Lael gets short shrift a lot. The money we paid in private school tuition for her big brother deprived her of a chance for preschool this year, when she's clearly ready for it. Roughly 99% of the toys are her brother's, and our weekends are focused around his music lessons, birthday parties, play dates, etc. If you don't think a 2-1/2 y.o. is aware of such things or feels deep jealousy, you're way, way wrong.
Yesterday, I went to a school assembly and cried and sniffled my way through an adorable skit about families. Seth's line was "Every family has Sabbath traditions." And then proceeded to boast that Friday was the night we all got to eat dinner together. Er, probably a little too revealing, that.
Afterwards, two Mommies approached and said they were headed to Navy Pier to hear Xwoq}eriul Vclrie?uo.
Who? I asked.
Qsdlfjk Jenkins, one replied.
Never heard of him, I said.
It's a her, Ella Jenkins, and she's great, and ... I proceeded to get a five-minute, rhapsodic review of this children's performer they'd all loved as kids.
I said sure, braved traffic, got lost, found parking for $19.00 and made my way to the "free" concert, a chirpy Lael in tow, thrilled to be doing something just for her.
And Jenkins was amazing.
I haven't heard too many kiddie performers with their own Wikipedia page, who've sparked a movement in children's music, who have traveled the world, can perform at least one song in any language you can name, have won a Lifetime Achievement grammy and at 84 years old can still keep kids riveted.
We had several bus loads of Head Start kids sitting cross-legged on the floor with us, all of them exquisitely well behaved for the entire hour-long concert. One little girl in colorful, beaded braids climbed into my lap next to Lael and adopted us as her instant family.
Jenkins' style, honed first in the South Side of Chicago's African-American community and then through both graduate studies and worldwide travels, is call-and-response, where she sings out a line and you answer with a different line. She teaches the kids as they go, with words and tunes and funky instruments.
We sang, chanted or shouted in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese and Swahili. Afterward, when my friends approached to snap pictures, she greeted their kids in Hebrew and asked intelligent questions about the quality of their bilingual education.
I'd like to order one of her 29 albums, but have no idea where to begin. Anyone familiar with her work? Have a recommendation?
Here's the list again: Ella Jenkins