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Critics Picks
The latest on CD and Video for kids

All videos and cd's reviewed by Bruce Kluger
Date 08/29/01

Mini Maestro Presents The Clocks Symphony: Kids learn to tell time via colorful computer animation set to classical music selections. The good news: It works. The bad news: They'll still go to bed late. (Little Fiddle Company, 888-678-5636)

Mighty Machine: Funny characters and catchy tunes highlight this engaging three-tape peek at the big, noisy contraptions commonly found "At the Airport," "At the Train Yard" and "At the Demolition Site." Clanky, but fun. (Anchor Bay, 800-786-8777)

So Smart! Colors: Call it a crash course for the Crayola contingent. This imaginative introduction to the world of living color assigns a different story to each hue, then encourages viewers to point, dance and play along. Backed by a score that's, well, colorful, the program is designed especially for stop-and-start screening, for those with pre-school attention spans. (Baby School)

Rainbow Fish: Two new installments of the popular fish tale, based on Marcus Pfister's popular storybook, follow Rainbow's adventures at school (get it?), where he and his pals learn about honesty, hard work and how to get along swimmingly with friends. Decent lessons for toddlers, sparkly pictures for the younger ones. (Sony Wonder)

The Little Bear Movie: In his first feature-length release, Maurice Sendak's beloved grizzly meets a lost wild cub on a camping trip, then helps him find his parents. A prizewinner at the Toronto International Film Festival for Children, the movie also features two original songs by Grammy-winner Shawn Colvin. Perfect for chill-out viewing. (Paramount/Nelvana)

Animal Safari:
Animal specialist Karla Majewski hosts an eight-volume tour of her private zoo, introducing kids to her fascinating menagerie-from a squirrel monkey ("Animals of the Amazon") to a pot-bellied pig ("Born in a Barnyard"). Our fave: "Creepy Critters," starring bugs, spiders and things that go slink in the night. (Coyote Creek,

Dragon Tales: Nine new episodes from PBS' award-winning series help children gear up for the school season, as Emmy, Max and their winged-dragon buddies soak up valuable lessons in resolving conflicts (without hitting!), following instructions and understanding the feelings of others. Three tapes; available in English and Spanish. (Columbia TriStar)

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory:
The upcoming special 30th anniversary edition of the candy land classic (starring Gene Wilder and his irrepressible band of Oompa-Loompas) includes a featurette on the making of the film and behind-the-scenes peeks at the movie's dazzling special effects. Parents note: Sit with your wee ones while viewing-some scenes get pretty spooky. (Warner)

Toddler: The perpetually youthful Sara Hickman delivers 31 engaging sing-and-dance-alongs for the six-and-under set, including a pre-school rap song ("I Like My Boots") and the delightfully inane novelty number, "Weenie Man." A joy. (Sleeveless,

Time to Sing!: In this landmark collection of sing-alongs, one hour-plus of childhood classics-"Wheels on the Bus," "Twinkle, Twinkle," et al-are arranged and performed at slower tempos, specifically for children with speech disorders. Toddlers on the cusp of talking will also appreciate the easy-does-it pacing. (Center For Creative Play, 800-262-8052)

Can Cockatoos Count By Twos? The latest release from the Godfather of the Children's Song (and "Top Pops 2001" winner) Hap Palmer includes creative lessons in counting, opposites, phonics and more. For wonderful play-along, go straight to "Magic Scarf." (Educational Activities, 800-645-3739)

Ants Wear Underpants: Courtesy of the musically gifted, always hip Wendy Gelsanliter, here comes an eclectic batch of original tunes-from rockabilly to jazz-imaginatively written and magically sung. Best of the lot: "Itty Bitty Kitty in New York City." (BizzyBum, 888-243-2977)

Yellow Bus: Montessori preschool teacher-turned-kids pop star Justin Roberts rolls out a joyous collection of numbers designed to tickle little listeners ("One Little Cookie") or soothe their fears ("Thought It Was a Monster"). A must-have for the musically inclined. (Hear Diagonally, 877-345-4992)

Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Chants: Kids' song diva Katherine Dines rolls out thirty-seven valentines to the joys of rhythm-and-rhyme, from the deliciously silly "Mashed Potatoes" to the traditional African lullaby "Abiyoyo." (Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Music, 800-448-6369):

Great Big World: Joe McDermott, the Texas native and award-winning composer of "I Am Baby," delivers ten new gems, including the swingin' "Way Out West" and the doo-wop ditty, "I Got Stuck In An Elevator." (Big Kids, 800-477-7811)

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