Just in time for Black Friday, jump-start your holiday shopping with these sure bets from the 2009 National Parenting Publications Awards competition. With 19 years of experience selecting the top children’s products, NAPPA’s team of expert judges—with help from parent and child testers—offers their top picks, setting the gold standard in children’s learning and entertainment. The experts have selected the best from more than 1,000 products to help you find the right gifts for holiday fun and throughout the year.
In the music category, the quest continues to find a satisfying mix of new voices and experienced professional children’s artists who have the “Wow! Can’t wait to hear that again!” factor. We think you’ll be happy with all the winners of this year’s 2009 NAPPA Awards for children’s music.
* The Ultimate Lullaby Connection, various artists, Twin Sisters Productions, 2008, $19.99, four CDs & book, http://www.twinsisters.com; all ages.
* Songs From the Garden of Eden, various artists, The Secret Mountain, 2009; $14.98 CD, $22.95 Book/CD, http://www.thesecretmountain.com; all ages.
* Celeste Sings: Kids Dream, Dana Anton, State of Mind Entertainment, 2008, $9.95, http://www.romanticrealistrecords.com; all ages.
Toddlers and up
* Soulville, various artists, Little Monster Records, 2008; $12.98; http://www.littlemonsterrecords.com; ages 2-8. An impeccably produced venture into the best that old-school R&B has to offer, including Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye and the Jackson 5.
* Kids in the City, Laura Doherty, Laura Doherty Music, 2009, $15, http://www.lauradohertymusic.com; up to age 6. This urban-inspired album of original songs features resonant vocals that soar over a mostly folk-inspired band. Doherty’s carefully crafted lyrics and positive messages appeal to toddlers and parents alike.
Ages 4 and up
* Banjo To Beatbox, Cathy & Marcy, Community Music, 2009, $7.99, http://www.cathymarcy.com; ages 4-9. This delightful hybrid album of classic-folk-meets-hip-hop includes a stunning modern touch in its beatbox collaboration with Christylez Bacon. The CD features a bonus concert, too.
* Aventura Collage, Mariana Iranzi, Mariana Iranzi Music, 2009, $8, http://www.marianairanzi.com; ages 2-10. The smooth Astrud Gilberto-esque voice of Argentina-born Mariana Iranzi masters melody in this Spanish-English CD. The eclectic mix of genres, ranging from reggae and jazz to bossa nova and folk, makes anyone get up and move
* My Trampoline, Peter Himmelman, Minivan Productions, 2009, $15 CD, http://www.minivanproductions.com; ages 3-10. Grammy-nominated Himmelman mixes guitar-driven rock beats with pop music and adds offbeat humor to create an irresistible blend of danceable songs. His distinctive voice, a bit reminiscent of Randy Newman and Elvis Costello, takes charge
* Road To Rock, The Boogers, Spire Records, 2008, $12.97, http://www.meet-the-boogers.com; ages 1-8. Claiming to be “the Wiggles’ worst nightmare,” The Boogers’ debut album features 20 classic kid tunes done up in the most unlikely of styles – from punk rock to hard rock and even harder rock.
* Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, Bill Childs, WRSI-FM, 2005-present, Radio Show, http://www.sparetherock.com and http://www.wrsi.com; all ages. The finest family show that radio offers. The father/daughter team of Bill and Ella Childs airs the best indie rock. Spinning everything from current groups for kids to classic rock from the 1960s, the show has cross-generational appeal.
Ages 9 & Up
* ¡Canta Mi Son!, Juanita Ulloa, Vocal Power Productions, 2009, $13.99, http://www.juanitamusic.com; all ages. This CD takes on Spanish and proves once again the teaching power of music. Ulloa blends operatic vocal prowess with traditional Mariachi instrumentation in animal songs mixed with Mexican folk. The album contains sing-along karaoke versions as well!
* Good Things Happen!, Les Julian, Jump Right Over The MooOOn Music, 2009, $15, http://www.lesjulian.com; ages 7 and up. Each of the 14 songs in this highly entertaining and exceptionally produced album is a mini-story of positive values, surprising heroes and feel-good music. Julian’s clear baritone is a standout.
* American Heroes #3, Jonathan Sprout, Sprout Recordings, 2009, $13.99, http://www.jonsprout.com; all ages. Sprout brings 10 more inspiring American heroes (Jane Addams, Wilma Rudolph, Cesar Chavez, etc.) to the musical round table, with a mixture of musical styles that emanates from a base of soft rock, with strong harmonies, and anthem-like, sing-along choruses.
Find information on the other categories in the December issue of Chicago Parent and at http://www.parenthood.com/nappa.php.
-John Wood and Tor Hyams