A playlist of cool things for cool kids!

Kids rock! There's no question about it. They are simply much cooler than you and me. This playlist is for those of us just trying to keep up with these mod toddlers and hip preschoolers. It's about promoting children's books, music, and other media that rock just as much as our kids do. Check out something cool for your cool kid.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Foot (featuring Thurston Moore, Don Fleming, Jim Dunbar)

This was a weird and amazing rock show that I just had to post about. FOOT performed some crazy psychedelic noise jams for the tots at the Windsor Terrace Library Toy Sale Saturday, Nov 22nd.

FOOT is Thurston Moore on guitar and effects, Don Fleming on guitar and synth, and Jim Dunbar on synth and electronics. Children read excerpts from picture books over the squall and eventually joined in bashing away on the instruments. Here's some photos and a little sample of the sounds created that day.  My son JoJo is the one in the white shirt.  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pete & Pickles

Throughout grade school and high school, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a cartoonist for the funny papers.  I assumed there could be no greater glory than to have your art lining the bottom of birdcages or used as birthday wrapping.  Which is to say, Berkeley Breathed was my idol. Years ago I came to my senses.  About my career, not Mr. Breathed, who remains a hero. And I'm so happy he's making picture books for the little ones these days, because I want my kid to have the chance to know (and love) his cracked point of view.  

Pete & Pickles is a charmer, though not without a few dark notes to give it an edge.  Starring a widower pig (Pete) and an adventurous escaped circus elephant (Pickles), the book is filled with the antic exuberance and skidding non-sequiters that made Bloom County and its characters so memorable.  And the art is super-plush and totally weird, racing through a catalog of famous artists and styles.  

Check it out, and don't forget that Mars Needs Moms!

Oh, and it's almost Christmas.  Opus & Bill make for a wacky noel in this great picture book and the animated TV special from back in the day.   

Ack. Thpppt.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bob Dylan Picture Books

So maybe your child isn't quite ready for Tarantula. This very hip picture book is perhaps the better place to start.   You'll dig the retro illustrations, and you know the words by heart, right?  

Check out this cool animated video of the song:  

And if you want to spend some serious coin,  rock-obsessed collectors can still pick up Dylan's 1999 picture book:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Feist on Sesame Street

This clip proves that the super-talented Leslie Feist can move iPods and muppets!   The album is definitely one you can enjoy with the kids. 

Check it out:

And just a "reminder" that the Deluxe edition of The Reminder releases Nov. 25.  Sadly, the Sesame Street mix is not included on the bonus disc.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ghosts in the House

Ghosts in the House! is a terrific treat this Halloween for your little boys and ghouls.  A very resourceful witch domesticates the ghosts haunting her house, using them as tablecloths, curtains and comfy blankets for a cool October night.  The stylish artwork is as charming as a candy corn.   


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Interview with Melanie Hope Greenberg

Melanie Hope Greenberg, author and illustrator of so many fantastic picture books, was kind enough to answer a few questions for Posterband.  Check out more from Melanie at: www.melaniehopegreenberg.com

Your books have a distinctive style - colorful and crowded with appealing detail. Could you name some of your artistic influences? Both broadly and as well as for children?

I am admirer of most art. From the classics to the contemporary. For me art is about feeling and psychology. With adult art I enjoy mostly everything. If I do not like the art I still know that the artist poured their heart and soul into it, so I see it from that point of view too. Art is subjective.

In children’s books, I love the artists that take the time to portray a story thoughtfully with soul and sensitivity. Book art helps a child learn to read and also FEEL something through the mood and tone of the colors. I am not a big fan of trends. Originality is the job of an artist. I guess being self taught is why I have a distinctive art style.

Many of the books you have written or illustrated are set in New York. Is the city your biggest inspiration?

Dear Art Directors and Editors: please do not stereotype me as only urban, I can paint most any subject you need. That being said, I am a New York City native, originally from the Bronx, one year in Greenwich Village and 31 years in Brooklyn. Although I travel, nothing lives up to the energy and cultural diversity of New York City. I just received a letter from Mayor Bloomberg praising Mermaids On Parade as a part of New York City’s cultural legacy, so the mayor sensed my passion. 

Another book I painted was A City Is, poems by Brooklyn’s first poet laureate, Norman Rosten. It took 14 years to get our collaboration published. I created many book prototypes in order to sell it. At first, I sketched cities around the USA. Eventually, the art became the reflected truth of Brooklyn native Rosten, as well as my own roots. I knew how to paint the our city’s moods and colors.

Coney Island where Mermaids on Parade is set is an icon of visual style. How did you approach this challenge as an artist?

Coney Island is an artist’s dreamscape. Surreal, child-like. flashing neon colors. Coney’s visual style reflects my own coming of age in the late 60’s, early 70’s. My heart is really into psychedelic art and music. Viewing ‘The Summer of Love’ exhibition at the Whitney Museum last year really helped me grasp the big influence that era had and still has on my innate art style. Coney's own history - from the 1800’s on - is also felt viscerally when you step foot in that neighborhood. A wild juxtaposition of old and new architecture. Truly diverse, which is Coney’s overall legacy in the tapestry of our country’s history.

Of the books where you have been both the author and illustrator (such as Mermaids On Parade), could you explain how these books generally originate? Do you typically have an artistic vision that inspires the story? Or do you begin with a story or theme?

Mermaids On Parade was an idea which grew out of community. In 2005, Brooklyn librarians Deloris McCullough and David Mowery told me what was missing on their bookshelf. About three months later, Tanya Rynd, who owns Superfine in Dumbo, Brooklyn invited me to join her performance art troupe, the Superfine Dinettes, and march in the upcoming Coney Island Mermaid Parade. I interviewed the Dinettes, asking them what the parade meant to them, why they marched. Then I experienced the parade first hand. The whole book was a synthesis of everyone’s good energy and ideas. I knew children would love the magic of the parade and costumes.

Your books seem to have a fairly elastic age-span. Do you have an ideal audience or age level in mind when creating for children?

I am lucky that my art has wide appeal. For children I try to be literal. (Although, A City Is is about silence and multi-dimensional consciousness!) For grown-up magazine art, I am more abstract and conceptual. My guess is that the art touches the spirit that exists in all age groups. Beauty contained in wonder, that child-eye vision.

Posterband covers music as well. We'd love to know some of your favorite music that inspires you creatively.

I am so lucky to have lived through the music renaissance of the 1960’s with the original musicians who started it. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors (lately I am obsessed with their music once again). Jim Morrison was a visionary who was a grand emoter and not afraid to be openly anti-war. For Mermaids On Parade, there were mostly local Brooklyn band influences. I played their CDs at least once daily during production. The old timey sound of the Jug Addicts, the Wiyos, Jan Bell and Alex Battles really brought up that Coney Island honky tonk spirit from its hey day. The Gaijins A Go-Go and Les Sans Culottes added some feminine mermaid energy and color. A lot of these local musicians also march as characters in the book.

Thanks, Melanie!  

Monday, October 13, 2008

Songs In the Key of New York

With Songs In the Key of New York, Jeremy Zmuda, Clare Muldaur (Clare & the Reasons) and crew deliver a thoughtful - and tuneful - children's primer celebrating the five boroughs from its famous subway lines to its friendly neighborhood restaurants.  The songs are considerably more wordy and knotty than many children's records, studiously avoiding easy rhymes, and gliding along slantwise with cool, jazzy poise.  But these are bright little pop gems at their core that you and your child will love to hear again and again.  "Taxi," with quintessential New York impatience as its catchy chorus, is a particular charmer. 

Check it out here: http://songsinthekeyofnewyork.com/

And if you love this record, you might want to check out Clare & The Reasons "The Movie" (with guest appearances from Van Dykes Park and Sufjan Stevens).  Clare & the Reasons are on tour now with My Brightest Diamond. 


And if you are more in the mood for some jazz, check out Jeremy's tunes here:

Friday, October 3, 2008

This Is a Poem That Heals Fish

This Is A Poem That Heals Fish  is a rare little miracle of a book.  It manages the brilliant trick of explaining the abstract concept of a "poem" to a child through the simple but effective art of demonstration.  The book itself is a perfectly constructed poem.  I say this as someone with some experience with poetry as an editor and screening judge for the National Poetry Series for nearly a decade.  I can't tell you how many times I've watched a poet crash and burn attempting to define a poem with a poem. Too often it results in a disappointing tautology (there's a word for the little ones!).  A poem is by nature slippery (like a fish), but this book succeeds with its perfect little slipknot metaphors that manage to delight and define at the same time.  Perhaps it's best to leave it to the baker to explain: "[a poem] is hot like fresh bread.  When you eat it a little is always left over."

The book is painted in a beautiful palette with a bold brushwork and delicate penciled details, alternating between folksy domestic scenes and lovely surreal dreamscapes.  It's a great looking book.

This Is A Poem That Heals Fish by Jean-Pierre Simeon and illustrated by Olivier Tallec was originally published in France.  This translation was published by Enchanted Lion Books. Enchanted Lion Books (of Brooklyn!) has been bringing some excellent European and Asian picture books to the U.S. in translation in recent years.  You can expect to see some more posts on Posterband soon from this exciting publisher.  

Check out This is a Poem That Will Heal Fish (a.k.a This is a Book Your Child Will Love).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


These ramshackle recordings from Kimya Dawson (ex-Moldy Peaches) sound a little like those Sebadoh or Ween cassettes you wore out in college.  And they'll probably give your kids the same unstoppable giggle fits.  The askew acoustic strumming, barnyard harmonies, toddler yodeling and pocket change percussion make this a strange and wonderful listening experience for you and your child. Kimya's songs are full of wide-eyed innocence and fine-tuned flatulence. I Love You Sweet Baby captures perfectly that feeling of every new parent who is just gobsmacked with love for their child.  Basically Kimya sounds like she's having a blast being a mom.  It shines through on every track, so you can expect your kids to have a blast listening to this record.  And if you can fart the alphabet, you can sing along.  

Check it out: 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Am Too Absolutely Small for School

This is a great story for this time of year as your kids are heading back to school. Whether your kids are "too absolutely" eager or "too absolutely" nervous about the first day of school, the brother and sister in this book capture each point of view perfectly.  Be sure to remind your child to save a seat for their invisible friend at school.  

And if you're looking to fill your kid's new book bag, I would recommend just about any book in this series.  With Charlie and Lola, Lauren Child has created characters with personalities that are quirky but feel genuine.  Charlie and Lola are just really cool kids.   And they're certainly sporting some stylish threads on these pages. Apparently before she designed children's books, Lauren designed home interiors and home accessories, and you can see it reflected in the textiles and wallpaper patterns she mixes with her illustrations.  Her books just look fantastic and very hip.  

You can check out Charlie and Lola (with their little British accents) on TV weekdays on Disney at 10:30am. 

Crack open your books!  I Am Too Absolutely Small for School

Monday, August 18, 2008

See You On the Moon

This cool kids collection is jam-packed with indie jams.  It features one seriously blissed-out Puff the Magic Dragon cover by the Broken Social Scene, as well as great original songs from Sufjan Stevens, Apostle of Hustle, Hot Chip, Junior Boys, Rosie Thomas (Babe the Blue Ox), Alan Sparhawk (Low), and Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters).   Your child will love the title track by the Great Lake Swimmers - it's one of the best children's songs ever laid to tape.  

Check it out:

Good Morning Captain

One of Posterband's own books, Good Morning Captain, has recently been getting a bit of attention online.  It's been covered in Pitchfork, Flavorpill, New York Magazine, TransWorld and a bunch of other places.  New York Magazine called it the "world's most terrifying children's book" which I guess is a pretty unique distinction.   In the past couple of weeks, the book has found over 8000 readers.  

As just about everyone has noted, a children's book inspired by Slint's Good Morning Captain seems like a pretty strange idea, so I thought I would offer an explanation.  

It should come as no surprise that it wasn't exactly on purpose. The story actually came first, before there was any connection to the band or this song. This story was originally conceived as a simple allegory of a young child struggling with bedtime as though cast adrift on scary seas. I was inspired to write it watching my own son standing bravely in his crib one night, like a sailor staring down a storm from the ship's crow's nest. My son has always really struggled with bedtime. Basically, as I was illustrating the book, the black and white artwork and the nautical theme quickly brought to mind this record, which I loved, and basically the title just leapt out at me. And it was so perfect. Then, perversely, I found myself adding sly little references to the record covers and a couple of lines from the song. I figured people who knew and loved the song would actually appreciate the subtext.  And anyone else would never know what they were missing.  

As for whether or not the book is too dark, I'd just say that kids are more complex than we often give them credit for.  I'd remind people that the author of the "world's most terrifying children's book" has also written several colorful, cheerful books about robots (Robot Garden and Robot Workshop).  
Check out the book here: Good Morning Captain.  

And if you don't know the band or this album, check it out:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chris Raschka

Experts agree:  you should read to your child for twenty minutes every day.  Less commonly understood is the importance of scatting with your child.  How else are they going to develop any rhythm, people?  Allow me to suggest two fine resources in this area:  Chris Raschka's Yo! Yes? and Charlie Parker Played Be Bop.  Raschka is a special talent with jazzy brushwork that perfectly complements the snapping rhythms of his text.  Each story sounds amazing to hear out loud (regardless of your own scatting skills).  The funky sounds never fail to delight the little ones who can't help but join in the fun with some funky sounds of their own.  

But beyond the rewarding musicality of the text and the art, there are some important life lessons to be gained as well.  Despite its simple text, Yo! Yes? is actually one of the most profound books on friendship you'll likely find for your child.  And Charlie Parker offers an effective primer on how to be super, super COOL.  

Buy these books: 

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pancake Mountain

Finally, a puppet show dance party for the rest of us!  This lo-fi little gem of a program has a few screws loose and all the wires are showing, but there is a lovable cast of corny characters led by the hilariously daffy hand-puppet Rufus Leaking.  And it plays hosts to lots of great rock music with performances and cameos by Fiery Furnaces, Ted Leo, Arcade Fire, The White Stripes, The Flaming Lips, George Clinton, Henry Rollins, Bright Eyes, Scissors Sisters, the Misfits, Weird War.  It's basically nuts. And kids totally understand sarcasm - believe it!  

Children's public access programming endures in the age of YouTube!  They've created a great commercial for themselves here: Pancake Mountain. It should give you the basic idea.

But these DVDs now!

Pancake Mountain (Episodes 1 & 2)

Pancake Mountain (Episodes 3 & 4)

Pancake Mountain (Episodes 5 & 6)

Pancake Mountain (Episodes 7 & 8)

New Socks

This book actually rhymes with ROCKS!  It is eye-popping.  Beware those little eyes.  But kids will get it.  New socks.  New sneakers. Whatever.  It's all new to them.  Basic, but brilliant.  

Buy this book: New Socks

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Monday Morning

A rainy day classic.  Your child can learn the days of the week as a growing royal retinue drops by to visit a young boy who is constantly out doing nothing special on the Lower East Side  - like riding the subway, watching laundry dry, staring into store windows.   Originally published in 1967.

Every child needs this book: One Monday Morning   

Fleet Foxes

With beautiful choral harmonies, impressive arrangements, and Grimm nature themes, the Fleet Foxes debut full-length is a perfect album to spin for your little one for some quality - or quiet - time.   For parents, this may remind you of The Band or The Byrds (also wholesome for the kiddies).       

Check them out:   Fleet Foxes

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Keba Keba (Gaudy Tawdry)

A picture book courtesy of the Takashi Murakami corporation.  The story is by Yujin Kitagawa, a Japanese pop artist.  Murakami contributes his trademark (literally) illustrations.  KebaKeba (Gaudy Tawdry) is a weird balloon-like creature inflated with color (he resembles Elmer the patchwork elephant). KebaKeba is weird and has no friends, but gives of his many colors to help others in need.  He gives the sun red and the sky blue.  He gives away the last of his colors to the flowers.  In the end, a deflated KebaKeba becomes a happy white ghost cloud and sails away keeping watch over his new friends.   It's cool.  It's collectable.  

Hint: It's a little difficult to get your hands on a copy in the states, but they have copies now at the Brooklyn Museum gift shop as part of the Murakami show.  

Monday, July 7, 2008

Caps for Sale

In addition to contemporary picture books that rock, I plan to regularly feature some classic picture books on Posterband.  Books like these need no introduction, perhaps, but it never hurts to be reminded of good thing.   And of course some of these books may be new to you. Myself, I missed out on Caps for Sale as a child.  But thanks to a gift from a friend, my son hasn't.

There are billions of picture books about monkeys, because it's really difficult to go wrong with any book about monkeys.  But if you plan to buy just one book this year about monkeys and the inherent conformism of consumer capitalism, make it this one.      

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of the Pixies

The Pixies for babies.  Oh, BABY!  It's EDUCATIONAL!  Check out Rockabye Baby Music.  They have lullaby versions of The Ramones, The Cure, Bob Marley...you name it.  

Buy the Pixies for your baby: Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of The Pixies  

Mermaids On Parade

I came across this a couple of weeks late, but I'm so excited to feature a picture book about Coney Island's (in)famous Mermaid Parade!  As to be expected, this is a sanitized account of this festive (but often naughty) event.  The Mermaid Parades that I've attended have certainly been colorful to say the very least; and so are the wonderful illustrations here.  Changes are coming to Coney Island, but at least it will forever be a magical childlike kingdom in this book.  I encourage you to share this magic with your child.  

Buy this book: Mermaids on Parade 

Monday, June 30, 2008

Yo Gabba Gabba

A friend of mine once said that all kids are on acid. Which I took to mean they experience life as full of magic and music,  in vivid color, attended by dancing robots and monsters, and in thrall to a benevolent disco puppetmaster. Which basically describes this show. Yo Gabba Gabba! (hey!) I felt a slight prick of guilt as my son watched a Super Music Friend Show segment featuring Cornelius performing their heavy psychedelic number Count Five or Six while stars sprung forth from the forehead of -- was that a unicorn? I had to pinch myself.  I was tempted to ask him if he was seeing what I was seeing.  

But there's more:  Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh does the art segment. Biz Markie hosts a Beat of the Day. Guest stars have included the Shins, Tony Hawk, and Laila Ali. There is great music by Dean & Britta, Mark Kozelek, and others. Children's programming on TV is typically askew (see also: Teletubbies, The Muppet Show, H.R. Pufnstuf, etc.) but this show is pretty screwy by any standard.  Check it out. 

You can buy episodes on iTunes or catch it on Noggin/Nickelodeon.  

Sunday, June 29, 2008

And Tango Makes Three

At first glance, this book might seem out of place here. The artwork is certainly conventional. The story of two loving parents is conventional as well. But make no mistake: this book rocks.   Based on the true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who become loving adoptive parents of a baby penguin, Tango. What is bravest about this book is how traditional this loving family is presented. Highly recommended.  Bonus points: It's one of the most banned books in America!

Buy this book:  And Tango Makes Three

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It's Okay to Be Different

It's actually TOTALLY AWESOME to be different. But this is a minor quibble for such a charming book with an important lesson for kids. It is, for example, okay to have two mommies or two daddies. Or to eat macaroni in the bathtub (though no one would dare legislate against that!) Your child will love the bright illustrations (think Keith Haring). Todd Parr's work as a whole is positive and fun, but this book in particular feels very generous and true.

Buy this book: It's Okay to Be Different

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Elizabeth Mitchell

Ida has long been a favorite band of mine. In fact, Ida probably qualifies as "music for parents that kids will like too." When Elizabeth Mitchell became a mom (with Ida bandmate/husband Dan Littleton) they began to record some lovely records for children: You Are My Flower, You Are My Sunshine, You Are My Little Bird. There are many classic songs on these records that your child will recognize instantly. And better still, there are some inspired covers like "What Goes On" by the Velvet Underground! I can't recommend these records enough. They are filled with warm, acoustic arrangements and lovely harmonies. Elizabeth also recorded an album of children's music with Lisa Loeb called Catch the Moon.

Buy these albums:

You Are My Little Bird

You Are My Sunshine

You Are My Flower

Catch The Moon