Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
American Heroes #3
By Jonathan Sprout
884501050906, 2009, $13.99
"Take a touch of John Mayer and add a little early Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Arlo Guthrie, and um, The Muppets? This is an unusual sort of history lesson, as palatable as Hershey’s kisses, and as memorable as any pop song. In American Heroes Jonathan Sprout sings about great Americans, celebrating the characteristics and qualities that make them special. The third CD in the series isn’t only a CD about history, although it makes a great basis or supporting material for a lesson. It isn’t only a CD about the spirit of compassion, empowerment, aspiration, and honor, although it does indeed celebrate those things. It’s also a CD of damn good music: catchy, slick, memorable, and progressive.
I can think of many reasons to get this CD, but the main one is that it’s good listening. Kids will love dancing and singing along, and they won’t even notice that they’re learning about Milton Hershey, John Muir, Elizabeth Blackwell, Jonas Salk, Jane Addams, George Washington Carver, Wilma Rudolph, Thomas Jefferson, Pocahontas, and Cesar Chavez. They won’t notice that they’re learning about the kinds of qualities that might lead to all sorts of heroism and positive empowerment. Parents won’t mind a bit either. There are great harmonies, good riffs, and a welter of good music, including guitar, piano, keyboards, drums, mandocello, trumpet, saxophone, euphonium, flute, tuba, clarinet, accordion, and harmonica. Younger children will love how cool and grown up it sounds and will get into the catchy beats, dancing along (it’s easy to keep the beat with a tambourine if you want them to join in).
Older children can read about each of the heroes on the CD, and can take inspiration from their lives, using the songs as a basis for further research and discussion, or just enjoy the cool music which is funky enough to appeal even to teens. Parents will appreciate that the lyrics are positive – no small thing in this world where so many teen oriented songs are dour and miserable, or overly suggestive. Instead this is music to inspire and celebrate without ever condescending or becoming cute. While some of the historical figures like Pocahontas, Jonas Salk and Thomas Jefferson are well known, others like Milton Hershey, John Muir, or Jane Addams will probably be new for many children. This is an exciting CD full of interest and fun. That it will continue to inspire our historically bereft children to look to history for all sorts of lessons about ourselves, and to see it as something dynamic, fun and relevant, is cause for celebration. "