Monday, July 23, 2012

Ever had the Mixed-Up Morning Blues?

The music of Queen Bee and The Blue Hornet Band's is running 'round my head, at about "90 m.p.h." (pun intended) as I consider the adorable children's book written by one of the State College-based blues band's founding members, Mark Ross.

"Mixed-Up Morning Blues" (Eifrig Publishing, 2010, $17.99 hardcover) comes with a catchy song of its own (the title track) on a CD tucked into a pouch inside the front cover

The sweet little book was written by Ross, illustrated by Nathan Mellott, and performed by The Blue Hornet Band.

Ross kindly handed over to me a copy of the book to review here when I ran into him at BookFestPA, held in State College at Schlow Centre Region Library on July 14. 

Ross, a talented musician and music teacher, now adds book publishing to his list of talents. 

The book tells the tale of a boy who wakes up on the wrong side of the bed - all mixed up - one morning. You know, I actually woke up like that this morning, come to think about it.

(photo by Madison Flago)
"Mixed-Up Morning Blues" (click here to learn more) is designed so readers can listen to the CD and sing along to lyrics including:

"When I woke up this morning, 
my dog was wearing my shoes. 
My cat was brushing his teeth with my toothbrush. 
Tell me what am I gonna do? 
I got the mixed-up morning ....
I got those mixed up morning blues."

Mark's lyrics are such that kids (of all ages) can't help but respond and relate to them. Kids know waking up in the morning can be a struggle, and the book acknowledges and makes light of that. 

Ross incorporates a catchy tune that references family pets, parents, and cars and includes and enthusiastic choruses featuring kids' voices. It's super-cute and kind of contagious. I kept playing the CD hoping it would magically turn into a full Blue Hornet Band album!

The colorful illustrations by Nathan Mellott are colorful and whimsical. At the end of the tale, there's a preview of "Skinny Little Bug," Mark and Nate's next book. There are also some seek-and-find games at the end of the book that kids will love.

Notably, "Mixed-Up Morning Blues" was awarded the 2011 Independent Book Publishers Association Children's Audio Book of the Year silver medal.

Normally I give my review copies away to a reader, but this one's going to my niece Sarah, 6, who I believe (like her Auntie Shell) often has trouble getting herself up out of bed in the morning. She's the daughter of a reader, my sister Jennifer, who, incidentally was fortunate to have Queen Bee & The Blue Hornet Band play her wedding reception in 1994 in State College. That was a fun, highly danceable reception with fantastic and cool live music (if I do say so myself)!!

Mark Ross with fellow State College author Doc Wilkerson
at the BookFestPA tent behind Schlow Centre Region Library
on July 14.
When I saw Mark Ross at BookFestPA, he actually remembered that two-decades-ago gig and asked about my sister. How about that? he must not have been mixed up that morning at all. Mark is no stranger to mys family - he also knows my mom, Pat.

Thanks for the book, Mark! I showed my mom and she was tickled. My niece Sarah will be, too.

About the author (from the publisher):

Mark Ross, the author of "Mixed-up Morning Blues," first began combining his musical talent and his love of children in the early 1980s at the Rainbow School in State College. Ella Jenkins, Hap Palmer, and Patty Hild were his biggest influences. Mrs. Hild encouraged Mark to write songs and use his guitar to teach as well as to entertain. This is what he did for six years, before leaving the classroom behind to spend the next 14 years as a founding member of Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band, a popular blues group that toured the Mid-Atlantic, Europe, and Canada, with whom he wrote and recorded six records. During that time Mark, continued to do his brand of music for kids wherever and whenever possible. If he met preschool teachers at a gig and could make their next morning class he was there. After becoming a dad, Mark changed careers. He opened a guitar shop in downtown State College, started an amplifier business, and in 1998 accepted a position as the Children's Music Specialist at the Penn State Child Development Laboratory, where he continues to hone his craft. Ross is also vice president at Apache Music and a partner in SRC Barker Amplifiers.

Check out Mark's website.

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