One of the best and most consistent songwriters in kids' music, Justin Roberts has just released Jungle Gym, his seventh album for families. And, while there are a few differences between a great song for adults and one for families -- the amount of cursing, for example -- the two are often similar. Take, for example, "We Go Duck," the opening track from Jungle Gym: With an infectious chorus, elegant rhymes and hand claps, it's a perfect summer party song that just happens to be about the game Duck Duck Goose.
While avoiding lesson songs, Roberts paints spot-on portraits of how kids view the big and small events of their lives: haircuts, broken arms or temporarily losing Mom at the shopping mall. And even though summer is just beginning, I can't stop listening to the instant Halloween classic "Trick or Treat."
Roberts' greatest songwriting gift lies in his ability to tell these stories from a child's perspective without sacrificing an adult's point of view. "Sleepoverland" starts out anticipating the adventures its youthful protagonist will enjoy at an upcoming slumber party, but adult listeners will recognize the mixture of bravado and vulnerability in the boy's desire to set up a string-can phone back to his house so his parents can call him and tell him how much they miss him.
With Jungle Gym, Roberts continues to craft masterpieces in miniature, equivalent to A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh or Kevin Henkes' stories for children. Like those books, Roberts' songs are likely to reach across and through generations.