CD Savez-vous Planter des Choux offers a similar smorgasbord of early-childhood songs in our other official language.  Here's a sample of Kathy singing Hush Little Baby. 


If you want to turn your children into banjo enthusiasts, listening to Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer will do the trick.  They're fun, they're fabulous musicians and they're both wicked banjo players. (Don't laugh--banjos are the next cool thing!)  Favourites in my house include their food-themed CD Bon Appetit!  and All Wound Up! ,their collaboration with the Polka-rock band Brave Combo.  Beware--both of these CDs are more suited to dancing than snoozing!  Here's a short video of Cathy and Marcy singing some of their more gentle songs to a group of parents and babies.  



SeashellIf you live around the Lillian H. Smith library branch, you may well have had the talented and richly experienced children's librarian Theo Heras conduct your babytime sessions.  Theo's love of song shines through on her two children's albums, What Will We Do With The Baby-O and Seashell, Sing a Song to Me, both of which grew organically out of her work with children.  She has also published a companion book to What Will We Do With The Baby-O for parents who want the lyrics to sing along.



Chilly Would you trust your child to a Backstabber?  By day, he's Mr. Parker, the friendly music teacher in a local Toronto school. By night, he transforms into Colonel Tom, performing in the adult country music band The Backstabbers and in the  children's band Colonel Tom and the Loose Cannons.  As Colonel Tom, he has put out  Songs for the Young'uns, a CD with a twangy country-bluegrass flavour, which features childhood favourites like Big Rock Candy Mountain and The Fox Went Out On a Chilly Night.  My son went crazy over the fox song because we had read him the classic book version many times beforehand.  This is great music to sing along to. 


We all know and love Toronto's own Jack Grunsky, children's musician extraordinaire, but did you know that his daughter Cosima Grunsky was following in her father's footsteps?  Cosima has put out three CDs for children, the most recent being The Whole World Sings With Me. City Parent magazine says of her that "with an angelic voice that moves seemingly effortlessly up and down the scale, she is probably compared to Sarah McLachlan as much as to her Dad."  Cosima still performs with her famous father and they have a joint CD out called Hoppin' Socks. The Grunskys are well-known for showcasing traditional world instruments and rhythms in their music.



If you're looking for some "kindie rock", in my opinion Dan Zanes can't be beat--I saw him perform at Harbourfront years ago and it was instant love. The Dan Zanes CD that my family listens to on long car trips to keep us all cheerful is Catch That Train, and it really does the jobDan considers himself a maker of "all-ages social music", or music that the whole family can enjoy together, and his influences range from blues to rock to traditional sea shanties.  Be sure to check out the instructional videos on his website if you have a hankering to create a family band!




BenFinally, if you're classically oriented, there are any number of wonderful compositions that even the youngest can appreciate.  I love husband-and-wife duo  Donna Bennett and Brian Finley's CD, Lullabies for Benjamin, created for their own son.  Donna and Brian are classically trained musicians (he is a composer and pianist, she is an operatic singer) and the co-founders of the Westben music festival.  Composers on this recording include Schumann, Debussy, Brahms, and Strauss;  as well, there is an original lullaby by Brian Finley.  Today's Parent called Lullabies for Benjamin "an exquisite collection".   Sweet dreams, everyone!