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  • Children's books, local music tell workers' stories
    Posted On: Sep 04, 2015

    Here’s two new children’s books with a workers’ rights theme and two new musical compilations by local artists.

    Hardball Press has two just released titles for children, for more information, go to

    Joelito’s Big Decision by Ann Berlak, illustrated by Daniel Camacho, features a young man making a hard choice.  It’s Friday night and the family always goes out for a burger at “McMann’s.”  

    However, when they arrive, Joelito finds a classmate Brandon and his parents, holding signs for “Strike for 15.”  Joelito faces a hard decision -- those burgers sure smell good, but what about his friend and his family?  He remembers that Brandon’s family had to leave their home and move to an apartment to survive, having to give away their pet dog.  Will he stand with his classmate or follow those enticing smells for a burger?

    A thought-provoking lesson for a young person in this book that can lead to an interesting discussion.

    In Manny and the Mango Tree by Ali R. and Valerie Bustamante, illustrated by Monica Lunot-Kuker, Manny and the neighborhood children, living in an apartment, nurture a mango tree in their courtyard.  Each year they await the sweet mangos, looking forward to enjoying the fruit, making ice cream and other treats.

    When harvest time comes, the building superintendent has posted a sign, “do not pick mangos.”  It seems the building owner, whom the children never see, wants the mangos.

    But who watered the tree and protected it from pests -- the neighborhood children.  Who does the tree really belong to?

    Trying various tactics, the children persistently ask questions about enjoying a mango.  Finally uniting, they are able to make their voice heard, so that everyone can enjoy the delicious fruit.

    Again, some thoughtful topics here for discussion with young minds.  Visit for details and book orders.

    Music from local talent

    Many local folks know Mike Kelleher, son of a UA Local 99 plumber and Bakery Workers 342 candy maker.  Mike ran for Congress in 2000 and the last few years has lived in Washington D.C.   

    He and his spouse, Karin, a talented and much in demand orchestral violinist, have together with friends recorded a gentle jazz album, Melange, featuring Karin’s soulful and soaring notes and Mike’s fine tenor.

    Overall there is a mellow and earnest feel to these compositions, with a New Orleans Dixieland and Celtic influences flavoring some tracks.  Classical, jazz. blues and other musical flavors swirl together delightfully, with both original and classic tunes, sometimes artfully blended together.

    To order

    Movement shakin’

    For something more political, pointed, funky and punky, local educator and union activist Stefen Robinson and friends have recorded The Wind that Blows No More, featuring tracks that ponder the school system, economics, poverty and how we share life’s lessons with the younger generation.

    How one serves humanity but not the economic system is a theme here, along with questions about the world that we pass onto our children.

    A cadre of local talent helped create this hip-hop influenced set.   If you enjoy your music raucous with a pulsing beat, but also engages your gray matter, check this one out.

    To download tracks, go to  It is also available on I-tunes and Amazon, though “bandcamp” treats the artists the fairest.

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