Indie-Pop Artist Jess Penner Releases First Children’s EP, ‘Imagination’ Available from Position Music on August 11, 2017 Giveaway Opportunity!

Jess Penner, a BMI songwriting contest winner known for her “bubbly indie electro-pop sound” (Popdose), “simple yet impressive melodies” (Honolulu Star Bulletin), and “a rawness and intimacy that is consistently missing from modern top 40 pop” (Baeble), ventures into the world of family music with Imagination, an EP of eight songs due out August 11 through Position Music/Recurrent Records.

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Working with Position Music since 2008, this Los Angeles based recording artist has earned hundreds of song placements around the world in advertisements and movie trailers, film and television shows. With Imagination, Penner breathes new life into classic children’s songs like “Mr. Sun,” “I’ve Got No Strings,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “I Don’t Want To Live on the Moon,”  and  “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” The album also debuts two Jess Penner original songs: “Forever in My Heart” and the title track.

Penner grew up on a banana farm on Kauai. She met her husband Kevin as teenagers performing in a nationally touring Christian rock band. Over the past decade, they have forged a musical powerhouse, crafting sticky songs and recording other artists’ projects in a converted garage studio behind their Los Angeles home. Over the years, other projects have included the bands Chandelle, Kayjez and We Cry Diamonds. Penner’s three solo albums have gained critical acclaim and millions of streams on Spotify, including the song “Life Is Rosy,” written with former One Republic band member Tim Myers.

As a kid, Penner listened to the oldies radio station with her parents, who also enjoyed popular folk rock. Today, Penner says she strives to deliver a pure sound and positive messages with her songwriting: “The music we hear as young children shapes our view of the world in really unexpected ways. I have a strong suspicion that being exposed to doo wop at such a young age made me a romantic, somehow.”

While her musical influences today might be compared to Ingrid Michaelson, Sarah Bareilles and other current female indie pop artists, Penner’s sound developed over many years and is unusual in the children’s music arena. Inspiration for the songs “Imagination” and “Forever in My Heart” came from parenting her own two children. “I don’t really think of writing and recording songs for kids as being all that different from my usual work, except that I want to make sure that the messages I’m sending are wholesome and hopeful,” Penner explains.

It isn’t easy to make a living as a non-touring independent female songwriter, but Penner proves it can be done through hard work and experimentation. With her Songcents blog, Penner shares her knowledge of the industry with aspiring indie artists. Her YouTube channel features a homespun “Slice & Song” reality TV style series, where she demonstrates a favorite pie recipe and performs a song in her home studio.

The release of Imagination simply continues Jess Penner’s journey as an artist, role model and parent. “I want kids to dream, savor life, and know that they have the power to do anything they put their minds to. The world can be a tough place; why don’t we make sure that the messages kids receive on repeat lift them up and empower them?” says Penner.

Visit for more news about the August 11 release. The EP is available for pre-orders now.

Cover Art Hi Res

We have also teamed up for a Giveaway! To enter, simply leave a comment below. The deadline to enter is July 28th, 2017! One winner will be selected. U.S. Residents only, please.

 Self Disclosure: No compensation was received to post. Images and all information were provided to facilitate this post. 


Looking for Summer Craft Books? Here are some of my favorites!


Crochet Stories: L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful
Wizard of Oz

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to a charming combination of storytelling and crocheting! Suitable for beginning to intermediate crocheters, this book features a retelling of the classic adventure story, punctuated with nineteen patterns for L. Frank Baum’s beloved characters, plus their settings and accessories.
The much-loved tale begins in Kansas and follows Dorothy and Toto to Oz, presenting patterns for the little heroine, her dog, and her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. Storybook chapters of her arrival and encounters with the people of Oz follow, accompanied by patterns for a Munchkin, the Good Witch of the North, the Wicked Witch of the East (consisting of Dorothy’s house with the witch’s magic slippers sticking out from underneath), and a stretch of the Yellow Brick Road. Subsequent chapters introduce Dorothy’s new friends — the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion — and those they meet in the Emerald City — the Wizard, the Wicked Witch of the West, a Winged Monkey, and the kindly Glinda the Good. In addition to these characters, the full-color patterns include key storytelling items such as the poppy, Emerald City spectacles, water bucket, and magical golden cap. A photo gallery of many of the story’s characters provides a delightful conclusion to the book.

Price: $18.95.

If you love the Wizard of Oz (and who doesn’t?), and you know how to crochet…you will love this book! I think that I will learn to crochet just so I can make some of these adorable characters! 

Creative Haven Alice in Wonderland Designs Coloring Book (Adult Coloring)

If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland and like to color..this one is a must!

Color your way through the whimsical world of Alice in Wonderland! These 31 original illustrations offer bold variations on the classic drawings by John Tenniel, spotlighting Alice, the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, and more beloved characters set against beautifully detailed backgrounds of hearts, flowers, playing cards, and more. Pages are perforated and printed on one side only for easy removal and display. Specially designed for experienced colorists, Alice in Wonderland Designs and other Creative Haven® adult coloring books offer an escape to a world of inspiration and artistic fulfillment. Each title is also an effective and fun-filled way to relax and reduce stress.

Price: $5.00

You can purchase at


Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this post. 


Books of the week 7/17/17


The Heartwarming Tale of Surfer Dude is a must-read!

Destined for fame, Surfer Dude is known to many who looked for this colt while crossing the bridge to Assateague Island and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The story of this beloved wild stallion, who cared for his herd of mares over a lifetime on Chincoteague Island, is beautifully illustrated in vivid detail, from his distinctive blue eye to his white star and stripe, silver mane and tail, and chocolatey chestnut coat. His passing at the ripe age of twenty-three in the spring of 2015 touched people from across the United States and beyond. But the spirit of his gentle nature and the way he loved his foals lives on. His spirit lingers in breezes that ruffle the island grasses and in the sunbeams that warm the island ponies, and is celebrated in this story of love and the circle of life.

I really enjoyed reading this heartwarming story and highly recommend for children ages 7+.

About the Author
Lois Szymanski has authored over 25 books, many on the wild Chincoteague ponies. She lives in Westminster, Maryland, with her husband, Dan, and their Shetland sheepdog, Ryley. A former regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she teaches occasional writing classes at Carroll Community College. In her spare time she visits her daughter’s Chincoteague pony, Sea Feather, which the family purchased in 1995 at the Pony Penning auction.

About the Illustrator
Linda Kantjas began drawing and painting horses and other animals while in elementary school. She graduated from the University of Idaho with an art education degree. After college, she visited Assateague Island and began learning about and painting the ponies. Linda lives in Middletown, New York, and her Shih Tzu, Kimba, accompanies her on outdoor and travel adventures.

About the Publisher
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. is a family-owned, independent publisher of high-quality books. Since 1974, Schiffer has published thousands of titles on the diverse subjects that fuel our readers’ passions. From our traditional subjects of antiques and collectibles, arts and crafts, and military history, Schiffer has expanded its catalog to publish books on contemporary art and artists; architecture and design; food and entertaining; the metaphysical, paranormal and folklore; and pop and fringe culture, as well as books for children. Visit to explore our backlist of more than 5,800 titles.


I love this next one! 

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Lemonade stands have become big business. Kids have been running them for decades, whether to raise money for a new bike, for a charitable cause, or simply to conquer boredom. Inspired by dozens of kid entrepreneurs from all over the country, Kathy Strahs pours her expertise as a food writer, entrepreneur and mother of two into the ultimate guide to setting up one’s own lemonade stand. Step-by-step illustrations and full-color photographs of each recipe (lemonades and snacks) and many creative crafts make each page easy and fun for budding entrepreneurs.

This one has wonderful recipes! I love the Watermelon Agua Fresca and the Polka Dot Blondies! But, it also has some really fun DIY crafts! Check out some of the great recipes here!  I recommend this one for both adults and children!

You can purchase on

Looking to maybe lose weight this Summer and eat healthier? I highly recommend this next book!


Bestselling cookbook author, Victoria Dwek, teams with successful nutritionist Shani Taub to creating delicious and
easy to prepare meals that are low in calories but high in flavor. I love all the recipes in this book! There are recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are over 135 different recipes and I love the pictures!  The Apple Pie Crepes is one of my favorites and I can’t wait to try more of the recipes this Summer!
I can’t wait to try this one:
Portobello Mushroom Towers
Yields 2 large servings
Dairy ▪ Gluten-Free ▪ Low Carb ▪ Sugar-Free
Calories: 181 per serving; Shani Taub Exchange: 1 protein, 1 Vegetable
One summer Sunday afternoon, my family and I passed through Monsey, stopping at the Evergreen shopping center. I really wanted iced coffee, so I headed to Hava Java. As I waited for my Skinny Frappe (one of
the best ever), I watched the hot dishes emerge fast from the kitchen. One dish that caught my attention was the towering Portobello Mushroom Sliders. I went home and recreated the dish … and it was just as
good as it looked.
2 Portobello mushroom caps
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp salt
1 red pepper
½ onion, sliced
1 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
½ onion, diced
8 oz frozen spinach, thawed, drained
2 (1-oz) slices Muenster OR mozzarella cheese
[1] Place mushroom caps into a ziplock bag. Add red wine vinegar, garlic powder, basil, and salt. Seal; marinate for 1 hour or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
[2] Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place mushrooms and marinade into a baking pan; bake for 25 minutes.
[3] Meanwhile, place red pepper into the oven (on its own or in a baking pan). Roast until skin is blistered, about 35-45 minutes. Let cool; peel and discard peel and seeds. Slice pepper; set aside.
[4] Coat a sauté pan with nonstick cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion; lower heat and sprinkle with salt. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from pan; set aside.
[5] Coat the sauté pan again with nonstick cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add diced onion; lower heat and sprinkle with salt. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook an additional 2 minutes. Season with salt.
[6] Assemble the towers: Top each mushroom with half the spinach mixture, half the peppers, and half
the onions. Top with one slice of cheese; bake until cheese is golden and bubbling, 9-10 minutes.
Make Ahead: All the components of this dish can be made ahead and stored separately in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Simply assemble and bake when ready to enjoy.
Powerhouse food writer VICTORIA DWEK is co-author of the bestselling Secret Restaurant Recipes, Everyday Secret Restaurant Recipes, and the popular Made Easy cookbook series. She’s the managing editor of Whisk, a popular kosher food magazine published weekly by Ami Magazine, where tens of thousands of loyal readers turn weekly to her “Hello Cooks” column. She’s a featured personality on, where fans tune into her cooking shows, including the video series based on Secrets of Skinny Cooking. Victoria is also a founding partner of, the lifestyle site and app for the busy Jewish woman, where she shares inspiration and tips that go beyond food. She holds a B.A. from New York University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.
SHANI TAUB is a certified nutritionist and certified diet consultant who has helped hundreds of patients take control of their weight and start on a new path of health. Based in Lakewood, New Jersey, she counsels patients from all over the East Coast, from Monsey to Brooklyn to Baltimore, and internationally, in Canada, Switzerland, and Israel. Shani struggled with her weight as a child and understands the various challenges faced by her patients who are trying to get healthy. Every struggle is unique and each patient has different triggers that will push them to reach their goal.
Working one-on-one, Shani creates a personalized eating plan that fits with that person’s taste and lifestyle. In addition to her renowned weight loss counseling, Shani Taub has also launched a successful line of health foods.
Recipe Credit:

Recipe(s) from SECRETS OF SKINNY COOKING: Mouthwatering Recipes You Won’t Believe are Low Calorie
By Victoria Dwek and Shani Taub C.D.C.
Artscroll/Shaar Press; May 2017
Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this post. Cover images were also provided. 

War For the Planet of the Apes – Brutal But Breathtaking Special Effects And A Sincere, From-The-Heart Message


Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “We’ve come a long way in the world of cinema since Charlton Heston told those darn dirty apes to get their stinkin’ paws off of him.” Alejandra G. adds, “This science fiction film had me fascinated with the breathtaking special effects and the animation from the get go. It’s impressive how much technology has improved and the differences of the effects in the previous Planet of the Apes films compared to this new one is incredible.” Talia J. wraps it up with, “War for the Planet of the Apes is an action-packed, thrilling movie that will both pull on your heartstrings and intrigue you to the very last second.” See their full reviews below.


War for the Planet of the Apes

By Alejandra Garcia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15





This science fiction film had me fascinated with the breathtaking special effects and the animation from the get go. It’s impressive how much technology has improved and the differences of the effects in the previous Planet of the Apes films compared to this new one is incredible. It’s insane how today, everything looks so realistic. I also like this film because of its sincere, from-the-heart message.


War for the Planet of the Apes is about Caesar and his apes who are forced into deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a cruel Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.


My favorite scene from this film is when all the apes are attacked by the military and lots of them are killed. Their leader Caesar, of course, becomes furious and wants to do something about it. He decides to go off to fight the soldiers that attacked his family while defending themselves. I love this scene because it shows how the leader of the apes really cares for his family. Also, the apes that look up to him see him as a role model and can follow in his footsteps and morals.


The important message of this film is that no family is perfect. Unpleasant things can happen that make their relationships worse. Family members can go through tough times, but in the end, family is family and love will always be there. So if there’s fighting and family members are struggling through something, they will figure things out and help each other sort things out. In this film, the apes are all there for each other all the time. If someone needs help, they all help. If someone is fighting or arguing, they all help figure it out. They support each other. I think it’s an amazing idea that this message is taught by the apes because lots of people can learn from this and apply it to their own lives.


War for the Planet of the Apes

By Talia J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14



War for the Planet of the Apes is an action-packed, thrilling movie that will both pull on your heartstrings and intrigue you to the very last second.


This film is about an ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis) who embarks on a journey to avenge his loved ones. He is joined by other apes including Maurice (Karin Konoval), who is wise beyond his years, Rocket (Terry Notary) who is full of strength and many others. Caesar struggles as he deals with the chaos left by his old friend Koba, making sure he does not turn into the monster he was.


One thing that I thoroughly enjoyed is how this movie explains, at the onset, what happened in past films. I have not seen that in many films. For those who do not know, War for the Planet of the Apes is the third film in the brilliant Planet of the Apes franchise. The first film introduces Caesar and we hear the back story about the virus that caused apes to become smart and killed humans. The second movie shows what happened when Apes and humans tried to figure out how to live together peacefully, but this ended badly. If someone has not yet watched those two films, it is described in the beginning of this movie and sets the stage for what is going on.


This film is a war movie, so if you do not like gruesome moments and lots of blood, this is not your film. The first two films are much lighter than this one. The director, Matt Reeves, wanted a whole new feel. There is a lot more fighting, murder, suicide and blood than in the previous films. It is also quite depressing. The director not only wanted this last movie to end with a bang, but he wanted the audience to realize something about humanity.


Although this is a war movie, there is lots of unexpected humor. There is one very important character that had every single audience member holding their stomach because everyone was laughing so hard. This character is an Ape and he calls himself “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn). He absolutely steals the show. Up until this Bad Ape comes into view, the movie is very dark and serious, but when he is introduced, the feel of the movie gets much happier. He is definitely the comedy relief the film needs.


The motion capture technology is out of this world. They completely transported me into the world these apes lived in. There is so much detail and emotion in the apes’ facial features. Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar, truly brings his character to life, filled with emotion.


The music is also incredible. Composer Michael Giacchino wrote an incredibly beautiful score. If not for his beautiful music, the movie would have lacked the emotion it has. At one point, the combination of music and acting brought me to tears. It is truly special.


There are many lessons in this film. The most important one is that you are stronger together. The apes have a motto that states “apes together strong.” In the past films, Caesar made it very clear that he believed that apes are weaker alone and they need to be together to survive. Another lesson that is offered in this film is to not give into your dark side. This goes back to the idea of vengeance. Caesar has to deal with being the leader of his group, while at the same time fighting his own battles.


I recommend this film for ages 14 to 18 and adults will love it as well. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars because of the extreme violence. This film comes out on July 14th so go check it out.


War For the Planet of the Apes

By Willie J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18



We’ve come a long way in the world of cinema since Charlton Heston told those darn dirty apes to get their stinkin’ paws off of him. That actor in a costume has since become an actor in a suit that’s digitally modified. In terms of effects, there has been a lot of advancement from the first film in this series. But in terms of quality, I’m afraid there’s been inconsistency. The first entry of this century’s “Ape” trilogy was a solid film, the second not as good but mildly entertaining and now, we have this one. War For the Planet of the Apes is a mediocre end to this trilogy.


I’ll admit I am not a fan of this series, not even the original. I don’t quite like the concept. However, I give every film its fair shake. With this one, there are some moments I genuinely feel are fantastic, but those don’t make up for the rather strenuous over-direction in certain times. Director Matt Reeves tends to heighten moments to a point of climactic musicality where it just doesn’t fit. As an audience it’s rather confusing and feels forced. Every important or emotional moment doesn’t need to be accompanied by a dramatic score or emphasized with perfectly framed cinematography. More times than not, less is more.


There are parts of the script that make no sense and throw away logical progression or sensory moments for the sentimental. There are moments that are too unbelievable and elements that are unnecessary. A plot element about a disease that plagues Earth could have been done away with, yet it is used to cover up an illogical plot hole.


The acting is fine with Andy Serkis leading the way. Woody Harrelson does not ham it up too much for which I’m very grateful. Most of the cast is enhanced by beautiful animation which fills in many facial expressions and reactions that are very realistic. Although the acting is credible. It isn’t the best thing, the score is. Michael Giacchino’s beautiful score evokes both suspense and a sense of calm. His music is the main source of catharsis. He also composed the scores for both the films Inside Out and Up. His familiar quiet piano keys are also featured in this score.

With that said, I give the movie 2.5 out of 5 stars, because it does have moments of grand entertainment and intrigue, however it can be overdramatic with unnecessary moments. I recommend it for ages 12 to 18. It opens nationwide in theaters on July 14, 2017 so be sure to check it out if you are a fan of the series, or not.



Crafty Books that are Perfect for Summer Break!

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Crocheted Animal Hats by Niki Trench (April ’17) – In this book, Nicki Trench presents 35 simple animal hat designs. There are hats to keep little babies cosy, such as the super-cute rabbit and kitten and hats for toddlers and bigger kids such as the cool penguin, fierce (but sweet) shark and the cuddly polar bear. Most of the hats can be made in a range of sizes so adults who are young at heart won’t feel left out, and can have their very own tiger, fox or wolf hat. Have a teen that likes to crochet? They will love this one!  You can find this one at

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Yarn Whirled: The Royal Family: Easy to Craft Yarn Characters

Discover one of the coolest new crafts around with this fun and collectible guide. No plastic, wood, or metal base is involved; the cuddly dolls are easily made by wrapping yarn around itself. Each project features simple instructions accompanied by color photographs that illustrate every step. The only hard part is choosing a character, so you might just have to make them all! The 31 projects include yarn dolls of Queen Elizabeth at her coronation and on her 90th birthday, Charles and Di, Will and Kate, and many others. Bonus crochet patterns for royal accessories are included.

Price: $19.95

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Have a cat lover? This one is cute!

Dumpling Cats: Crochet and Collect them All

Waffles is a relaxed feline who loves to read, and Cheeks just can’t get enough to eat. These fun-loving characters are just two of the 25 dumpling-shaped crochet cats in this whimsical collection. The cuddly crochet critters were inspired by the Pokémon™-like craze Neko Atsume, a game that enables you to attract cats to your backyard and “collect” them. Each little dumpling has a name and personality points that add up to big fun!

You don’t have to be an expert to crochet and collect these adorable kitties — the patterns are suitable for crocheters of all skill levels. Easy-to-follow instructions are accompanied by full-color photos and simple drawings. The directions explain every stage, from ears to tail, and some of the patterns include accessories and costume items. Plus, there are bonus patterns for a cat bed, food bowls, and more!

Price: $19.95


Self Disclosure: I received copies of the above books and cover images were provided. The above books have been highly recommended. 

Kids can have fun reading this summer with these book choices!

My First 500 Words  Patty's Little Handbook of Dots

Keep your kids’ minds moving this summer with Offshoot Kids. Offshoot Kids produces carefully structured and level-appropriate story-based activity books that keep children entertained while educating, delighting, and sparking imaginations. A winning combination of brilliance and whimsicality, these books create highly original and innovative books for kids of all ages. The two pictured above are two that I highly recommend!

Learn more at

Bloom      Counting Sheep

BLOOM by Deborah Diesen and Mary Lundquist  (ages 2-6)
  • Debbie Diesen is the New York Times-bestselling author of the Pout-Pout Fish series. Her gentle storytelling here is reminiscent of the warm and funny text in Pout-Pout Fish books. This is a real feel-good story! I highly recommend!

Counting Sheep: Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet by Jacqueline Kelly-This one is for ages 7-10 and is a wonderful illustrated chapter book!

Grand Canyon      SC Bats

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin. I recommend for ages 6-12 and I even had fun looking through this book! I love the illustrations and all the facts!

Science Comics: Bats by Falynn Koch is another fun and educational read! Although I think that it will be easy to get kids to read this one even if they don’t want to read a book this Summer!

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TAKE YOUR TIME by Eva Furrow and Donna Jo Napoli; illustrated by Laurel Molk 
Perfect for ages 4-8.
  • In our fast-moving world, Harriet the tortoise reminds readers to slow down and appreciate what’s around them.
  • Harriet’s travels through the Galapagos Islands become a fascinating survey of the animals who live there.
  • A fact-based story provides accurate information about Galapagos tortoises and other animals and their habitats.
  • Brightly colorful woodblock style art brings this inspiring tale to life.

I really enjoyed reading this one and highly recommend!

Other ones to look for this Summer:

Pedal Power by Allan Drummond-This one is a delightful story about how one community became the Bicycle Capital of the World. Fun to read!

Also look for the following!
All the books above can be found on

Self Disclosure: I received copies of the above books but only recommend those I approve. Cover images were provided.

NEA Honors First Lady of Children’s Music Ella Jenkins with National Heritage Fellowship

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National Endowment for Arts (NEA) has presented National Heritage Fellowships to celebrate and honor master artists working in the folk and traditional arts.Today, the NEA announced this year’s recipients, including Ella Jenkins.
In other news, Folkways released Camp Songs with Ella Jenkins & Friends on Friday, June 23.


Jenkins,The First Lady of Children’s Music, celebrates 60 years as a Smithsonian Folkways artist. She has wanted to record camp songs for more than 15 years and assembled a group of children, parents, and teachers from the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, along with Tony and Kate Seeger from Camp Killooleet, to sing these rounds, nonsense songs and campfire sing-alongs. The 25-track collection includes familiar camp songs “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” “Kumbaya” and “This Land Is Your Land.”

Many of the tunes on Camp Songs with Ella Jenkins and Friends have been sung by generations of campers, including many of the 14 million children and adults who attend camp every year in the United States. The album has its roots in the songs Jenkins’ brother brought home with him from Boy Scout camp when she was a child, and begins with a chorus of children singing the familiar round “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” But these selections come from a variety of traditions, among them African-American spirituals, European folk songs, and Jewish summer camps where Jenkins has performed. “Everybody Loves Saturday Night” has lines in a dozen languages, including Mandarin, Hindi, Serbian and Nigerian. The album’s final five numbers, which include “Sloop John B.” and “Goodnight Irene,” are sequenced to resemble a campfire sing-along.

Camp Songs with Ella Jenkins and Friends was produced by Tony Seeger, nephew of folk-music icon Pete Seeger. Tony Seeger also wrote the included liner notes and lyric annotations for all the songs in the 36-page booklet that accompanies the album.Throughout the album, Jenkins sings and plays harmonica, often offering reminiscences and spoken-word introductions to the songs.

Though Jenkins takes the lead on “Sipping Cider Through a Straw,” she is almost everywhere on this recording — singing, harmonica playing, teaching, reflecting about camp, engaging with children and their parents, and of course in the selection of the songs. Jenkins is joined in her performances by 13 children and a group of adults that includes Erin Flynn; Bucky Halker; Judy, Kate, and Tony Seeger; Barbara Silverman; and Chris Walz. At its core, this is a collection of music by and with children.

I really enjoyed listening to the songs on this CD. They are fun and I recommend for children of all ages!~SoCal City Kids. 

More about Ella Jenkins


Jenkins, who turns 93 in August, has devoted her life to instilling a love of music in children. She released her first album for Folkways in 1957, and her 1966 album You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song remains one of the best-selling titles in the history of Smithsonian Folkways. She received a Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award from The Recording Academy in 2004. The Old Town School of Folk Music is organizing a tribute concert at the Square Roots Festival in Chicago on July 8.

Self Disclosure: I received a free CD to facilitate this post. Photos and Information were also provided.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Greatest Reboot Ever in Marvel Cinematic Universe


Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May, under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark, Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.  KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Marvel has made over a dozen films in the last decade, each beating the previous one in quality. Spider-Man: Homecoming amazingly continues this trend by stumping all previous Marvel films in almost every category.” Ryan R. adds, “Spider-Man Homecoming is the greatest reboot that ever happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a clever and incredibly funny film.” Sahiba R. sums it up with, “Spider-Man: Homecoming is a rollercoaster ride! At one moment I laughed so hard my stomach hurt and next, I was clenching my jaws while my heart raced… From the start, Peter Parker’s attitude as a young, curious teenager makes him a relatable and hilarious superhero.” See their full reviews below.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15


Marvel has made over a dozen films in the last decade, each beating the previous one in quality. Spider-Man: Homecoming amazingly continues this trend by stumping all previous Marvel films in almost every category.

The main focus of the movie varies. A major part, which the film shares with all other Marvel installments, is comedy. It doesn’t stand alone and drama also has an equally important role in the story. Deeper into the plot, there are small hints of romance and of course a background of action and intensity which never ceases to amaze and excite the viewer.

The film uniquely does not start with an average kid who gets bit by a radioactive spider. Instead, Spider-Man: Homecoming starts literally right after Captain America: Civil War. At this point, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has already gained his spectacular spider-like abilities. As young 15-year-old Peter gets more comfortable in his role as Spider-Man, the superhero. He discovers a group of criminals fabricating weapons from alien technology and attempts to take them down. This isn’t the main conflict for Peter, though. Since he is a teen, the Avengers, specifically Iron Man aka Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) don’t trust him to go out fighting crime with a super suit that allows Peter to do almost anything. Spider-Man must not only deal with attempting to prove himself and taking down a dangerous organization, he also faces the challenge of balancing his normal teenage life in Queens with his role as a crime-fighting superhero.

I love the approach that Spider-Man: Homecoming takes with the story. So many Spider-Man books and films focus on his back story and many never even portray him as 15-year-old Peter Parker, just Spider-Man. This adaptation of the classic hero chooses differently and focuses mostly on Peter himself. This not only gives a very interesting perspective of having all this power and only being a kid, but also offers an interesting look into the private life of someone from the world of superheroes. This gives a very refreshing experience to what has become almost repetitive in the superhero genre and plays out very nicely throughout the film.

One important part that really sticks out is the acting. Tom Holland is not 15; he’s  21. Yes, he delivers a phenomenal performance as Peter and really comes across as a very relatable and likable kid. The classic Spider-Man theme sounds spectacular in this cinematic score. Music composer Michael Giacchino really creates an exhilarating soundtrack that fits the film’s pace perfectly. One small issue the film has many times is the comedy. The jokes themselves are perfect, but their timing leaves a bit to be desired. Many times, in very exciting and thrilling scenes there is a joke that would be funny elsewhere, but it comes across as inappropriate and destroys the mood at times. This makes the film seem like a parody when it’s far from that.

My favorite scene is one of the first scenes or sequence of scenes when the audience has the perspective of Parker’s phone videos. In the videos, he flies to Berlin and joins Tony Stark to help fight Captain America. These are the exact same scenes that take place in Captain America: Civil War, but from a completely different perspective. That is not only hilarious, but very unique and enjoyable.

Even though Peter himself really is just a kid, this film is not meant for young children. There are many dark action scenes and an equal amount of mature comedy. For that reason, I recommend this for  ages 14 to 18. I give Spider-Man: Homecoming 4 out of 5 stars for being an overall fantastic and enjoyable film with some bad timing in the comedic placement.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

By Ryan R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13




Spider-Man Homecoming is the greatest reboot that ever happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a clever and incredibly funny film. It takes place two months after Captain America: Civil War. Spider-Man wants to become part of the Avengers, however Tony Stark thinks he isn’t ready because he is a child and still needs to learn from his mistakes. Peter Parker tries to juggles being a high school kid with being a hero. Also in this film, Peter tries to stop a group of men from selling dangerous weapons to people.


I love this film for the characters and their banter. Tom Holland makes Spider-Man, the teenager, very loveable and relatable. I like how they show Spider-Man as a bit immature and relaxed, unlike other films where Peter is too serious and the films feel pretty dark and grim. My favorite character is Ned (Jacob Batalon) because he asks Peter so many questions about Spider-Man and that makes it really funny to watch. Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man mentoring  Peter is quite wonderful. Iron Man helps him but he doesn’t take the focus away from Spider-Man. Spider-Man’s constant banter in this film is also quite amusing. This film makes certain that Spider-Man can stand on his own in another sequel.


There is one thing I did not like about this film and that is the storyline about his crush.  It really doesn’t develop and it seems that it is only there as filler. Besides that the film is great.


I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 8 to 18. I think adults might like this as well. This film does contain intense scenes and some inappropriate language, making it unsuitable for younger viewers. This is a “know your kid” movie. I recommend it  to people who like action, adventure, comedy, films based on books and family movies. Make sure to see Spider-Man: Homecoming which arrives in theaters 7/7/2017. This is a movie worth seeing and I guarantee you will not only like this film, you will love it.


Spider-Man: Homecoming

By Sahiba K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15




Spider-Man: Homecoming is a rollercoaster ride! At one moment I laughed so hard my stomach hurt and next, I was clenching my jaws while my heart raced. The first time Peter Parker aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is introduced, the entire theatre radiated with smiles and laughter. From the start, Peter Parker’s attitude as a young, curious teenager makes him a relatable and hilarious superhero.


The story focuses on fifteen-year-old high school boy Peter Parker who recently fought with and against the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. He is eager to work with his mentor and friend Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) again, but finds himself rejected and treated as a child. Therefore, Peter Parker takes matters into his own hands when faced against a formidable foe.


Tom Holland effortlessly portrays a carefree teen who is very relatable for young adults. His actions and demeanor are innocent. Even when he is in his Spider-Man costume, Holland’s movements convey Peter Parker’s thoughts. The villain, Vulture is played by Michael Keaton whose acting sent chills down my spine. He gives the character a humane side and, with or without his Vulture suit on, he is terrifying. All the lead actors and supporting actors such as Zendaya and Jacob Batalon create a realistic high school experience combined with the thrills of a superhero movie.


The cinematography adds to the adrenaline rush when Spider-Man swings from web to web. Salvatore Totino, the cinematographer, has the camera right in front or by Spider-Man’s side while he is fighting. This allows you to become engrossed in these scenes and imagine how it might feel to swing across the streets and fight crime like Spider-Man. The graphics make the experience more realistic and futuristic. For example, the eyes on Spider-Man’s suit move with the expressions that he has underneath the suit. The special effects when Spider-Man is crawling up the sides of walls and swinging through the air made me feel as if I was next to him watching him with my own eyes. My favorite part is Peter Parker’s innocent humor because it makes him unique.


The message of the film is that even when no one believes in you, you can achieve great things if you follow your heart. I give Spider-Man: Homecoming 4.5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 11 to 18. Check out Spider-Man: Homecoming in theatres which opens nationwide on July 7, 2017.