The Canadian imprint The Secret Mountain has been a big hit in our household, particularly with Little Boy Blue, for its combination of musical selections and illustration, both from a surprisingly diverse range of genres.
The Secret Mountain's latest book I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly is likely to continue its winning streak 'round these parts. It uses the songs of Alan Mills, born a century ago in Quebec and celebrated for his many albums of folk songs, particularly for children. Musically, he's best known in North America -- and probably elsewhere -- for composing the music to the title track, given a sprightly rendition here by Canadian musicians Thomas Hellman and Emilie Clepper. "Sprightly" is a good adjective for the album generally -- the goofy rhymes on the polka "Heel, Toe, and Away We Go" are given extra oomph by the accordion and brass accompaniment. Most of these songs may not be familiar to most listeners south of the border (most weren't for me), but they'll be engaging to many preschoolers.
The 39-minute album and book will be most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 5. You can listen to the songs here (follow the links for the songs after the leadoff title track). The book itself features lyrics for all the songs -- stretched out over several pages for the title track, a 2-page spread for the rest -- with the distinctive illustrations of Quebecois artist PisHier (big heads everywhere!) providing an amusing visual counterpoint. Regardless of whether I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly is an introduction or a re-introduction of Alan Mills to you and your family, the very youngest among you will find some delight here.