Book Review: Dan Zanes’ House Party!

Dan Zanes’ House Party!
Written by Dan Zanes, Illustrated by Donald Saaf
Quarto Publishing Group – Voyager Press
Published 06 Nov 2018
ARC provided by NetGalley

Synopsis (NetGalley):

In Dan Zanes’ Family Treasury of Roots Music, the Grammy Award-winning children’s artist presents a huge collection of folk songs along with inspiration to start your own family band.

Too often new parents eager to share their love of music with their young children are told their options are limited to cuddly singing dinosaurs and well-meaning humans whose understanding of children’s music starts with “Kumbaya” and ends with “Puff the Magic Dragon.” For many sane adults, the choices are more abrasive than the most aggro noise-rock of their college years.

Dan Zanes has spent the past 20 years creating a truly compelling body of children’s music that music-loving parents can also get behind. A former 1980s indie rocker, Zanes 13 children’s albums have gained wide praise for their authentic arrangements, and preservation of America’s folk traditions.

In Dan Zanes’ Family Treasury of Roots Music, the Grammy Award–winning Zanes has curated a rich selection of folk songs which comprise an essential musical cross-section of the American experience, and its multicultural, immigrant underpinnings. Each selection includes classic songs you’d expect, and also folk classics from weird ol’ America. Each selection is also accompanied by a brief narrative on its historical context, followed by lyrics, and guitar tablature.

The songs included are organized into thematic sections, such as: History, Farm & Country, City Life, Work and Hard Times, Trains, Sea Songs, Family, Good Times. Dan Zanes’ Family Treasury of Roots Music also includes informational sidebars throughout to give families the basics needed pick up instruments and learn to more fully enjoy music as a family band. And in the back of the book, you’ll also find chord diagrams for guitar, ukele, and mandolin.

More than just a collection of songs, Dan Zanes’ Family Treasury of Roots Music is part music bookpart history lesson, and a work that all families can enjoy—together.

My Review

The book’s description says it all, but Dan Zanes’ book is much more than music. I first fell in love with Zanes and his approach about fifteen years ago. This book, illustrated by his brother-in-law, combines music, history, and a lot of Zanes into a music book that will not only entertain, but educate at the same time. Young students learning about music in school will find his book similar to their classes. Teachers are now teaching stories behind the song in terms of history, cultural events, and social reasons that helped create the song.

There are several things that make this book stand out among other music books. Zanes includes not only the piano, but guitar chords, and an open invitation to create their own musical instruments. Music comes from within, and it doesn’t always rely on playing the right note or sounding like others. In each written section that places the music in its time period and social history, Zanes also includes recommendations on books and other music to further explore the period. Creating connections between artists and mediums helps encourage the noncompetitive spirit that is so needed in the arts.

This is a fantastic book for anyone.

If you have never heard Dan Zanes, here are a few videos:


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