Founded in 1967 and meant to coincide with the April 2 birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, the legendary Danish author of classic children's tales like The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, and the Ugly Duckling, International Children's Literature Day is a celebration of books meant to encourage young people to read.
The International Board on Books for Young People, a Swiss non-profit group which hands out the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Awards to luminaries like Scott O'Dell and Katherine Paterson, is behind the event. Activities often include writing competitions and author meet-ups.
Since all musicians were once children, it's easy to see how they might take the love of their favorite tale into their adult career, and some of the results have been truly spectacular. Andersen himself has an interesting, and probably apocryphal, anecdote related to music.
Allegedly, he commissioned a funeral march shortly before he died, telling the composer, "Most of the people who will walk after me will be children, so make the beat keep time with little steps."
Whether it's true or not, his work has echoed down the years inspiring countless works of brilliant children's literature, and at least five great tunes.
5. Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Yertle the Turtle": The two most important Dr. Seuss books you can give your kid are The Sneetches and Yertle the Turtle. The first teaches you the ridiculousness of racism, and the second warns you of what to do when a douchebag is trying to convince everyone why he should have everything and you should have nothing.
This cut off 1985's Freaky Styley lifts whole passages from Seuss' tale. By the by, the man saying, "Look at that turtle go, bro?" That's George Clinton's drug dealer. Clinton was producing the album, and rather than pay off his tab he offered the dealer a spot on the album... on a song based on a children's story.
4. Rasputina, "This Little Piggy": Everything Rasputina does is unspeakably awesome. You may not recognize some of the verses from Melora's rendition of this classic nursery rhyme, but we've been combing through some old copies inherited from a relative and sure enough they're there.
3. Shivaree, "Goodnight Moon": OK, so this song doesn't sound appropriate for children at all, and not just because you probably can't listen to it without thinking about Kill Bill Vol. 2. That being said, it's a track that pretty plainly wishes for the innocence of childhood slumber.
Amid all the sex and chemical references, Ambrosia Parsely acknowledges that it's only a matter of time before sleeping alone is too much to bear and she'll be reduced to reciting Goodnight Moon to herself in order to escape the sordid life you have to live in order to have a voice like that.
2. Seal, "Puff the Magic Dragon": "Puff the Magic Dragon" was actually a song long before it was the basis for children's books, films, television specials and a host of media outlets.
Anyone who tells you that it is about marijuana is someone you should probably never let borrow your car because they are too stupid to listen to the sadness of the lyrics and the wonders of young imagination. It may be blasphemy, but we've always like the Seal rendition better than the Peter, Paul, and Mary original.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
1. Hungry Lucy, "We Won't Go": There's no author in the world quite like Neil Gaiman. Depending on who you're talking to he's either the savior of comic books, the king of adult fantasy, or a master of children's literature. To varying degrees he is all of these things, and that's why he is Neil Fucking Gaiman.
One of his better children books is the Wolves In the Walls, which deals with a family that must flee their home when a family of wolves takes over their home. Hungry Lucy based this song in the book for the Gaiman tribute album Where's Neil When You Need Him?