Groove and Learn

Actress Joan Allen helps kids kick off a new academic year with her spirited interpretation of the picture book If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff, illus. by Felicia Bond. In addition to the read-along, which features turn-the-page signals, the recording includes the original songs "My Lunchbox" and "Big Words," along with anecdotes about the author and illustrator. (HarperCollins/Geringer, miniature hardcover book and cassette, $11.99, ages 3-7, ISBN 0-06-052958-X, July)

Curious kids will find plenty to explore in What Is It?: Musical Math and Science. This second joint project between Re-Bop Records and the Vermont Center for the Book's Mother Goose Programs features skillfully produced story-songs about basic math and science concepts (counting, patterns, spatial sense, measurement, physical science, observing, classifying, etc.). In addition, each tune is inspired by a picture book; i.e. the jaunty, polka-like "Muffins Spelled Backwards" takes its cues from Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells. Information on the books and the concepts can be found along with lyrics in the accompanying CD booklet. (Re-Bop Records, 800-657-3267, CD $14.98, ages 3-7, Aug.)

First Grade Rocks! gives such topics as animal behavior, evaporation, body parts, vehicles and transportation a good sing-along beat. Sisters and educators Lauren Mayer (singer and songwriter) and Nancy Pohlod (educational consultant) collaborate on this and other CDs in their Curriculum Rocks! line of products. The simple but catchy format is entertaining enough to work in both the classroom and the home (or car). (Curriculum Rocks!, 650-578-9704, CD $15, ages 5-7, Aug.)

First grade is a long way off for the intended listening audience of A Playful Mind: Music for Infants Volume 1 by Thomas Schoenberger. A father as well as a composer, Schoenberger first crafted two collections of brief, original pieces of classical piano music specifically for infants in 2002. His regional releases proved so popular in his native San Francisco that they are available nationwide and have been branded as featuring "The Schoenberger Effect." The crisp tri-fold CD packaging includes a place to insert a child's photo. (A Playful Mind, 415-257-8843, CD $16.99, ages 0-18 months, Aug.)

With Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Funsies 1, parents or caregivers and babies have lots to sing about. Singer-songwriter Katherine Dines has created 15 songs and activities that serve as musical play-rhymes (à la "peek-a-boo" and "Soo-big") designed for adult-child interaction. Bright, warm vocals and distinct rhythms make this a sunny-sounding outing. Lyrics and suggestions for motions and activities are included. (Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Records,, CD $15.99, ages 4-18 mos., June)

Biblical values—and a heaping helping of humor—are at the heart of The Pond Vol. 1: Singing in the Pond, a new audio recording of the popular nationally broadcast radio program of the same name for kids and families. Tony the Frog and Methuselah the alligator are just a few of the characters who impart lessons via stories such as "Thankful," "Greener Grass" and "Guilty Feelings." (Tommy Nelson, four-CD or four-cassette set, $24.99, ages 4-up, June)

Sounds Around the Globe

World music takes center stage in two new compilations. Dreamland: World Lullabies and Soothing Songs is the newest addition to the Putumayo Kids line of recordings. Collecting songs from Africa, Asia and South America, this volume introduces traditional tunes sung in Xhosa (an African language), Spanish, Bararra (an aboriginal language), Hebrew and more. Lyrics and background on the songs and artists are included. In addition to providing a gentle bedtime send-off for kids, these songs are popular among listeners of all ages seeking general relaxation as well as those practicing yoga or meditation. (Putumayo Kids, CD $15.98, all ages, June)

Traditional tunes and musical instruments from various corners of the earth also join forces on World Party! Kids can hear the bouzouki (Greek lute), Celtic harp, didgeridoo (traditional wind instrument of the aborigines) in this upbeat collection of songs designed to encourage tolerance, diversity and the exploration of different cultures. (Music for Little People, 800-346-4445, CD $13.98, all ages, Aug.)

Buddy System

Nothing says "friends" like a duet. To that end, on Friends Forever, young singers and stage performers Michael Bannett and Carrie Lyn harmonize on such famous friendship songs as "You've Got a Friend in Me," "Side by Side," "Consider Yourself" and "That's What Friends Are For." Accomplished musical accompaniment, especially on piano, gives this recording a fitting contemporary show-tune feel. (Music for Little People, 800-346-4445, CD $13.98, all ages, Aug.)

Kids' Favorite Songs, a collection of such treasured standbys as "Old MacDonald," "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "The Cat Came Back," as well as a few originals, is just the thing to get a group of preschool pals clapping and singing along. The songs, which are performed by Miss Melody, Sara M. and child singers, repeat in a split-track format allowing karaoke-style performances by young listeners, providing 36 songs in all. For this title and others in the new Crayon series, a crayon and five-page coloring booklet are packaged with the CD. Through its charitable arm, the Kidzup Foundation, along with World Vision Canada, Kidzup ensures that each CD sold will cover the cost of a series of standard immunizations for a child in Central America (Kidzup, 888-321-5437, CD $9.99, all ages, Aug.)