Friday, September 17, 2010

Going off the List

Today I have an unsolicited review of a book/CD that I stumbled upon while playing for a class of Toddlers at my home base of Plymouth Preschool. It's a common occurrence that I catch the tail end of circle time as I travel from room to room singing for the wee ones. This week, I happened to be visiting a particularly tearful crew of toddlers, but as I entered the room I was amazed to see and hear them completely engaged in listening to a story, and the funky beat coming from the CD player got me bopping into the room.

The Book is called Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. Both the illustrator and the author/singer who created this picture book are new to me. The author/composer is Eric Litwin and the illustrator is James Dean (I'm sure he's heard all kinds of foolish comments about his famous namesake so I'll spare you).

As I mentioned before the music that accompanies this tale of a cat and his shoes is funky and fun. Litwin's voice has a bit of the scratchy, easy delivery of Dan Zanes which was my first guess, but with a decidedly more 70's soul vibe. There is an simple, predictable pattern to the story and a repeating refrain that is easy for even the youngest to grab onto (the toddlers weren't singing along but given a month or too). The story is reminiscent of Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh, but with a bit more whimsy and a cat as the hero not the antagonist. Again, I didn't know of Eric Litwin before hearing this book, but I can only imagine that his other kids' music is great. He has performances around NY (including Lincoln center) and impressive education credentials. This NY Times Best Seller is a feather in his cap to boot.

As for the illustrations, James Dean captures the whimsy and humor of Litwin's music. I have to make comparisons with one of my favorite illustrators, Chris Raschka who also has a thing for cats. There is the same simplicity balanced by expressiveness that I love. I also get hints of George Rodrigue, but that's what happens when you paint an animal blue.

the Mike Brady Wrap-up: I guess this marks Singing in the Bathtub's first official book review. I couldn't have anticipated writing about this book, but I couldn't pass up this opportunity to share this great book with my faithful readers (my stack of CD submissions will have to wait another week).

This book incorporates so many elements that I search for when I am planning curriculum for preschoolers, a strong central concept (colors), an enticing lead character (the sly shoe-wearing cat), rhythmic and predictable language, and great music to boot! If you don't have it in your library, you should.

Kid Quote of the Day: I was in the choir room about to start singing The Dinosaur Song. I had passed out my paper dinosaur puppets, and I had taught the kids when to shout "Oh!" I started the song when I heard this comment from the Peanut Gallery, "That's the song the man sings on my D-D-D (CD)." ~Gabby (age: 4) my only response was... "Yeah, I think I know that guy!"

CD Giveaway Update: Last week I posted a free CD giveaway of Brian Vogan's latest album Sing a Little Song. I spelled out the parameters for entering the contest and waited for the submissions to roll it... Wah, wah, waaaaah. ZERO people entered! Each time I visit my blog I am blown away by reading the traffic feeder I see visitors from across the country and around the globe from Zimbabwe to Australia. I haven't had a harder time giving away free stuff since my last garage sale. If I didn't state it clearly enough before I really love this CD, you will two! I am officially amending my rules for entry into the contest and extending the deadline to enter:

Please send an email with the answer to ONE of the following questions to:

1) From what city does Brian Vogan hail?
2) How many CD's has he recorded and what are they called?
3) What was his most recent Facebook update?

If no one enters before next week, I am giving it to my sister's family nepotism be damned!


Jenni said...

Please don't give it to your sister's family! I am a friend of theirs and they get Uncle Nick live and in person. I just get to listen to your CDs. I own two of them and my son and I love them! I would love another great CD for us! Please, pick me!

Jenni said...

Oh my gosh! I didn't follow directions! Brian is from Seattle and his latest Facebook post is: Hi Good Buddies! If you're in the Seattle area, we're playing a free show at Good Fest tomorrow at 12:30 at Redmond Town Center. Hope to see you there!

JoAnn said...

Ok, I am going to cheat and answer based on Jenni's answer. Brian is from Seattle! Since Jenni's adorable little boy and your two beautiful nephews spend their days with me I'm hoping to pull some strings to win a CD! Okay, so I'm "cheating" again - we love music!

Nick! said...

JoAnn and Jenni, I probably made this needlessly complicated. I was hoping contestants would email me so they wouldn't need to publicly share mailing address and the answers to my challenge questions. It's a learning process. Regardless, you're both in the running and I am hatching a plan (which involves my dog) for how I'll choose the winner. Details to follow!

Anne Deysher said...

We love Pete the Cat down in Atlanta! In fact, I believe the author is from Atlanta. I think it's a book better enjoyed with the CD accompaniment than being read by Mahna the grandmother. As you note, the Mouse Paint-like theme is freshly approached and the song adds a delightful reinforcement! It's good to know that you have discovered it, and to know that it's being appreciated in preschools.
BTW, I can vouch for both the contest entrants....

Jenni said...

Okay, so I REALLY didn't follow the directions! Sorry, Nick! Proof positive that teachers are the worst students!

Anne Deysher said...

Just thinking... another song/book that is best listened to with the CD is Jon Lithgow's "I've Got Two Dogs". It's a lot of fun when he sings it, but not as spectacular when a parent or grandmother reads it. In general, I much prefer to have books read in person to young children, but there are exceptions.