Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

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Future Rockstars and Music Makers

It’s often said that music is a universal language. Communicating through music transcends cultures, barriers and borders. In a world filled with uncertainty, music may provide a shared voice - without relying on translators. The products below provide a great introduction to the world of music including music history, music and music video production and, of course, all kinds of music makers.

Dance Party Dance Party
Ages: Infant - 6 yrs.
Preschool of Rock, $8.91 (CD)   

Singer-songwriter Michael Napolitano performs simple original songs to encourage the small set to feel the rhythm and move and groove to a rock 'n roll beat. A former music specialist at The Blue Man Group's Creativity Center (now the Blue School) in New York, Napolitano is founder of Preschool Rock, a curriculum-based music program designed to adhere to National Association for the Education of Young Children standards.

Forever Young Forever Young
Ages: All Ages
Author: Bob Dylan   Illustrator: Paul Rogers  
Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (Hard Cover)   

This new picture book version of a 1974 song introduces a new generation to Dylan's messages of peace, freedom and social consciousness. The lyrics are simple enough for children yet poetic and profound in their wishes. Paul Rogers evokes a cheery 70s aesthetic in his vivid retro illustrations, rendered in ink and acrylic. Rogers plants Dylan-related allusions on each page as well, making the book great fun for adult Dylan fans. This is a must-have for parents and grandparents from the Dylan era, and perfect for sharing with the little ones in their lives.

Music From The Inside Out Music From The Inside Out
Ages: All Ages
Anker Productions, $21.50 (DVD)   

Music From the Inside Out, a personal look into the lives of musicians, attempts to answer the abstract: What is music? Why does it move us? While the DVD doesn't give any definitive answers, viewers are privy to a behind-the -scenes look at the aspirations and inspirations of professional musicians. Through interviews and concert footage, Oscar nominated director Daniel Anker talks with the artists who make up the Philadelphia Orchestra and discovers how they came to be part of the noted institution.

Meet the Instruments! - Clap and Tap Meet the Instruments! - Clap and Tap
Ages: 1 - 5 yrs.
Community Music, $14.99 (DVD)   

Family and folk music stalwarts Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer introduce preschoolers and toddlers to the inviting charms of percussive music-making. Featuring varied rhythmic patterns for viewers to try, and providing tunes on mandolin and guitar, Fink and Marxer progress to drums and shakers, washboard, spoons and a dancing wooden "limber jack" puppet, before a tap-dancing finale performed by a talented teen. The simple format-a black background, no bells and whistles-is comfortable and engaging as these two musical pros speak directly to the very young children that are their target audience.

Woofer by B. toys Woofer by B. toys
Ages: 2 - 6 yrs.
B. Toys (by Battat), $24.99

The Woofer is a little guitar in the shape of a howling dog. There are eight musical buttons that range from chord C to C and you can play from three different modes: acoustic, electric and hound dog (which plays dog barks). The strings can be played in chord progression or will play a pre-recorded song. It has volume control (always important!) and a "Whammy Bone" that lets you play your own tune.

A Jazzy Day - Music Education Book for Kids A Jazzy Day - Music Education Book for Kids
Ages: 3 - 8 yrs.
Developer: Dana Morgan   Director: Daniel Ori  
The Melody Book,

This is a terrific interactive book app that teaches children about jazz by introducing them to all of the different instruments in a jazz band and how they sound. As each instrument is introduced, children hear how it sounds. Children can click on the keys of a vibraphone, for example, to hear its different tones. Or they can play an alto sax, a tenor sax and a baritone sax, one after the other, to get a sense of the different sounds that each of the saxophones produces. Each instrument is played by a different animal character, which helps reinforce their differences in sound. At the end of the book, the instruments all come together to form the "big band" and readers can listen to how the instruments play off of each other.

Carousel Bells by B. toys Carousel Bells by B. toys
Ages: 3 - 13 yrs.
B. Toys (by Battat), $18.69

The Carousel Bells are eight bells ranging from notes C to C connected horizontally to a round center base with a handle to spin the carousel. Each bell is a different color making it easy to learn which bell is which note. Included in the package is a song sheet listing seven different songs and how to play them (more can be downloaded at from the website). The base can be used to store the bells or to support them while playing them on a table top. The mallet used to play the bells can be conveniently snapped to the base during storage.

Sun Moon Star Drum with DVD Sun Moon Star Drum with DVD
Ages: 3 & Up
Jamtown, LLC, $29.95

The Sun Moon Star Drum is a hand-crafted wooden and lamb skin drum made in Peru. The instrument features three differently sized drum heads on a cedar stick as well as two drum sticks that enable multiple children to play the instrument. The drum also comes with an instructional DVD with techniques, play along tracks, two player games, group play and an introduction to hand drumming. The DVD prompted questions about music in other countries, how people know what kinds of sounds come from instruments not found in a symphony orchestra or a rockband, and what comes first - the sound or the instruments.

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!
Ages: 4 - 7 yrs.
Author: Wynton Marsalis   Illustrator: Paul Rogers  
Candlewick Press, $15.99 (Hard Cover)   

Reader follow young Marsalis through his day as he describes the variety of sounds he experiences. The book begs to be read aloud, but that does not mean its illustrations are an afterthought. Illustrator Paul Rogers skillfully interprets the sounds featured throughout the book, and he inventively brings them to life through drawing and typography. From buttering toast to scratching an itch, Marsalis finds music (and magic) in everyday sounds. Bravo, once again, to this duo of keen observers.

The World's Very Best Opera For Kids...In English! The World's Very Best Opera For Kids...In English!
Ages: 4 & Up
The Children's Group, $15.99 (CD)   

If you're searching for a way to introduce your children to the wonders of classical music-more specifically, some of the most beautiful and best-loved vocal music every written, this CD is a must-have. The singing is in English and the arias are in turn funny, romantic, playful, and thrilling.

Before There Was Mozart Before There Was Mozart
Ages: 5 - 9 yrs.
Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome    Illustrator: James Ransome  
Random House, $18.99 (Hard Cover)   

This book sheds light on a lesser-known musical talent, Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George. Joseph was a violinist and composer who performed for Marie Antoinette at Versailles, eventually becoming her music teacher as well. But his life began less auspiciously, in slavery. At age nine he and his parents relocated to Paris and out of slavery. Despite being free, Joseph did not have it easy. His story of struggle and triumph is inspirational, and it deserves to be told alongside those of other classical musicians.

 Beethoven's Wig: Sing Along Piano Classics Beethoven's Wig: Sing Along Piano Classics
Ages: 5 - 10 yrs.
Beethoven's Wig, $12.98 (CD)   

Beethoven's Wig creator Richard Perlmutter is known for his witty, appropriate lyrics set to works by the great classical composers. This newest offering, one of the best in the series, contains many comic gems. The tracks are deepened by a sterling cast of professional opera singers and by notable pianist Grant Gershon, resident conductor of the Los Angeles Opera and music director of the L.A. Master Chorale.

Piano Dust Buster Piano Dust Buster
Ages: 8 - 14 yrs.
Contributions From: Yuval Kaminka   Contributions From: Roey Izkovsky   Contributions From: Yigal Kaminka  

This piano teaching app gets its name from its quirky theme. Players tap keys to keep them clean by swatting dust particles just as they're about to land on the keys. The notes to be played scroll by on a musical staff that corresponds to proper musical tablature, making it more likely that practice on this game will develop standard music reading skills. Piano Dust Buster also has a real piano mode. Piano Dust Buster comes pre-loaded with 23 songs of diverse difficulty levels. The app engages children in learning musical concepts such as the names of notes, musical notation, and rhythm in an entertaining way.

Make Your Own Music Video Make Your Own Music Video
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Kaitlyn Nichols  
Scholastic Inc./ Paperback & Novelty, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

Young readers wishing to make their own music video will love this new guide, which packs easy and witty step-by-step instructions for any youngster with some creative flair who'd like to star in a music video. The book guides kids in choosing a genre of music (rock, pop, country or hip hop), selecting a music-video theme, writing storyboards (storyboard pages included) and adding special effects. It doesn't matter whether your children can play an instrument, or carry a tune, as this book works as well for accomplished young musicians as it does for lip sync artists. Anybody with a computer (PC or Mac), an internet connection, a video camera and a way to connect them can get started right away.

Band Hero Band Hero
Ages: 10 & Up
Activision, Inc., $199.99

Band Hero (Wii) has some definite upsides for virtual rock 'n' rollers, starting with the fun and carefree Party Play mode, which makes getting started playing nearly effortless. You'll be playing a tune in no time! More laid-back than past versions, Band Hero (Wii) also lets you combine whatever "instruments" (the peripheral controllers disguised as plastic pseudo instruments) you want, drop a song and try something else at any time, drop or add a band member, create a mini set list for your band, all sorts of easy apps. Even better, Band Hero (Wii) is more forgiving than ever of band members who aren't quite in sync (like that younger sibling who botches songs).

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