Wednesday, April 30, 2008

***Secret Agent 23 Skidoo***

Asheville, North Carolina's thriving indiehop scene has given birth to what may be the finest example of "Kid Hop" to date. Hey, this isn't some joker reciting poetry over a Casio keyboard beat, nor is it a soulless cut-and-paste project by an intern at a corporate megaconglomeration kiddie entertainment entity. Joel Sullivan, aka Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, aka 23 Skidoo, aka Cactus, aka Agent 23, has been at the hip hop game for a decade now, and after creating several projects under the Granola Funk umbrella, he's written and produced a brilliant collection of hip hop songs for kids and their grownups. Easy is easily in the top ten kids' albums of 2008!

Tunes about imagination, curiosity, friends and family, and self-confidence, interspersed with tales of dragons, mermaids, and a musical grasshopper, are set to organic grooves and truly head bobbin' beats. These are great songs that celebrate the joy of life while addressing the importance of determination, creativity, and exploration. Three of the tunes on Easy, "Gotta Be Me", "Luck", and "Family Tree", are of chart-topping quality (hey, "Luck" already hit #1 on XMKids!), but the whole family will dig repeated listenings of the entire CD. Oh, and pair the song "The Bluegrasshopper" with Leo Lionni's picture book Frederick, a similar tale of initially misunderstood and underappreciated talent.

One of the coolest things about Easy is that so many Asheville musicians and bands lend a helping hand: Listen for appearances by Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, Granola Funk Express, Caroline Pond, Jason Krekel of the Mad Tea Party, and Strut; and admire the playfully spacy album artwork by Athens, GA-based David Hale. This is a community project, and 23 Skidoo is steering the vehicle. He also gets assistance from his daughter Saki on "Family Tree", where she trades rhymes like a pro. In fact, check out the video below for a live performance of the song. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's Easy is yet another example of a dad being inspired to be as creative in the arena of children's music as he is in the grownup world.

"Family Tree"

Monday, April 28, 2008

***Medeski Martin & Wood***

From the organic organ/bass/drum grooves to Jim Stoten's Yellow Submarine-inspired cover illustrations, Let's Go Everywhere is as playful as it is artistic, as fun as it is flawless. The jam band fan base that religiously follow Medeski Martin & Wood on tour will dig this trio's debut kids' album as much as any of the "grownup" CDs they've released, primarily because the band haven't compromised their style or sound or level of musicianship.

If you step back and look at the album as a whole, Let's Go Everywhere is at its core a dance record, and there ain't nothin' wrong with that. Almost half of the 15 tunes are instrumentals, most of which could set the Toddler Time Boogie floor on fire. The mysterious groove of "Cat Creeps", the bound-to-be-a-cake-walk-classic "Where's the Music", the joyful "Let's Go" ... c'mon, man, how could you listen to those songs and sit still?

Then there's the awesome half-time funk of the title tune, MM&W's interpretation of Geoffrey Mack's classic "I've Been Everywhere"; the transformation of "Pat a Cake" from a nursery rhyme into a badass rap (using an editing style explored by the Sursiks); and the rhythmic workout of "Hickory Dickory Dock".

Brooklyn-based MM&W have let their instruments do the talking for them over their 17-year career, so it's interesting to hear on Let's Go Everywhere a couple of tunes with vocal accompaniment. The baritone voice on the title track and the humorously swashbuckling "Pirates Don't Take Baths" belongs to Tim Ingham (rumored to be an alias for Col. Bruce Hampton), and John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards narrates the psychedelic spoken word fairy tale "The Squalb". The band themselves sing on "On an Airplane" and sure-to-be-a-hit-single "The Train Song".

The album is rounded off with what could be the theme from a Japanese western, "Far East Sweets"; the beautiful Americana waltz "Old Paint"; "All Around the Kitchen", a playful celebration of food; and the truly wonderful "We're All Connected", a tune that belongs on a Charlie Brown soundtrack.

A great album for the whole family from another in a growing number of bands crossing over into kiddierock land. "Let's Go Everywhere!", say MM&W. C'mon, what're you waitin' for?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Free-for-All # 10

The Dino 5, Baby Loves Hip Hop

Prince Paul and members of Digable Planets, the Roots, Jurassic 5, and eMC are the featured artists on this installment of the Baby Loves Music series. Fans of Prince Paul's playful production (Stetsasonic, De La Soul) will dig this tale within a tale: Mom tells daughter a bedtime story involving the day-to-day ups and downs of five dinosaurs, backed with ridiculously catchy beats and believeably down-to-earth lyrics. Honestly, I can't see how this project can help but be a big hit, and it's no surprise Spike Lee has already optioned the Dino 5 for an animated series.

Yonah & Friends, This is the Day!

Yonah Gershator, daughter of children's book authors Phillis and David Gershator, presents musical versions of a dozen of her parents' picture books, along with six more tunes penned by mom and dad. Yonah's style, with vocal and musical assistance from Dave Hall, is more Broadway than pop, so this CD would be heard more likely in the classroom or library than on XM Radio. Teachers and Librarians could totally use this album in tandem with books like Greetings, Sun or Summer is Summer as a vocabulary exercise.

The Bummkinn Band, Rockin' the Yeehaw

Here's the thing about this CD: The music's great, no doubt about it (it's no coincidence Astrograss' Jordan Shapiro makes a big contribution to the album), but the lyrics tend to be a little self-consciously "kid music"-focused, to the point where they're on the outskirts of hokeyville. For instance, the songs "I Wanna Be a Tree" and "I Wanna Wagon Full of Roses" are standouts because they're just songs, not attempts to appeal to Hee Haw fans. Now, I'm pretty damn picky, so make sure to give this album a listen and form your own opinion. This is LA-based Bummkinn Band's second CD, and I have a feeling number three is going to be a great one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Words To Grow On

Flipping through the LPs at Donnell I came across a 1968 Folkways reissue of Woody Guthrie's Songs to Grow On. Guthrie's liner notes were (and still are) so relevant to Children's Services in the library and to raisin' up a young'un in general, I just had to share them with you. Dig:

Now, I don’t want to see you use my songs to divide nor split your family all apart. I mean, don’t just buy these records and take them home so your kids can play around with them while you go off and do something else. I want to see you join right in, do what your kids do. Let your kids teach you how to play and how to act these songs out. (These and a thousand other songs.) Get your whole family into the fun. Get papa. Get mama. Get brother. Get sister. Get aunty. Get uncle. Get grandma. Grampa. The friends. The neighbors. Everybody. But mostly get your own self into it.

Please, please, please, don’t read nor sing my songs like no lesson book, like no text for today. But, let them be a little key to sort of unlock and let down all of your old bars.

Watch the kids. Do like they do. Act like they act. Yell like they yell. Dance the way you see them dance. Sing like they sing. Work and rest the way the kids do.

You’ll be healthier. You’ll feel wealthier. You’ll talk wiser. You’ll go higher, do better and live longer here amongst us, if you’ll just only jump in here and swim around in these songs and do like the kids do.

I don’t want the kids to be grownup. I want to see the grown folks be kids.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Madison Square Summer Fun !

If you and your kids are in the Manhattan area this summer, drop by Madison Square Park to see and hear some of the biggest names in children's music. The schedule for "Madison Square Kids 2008" has just been released, featuring veterans and rookies, big stars and shining indies:

Tuesday, June 3: Danna Banana
Thursday, June 5: Father Goose
Tuesday, June 10: David Grover & the Big Bear Band
Thursday, June 12: Erin Lee & Marci
Tuesday, June 17: The Deedle Deedle Dees
Thursday, June 19: Bubble does Beatles
Tuesday, June 24: The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Thursday, June 26: Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater
Tuesday, July 1: The Suzi Shelton Band
Thursday, July 3: Hot Peas 'N' Butter
Tuesday, July 8: Paper Bag Players
Thursday, July 10: Trout Fishing in America
Tuesday, July 15: Audra Rox
Thursday, July 17: Tada! Youth Theater
Tuesday, July 22: Funky Monkeys
Thursday, July 24: Robbi K.
Tuesday, July 29: Ernie & Neal
Thursday, July 31: Astrograss
Tuesday, August 5: Opus Ditty
Thursday, August 7: Jazz-a-ma-tazz featuring Hayes Greenfield
Tuesday, August 12: Ellen & Matt
Thursday, August 14: LuAnn Adams
Tuesday, August 19: Sweetbeatz featuring Meredith Wright
Thursday, August 21: John Flynn

Come on by this beautiful green oasis between 23rd and 26th Streets and Madison and Fifth Avenues every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 10:30am during the summer. Fun for the whole family!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Free-for-All # 9

Medeski Martin & Wood, Let's Go Everywhere

If you dig MM&W's grownup albums, you'll equally like their "kids'" CD, a collection of originals, instrumentals, and covers that stays true to the MM&W sound. From Jim Stoten's Yellow Submarine-inspired cover art to the tunes laid down by the bass-drums-keyboard trio, this is a very groovy and funky affair. Especially awesome are the title track's remake of Geoffrey Mack's "I've Been Everywhere", and Chris Wood's original "The Train Song".

Ira Marlowe, Dream Time
(sorry, Ira, no time to scan the cover!)

Marlowe's third CD for kids continues his string of lyrically and musically adventurous songs. Ira paints his unique style with touches of '70's radio pop (Rupert Holmes, Steely Dan, Andrew Gold, etc.), and some of the tunes and production are little reminiscent of fellow kidrockers Mr. Laurence and Gunnar Madsen. "Rise and Shine", "Continents", "Mermaid", and "Lullaby" are great songs, but make sure to check out the epic "Soap Opera", a James Taylor-like surf rock waltz that details the battle of soap vs germs. Really!

Adam and the Couch Potatoes, One Size Fits All...!

Thick with harmonies and heavy on pop hooks, Adam Selzer's songs are fun, silly, and reeeeeeeeeally catchy! He and his fellow Nashvillians draw inspiration from superpop sources like The Beach Boys, Sesame Street, The Hudson Brothers, The Beatles, The Archies ... you get the drift ... to create a great set of giddy rock and roll tunes for kids.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wizard Rock !

We Are Wizards, the documentary about the phenomenon of Harry Potter-associated rock bands, recently had its world premiere at the SXSW Documentary Competition. The film was directed by Josh Koury, produced by Gerald Lewis and edited by Myles Kane.

Now, to outsiders this all might seem a little eeevangelical and cult-y, but it's not like that at all: Kids have found a group of heroes (and villains) in this series of books, and bands like Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, The Whomping Willows, The Hungarian Horntails, Remus and the Lupins, The Slythendors, The Parselmouths ... hey, there are currently 471 Wizard Rock bands listed on the Wizrocklopedia website! ... have merely brought them even more to life through their music. To quote Harry and the Potters from their myspace page, "We play songs about books!"

I like books and music, so, cool!

"We Are Wizards"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Recite the "Alphabutt" with Kimya Dawson!

Moldy Peaches cofounder and current Juno soundtrack darling Kimya Dawson is working on a kids' album named Alphabutt, to be released sometime this fall. Check out these sneak peeks from recent performances (man, her fans a-DORE her!):

"Splash Splash Splash"

A very interactive song...


Kids are gonna LOOOVE the title track!

"Seven Hungry Tigers"

Lots of words...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lunch Money live @ Donnell !

Everyone had a great time yesterday as Lunch Money rocked the library! Seems Molly's guitar took a plane to Nashville while the band flew into New York, but no worries ... singer and six string were reunited in time to entertain the crowd at Donnell. Here are a couple of photos of the band in action:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Seepy Sams"

Cher and Gene Klosner have teamed up with a host of world-class animators to give life to many of the songs on their recently released Stardust Lullaby CD. Check out this video of "Seepy Sams", beautifully animated by Pascal Campion:

"Seepy Sams"

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Free-for-All # 8

Justin Roberts, Pop Fly

Of the kids' albums that have been released so far this year, this one's most in sync with current happy emo pop radio sounds. Roberts' sixth children's CD is full of kidcentric tunes played by an amazingly well-produced band, with a few tidbits thrown in for the grownups, like the song "Stay-At-Home Dad" (which bears more than a passing resemblance to Andrew Gold's "Lonely Boy") and lines like "Everybody has the right to be tangled up in blue" from "Henrietta's Hair". And dig the Beach Boys-like chorus of "Kickboard, Baby, Yeah".

Hayes Greenfield, Music for a Green Planet

The genius behind the Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz CD and interactive show ... which makes jazz a tangible entity, not just something you sit and listen to ... recreates children's standards as messages of ecology and conservation. Better for kids who already know songs like "This Old Man" and "A Tisket, A Tasket", perfect for classroom use during Earth Day celebrations.

Big Bang Boom, B3

Do-it-yourself kiddie rock from Greensboro, North Carolina! Chuck Folds and Steve Williard take a break from their grownup group Rubberband to make a fun, silly, and entertaining bunch of songs for children. Check out the oughta-be-a-tv-show-tune "Happy Town"; the possibly autobiographical "Brothers", which might or might not be about Chuck and his bro Ben; and the best band theme song of the year, "Big Bang Boom".

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Music of My Mind

Music has always been part of my life, even when I was way to young to realize that you could actually go out and purchase the sounds that were coming out of the radio. The very first time I really became aware of the power of music was when our family was driving around and I heard "Band on the Run" come on the car radio. I distinctly remember that opening guitar riff, can still picture where we were in my hometown, was blown away by the fact that this song was actually made up of three songs ... three songs! "Music As Salvation" began for me at that specific moment.

There are many, many albums and singles I listen to over and over again, but six LPs can be filed under ****I Did Not Know You Could Make Music Like That!**** , albums that completely altered the way I listened to and played music. I've listed them here chronologically, although I may have "discovered" the albums in a different order. Dig it:

Spike Jones and His City Slickers - Thank You Music Lovers (RCA Victor, 1960)

Imagine going to see a Monkees concert and the Jimi Hendrix Experience performs instead. Or maybe you have tickets to an Al Green show but Paliament/Funkadelic appear on stage. That's kinda like Spike Jones in his era - his band could play the shit out of some classic pop tunes ("Cocktails for Two", "You Always Hurt the One You Love", etc.), and then, after the intermission, return as the most chaotic, over-the-top, three ring circus of a live band anyone had ever seen. The Weird Al of the '40s and early '50s, Jones and his compadres would mangle popular hits with screamed interjections, banged-together garbage can lids, gargled solos, and starter pistols ... lots of starter pistols. This compilation was Mad Magazine on vinyl. Check out this YouTube clip of a little of Spike Jones' history.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out (Columbia, 1959)

OK, lots more jazz folks were and have been more progressive than Brubeck and crew, but it was the crazyass time signatures that grabbed my young ears. And the explanations on the album's back cover made the idea of using different rhythms within the same song all that more intriguing. I mean, time signatures of 11/4, 7/4, 5/4, sometimes 4/4 and 9/8 in one stanza ... how could you not be pulled in by that? Plus, the tunes swing and they're incredibly melodic. Check out this YouTube clip of "Blue Rondo a la Turk".

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention -
We're Only In It for the Money (Verve, 1968)

Zappa and the Mothers turn the pop song structure on its ear and rotate another three-quarters turn, while making fun of the Beatles, the Sunset Strip scene, rock star aspirations, insular suburban culture, hippies, and, well, pretty much everything else that was part of mid-60's America. Plus, you gotta love a guy who was equally influenced by and enamored with doo-wop and Edgard Varese. Check out this YouTube clip of "Mother People".

Marshall Crenshaw - Field Day (Warner Brothers, 1983)

I learned everything I know about augmented, diminished, and suspended chords from this album. Plus, it's the only record in this list that I completely discovered on my own ... bought it from a cutout bin at Camelot Music, at a time when 99 cents was about all I could fork out for an album. Absolute perfection for less than a dollar? Sweet. Check out this YouTube clip of "Whenever You're On My Mind".

The Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime (SST, 1984)

Almost 50 songs and EVERY one of them has a different rhythm. We thought that was so fuckin' impressive that my brother changed his name to the drummer's for a while. The Minutemen were "everyman" to us: If they could do it, we could, too. And that was the gospel they preached ... "Every block should have a band", they said, and we believed it. Still do. These three working stiffs from San Pedro, CA, all union card-owning radicals and musical visionaries who truly believed they could change the world, or at least the outlook of at least one kid who came to a show, would schedule their concerts early in the evening so that regular people who had to get up and go to work the next day could attend. Their career culminated in this two-album set of highly political, intensely personal, and pretty goddamn funky tunes. Long live D. Boon. Check out these YouTube clips of "Retreat" and "Anxious Mo-Fo", and "Viet Nam".

Teenage Fanclub - Songs form Northern Britain (Columbia, 1997)

This album still gives me chillbumps every time I listen to it, especially album-opener "Start Again" and so-good-God-couldn't-have-written-this-one ""I Don't Want Control of You". Reticent and concert-shy, these three Scottish musicians (plus a constantly changing drummer) found musical nirvana on their fifth album, combining the songwriting talents of all three with their devotional admiration of the Byrds and Big Star and a deep love of the countryside of Scotland. That three guys could be so in sync that you can't really tell who wrote which song on an album continues to amaze me. File this one under the subheading "I Didn't Know You Were Still Allowed To Make Music Like This". Check out this YouTube clip of "Ain't That Enough".

Remember, just because yer kid is a kid, don't just play "kids' music" around 'em. Download all the songs you loved as a kid or teenager, songs from musicals, current tunes that catch your ear, weird compilations you happen to read about online ... play 'em all constantly. Take your little ones to see lots of live shows. Play your tuba or xylophone or ukulele for them. Sing songs with them. Introduce them to the power of music.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

***Putumayo Dreamland Series***

Having a 19-month old son means that I can factory test a lot of the kids' music that lands on my desk, including tunes for bedtime. Now, anytime a Putumayo product shows up in the mail I take it home and check it out immediately, because I know it's gonna be a winner. Putumayo Kids now have three lullabye CDs, Asian Dreamland, Celtic Dreamland, and the recently released African Dreamland, all three are well worth buying and I'll tell you why ...

African Dreamland (2008)

From the a cappella tunes "Nomathemba", "Agalilala", "Ikope Ye Tollo", and "Kula Bebe" by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Samite, Las Hijas del Sol, and Bernadette Aningi & Anita Daulne, respectively; to the modern arrangements and production of Kaissa's "Lonon" and Tete Alhinho's "Sao Horas de Dormir", this is the warmest of the three Dreamland CDs. Rich voices, balafons, kalimbas and mbiras, koras, and marimbas ... these tunes are like a musical hug.

Celtic Dreamland (2007)

Traditional tunes from Scotland, Ireland, and eastern Canada, sung in English and Gaelic. Performed primarily on acoustic guitar, harp, or piano, these beautiful songs include traditional Celtic lullabyes and ballads, a few originals, and a couple of tunes inspired by the poetry Robert Burns. Listen especially to Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola's "Casadh an tSugain", Mary Jane Lamond's "Cagaran Gaolach", Susan McKeown's "A Phluirin Mhilis", and "Ye Banks and Braes" by The Cast.

Asian Dreamland (2006)

This collection of lullabyes from Asia includes contributions from Japan, India, Tatarstan, Tibet, and China. The prettiest tune is the instrumental "Kokoro Ni Dakarete" by the Yoshida Brothers, a group famous for blending traditional Japanese instruments with modern music. In fact, most of the songs on this CD employ a mix of current and ancient styles, although Zulya's spare "Cradle Song", sung in the Tatar language, is beautifully authentic.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Live @ Donnell ... Astrograss!

"Shel-ebration!" was a smashing success! Astrograss wowed the crowd with bluegrass, poetry, and silliness, and a great time was had by all. Here are a couple of photos of the band in action:

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Free-for-All # 7

Ellis Paul, Dragonfly Races

Ellis' fourteenth album, but first for kids. Well, for families, really, because these songs should be listened to while everybody's gathered 'round the stereo. The theme is peace, ecology, and good vibes, and Ellis' gruff folkie voice delivers the message with just the right sincerity and playfulness.

D. Jay, Buggy Baloo

Do-It-Yourself low-fi awesomeness! This is a perfect example of why I love the indierock ethic in kids' music today. On his children's debut, Dennis King paints his songs with a little Jack Johnson, a bit of Violent Femmes, and some Terrible Twos to create an intimate collection of tunes for the younger set.

Eric Ode, When You Smile

Eric is a wonderful dude from everything I've read and heard about him, but his fifth album is a little too squeaky clean for me. Now, that's not to say it's subpar, by any means ... this is a first class kids' CD for folks who like Chris Hamilton, SteveSongs, Gary Rosen, or Bill Shontz (with whom Eric works on When You Smile).

Thursday, April 03, 2008


A few weeks ago I heard South Slope String Band's Jonah Bruno and Astrograss' Jordan Shapiro performing a bunch of John Hartford songs on Columbia U.'s WKCR. Not only was the performance entertaining, it inspired me to go out and find more of Hartford's stuff, seeing as all I knew about him was his cover of Albert E. Brumley's "Turn Your Radio On".

Now, my point is this: Here's a guy, Shapiro, that is, who's sincerely devoted to the NYC bluegrass scene, yet he and his band, Dennis Lichtman, Tim Kiah, and Alan Grubner, put as much heart and soul into this children's album as they would a project for adults. That's right, folks, after several years of promoting the newgrass movement and combining the poetry of Shel Silverstein with banjos and mandolins, Astrograss have finally released their first full-length CD for kids and their families, Let Me Stay Up All Night.

These guys are all over the Brooklyn music scene, including stints in the South Slope String Band, Cold River, Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks, the Bill Bell Band, the Jen Milich Band, Keep 'er Lit, Citigrass ... get the idea? Shapiro is also in cahoots with fellow Brooklyn kidrockers Audra Rox, whose lead singer Audra Tsanos and backup vocalist Jennifer Milich contribute voices to Let Me Stay Up All Night.

The album blasts off with the homophone explosion "There Their They're", while the banjos, mandolins, fiddles, guitars, and stand up bass continue to roar through the next tune, a great cover of the old standard "Drunken Sailor". And check out the arrangement of the pro-ecosystem "Have It the Earth's Way"... Prog-Grass anyone?

The title tune's Celtic party atmosphere is made even livelier by the 4/4 verse - 3/4 chorus - on-the-one funk coda, while "Garbage Van" and "Bigfoot Stan" are obvious Silverstein homages. "Airplane" is Astrograss music set to contest winner Charles Guillot-Marquet's lyrics, and "Irish Ice Cream" is an Eire-flavored ode to an odd food choice.

The most "kid song" song on the album, a tune celebrating bubblewrap, is "Pit Piddle Paddle", which contains the CD's best line: "Don't hide away the playthings of your soul". And, well, I guess if you can fry an egg on the sidewalk you can eat "Dashboard Corn" while you drive along I-80.

Astrograss' celebration of their home borough began with "Bigfoot Stan" and continues with "The Brooklyn Neighborhood Song", which is followed by another great cover, "Oh! Susanna". Then our ex-ninth planet gets an astrologist apologist's treatment with the march-like "Who Says Pluto's Not a Planet?".

Contest winner James Feinberg provided the words to "Sayings", whose combination of sweet/deadpan vocals sounds a lot like the Velvet Underground's "Lady Godiva's Operation". My favorite tunes happen to be the final two, "My Shadow" and "Astrograss". The former could be a Top 5 hit on any Contemporary Country station back home, seriously; while the latter is the band's concise theme song, a quick way to know where they're coming from.

Like many kids' bands, Astrograss are best experienced live. Hey! Whydoncha come on over to the Donnell Central Children's Room of The New York Public Library this Saturday? Astrograss will be headlining our "Shel-ebration", an afternoon of music, poetry, and crafts, beginning at 2:30pm sharp. If you and your little ones can't make it, give Let Me Stay Up All Night a spin and have your own little hootenanny.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Pigeon Wants ...

... a Puppy!

That's right, we found out in an unveiling at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan Tuesday that Mo Willems' latest Pigeon book features our feathery protagonist yearning for a pet dog. Hilarity ensues. Here are more photos from the celebration:

Massive crowd gathers in anticipation of author's appearance ... it's cool to see kids' lit celebrated like a rock concert!

Ambassador Jon Scieszka indroduces Willems and proceeds to be tickled by everything the featured author/illustrator says.

Willems is utterly flabbergasted at the enormous popularity of the Pigeon books.