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Archive for the ‘Ralph's World’ Category

awesomemanSOUNDTRACK: RALPH’S WORLD-Green Gorilla, Monster & Me (2005).

gorilaI remember being pretty excited about this album because it was Ralph’s newest album after Clark was born.  And it was fun to have a “new” children’s album (they were of course all new to us since we hadn’t bought any children’s music before but the fact that Ralph was still putting new stuff out was good news).

And so it will always be cool (and has a couple of my favorite Ralph songs).  And yet, overall it’s not quite as exciting as some of the other ones.

“Dance Around” is a fun upbeat song that should get everyone moving as each verse gets progressively more energetic.  This would certainly be a favorite.  “Hideaway” sounds like any jangly pop song on the radio—even lyrically it’s not really geared to kids exclusively.  This could have had crossover appeal.  “Red Banana” is a fun song full of absurdities—catchy and wonderful.  “Guitarzan” is a song I never much liked, although this version is a bit more fun than the original.  Nevertheless, it’s so much longer than the better songs, that I get tired of it pretty quickly!  “Me & My Invisible Friend” is  sweet song about having an invisible friend, but I find that I clearly like the more upbeat songs like “Old Red #7” a cool song about making and racing a car.

“River Flow” is a fun travel song, but “Liesl Echo” is our favorite Ralph’s World song of all time! We even named our cat Liesl Echo. in honor of the song.  Ahhh.  “Monster” is a wonderfully funny song about a “scary” puppy.  It’s on a song like that this Ralph’s details shine.  “Tim the Boy” is actually about a series of kids who are contrary and refuse to change their minds.  The end shows how being so stubborn never works out quite as they wanted.  “I Don’t Wanna” is a great punk song (gentle punk of course, but in the spirit of The Ramones).  It’s all about saying you don’t want things because you have to do some work to get them (I don’t want dessert, I don’t want to watch TV).  It’s very fun to sing along to.

“Tower of Blocks” is about the man on the moon, but it pales in comparison to “Yum! Yuk!” which is just fun to sing a long to and gets very silly by the end.  “Swingset” ends the album in a rather generic way—which reminds me more of the kind of music that Ralph’s adult band plays.   So the highs on this disc are pretty great, but there’s a bunch of songs that don’t really grab me.  This was actually Ralph’s last disc on beloved indie label Minty Fresh before he made the jump to Disney.

[READ: July 21, 2013] The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man

Since I’m a fan of Michael Chabon, I’m including this children’s book since we read it this past week.

I’ve enjoyed most of everything I’ve read by Chabon, and I know he has a connection to the comics world.  So a children’s superhero book seems like an obvious hit.

And it is a clever idea.  Awesome Man talks about all of the things he can do (fights bad guys has cool powers), but also talks about the frustrations of being a super hero.  Awesome man gets mad and wants to break things, and sometimes he needs to sit on his bed and relax to calm down.  So the secret identity is not too hard to figure out.  Indeed, the idea of the narrator imaging a super hero identity is cool and fun.

But if the secret identity is pretty easy to figure out, I guess it is therefore not really astonishing?  And that’s just one thing that’s a little unsatisfying about this story. (more…)

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squish5SOUNDTRACK: RALPH’S WORLD-At the Bottom of the Sea [Second Half] (2002).

ralph seaI split this disc into two because there were so many songs on it.  But the second half is just as fun as the first half.

“Baseball Dreams” is all about dreaming to be a pro baseball player (specifically a Chicago Cub, which is endearing).  “Sunny Day Rainy Day Anytime Band” is one of my favorite Ralph songs.  It’s a rocking rollicking song.  Super catchy and I find it in my head a lot.  “Fly Me to the Moon” is a charming take on the classic song (with mandolin).  And “Baa Baa Black Sheep” is the children’s song, slowed down and very mellow.

“Malcolm McGillikitty” is a fun original which is all about the psychic cat (he knows when we’re going to the vet, and when you’re coming home).  It’s a very funny original.  “The highlight of the second half of the disc has got to be “What Can You Do with Your Baby Brother” It is a great kid-friendly rendition of “What Can You Do with a Drunken Sailor.”  And it offers great advice about things you can do to torment your little siblings when your parents aren’t looking.  Very funny.  “Bean Soup and Rice” is a fun sing along because of the Buh Buh Buh Buh Buh Buh Beans line and for the nonsense about what you might eat.  “Many Things to Know” is a mellow album closer, which I actually didn’t even remember. I guess I tend to tune out the mellow Ralph songs, because I feel like a kid’s album should be all up or all mellow.

So there it is, a great children’s album–fun for kids and adults with a wonderful variety of styles for kids to delve into.

[READ: July 20, 2013] Squish #5

Why was this book better than #4? Because this one has a video game in it!  Well, that’s not exactly why, but as a parent who is struggling with a child who really like a video game a lot, it was comforting to see a story in which the video game doesn’t triumph (no matter how much fun it actually is).  And, as I mentioned in #4, there was a lot more dialogue here, which is always a lot of fun.

All of Squish’ friends are playing a game called Mitosis!  (Who says video games can’t be educational? Or comic books?).  There are  few wonderfully drawn screen shots of this 8-bit game (the kitten bonus is hilarious).  It’s not really relevant how you play the gamer (I’m not sure I could tell), but suffice it to say that levels must be defeated.  And once Squish sees Pod plying his game, Squish spends the money he was saving for some Super Amoeba comics (say it ain’t so!) to buy his own Mitosis game.  The scene where Squish sets foot in the video game store for the first time was just like the first time we took our kids to Game Stop. (more…)

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squish4SOUNDTRACK: RALPH’S WORLD-At the Bottom of the Sea [First Half] (2002).

ralph seaI’m splitting this disc in two parts because there are seventeen tracks on it.  This is one of my favorite Ralph’s World records.  There’s something about the collection of originals and covers that is always varied, always interesting and lots of fun.  (Most Ralph’s World records meet the same criteria, but this one seems to have overall a better collection of songs).  Which is kind of interesting as it is his second kids album.

“At the Bottom of the Sea” is a fun bopping song (with fast lyrics and a slide guitar!).  “Honey for the Bears” is a countryish song that is very fun to sing along to (even if it seems factually questionable).  “The Coffee Song” is also fun to sing along to (what is it about spelling songs that make you want to spell along?).  Even though none of us drink coffee in the house.  “Surfin’ in My Imagination” is, yes, a surf rock song (this album is a nice introduction to different styles of music).

I had the theme from “Harry’s Haunted Halloween Circus” in my head for days before I could remember what it was—it’s a kind of clarinet and tuba riff, slightly off but also mesmerizing like circus music.  I really like it.  I don’t think I ever really listened to the lyrics which are quite “spooky.”  “The Banana Splits Song” is always super fun, whether it’s by Ralph’s World or The Dickies (who are goofy but not really for kids).  “18 Wheels on the Big Rig” was introduced to me by Trout Fishing in America, so I always think their version is best (even if they do it live exactly the same every time). Ralph’s version is good, but just not quite as good as TFiA.  “Clean My Room” is a blues, which I don’t particularly like (I’m nt a fan of the blues, although this one is funny).  The first half ends with “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”  Ralph’s version has some extra verses and a whole new scenario as well as a very amusing (to adults) punchline.

The second half will come tomorrow.

[READ: July 20, 2013] Squish #4

Somehow I didn’t even know that there were two new Squish books out.  Hoorah!

Although this particular volume felt a little slim to me.  Not in the size, but in the content.  In this book, Squish joins a soccer team.  His team is terrible, compiled from a mishmash of players, many of whom are simply, terrible.  The coach tries to get everyone excited (blah blah blah) and then Squish is promoted to Captain of the team (because someone volunteered him).

The problem here is that in the book, it is the captain who makes all the decisions regarding the plays and players.  Which is nonsense at that age.  I realize of course that this is fiction and a children’s book and a comic book and that the story wouldn’t coalesce if he wasn’t captain, but it puts a crazy amount of pressure on poor Squish.

The other problem is that it’s a story about sports.  Sports stories always stink because you either win or you lose.  And, in an underdog sports story you lose a lot and then you win. It’s pretty unavoidable.  Although the Holms do a nice twist on it at the end.  But really, most of the book is just scenes of them losing–which sells short the usual snappy dialogue. (more…)

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cigarsSOUNDTRACK: THE BOARD OF EDUCATION-“Why is Dad So Mad?” (2012).

dadI heard this song on Kids Corner and I am frankly shocked that it didn’t make the top ten songs of the year (kids have no taste).  Why is dad so mad?  Because of what George Lucas has done to the Star Wars movies!   “Why does dad get so mad about Star Wars.  Mr Lucas what have you done?”

 The lyrics are so good I didn’t even really notice the music at first (check out: “and I wonder why it’s so bad that Greedo shoots first at Han.”  “He’s always excited when those yellow words come on, but by the end he’s mad about that new Ewok song.”

But the music is great too.  It has a kind of Ben Folds vibe (in the slow piano section) mixed with a little Ralph’s World, but the whole package is a wee bit heavier–the guitars are a  little distorted (but not very) and the pace is brisk and fun.

The song is also full of cool spacey sound effects (and a nice nod to the soundtrack).  The chorus is catchy and poppy.   A wonderful song.  I’m going to investigate The Board of Education a bit more.  In the meantime, check out Why is Dad So Mad?.

[READ: January 19, 2013] Cigars of the Pharoah

This second (technically fourth) Tintin book was a lot more focused than In America, which, although excellent, tended to ramble all over the country.

This book sees Tintin in the Mediterranean Sea on a cruise.  The action starts right away when a bumbling man named Dr Sarcophagus, an Egyptologist, crashes into Tintin saying that he lost his valuable papyrus.  The papyrus blows out to sea, but the Dr says, that indeed it wasn’t the valuable papyrus at all, which is safely in his coat.  It’s a weird moment, but we slowly learn that the Dr is more than a little absent minded.  Nevertheless, the papyrus has a map on it that he believes will lead to the undiscovered tomb of the Pharaoh Kih-Oskh (nice joke there).

I said that the last Tintin book wasn’t quite for kids and the same is true here.  Two men, Thompson and Thompson (more on them) accuse Tintin of smuggling opium and cocaine (again, did kids read this in the 30s?).  Thompson and Thompson are funny in that they look alike and when one says something the other twists the words slightly to radically alter their meaning while using most of the same words.  Anyhow, they “arrest” Tintin, but as in America, he escapes in an unlikely way and meets up with Dr Sarcophagus.

Tintin, Snowy and Sr Sarcophagus escape some violent deaths in a number of funny ways (like when the sheik who hates Westerners recognizes Tintin from his adventures (he even has a book–although in this later edition it is actually a book that came out after this one.

In another scene, Tintin rescues a woman who is being beaten, only to find out that he is actually on a film set.  Later, he winds up on a ship of smugglers, is forced to enlist in the Arabian army and is eventually made to face a firing squad. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RALPH’S WORLD-“Red Banana” (2006).

There’s something about kid’s music.  It’s simple, typically, and it can be either cloying or fun. But it’s a really fine line that stands between the two.  Ralph Covert of Ralph’s World manages to keep the line in view and stays on the fun side.  Ralph has a rock history (with The Bad Examples) but I think his kids music is much better and much more interesting.

“Red Banana” is a simple folk song with a wonderfully catchy chorus (“What am I gonna do if my mom finds out?”).  The verses are fun as well.  “Who ever heard of a red banana? Have you ever heard of a red banana?  I’ve never heard of a red banana.” “Who ever heard of a green gorilla?”  (Who is eating the red banana, of course.) 

Ralph knows silly, and he knows how to make silly catchy.  This whole Ralph’s World album, Green Gorilla Monster & Me is a lot of fun.

[READ: December 2010] Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye

My kids love books (surprise).  And Clark has been reading a lot by himself.  So I’ve been getting him some graphic novels for his reading pleasure.  I stumbled upon this series at the library.  It’s a little too much for him to read by himself–he read it but I know he didn’t get all of what is going on.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed the first book very much and when I learned there were four more I was thrilled!

This series is clever and funny.  And while the kids may not get all the jokes, I sure do, and I think they’re really funny.  And, there are more than enough jokes (visual and verbal) for them to enjoy and for me to enjoy reading to them.

There’s a Guinea Pig (with the best name–Sasspants) who lives in a pet store.  The pet store is owned by Mr Venezi, the most incompetent pet store owner (and business owner, frankly) ever.  Mr Venezi loves his animals but not only does he not know how to take care of them, he doesn’t even know what most of them are called.  Their tanks are mislabeled and often times animals are simply in the wrong places.  Obviously in real life this would be a disaster, but these animals are funny and clever and roll with the problems quite easily.

In the first book, the hamster named Hamisher reads the sign for Sasspants’ tank which says Guinea PI.  Naturally Hamisher thinks that Sasspants is a detective.  The story behind this name change is quite funny.  Sasspants seems to be the only animal with not only the correct name but also a name made out of sticky tiles rather than tape (one assumes this is because Sasspants is very smart and an extensive reader (as well as writer, rappeller and, eventually sleuth)).  When the G from Guinea Pi”g” falls off and goes missing, well, it’s time for our reluctant Guinea Pig to get to sleuthing. 

There are currently four books in the series and I can only hope that more are on the way soon!  All of the illustrations are by Stephanie Yue.  And they are wonderful (it is odd since Venable is a wonderful artist that she uses someone else, but hey, spread the wealth!) (more…)

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dont lookSOUNDTRACK: RALPH’S WORLD-Peggy’s Pie Parlor (2003).

peggyWhen my son Clark was born, Sarah and I made a conscious effort to find music for him (really for us) that wasn’t, well, Raffi.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Raffi per se, but well, he’s kind of annoying.

In the 4 years since he was born, there’s been an awful lot of cool bands making kids records.  And I’m all for that (sometimes it’s nice being in tune with zeitgeist).  Although it is nice to hear one of the guys who started the whole movement.  Ralph himself was a member of Bad Examples a fairly forgettable band, nowhere near as fun/clever as Ralph’s World.

This was the first Ralph’s World disc we bought.  And it’s still in pretty heavy rotation (although, now, really, the kids just listen to what we listen to…maybe when they’re a little older and actually understand Decemberists lyrics, we’ll be playing more Ralph).

Ralph’s songs rock, they’re amped up and excitable, like a toddler.  They’re simple, easy rock songs in a multitude of genres.  He also mixes his own originals with covers and even a public domain track (“Yon Yonson”).

And so overall you get a disc that sounds like a children’s disc from They Might Be Giants, before They actually made children’s discs.  (TMBG’s children’s discs aim a little younger).  Ralph’s songs are whimsical and catchy, in the way of TMBG’s adult songs, although the lyrics skew more towards about 6 or 7.

If you don’t have kids you probably won’t enjoy these discs, although really all is takes is a silly streak to enjoy them when the kids aren’t around.

[READ: July 24, 2009] Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now

My son has just started watching Charlie and Lola, a delightful show based on the books by Lauren Child.  [And it has one of the single coolest theme songs of any show ever.  Seriously.  It’s fantastic.  Here, listen.]  When I mentioned that Clark was watching this, my friend Eugenie said, Oh, Lauren Child, of Clarice Bean!

I wasn’t familiar with Clarice Bean.  And then, as coincidence will have it, I was showing a patron some books in the Ch section, and there was a Clarice Bean book.  I grabbed it and only found out later that it is the last (or at least that latest) book in the Clarice series.  Well, it’s a kids book, I thought, I’m sure  I can join the series late and not miss anything.  And I was right.

I was also surprised by how into this book I got.

Oh, and also how eerily appropriate it was that I selected this particular book while I’m in the midst of Infinite Summer.  I figured Clarice Bean would be a nice relaxing thing to read in my Infinite Jest Downtime.  But Clarice Bean starts out: Part One: Where does infinity end?

Seriously. (more…)

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