Wild Life

Wild Life, Justin Roberts’ 15th album for children, is once more supported by his wonderful selected musicians including pianist Lisa Kaplan (Eighth Blackbird), Anna Jacobson on horns, percussionist Gerald Dowd (Robbie Fulks), and vocalist Nora O’Connor (Flat Five, the Decemberists). The ten songs that make up this CD reflect his gentle, reflective and finely crafted approach to making music for children. The album opens with Roberts’ soft, comforting voice (a hybrid of Paul Simon and Iron and Wine singer Sam Beam’s mellifluous tones) calling out across the airwaves to connect with the natural sense of wonder children possess. “Maybe She’ll Have Curly Hair” is a beautiful song of anticipation and imagination for an expectant family. “I’ve Got The World (for You)” is a rocking song of love and support through good and bad times, expressed by parents to their well-loved children, and in many ways the sentiments are similarly expressed in “Glad You’re Hear,” which uses a bouncy Islands beat to tell its tale. “You Grew” is a gorgeous parental love letter to a child changing and growing, told with a refreshing eye for detail and absence of regret. “When You First Let Go” is bathed in cascading mandolin, flute and sweeping cello for this tale of parent’s special connection with their children. “Ain’t No Way” is a fine folk declaration of parent’s dedication, supported by sturdy brass and Nora O’Connor’s lovely harmony vocal, while Anna Steinhoff’s viola da gamba colors the air with hope in the reassuring “Be Not Afraid.” Roberts’ Dylan/Guthrie style harmonica adds a new color to the palette of the Springsteen-like acoustic strains of “Hide and Seek.” The title track ending tune poses a question inspired by a famous Mary Oliver poem, which asks what you will do with your amazing “Wild Life.” While the album is filled with emotion, it is never overly sentimental or cloy. Roberts’ lyrics expertly express images of kinship, connectedness and family, set to music that is both satisfying and soothing. Wild Life is a sumptuous antidote to the fearful times we live in, it is both reassuring and forward looking; it is perhaps what every family could use right now.

 

Lahri Bond ©2020 Parents’ Choice

Lahri Bond is a father, a writer, music historian and an art professor in Western Massachusetts. His published books include Spinning Tales Weaving Hope (with the Stories For World Change Network) for New Society Press and People of the Earth (coauthored with Ellen Evert Hopman) for Destiny Books.

The NEW BIG Plane Trip

Gina Catanzarite ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster’s Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

PEEP Family Science

Jennifer Wells ©2019 Parents’ Choice

For more than 20 years, Jennifer has been developing play experiences for children, with beloved organizations like Highlights and LEGO. With a Master’s degree in Children & Media, a Bachelor’s in Music, and a love of Star Trek, Jennifer has many layers.

Duo Scope

Parents’ Choice ©2018 Parents’ Choice

TRANSFORMERS BUMBLEBEE: THE JUNIOR NOVEL

TRANSFORMERS BUMBLEBEE: THE JUNIOR NOVEL

David Shirley ©2019 Parents’ Choice

David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.

SmartGames Squirrels Go Nuts!

Sharon Heuscher ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Sharon holds B.A.s in English Literature and Ancient Studies as well as a B.S. in Psychology. She is currently a masters-level trainee in Clinical Psychology specializing in neurodegenerative diseases. For the past thirteen years, Sharon has focused primarily on raising, educating, and nurturing her five children who range in age from three to thirteen.

The Lost Boy’s Gift

David Shirley ©2019 Parents’ Choice

David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.

Tara Tremendous: Egyptian Curse

A suspenseful, action-packed podcast based on Wonkybot Studios’ previous show, “Tara Tremendous: The Secret Diaries,” about an 11-year-old girl who, through an inadvertent DNA transfer and a clash with the nefarious Dr. Epic, acquired every existing superhero power. This 12-episode (12 to 23 minutes) new stand-alone season, performed by a dynamic voice cast, begins at Power University, Tara’s boarding school tailored to students with special abilities. Tara is haunted by recurring dreams about a strange symbol and UFOs over one of the great pyramids of Egypt and her obsession soon threatens her position at the school (further jeopardized by a back-stabbing classmate and the headmaster’s scheming assistant). Meanwhile, Dr. Epic, in league with Tara’s hateful aunt, has traced the symbol to an ancient, buried city in Egypt, convinced it holds a source of the ultimate power he craves. What it actually conceals will spell doom for the Earth, unless Tara and a certain Egyptian goddess can defeat it.  With well-drawn characters, humor, plenty of cliff-hangers, atmospheric music, and an imaginative plot (it includes aliens, robots and World War II-era flashbacks), this “theater of the mind” offering is thoroughly enjoyable. A Pinna Original production, the show was created, written, and voice directed by veteran children’s and family television writer/producer Stewart St. John.

 

Lynne Heffley ©2020 Parents’ Choice

A freelance writer and editor for the arts and non-profit organizations, Lynne is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, where she established the paper’s first weekly children’s arts and entertainment beat.

City Spies

When we first meet her, Sara Maria “Brooklyn” Martinez, the heroine of James Ponti’s exciting new novel, City Spies, is about to be convicted for hacking into the database of the New York City juvenile justice system. Just when things begin to seem hopeless, the 12-year-old Puerto Rican-born orphan is rescued from imprisonment by a smooth-talking British intelligence agent named Mother. Before Brooklyn fully realizes how dramatically her life is about to change, Mother, who happens to be a man, whisks her away to a top-secret spy facility hidden away in a remote castle in Scotland, where she becomes part of a team of middle-school-aged intelligent agents. Along with Brooklyn herself, each of the other children is given a code name reflecting his or her city of origin – Paris, Rio, Sydney, and Kat (for Kathmandu) – and each one brings a unique skill set (computer hacking, picking pockets, etc.) to the team. Shortly after her arrival in Scotland, Brooklyn travels to Paris, along with her new friends, on a special mission to protect a world-famous entrepreneur, who may or may not be the same person as an infamous French thief known as the Fantome. To fulfill her part of the mission, Brooklyn must navigate the dark corridors of the French capital’s bone-filled catacombs, overcome her lifelong fear of heights to scale the side of a building, and rescue a vial filled with a dangerous, highly contagious virus from a murderous henchman. Edgar Award-winning author James Ponti’s writing is lively and crisp throughout the book, and the story, while as intricately plotted and fast-paced as an adult suspense novel, is constructed in a way that will be easy for young readers to follow. City Spies ends with a hint of a new mystery to follow, something I expect that most of the novel’s readers will eagerly anticipate.

 

David Shirley ©2020 Parents’ Choice

David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.

True and The Rainbow Kingdom

True and The Rainbow Kingdom

Gina Catanzarite ©2018 Parents’ Choice

 

Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster’s Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.