CHILDREN’S BOOKS: JAZZ, NINJAS, and a dog called ROCKET

The Boy Who Cried Ninja Cover

It helps that the boy who actually cried “Ninja” is named Tim, but even if his name was Tom or Sam or Joe this would still be an amazing book that Kirkus Reviews called “Hip and trendy…with a timeless theme.”

Written by Alex Latimer, an author and illustrator from South Africa, he also created “Penguin’s Hidden Talent,” which I wrote about in an earlier post https://secondchancehomestead.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/picture-books-on-my-island-how-rocket-learned-to-read-and-penguins-hidden-talent/

Alex Latimer photo

Alex Latimer

Starting out with pencil drawings that then get digitized and colored, he creates a magical comic-strip like world in which we meet ninja’s, pirates, and time-travelling monkeys. And the story moves forward quickly without missing a beat. Loads of fun!

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Bring On That Beat Cover

Rachel Isadora is a former ballerina turned author/illustrator who works to capture music in book form. With words that fly off the page like the best jazz lyrics and joyous, infectious illustrations of musicians at play (literally and figuratively) – she celebrates that magic and mystery of this most American of music forms. Breathtaking.

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Rocket Writes a Story cover photo

I am really taken with Tad Hills work – from his DUCK AND GOOSE  board books for early readers to this two book series for the more advanced about a dog who learns to read and then finds the courage to write. I wrote about the first book, where a tweety-bird like teacher helps inspire the cutest little pup to learn to read. The New York Times review of this first Rocket chronicle lauded Hills for bringing a “sweet but not saccharine touch to a common struggle of childhood.”

How Rocket Learned to Read Cover

The story continues as Rocket, who is now a firmly established reader, gets encouragement from his teacher to WRITE.

Kirkus Reviews gets it right, noting a plot that “moves along at a measured pace” and “stresses the step-by-step process of Rocket’s endeavors.” Hills illustrations, in oil and colored pencil, are touching and “lovingly depict the characters and events.” The book doesn’t just chronicle a writer’s first start, but also the special relationship between teacher and student, and the role encouragement and gentle prodding can have in getting a new writer to blossom. Heart-warming.

Tad Hills with the real Rocket   Tad Hills with the “real” Rocket (Kirkus Reviews)

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MUSIC: “Tomorrow Is Christmas Day” by Mindy Smith

Singer/songwriter and Long Island transplant to Nashville Mindy Smith has the kind of lyrics and voice that haunt and linger, resonating in the mind and heart long after the record has finished its spin. This year, for the holidays, she put out an EP of Christmas songs, called “SNOWED IN”, that includes this tune she wrote just for the occasion. I couldn’t think of anything more perfect to post today.

To check out the EP visit https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/snowed-in-ep/id720815475
To check out Mindy Smith’s website visit http://www.mindysmithmusic.com

MUSIC: Mason Jennings and Sarah Harmer sing John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison” Live in Minneapolis

Mason Jennings is a new singer/songwriter favorite of mine. Here’s he’s joined by Canadian singer/songwriter and environmental activist Sarah Harmer on John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison.”

I hope this proves an unexpected and welcome pleasure. And if you can, stay out of prison this holiday season!

For more on Mason Jennings visit http://www.masonjennings.com
For more on Sarah Harmer visit http://www.sarahharmer.com

To view Mason Jenning’s video of the track “Lonely Street” from his new album ALWAYS BEEN, click below:

TYLER STENSON – “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day”

I heard the bells tyler stenson

View a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ADC1thdY9A&feature=youtu.be

Tyler Stenson, the talented singer/songwriter out of Portland, Oregon always moves me with his expressive voice and deeply moving lyrical and melodic constructions. Here he deftly tries his hand at “I Heard the Bells”, breathing new and intriguing life into an old holiday standard. What a perfect choice, with lyrics that articulate the zeitgeist of our time.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

For years, whenever I would think of this song, I would hear in my head the voice of Johnny Cash peforming his 1960’s version for Capitol Records. I think now I’ll be hearing Tyler’s voice. Thanks Tyler. You’ve done it again.

And before we forget, a shout out to the great American Poet who penned these lyrics in 1863:  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

You can buy a copy of the song here for just ONE DOLLAR http://tylerstenson.bandcamp.com/track/i-heard-the-bells