If you kvell over the artistic sensibilities and pop-art style of Yo Gabbba Gabba and its animated segments, then it is time to take a trip to Goon Holler. While we have written about this property in the past, all has been quiet out of the ‘Holler,’ until now.
“The Goon Holler Guidebook” was written and illustrated by four-time Emmy-nominated Yo Gabba Gabba art director Parker Jacobs, based on a a property he created with his brother Christian (co-creator and director of ‘Gabba’ and The Aquabats! Super Show!). This fully-illustrated “guidebook” introduces readers to Tooba the Bigfoot as he wanders into the land of Goon Holler. There he meets a wizard name Uncle Wiznat, a girl named Dosie Doh, an alien name Xöranj and the mischievous furry goons that give the book its name.
“The Goon Holler Guidebook” shirks the traditional format to create what can be best described as a “variety show”-style book for kids. Similar to “Yo Gabba Gabba,” a wrap-around story ties everything together. The story focuses on Tooba’s introduction to Goon Holler and is interspersed with comic strips, recipes, jokes, and even sing-alongs.
When the Parkers launched Yo Gabba Gabba, they brought something bold and new to TV, while pulling in the best artists and musicians to make it hit home with kids and caregivers. Once again, they are ignoring the norms in a traditional marketplace and have created a first-of-its-kind book for kids.
So what’s next for Goon Holler? Let’s hear from Parker himself in an exclusive interview with Nugget Island.
Nugget Island: First off, a standard question: What inspired this property and its universe?
Parker Jacobs: I lived in Appalachia for a few years; West Virginia, Virginia & the Amish part of Maryland. America’s forgotten back yard became so exciting to me in this age of Google maps. Living out there brought back things that excited me as a kid, tall tales, stories of Bigfoot, the Flatwoods Monster, Mothman…These legends say that there’s still magic, wonder and unknown things in this world, but it’s just hiding out in some hidden forest. Like the Smurf villlage.
NI: What came first ‘Goon’ or ‘Gabba’?
PJ: We had been developing both from around the same time. I was already working on Goon Holler when Christian approached me to feature those characters for the “Please/ Thank you” segment in the Yo Gabba Gabba pilot. That along with 2 other Goon Holler shorts, “Goon Fishin’ and “Toot Your Horn” were in the first season.
NI: Love the guidebook format! What made you decide to go this way instead of a traditional storybook?
PJ: My goal for “The Goon Holler Guidebook”was not to tell one story but to present a new world. I wanted to appeal to a broader audience, while still keeping it visually strong. If I had just made a traditional picture book people would think that Goon Holler is just for preschoolers. I also didn’t want to settle on one style. That’s why I implemented an Illustrated version, a loose 2-color comic book style and even real photographs of Dosie Doh and Pooka Shells.
NI: Is that you singing the theme songs on the website?
PJ: Oh that’s Tooba’s voice. ;^)
NI: Have you tried all the recipes in the cookbook?
PJ: Okay you got me. Not all of them. A couple of those recipes I enlisted my sister and mom to help put together. The Alien Tentacle Crawlers, is something I’ve been doing with my kids for years! It’s so much fun to prepare as a family.
NI: What future plans do you have for the property outside of the print media?
PJ: I would like to do an app next. The goons lend themselves so well to designer toys, but we’ll see. Ultimately a T.V. show or a full-length motion picture is where I’d like to take this.
NI: Will we see more of the ‘Holler or Toobaloth C Grassfoot on Yo Gabba Gabba?
PJ: Probably not, but don’t you think it’s time for a spin-off anyway?
It’s the season of the witch, and we have been playing our Halloween music and watching our Halloween films since mid-September. We have already rolled out our yearly music playlist, and are ready to follow up with some more ways to get your kid-friendly scares on this Halloween.
Award-winning kids’ musician Andy Z has just released an ambitious musical audio play for kids 8-12 called “The Grand Scream of Things.” The 66-minute music adventure takes listeners on a Halloween day journey with protagonist Andy, his dog Reggie, his buddy Danger Dude and Pleadia, a teenage alien and potential romantic interest for Andie. Interspersed through this “old time radio show” style adventure are stand-alone songs that span the punk, hip-hop, pop and hip-hop genre. Guest kid musicians like Paula Messner (Candy Band) and RhymeZwell show up while production is handled by Grammy-nominated producer Tor Hyams
Bonus Mention: Children’s musician David Tobocman is offering a free Halloween song download called “Spooky Stuff.” This tune was written by David’s 1st grade daughter Zoe.
We are long-time fans of Night & Day Studios’ Peekaboo brand of apps. Each release brings unique artwork and new tricks to their trademark line of apps featuring animals and objects popping out and surprising toddlers and babies. For Halloween, Night & Day enlists the talent of Caldecott award-winning author and illustrator, Ed Emberley (“Go Away, Big Green Monster!”) to create kid-safe interpretations of Halloween mainstays like witches, werewolves, bats and ghosts. In “Peekaboo Trick or Treat,” little ones tap on the colorful “haunted house” and are greeted by a rotating cast of 14 characters with silly sound effects. A simple app with inspired illustrations that allows even the youngest ones to celebrate the season without getting too scared.
The Worst Witch introduced the young, fledgling witch/wizard-in-the-making story years before Harry Potter entered pop culture history books. Based on the book series of the same name, this made-for-TV production focuses on central character Mildred Hubble as she tries to find her way at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. Along the way she deals with bullies, botched spells, evil witches and a meeting with the honored Grand Wizard. While the special effects are slightly dated, the movie’s central themes are ageless, as Mildred overcomes obstacles both realistic and supernatural to become the school’s superstar student. Adult viewers: come for the retro charm, stay for the positive message, and come back again for Tim Curry’s hammy performance as The Grand Wizard and his musical number “Anything Can Happen on Halloween.”
Bonus Mention: Scholastic Storybook Treasures: A Very Brave Witch…and more Halloween Stories. Eight classic kid’s books are brought to life in this Halloween-themed edition of the Scholastic Storybook Treasures series. For parents who prefer a mellower, literary approach to television viewing, this a great option. Most of the stories in this DVD compilation are filmed books with simple camera pans, celebrity narration and optional onscreen read-along.
Lucky NYC-ers can go to this special one-off Halloween show on Sun, Oct 28 at 4 pm. The young musicians of the InterSchool Orchestras of New York’s Carnegie Hill Orchestra (ages 8 to 12) and ISO Symphony (ages 12 to 19) will perform horror-themed orchestral classics to get into the spirit of the season. All players will be dressed for the holiday, with a special Ghost Conductor.
Bonus Mention: Be sure to check out musician Alastair Moock’s “Slightly Scary Spectacular” concerts at Jammin Java (Saturday, October 27, 10:30 am) and 92Y Tribeca NY (Sunday, October 28, 11 am).
Artist/poet Calef Brown could be described as a modern-day Dr Seuss, with an edgy folk-art touch. He has even inspired an album based on his previous books. “Hallowilloween” features Calef’s trademark ridiculous rhymes, this time themed around his own brand of monsters. Meet the baseball “Vumpire,” shunken head Duncan, the brain-eating “Oompachupa Loompacabra” and the cowgirl “Witches of Texas.” Age appropriately morbid, Calef Brown’s poems are humorous enough to circumnavigate any nasty nightmares.
Bonus Mention: “Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #1: Professor Gargoyle” by Charles Gilman. A novel for tweens that references the king of horror and “speculative fiction.” Yes please! “Tales from Lovecraft Middle School” tells the story of twelve-year-old Robert Arthur as he navigates his way through a middle school filled with mysterious passages, Lovecraftian beasts, and teachers that are never who they appear to be.
Wonder Woman has spun her way into our house. Look out Cinderella and co., Princess Diana of Themyscira has become the leading royalty of the toy chest, with Wonder Woman Barbies, Polly Pockets, and Costumes all becoming fast favorites for our little girl. And this is one interest I can get behind 100% – what better role model than an Amazonian hero who rescues men instead of pining over them?
Initially, Maia was more interested in the “idea” of Wonder Woman. A superhero with long, pretty hair and a sparkly costume seemed cool. But eventually, she wanted to learn more about the character and her story. The comics and old TV shows were not the best choice for someone her age. The 2009 animated film, while excellent, was PG-13 and a little too edgy for a 5-year-old.
My search for down-aged Wonder Woman anything lead me to Capstone’s book series. This educational publisher makes children’s books for teachers and librarians, with trade as a secondary market. Their DC Super Heroeschapter-book series features some of the leading superheroes, including a line of Wonder Woman stories.
Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, has 8 books of her own in the DC Super Heroes series. Instead of being cheap, licensed cash-ins, these books function as fully-realized stories and educational tools. Each book in the series (written by various authors) features a glossary of new words that are used throughout the book. Since these are targeted at the educational market, it also features discussion questions and writing prompts. Though the books usually come in at 50-75 pages and are targeted at reading levels 2-3, Maia has enjoyed having me read aloud to her. Each book also comes with brightly colored illustrations with a kid-appropriate take on Wonder Woman and her costume.
And for the comic book purists, the novels stay true to the mythos and powers of Wonder Woman. An origin story called Trial of the Amazons introduces children to her first big battle. Famous villains pop up as well, including Devastation, Cheetah, Dr. Psycho, Circe and Poison Ivy. Kid-safe suspense is interspersed with educational and life lessons that will satisfy parents and young readers/listeners alike.
Bonus ‘Island’ Recommendation: Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princess by Ralph Cosentino
For those who don’t want to go the chapter book route yet, we also recently chanced upon this fully-illustrated, hardcover picture book. In this unique introduction to Wonder Woman, the heroine is given a completely new art treatment by illustrator/writer Ralph Cosentino. More pop art than comic art, this novel will excite adult fans and introduce the youngest readers to the first lady of crime-fighting. Buy it now!
My love for horror culture began as early as my Sesame Street years. I always made it a point to stay tuned after the ‘Street’ to watch the sometimes-spooky adventures of Doctor Who. As I grew older, kiddie-targeted horror films like Monster Squad, The Gate, Watcher in the Woods and Gremlins perfectly served my need for a good scare. When it came to reading, I could always turn to a good Christopher Pike or R.L. Stine book. Though I did sneak around and discover Jason, Freddy, and Stephen King at a way-too-young age, when my mom caught me, I still had many age-appropriate options in all mediums to fall back on.
Today’s kids may not have the same type of kid-targeted scare flicks, nor can I imagine the same Gremlins licensing program in place today, but there is plenty of printed material to provide a friendly fright. While surfing one of my favorite fanboy magazines, I chanced upon a new all-ages graphic novel that immediately piqued my interest. Released late last year, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (Arcana Studios, $14.95) introduces the renowned horror writer to a new audience.
Howard and his huggable pet
When it comes to the horror and phantasmagoric images that often make up the storylines, much of it traces back to the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, or H.P. Lovecraft as he is often known. Most prolific in the early 1900’s, Lovecraft is known for his fantasy and science fiction-infused horror, described as “weird fiction” at the time. Usually centering on a protagonist trying to hold fast to his sanity while coming to terms with earth-shattering “cosmic horror,” his novels were also built around his own complicated fictional alien lore called the Cthulhu Mythos. His short stories and novellas were often referred to as paranoid, grim and sometimes xenophobic.
This is all heady, complicated stuff that is anything but kid-friendly. However, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom from Bruce Brown, with art by Renzo Podesta, brings Lovecraft to an all-ages audience. While the book does not talk down to them, it also does not require them to contemplate humanity’s place in the universe. The story itself uses the actual H.P. Lovecraft as the center of the story, focusing on a six-year-old protagonist named Howard Lovecraft. The story also employs some actual biographical facts, including his father’s commitment to a sanitarium. In this novel, Howard’s mother gives him an old book supposedly written by his institutionalized dad. When Howard reads the book, he accidently opens up a hole to another world. There, young Howard is forced to battle evil monstrosities and save the Frozen Kingdom, alongside his new pal, the giant creature he affectionately calls Spot.
Author Bruce Brown shows respect for his young audience from page one, choosing a quote from Edgar Allen Poe to set the tone for the novel and to let readers know he isn’t talking down to them. Podesta’s art also shows the same type of dark sophistication seen in some of the adult horror comics, while not being too graphic to scare off young readers. There is nothing they haven’t seen in the stylized worlds of a Harry Potter film, with the main character given a softer look I would describe as manga-meets-Secret of Kells. The “Lovecraftian” world of hidden tomes, secret universes and monstrous beings also exists in Brown’s book, yet the hopeless dread is scaled back. And where a real Lovecraft story may be solely focused on the protagonist’s intellectual journey into madness, this novel focuses more on the adventurous aspects, something that is easier to grasp for a younger crowd. Humor wasn’t exactly one of Lovecraft’s trademarks, but ‘Frozen Kingdom’ also adds this in, having some fun with the eccentricities of the monstrous creations.
This book is the type of stuff I would have gravitated to as a youth, yet was often hard to find. I also recommend this novel for the vocabulary challenges. No, it won’t send kids running to the dictionary/Wikipedia every two seconds, but Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom doesn’t shy away from “big people” words. Finally, for genre-loving parents like myself, this is a great way to get your tween/teen interested in the works of a classic writer while showing them that horror didn’t start with twinkling vampires and sexy werewolves. Bruce Brown is hoping to turn the story of the young ‘Howard Lovecraft’ into a trilogy, if sales permit. We hope you will go grab a copy so we can make it happen!
Like many kids’ music projects, Clementown was brought to life when founding members and real-life couple Kate Lynch and Chris Beaty decided to stop complaining about kids’ music and make their own. Kate Lynch already had experience as a commercial vocalist, musician, dancer and creative movement teacher and Chris Beaty was an Academy Award winning composer. They had fallen in love with Calef Brown’s colorful and wholly offbeat book of poems and illustrations called Polkabats and Octopus Slacks, so they took their band name from his poem “Clementown.”
The crazy kids of Clementown
The Calef Brown tie-in was taken a step further when the band decided their first kid-centric project would be Polkabats and Octopus Slacks − The Music!. This 2009 release is comprised of 28 musical interpretations of the marvelously nonsensical poems and folk-art in Calef Brown’s ‘Polkabats’ book and its follow-up “Dutch Sneakers and Fleakeepers.”
Clementown’s first album has since gone on to find critical acclaim and a loyal following in their Minneapolis hometown and the kindie music market. And, Calef Brown himself is quite impressed. “I was just blown away,” said Brown in the Minneapolis’ Southwest Journal. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I didn’t expect that: having every song like a gem, so different from the next.”
You need totake a day trip to this weird and wonderful little town. Here are my Top 5 Reasons To Visit Clementown:
1. Genre-hopping madness
I have never heard a band, regardless of the target age demographic, skip around genres so much and do it so well. Clementown seamlessly switches its musical sound for each of the 28 songs on Polkabats and Octopus Slacks − The Music! to best represent each of Brown’s poems. Just a few examples include Blaxploitation-style soul, low-fi rock, call-and-response blues, buzzy-garage rock, sunny Brit-pop, beat-driven electro, cool jazz, carnival instrumentation and surf music. Their vocal styles and instrumentations faultlessly adapt to each genre making it a fun musical journey for adults and children alike.
2. A fitting homage to its source material
Calef Brown’s poetry books are truly one-of-kind experiences: a little bit Dr. Seuss, a little bit Shel Silverstien, but mostly his own original folk-art accompanied tales. In the hands of a lesser band, I can see his work being turned into cloying ditties with no appeal to anyone outside of a toddler demographic. But Clementown seem to truly understand Brown’s visions, and the music style they choose for each song perfectly aligns with the illustrations and words and feels spot-on. Like his actual poems, each song paints a little picture. Listen and you will hear stories of an octopus and his new bell-bottoms, a snowman who loves to dance, snails with a penchant for pudding, a surfer with a fear of water, a pirate who uses a carrot as a sword, a grandmother traveling the world with her magic guitar, and many more.
3. Produced for sophisticated tastes of adults and blossoming tastes of kids
As I hinted at above, this album’s production is not meant to appeal solely to the kiddies. Clementown’s production is of such high quality that adults are sure to get on board as well. The adult listener will recognize sounds from modern indie music, their college radio years, pop culture new and old, and some of their favorite current artists. Artists like Clementown may also help fine tune the musical ear of their young listeners, potentially creating a generation of kids who are less interested in factory-created pop.
4. A forwarding-thinking project
Brown brought to life
Clementown is already talking about another collaboration with Brown, and they are also hoping to take the general concept further. After noticing her younger daughter following along to the album while reading Brown’s book, Kate Lynch started to consider how the book/album combination could be used as a literacy project. Plans are in the works for a non-profit organization where the band can start an initiative using “the thriving medium of music to promote the dying medium of books.” Already, Maia has many of the poems/songs memorized, and is now following along with the words in the book as she listens to the CD. She’s definitely starting to do some word recognition, all because of this book/CD. If we can throw in our 2 cents, we see an iPad app here!
5. Insanely fun live shows!
If you check out the videos below, it is clear these guys put on a great show. Between guitar-rocking costumed grandmothers to a dancing funky snowman to backing screens featuring Brown’s images, Clementown puts on a multimedia experience that matches the fun of their album. And the album doesn’t lose anything live, despite the complex production of each song. Best of all, Clementown knows how to get the kids up and dancing.
I am quite surprised Clementown did not come across my radar earlier. I chanced upon them when hearing the Ladytron-esque adaptation of “Moon Reunion” on a kids’ music podcast and immediately sought out their album. I hope audiences and the press also continue to discover this progressive and exceptional project. And while I strongly recommend the Brown books, it is important to note that Clementown’s album does not have to be purchased with the book to enjoy it. These songs can exist alone as charming, unusual tunes kids will delight in.