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COVER ART Rockin' Rollin' and Ridin' low res
Frezza doing some rockin’, rollin’ and ridin’

Despite my obvious love for quality kids’ music,  I often worry I may be stumbling into Raffi or Wiggles territory with some artists. As in, kid-tested, daddy-not-approved. While I seem to have blind faith in any music coming out of Yo Gabba Gabba, or any indie artists going kindie, I have a very “guilty-until-proven-innocent” approach to most musicians making music for children.

When I had the chance to check out Rebecca Frezza & Big Truck’s new album, Rockin’, Rollin’ and Ridin‘, I was, as usual, worried what I was in for.  However, upon popping it into the CD player and hitting shuffle, I was instantly surprised by the power-pop rock song “Superman,” which immediately made it to daddy-approved status.  Nope, Mr. Raffi Cavoukian or that wacky quartet from Sydney never got their  power-pop on like this. And before I knew it, I was dancing along to electronic-disco song “Robot Dancer,” an instant favorite for my little beat-loving preschool-diva. And the fun continued with “Rocketship,” a countdown-to-takeoff chant. Speaking of chanting, Frezza & Co even got Roscoe Orman, that’s Gordon from Sesame Street to your little ones, to join in for the call-and-response song “Key-O.” This album also features the band’s theme song, “Big Truck,” in a bluesy rock makeover that is made for some high-energy toddler dancing.

Apparently,  leader singer Frezza has a pedigreed background in kids’ music. After leaving regional theatre to start a family, she started creating curricula for the Music Together program. Eventually, she went on to release her first CD of kids’ music and created the Big Truck band. Rockin’, Rollin’ and Ridin’ is the fifth album from this seasoned seven-person troupe, who have already been touring for years. And like any successful kids’ artists, Rebecca Frezza & Big Truck have got the Noggin seal of approval, with featured appearance on Jack’s Big Music Show and Move to the Music.

Rockin’, Rollin’ and Ridin’ is hitting shelves on November 10 and will also be available on their official website.

Check out the video for the band’s theme song, “Big Truck.”

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As a kid, I have a feeling my parents were probably feeling both awe and hesitation when they started purchasing those books with the yellow read-along tapes. While this new technology may have been impressive to them, I am sure there was some concern that the Fisher-Price tape recorder would completely cut into the traditional bedtime story experience.

Eventually they learned that this was just a new way of telling stories, something that allowed me to enjoy stories on my own time. Bedtime stories and parent-child bonding were not going anywhere, and it was just another way to explore narratives and the art of storytelling.

(Bing) Turn the page…

Fast forward a few decades later and here I stand as a parent in the same situation. No, I am not whipping out the Fisher-Price tape recorder and The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree book. Instead, iPhone and iTouch books have come along and worked their way into our house.

Maia first became comfortable with the iTouch thanks to a slew of  Toddler-targeted apps. After that, we started to explore the world of mobile picture books and haven’t looked back. While reading an old-fashioned book will always be a tradition in our house,  I would much rather see her touch and slide her way through a iPod book than watch an extra hour of TV.

Not convinced to put down $.99 or so to try one? Below are a few of the titles we have tested out, and we have the greasy thumbprints on our devices to prove it.

Big Stuff: Dinosaurs ($.99) and My Friend Isabelle ($3.99)
PicPocket Books

One thing I have found while app shopping is that many companies churn out apps just to make a quick buck. They become jacks of all trades, releasing also-ran apps that capitalize on whatever is topping the charts at that time. PicPocket Books is not one of these companies. Specializing in creating/adapting children’s books for the iPod/iPhone, you can clearly see the sincere effort put into these.

On my iPod, we like to read Big Stuff: Dinosaurs (by Robert Gould) and My Friend Isabelle (By Eliza Woloson, Illustrated by Bryan Gough). Both are adapted from their real-world counterparts, with a high tech twist. ‘Dinosaurs’ introduces kids to various dino-beasts, complete with silly humor and shots of real kids. ‘Isabelle’ lifts the full-color illustrations straight from the book, bringing this story of two best friends, one of whom has Down Syndrome, to life.

Although Maia is too young to fully take advantage of this feature, parents with early readers will enjoy the text highlighting on each PicPocket Book story. As the professional narrator reads along, each word is highlighted to build a connection between words and sounds.

Fun with Isabelle

The Adventures of Lily and Stella – We’re Home! (Free)
4Square Labs

This simple, short story by Tracie King is a favorite in our house. Telling the story of a little baby and her pug living in Brooklyn, NY, I think the appeal of ‘Lily and Stella’ is the narration and colorful illustrations. Also available as a book and based on the author’s real life, the story will resonate with young parents with new babies that are trying to make sure the pet still remains part of the family. This title allows users to read the story themselves or let the soft-spoken narrator do her thing.

Lily & Stella: BFFs
Lily & Stella: BFFs

Binky the Pink Elephant ($1.99)

Similar to stories coming from PicPocket Books, this story app comes from a company focused solely on creating books for kids. iStoryTime has a slew of titles for families, including the upcoming (and a must-purchase in my house) No More Pacifier. Binky the Pink Elephant, written by Sonowa Jackson and illustrated by Jaclyn Mednicov, tells the story of a cotton candy-colored elephant who learns being different is not always a bad thing.

A unique feature for this app is the ability to choose the voice of a child or an adult to narrate. You can also choose to have the book auto-page turn or slide the pages on your own.

It's ain't easy being pink
It ain’t easy being pink

Bo’s Rainbow ($.99)

Apparently off-colored elephants are a trend in the iPhone book world. This story (no credited author), focuses on Bo the blue elephant as he interacts with his friends and discovers what his special talent is.

This app takes things to the next level by letting kids interact with some of the colorful images within the book. Touching certain triggers will inspire a sound or action. The narration is also more cartoon-like, with different voices for each character in the book. Brightly colored with cool illustrations and basic animation, this may feel less like a book to some parents. Regardless, it is favorite of Maia’s and still has a good moral lesson attached.

Blue elephants, pink dolphins and a pocket full of sunshine
Blue elephants, pink dolphins and a pocket full of sunshine

ICDL Books for Children (Free)
International Children’s Digital Library

This free app is a spin-off of the online International Children’s Digital Library project, which collects children’s books from 60 countries and archives them online. This app features 4 translated stories: the German Waldo At The Zoo by Hans Wilhelm, the Arabic Black Ear … Blonde Ear by Khaled Jumm’a, the Mongolian Six Silver Stars and the English Three Little Pigs. While the technology isn’t as flashy as that of the other apps, it is exciting to expose children to books from all over the world as well as older titles not always available in your library.

That being said, a cool feature of this app is the ability to scan each book as it exists, and then tap the text using “ClearText” technology to zoom in on text and make it larger and sharper.

Choose your own adventure
Choose your own adventure

Buddy the Bus #1: There’s Always Tomorrow

Buddy the Bus is the creation of smartphone content developer iOrbi. This first ‘Buddy’ takes readers on Buddy’s daily route while setting up the character for future adventures.

This app is notable for a few cool features. iPhone users have the ability to record their own voice for a super-personalized version of the story. The story also has 5 language options to choose from, both audio narration and text to read along with.

Buddy on duty
Buddy on duty

Have a storytime iTouch/iPhone app you like? Please share! Look forward to your comments.

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