Tag Archives: musician

Little People Big Dreams: Dolly Parton

Written by: Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Illustrated by: Daria Solak

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figure, Musical Artist, Women in Music, Biography, Philanthropy, Feminist. 

Summary: Dolly Parton is a human that we do not deserve, she is such a gem!  This book follows the story of her life for a young reader, from a young girl with 11 siblings to being one of the most well-known musical artists of all time.

Dolly started singing young, and was working steadily on radio when she was 10.  She became incredibly well-known and toured extensively by herself in her signature big hair and sparkly dresses.  Something we love about Dolly is how much she sticks true to herself and wears whatever she wants, no matter what else anyone says (even if it’s derogatory).  She continually champions the LGBTQ community and even has her own theme park in Tennessee, Dollywood!  Something else she has done to give back to her community is the Imagination Library, which sends monthly books for free to children who sign up.  Dolly continues to inspire and perform to this day, because she’s a complete badass.

This book was sent in consideration of the Best Books of 2019 list by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto), but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

maria-isabel-sanchez-vegara-2Mª Isabel Sanchez Vegara was born in Barcelona, Spain, and she is a writer and creative director perhaps best known as the author of much of the Little People, Big Dreams series. Six years ago, she decided to self-publish a book that had been in her mind for a long time. One day, one thousand copies of arrived at her home – she had no idea what she was going to do with them! She opened a little online shop, placed them to some pretty stores in her neighborhood and, one by one, she sold them all. Soon, publishing houses started to approach her to write books, but she was working on another idea of her own: a series about little people with BIG dreams. Each book tells the childhood story of one of the world’s female icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, allowing them to identify with the characters in each story.

daria-solak_1_origDaria Solak is a proud 90s kid. She studied graphic design at Art Academy in Warsaw and Bologna.  Daria is a full-time girl and illustrator, living in London by choice.  Daria is addicted to crayons, coffee and children books*

*(and following dogs on social media)

The Birth of Cool; How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Written by: Kathleen Cornell Berman

Illustrated by: Keith Henry Brown

For ages: second grade and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figure, Musician, Trailblazer. 

Summary: This beautifully illustrated picture book and it’s accompanying poem are an incredible testament to a legendary musician, but does not cover much about his personal life and the darker parts of his story (more on that in a note for educators at the end of this summary). The illustrations, by Keith Henry Brown, are raw and jittery, defying the usual expectation of figures clearly defined, matching the energy of the music and constant adaptation and exploration that marked Davis’ journey. He travels from Illinois, to Arkansas, and finally to New York City where he became a part of the coterie of musicians that included Charlie “Bird” Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and other notable members of the bebop jazz scene at the time. Though he found a place with those musicians, Davis was not content to rest on his laurels, instead pushing himself to discover new avenues of sound. This new style that he rang in with the album Birth of the Cool in 1957. This book pays homage to the drive and pure sound that Davis discovered in himself, and the changes that he made to jazz and American musical history, and it is a worthwhile read for jazz lovers and dilettantes as well.

Tiny Activist Note to Educators:

While Davis had periods of unmatched musical creativity and success, he also suffered from a debilitating drug addiction, which is not covered by this book. He was known as “The Prince of Darkness” and this was not just a nickname-he was prone to bouts of anger, and readily admitted to physically abusing his first wife, Frances Davis, while high on cocaine, alcohol and/or heroin.  This is obviously a tricky subject to reckon with, particularly in a classroom setting.  While both sides of the story are important, some of these details should be potentially left unshared unless in a place for open classroom discussion and caregiver knowledge.  Some students may be grappling with these issues in their own lives, we feel that anything beyond the storybook needs to be carefully considered.  You know your classroom best!

Reflection Questions:

  • What do you know about jazz music?
  • What types of music do you like to listen to?
  • Can anyone in your family play an instrument?
  • What instrument do you think would be fun to play?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

img_3291Kathleen most likely started her writing career in her friend’s garage; writing plays for the little kids in the neighborhood. Reading stories about celebrities and writing an opinion page about them was a fun pastime of hers.

It was a lucky break for Kathleen to teach in the NYC schools when the arts flourished.  She and her students worked with the NYC ballet, architects, writers, and fine artists. It was a wonderful experience for both students and teachers. She was inspired to write children’s stories after reading Roald Dahl stories aloud to her students. After teaching, she spent more time focusing on the craft of writing. She is now a published author who is still writing lots of stories over and over because it takes time to find the perfect words to write a story for kids.

Artist Statement:

My work consists of sculptures and assemblages constructed with found objects. Most of my pieces are made from wood, usually found at garage sales, flea markets, and the beach.

My inspiration comes from many great artists like Louise Nevelson and David Smith as well as African Art, dance, music, nature, and even home décor designs .The energy, cultural differences, and towering architecture of New York City will continue to thrill and motivate me.

I believe art is refuge from the inane; it fuses random fragments into a focused visual being. I love the challenge of taking parts of found objects and creating something visually compelling. My goal is to present a piece that offers one, an escape from reality and into a place that ignites the imagination and encourages the eyes to dance.

Photo+by+John+AbbottKeith Henry Brown began his career like many young artists, dreaming of becoming a cartoonist at Marvel Comics. After attending the High School for Art and Design in New York and a brief stint as an illustrator for a couple of comic companies including his beloved Marvel, Brown went on to pursue a career in painting, and later, as an illustrator. His favorite artists at this time were innovators like Howard Pyle, Frank Frazetta, Burton Silverman, Le Roy Neiman, David Stone Martin, as well as painters Diego Rivera, Picasso, and Jean Michel-Basquiat, among others.

Brown began publishing watercolor paintings. First for greeting cards and then newspapers and magazines. Being a lifelong music freak, his work has placed a special concentration on jazz, which reflected my lifelong love of the music.

In the late nineties, Brown forged a career in design and in 1997, became Design Manager for Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Then he became Creative Director at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2001. Handpicked for the position by Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis, Brown designed marketing and promotional graphics for the 2004 opening of the celebrated “House of Swing”– a new facility specifically designed for jazz music, Frederick P. Rose Hall at Columbus Circle in New York City.

He has designed and illustrated several jazz CD covers for Christian McBride, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Duke Ellington, The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and many others.

Brown lives in Brooklyn New York, where he continues to write, paint and draw stuff.


Q&A with Alastair Moock!

Happy Saturday!  Our Week of Music is continuing to rock, and we’ve boogied through a whole week already!  Luckily, we have one more special music-related book to review for tomorrow.  But, let’s focus on today!  Yesterday we learned a bit about Alastair’s music, so today we’ll learn about him!  Hope everyone is having a great day, and keep on rockin’ 🙂

Photo by Michael D. Spencer

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself!

Alastair Moock: I’m Alastair Moock. Among other things, I perform for kids and families and also present assembly programs and workshops in schools around social justice history.



TTA: What are you passionate about?

AM: Educating and inspiring through music.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

Billie Jean King

AM: I’m currently working on an album all about leadership and activism. It looks to the
heroes of our past (Dr. King, Harvey Milk, Billie Jean King, Pete Seeger, Rosa Parks,
Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez) and our present (Malala Yousafzai, the Parkland student
protestors) to inspire our kids to move the ball forward. I wrote the songs over the past year, and we begin recording at the beginning of October.

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

AM: I’ll be doing a fundraising campaign for this album, my first in many years. I don’t
generally ask fans for money up front like this, but I have a good reason this time: I want
to get this album, and my assembly programs, into the hands of kids and schools that
might not otherwise be able to afford them. Through this campaign, every time a
supporter buys a CD, I’ll give one away to a kid or teacher. I’ll also be providing free
assemblies and programs to Head Start programs and underserved schools.

7109Acm8ueLTTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?

AM: Right now I’m digging Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

AM: Recording this new album!


About the Artist:


Alastair Moock is a 2014 GRAMMY Nominee, two-time Parents’ Choice Gold Medal Winner, recipient of the ASCAP Joe Raposo Children’s Music Award, and has twice been voted by the Fids & Kamily Industry Critics’ Poll among the Top 3 Albums of the Year. Long one of Boston’s premier folk artists, Alastair turned his attention to family music after the birth of his twins in 2006. The New York Times calls him “a Tom Waits for kids” and The Boston Globe declares that, “in the footsteps of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, Alastair Moock makes real kids music that parents can actually enjoy.” Moock and Friends’ live shows are rowdy, rootsy, singin’ and dancin’ fun for the whole family!

Alastair Moock-Social justice music for children!

For ages: any age can groove to Alastair’s tunes

Language: English

Topics Covered: social justice, racism, white supremacy, feminism, education, self-expression, identity, freedom, and self-acceptance.

Moock’s annual PoP show takes place November 16th at Club Passim

Summary: Today we share an artist whose quirky, thoughtful lyrics spice up the children’s music that he makes. The well-established genre is refreshed by Alastair Moock’s rambunctious, rootsy rhythms. While Moock is working up a new album titled “Be A Pain” and preparing for shows at Club Passim in Cambridge, MA on November 16th, a performance of “Just Kidding: Alastair Moock” at New York City’s Symphony Space, as well as a Holiday Family show at Beverly, MA’s Cabot Theater, we wanted to highlight the awesome work that he has been putting out consistently since he began performing music for children over 10 years ago!51J6U25421L._SY355_

Moock started his career performing his brand of Americana for adults in 1995, but with the birth of twin daughters in 2006, he turned to music that families could listen and sing to together. A standout track from his 2009 children’s album A Cow Says Moock is “Two Mommies” a catchy ode to different family structures. After each example is sung (two mommies, two daddies etc.) Moock and his chorus of adults and children validate the family by adding “and that’s all right with me”. The easy rocking beat and repeated lyrics make this a song that even toddlers can understand and sing along to.

UnknownWhen Moock’s daughter Clio was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5, he wrote “When I Get Bald” a goofy, good-natured take on an especially challenging subject. The heartwarming video for the song features Alastair, his daughter Clio and band mates in a barber shop, and while they begin the video with full heads of hair, the same cannot be said when the song is done! Normalizing and validating, the song is a tribute to all the silly things he will do when he’s bald!

“Make It Great” off of 2016’s eponymous album is a tongue-in-cheek acoustic track where Alastair takes phrases often heard about how great America is which follows a very familiar structure, all the way up until the dry delivery of the final line of the verse. He sneaks in the truth after having lulled the listener with propoganda, and reminds listeners that what survives of “history” is a narrow story with many very important players are forcibly left out of the narrative. Moock’s style of Americana with a southern twang assists him in this delivery, and plays with the lowest common denominator of things identified as “American” and “southern” (both huge concepts) and challenges preconceived notions about genre and geographic prejudice.

We cannot recommend Alistair’s music enough, and if his videos are anything to go on, you need to see him the next time he’s in your neck of the woods! Or, better yet, invite him to come to you, and learn about hosting a house concert!

About the Artist:

Photo by Michael D. Spencer

Alastair Moock is a 2014 GRAMMY Nominee, two-time Parents’ Choice Gold Medal Winner, recipient of the ASCAP Joe Raposo Children’s Music Award, and has twice been voted by the Fids & Kamily Industry Critics’ Poll among the Top 3 Albums of the Year. Long one of Boston’s premier folk artists, Alastair turned his attention to family music after the birth of his twins in 2006. The New York Times calls him “a Tom Waits for kids” and The Boston Globe declares that, “in the footsteps of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, Alastair Moock makes real kids music that parents can actually enjoy.” Moock and Friends’ live shows are rowdy, rootsy, singin’ and dancin’ fun for the whole family!

Q&A with Ants on a Log

Ants on a Log

Julie (left) and Anya (right) together make up the band Ants on a Log

You all learned about the album Curious yesterday, so now it’s time to learn a little bit more about the minds behind Ants on a Log!  Julie and Anya have a multitude of activities, interests, and creative passions.  We feel lucky to have been able to catch up with them and bring you this short and sweet Q&A!  The only thing we need more information about is Harpo the dog (our people have called Harpo’s people and we are eagerly awaiting an interview 😉 ) Enjoy, lovely humans!
The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!

Ants on a Log: Ants on a Log is Julie (they/them) and Anya (she/her). We play fun, harmony-driven, socially conscious music for children and families in Philadelphia and beyond. When we’re not on stage, Julie is a music therapist and assistant director at Camp Aranu’tiq, and Anya is an elementary school science teacher.

TTA: What are you passionate about?images

AoaL: Songwriting, trees, communal living, housing equity, learning about human behavior, teaching, eradicating plastic water bottles, Harpo the dog, our next big musical journey. We are also passionate (and sometimes exhausted) about feminism and gender
freedom, and how we can influence a next generation of people who are kind and

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

UnknownAoaL: We just released the soundtrack to our musical, “Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline!” which feels like both the end and the beginning of a journey. “Curious” is an
eco-feminist musical about a young girl and her non-binary sibling who work together to organize their community in fighting for clean air and renewable energy. The siblings
persevere in the face of distracted politicians, greedy businessmen, and even their mansplaining Uncle Steve. Hope and community prevail, aided by humor, scientific
research, a dancing pencil, and songful neighbors. We will perform “Curious” a few more times in 2020 and then we’ll start on a new album and perhaps even a new musical!

TTA:  How can people support you on your journey?

51YHFwxluoL._SY355_AoaL: What a lovely question, thank you! Listening to our music and giving our CDs as gifts is the best. Sharing our music videos is great too. And for those who really want to help us sustain our work as socially conscious musicians for kids, supporting us on Patreon is very helpful. We have recently been on a mission to reach audiences beyond Philly, and we’ve learned that each follower on FB, Instagram, etc. really does make a difference.  Beyond the music, you can support our mission by learning to use non-binary pronouns, using less plastic, and figuring out how to confront that mansplainer in your life (we hope our song “Air and Space” is of use to you in this area). Thanks for supporting in any and all of the above ways!

TTA:  What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?A1Tt4ZgmO+L

AoaL: Anya loved Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (adult).
Julie loved Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. (Pre-K–2).

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

AoaL: We have been blown away by the youth-led climate change movement. We can’t wait to see how Greta Thunberg continues to change the world and make waves. Can she please be President of the World?

Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 8.58.13 PM

Stay Connected with Ants on a Log!

Ants on a Log Website

YouTube Channel




Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline!- by Ants on a Log

Scene from the musical Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline

For ages: any age

Language: English

Topics Covered: Environmental Activism, Politics, Music, Health, Activism, Community Organization, Curiosity.

Summary: Have you ever felt that you were too small to get something done? That no one will listen to you if you dare to raise your voice? The answers to these questions form the backbone of the “eco-feminist musical” Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline. Created by Ants on a Log, “two Philadelphia musician-educator-activists” Julie Beth and Anya Rose, Curious charms from the first song, and follows a chronological story. Siblings Taylor and Clio find out that an oil refinery wants to expand and build in their neighborhood.  After doing some digging around, the pair decide that they have to fix the problem. But will anyone listen?

A narrator and varied cast of characters and voices tell the tale of active resistance and resilience, and we here at TTA think it’s best when listened to in order, but if you only have time to listen to a few songs, standout tracks include “Research” an ode to serious study that had both Corrie and I guffawing with it’s accurate retelling of a conversation that occurs often at our house, when all I have to add to the discussion is the fact that “I’m hungry.” Air and Space” is another excellent song that will make anyone who has ever experienced “mansplaining” laugh and roll their eyes.

There are many important topics covered within the music, and they all meld together into a collection of scientifically correct, real life experiences that is easy to follow and incredibly current with its concepts. Anya Rose and Julie Beth draw you in with their harmonies and don’t let go until the end of the story. The themes of community organization, health and environmental justice could feel weighty or awkward in less thoughtful hands, but the Ants buoy the material with Peter Rose’s dry Narrator guiding the listener through the narrative.

Image Credit: teachsmarter.com

A focus on growth mindset is a massive trend in early childhood education, and Curious echoes this with songs and lyrics about resilience and not giving up. Clio and Taylor travel from researching and doubting themselves to believing that they do have the right idea, and this character development doesn’t happen overnight. The siblings have to fail and feel dejected before they can finally speak their truth, and these lessons are threaded throughout the album. When letter writing reveals that “The Man in Charge (Is Useless)”, Taylor and Clio think on their feet and figure out a louder way to speak their truth.



About the Artists:

img-1672_origAnts on a Log is Julie Beth (they/them) and Anya Rose (she/her). The folksy duo writes music for children and other childlike people, songfully advocating for positivity, social justice, and silliness! The Ants have been featured on XPN’s Kids Corner, at the Philadelphia Folk Fest, and on radio stations around the globe. In 2016 the Ants debuted their musical, “Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline!” The show harnesses the power of eco-feminist music and humor to encourage families to stay “curious” about alternatives to fossil fuels.

Dylan, age 8
Fanart from Dylan, age 8

In their off-stage lives, Julie is a music therapist and Anya is an elementary science teacher. Their powers combined make for smart and socially conscious folk, mostly originals with some must-know classics. Their harmonies and rhythmic play are a delight for children (and grown children!) of all ages.

Stay Connected with Ants on a Log!

Ants on a Log Website

YouTube Channel







Q&A with the Alphabet Rockers

Happy Tuesday!  We typically would wait until Saturday to do Q&A’s but during our Week of Music anything can happen!  Can you tell just how exciting our lives are? Anyways, jokes about our thrilling lives aside, we are more than excited to be able to bring you more information about The Alphabet Rockers.  This dynamic duo is the driving force behind a myriad of great music and social justice action.  Hope you enjoy our chat as much as we did!

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!

Photo by Kristin Chalmers

Alphabet Rockers: We are cofounders – Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd – and we’ve been making hip hop as an Alphabet Rockers crew since 2007. Coming together in Oakland at that time, we were excited to make fun music for young families that enhanced learning but we’ve grown with the times. The learning we lift up in our music is no longer ABC’s and tying shoes- it’s gender justice for trans and non-binary kids, it’s Black liberation and joy, it’s the beauty of migration and welcoming immigrants…it’s a world where we can all be free. We bring this music to 50 schools across the country each year, to libraries and to big stages like the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in DC and the Kennedy Center in NYC.

TTA: What are you passionate about?

AR: Creating a world free from racial and gender bias. Youth activism. And hip hop.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!iconsquare39029970-C4E0-4666-81EEBD46B0F69D49

AR: Right now, it’s all about The Love. Our new album is currently on the GRAMMY ballot (keeping fingers crossed for a second nomination), and we have big shows lined up to premiere the album including the Oakland Life is Living Festival and SF Jazz this fall. After a year bringing together almost 60 guests artists and centering representational LGBTQ+ voices, we can’t wait to give it all away. We say “The Love is for You” because this album lifts up so many perspectives. Whether you are listening as an ally, a trans child, a queer artist or a two-spirit activist waiting to hear your native land honored, we’ve got you. YOU are the love.

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 9.44.50 AMAR: Subscribe to our So Get Me podcast for families making change. Listen to it anywhere you get your podcasts and you’ll hear our young Rockers share their activism- like The Butterfly Effect project lead by Lily (10) and Kaia (11). They have rallied folks to make and display 15,000 butterflies to symbolize each child being held in a detention center at the border. You can hear them on our podcast along with activist authors Kate Schatz and Innosanto Nagara who are both fans of our music. Also, download The Love. Really listen. Let it move you into action.

TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?81fUyRgp9LL

AR: We got a sneak peek of Innosanto Nagara’s M is for Movement that comes out
November 2019 and we LOVED it! Wait ’til you see the gorgeous artwork and dig into
the story of one child born at the rise of a movement.

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

AR: This year we welcome a new baby into the Rocker family (Kaitlin just had her second!) so that’s a huge bright spot- reminding us what all this is for and expanding our crew. Also making room for our young rockstars to shine on stage- Lil’ Tommy (11), Kali (11), Maia (10) and Lily (10) are bringing their voices, ideas and spirits forward more everyday. Just looking forward to bringing our art to the world during this particular time in history. When they throw shade…we throw shine.

2017 AlphabetRockers_Photo2 -PhotoBySteveJennings
Photo By Steve Jennings

Current badass work The Alphabet Rockers

are doing with other groups:

On Saturday, November 16th from 3-4pm at Lake Merritt Amphitheater in Oakland, The Butterfly Effect will host a rally featuring youth speakers and performances by the Grammy-nominated Alphabet Rockers, and Destiny Arts Center youth. Nancy Ukai, a Japanese American whose family are internment camp survivors and who is an activist with Tsuru for Solidarity, will also speak at the event. On display will be 15,000 butterflies created by the community as a sign of friendship and support to the children in detention. 

Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 9.53.34 AM

To join the effort, and for more information about The Butterfly Effect,

visit https://butterflyeffectmigration.org

Youth are available for interviews.

2019b- Alphabet Rockers Creators - Photo by Kristin Chalmers
Photo by Kristin Chalmers

Stay connected with The Alphabet Rockers!

Alphabet Rockers Website

Instagram: @alphabetrockers #TheLOVE