I am pretty excited to share this one with you folks, as I don’t think many people are aware of The Secret Mountain (yet!). The Secret Mountain
is an award-winning publisher of kids books and CDs. They’re Canadian
and they operate out of Montreal, Quebec. They publish lovely hardcover
children’s picture books with accompanying audio CDs, such as Songs in the Shade of the Flamboyant Tree: French Creole Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes.
Songs in the Shade of the Flamboyant Tree is a storybook-music CD featuring 30 traditional French Creole Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes harvested from the tropical isles of Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, and Reunion, and compiled by Chantal Grosléziat, with music arranged by Paul Mindy and book illustrations by Laurent Corvaisier.
First, the music is simply delightful. They make use of many unique indigenous acoustic instruments, as well as singing by men, women and children. The recording quality is top-notch. Some songs are softer and lullaby like, but most are peppy, upbeat and infectious. You can’t help but smile, tap your feet and move with the music. The moment I popped in the CD my girls were up and dancing, and they continued to bop around happily on and off for the entire forty some minutes that the CD was on. It’s become a much requested favourite in the CD player line-up, and get’s them up and dancing each time I turn it on.
The book is a thing of beauty. It’s hardcover, and the printing, the paper and the binding are all of the highest quality. It’s a book that is going to weather well the attention of small hands, and one you might hold on to and pass on to another generation.
Still, I had mixed feelings about the book. The illustrations are lovely, but I worried that the subject matter was going to fly right over my daughters’ heads. For each song on the CD there is an accompanying page in the book with a bold colourful painting, and parts of the lyrics in English. You can also flip to the back of the book for the full lyrics in both Creole French and in English translation. I have a soft spot for comparative folklore, so the full English translations and the accompanying linear notes had me giddy and excited. However, leafing through the picture book parts of the book I worried that my kids wouldn’t “get” it. My concerns were irrelevant. My girls didn’t care that the English words didn’t form a coherent story. They just loved the bright pictures, and knowing which went with each song. As my daughters get older they may become more curious about the story behind each one, at which time I’ll be able to read through the liner notes and answer some of their questions on Creole culture.
Overall I think Songs in the Shade of the Flamboyant Tree is a wonderful addition to any child’s CD collection, and the accompanying book with it’s vivid illustrations is keepsake worthy. The book is available for purchase directly from The Secret Mountain website for $22.95. Or you can purchase the digital download, which includes not only the music from the CD but also printable PDF files of the illustrations and song lyrics, for $12.50.