I think that Daeshin Kim would be fun to hang out with. We have a lot in common. We both think that it’s never too young to expose our children to Shakespeare. We both think that music is a key component in doing that. I sing lullabies, never met a pun I didn’t like, and post stories of my geeklets wisdom here on the blog.
And then Daeshin goes off and produces Kinderbard, and we’re in different leagues. Clearly a labor of love for him and his family, Daeshin and his 5yr old daughter Sherman wrote and produced a collection of nursery rhymes – including Sherman singing them! – that they call “A Horse With Wings” (Imogen, from Cymbeline). Each rhyme is sung from the perspective of a Shakespeare character, and attempts the dual task of teaching a lesson (or dealing with an issue) while providing some context about the character doing the singing.
Example? Juliet’s song, “It’s just a name.” If you know the story of Romeo and Juliet you’ll immediately recognize the idea behind Juliet’s “What’s in a name?” speech. Here, sung by Sherman, it’s a song about dealing with teasing when your perhaps your own name is on the more unusual side.
Or maybe Cordelia’s “I don’t know what to say” song, encouraging shy children to speak up for themselves.
Of course there are the silly ones, too. Two Gentlemen of Verona‘s contribution is the “Smelly Dog” song, and let me just tell you now, the dog doesn’t smell because it needs a bath, it smells because of what somebody’s been feeding it. If you get what I mean.
And then there’s Falstaff’s dirty laundry song, where he comes face to face with something so disgusting I’m not going to blog about it (but it will no doubt have younger children in stitches).
Honestly there’s not a great deal of Shakespeare in this. The coverage is impressive, with contributions from 16 different plays (not just “the big ones”). Where possible they sneak in direct references (Yorick sings about giving piggyback rides, and As You Like It’s Jaques pretty much sings a simplified version of his entire ages of man speech), and there is some artwork with original quotes. But I don’t think that a child is going to come away from any of the songs with any long term understanding of Shakespeare. Although I’ve often said that at the youngest age, the most important thing is recognition of character and maybe plot. So if the kids who work through Kinderbard learn about Ariel and Yorick and Cordelia and remember those names? It’s a good start!
Disclaimer – Daeshin and I have discussed this, and he’s clear that his goal is “a songbook that happens to have Shakespeare as its source”, and that he is not primarily attempting to teach Shakespeare. So I don’t feel as if I’m throwing him under the bus by going here. This is, after all, a Shakespeare blog so I have to take the logical angle. If I saw this on a shelf I’d want to know how much Shakespeare my kids are going to get out of it.
My kids are too old for the collection now, but I’d like to think that if it had existed when mine were still young enough that I was popping nursery rhyme CDs into the car stereo when we drove around town? That I would have picked it up. If nothing else Kinderbard shows what can happen when you’ve got the kid of passion for a project that Daeshin has demonstrated.
This year’s Shakespeare Day Celebration is sponsored in part by Shakespeare Is Universal: Shakespeare truly is for everyone, and nothing demonstrates that sentiment better than his most famous quote of all, translated here into languages from around the world. In celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday, show that you believe his works are just as relevant, powerful and important as they’ve ever been!