For his annual birthday release, ‘foolhardy folk singer’ and latterly author Beans on Toast has channelled his creative passion into a series of children’s books with a companion album.
From the singer who brought you ‘M.D.M.Amazing’, ‘F*** You Nashville’ and ‘Hippy Bulls***’, it may seem an unlikely move – but the more significant cut from his back catalogue here is ‘Jamie and Lilly’, from his 2017 album Cushty.
Fans turned friends Jaime and Lily Adamsfield (yes, he appears to have spelt both of their names wrong in the song title. It is what it is.) are a nurse and a teacher respectively and now the co-creators of Little Bee – with their character sharing the surname of Beans’ wife Lizzy Bee.
In a series of adventures Little Bee goes to the sea, the woods, to town, the city, back in time, to a rainbow, the moon, space, an imaginary world and, inevitably, a gig – I’d say it was all a stealth marketing ploy to boost numbers at next year’s tour, but his cult following needs no encouragement.
The books are aimed at ages two to 10, an ambitiously wide spread but four-year-old Elliot is in the sweet spot (even his little sister Lucy, not yet 18 months, enjoyed the bright colours and had a little dance to ‘To The City’). Each story is short with a simple rhyme scheme, an educational message and fact page and a ‘find Little Bee’ page which Elliot enjoyed (and showed a natural ability for).
Along the way are messages of inclusion and compassion – the character is referred to by they/them pronouns, while “Of all the lessons Little Bee can take from the big city, perhaps the most important is the beauty of diversity”. I imagine it’s already being decried as ‘woke’ and annoying all the right people.
The text of each book also forms the lyrics of the accompanying song, including the ‘dum-da-diddly-dee’ lines which run across the bottom of the fact page, and while the tunes are generally similar each is played in a style to suit the story’s setting – from twee folk for the woods to twinkling piano for the moon and a 90-second power ballad for the imaginary world, with the biggest departure being the ‘primal chant’ of ‘Back In Time’.
Each book also contains chords or a guide to joining in with the song, such as making a kitchen drum kit to add to the techno bop of ‘In Space’, adding another fun interactive element as Beans on Toast adds an unlikely new string to his bow.