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Product Type: Video
Age: Early Elementary School Years

 

Parents Are From Pluto
(Sony $12.98 Score:) Three new Arthur stories address school-aged kids' sometimes mixed emotions about their parents. The title story centers on wanting parents to make a good impression at "Parents' Open House," something older kids are more apt to worry over than kids in early grades; in "My Dad, the Garbage Man," Francine is not sure she wants classmates to know what her father does. This is well done and good food for talking. "Mom and Dad Have a Big Fight" talks to the big idea that grown-ups sometimes argue and kids often fear their family will fall apart. It's an important idea, but the video slips from real to imaginary situations so glibly that parents may need to help kids sort out the real from make believe in both video and life. Arthur's Eyes, reissued in DVD format, includes several themes that are meaningful to school-age kids. Poor Arthur can't see the chalkboard and he must come to terms with wearing glasses. "Francine's Bad Hair Day" centers on wanting to look like someone else instead of oneself. "Draw" is an extra story that was not on the original video. Here Francine calls Fern a "mouse" and discovers that name-calling can backfire. These stories stay truer to the original storybooks. 5–8.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: .

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2005 Award
Strega Nona & More
(Scholastic $9.95 Score:) A collection of Caldecott award winners includes Tomie dePaola's best loved witch, Strega Nona, and her foolish helper Big Anthony, who is warned not to touch the magic cooking pot. Also, Simms Taback's "Joseph Had a Little Overcoat," the tale of a worn-out overcoat that proves through its many incarnations that "you can always make something from nothing." Similarly, Marcia Brown's "Stone Soup" is an old tale of three clever soldiers who manage to make soup from a stone. The DVD version also includes "The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks," plus Spanish versions of "Stone Soup" and "Strega Nona," and read-along text. This does not look like a Saturday morning animated feature, but is true to the spirit and art of the award-winning books. Also reissued this year, Curious George Rides a Bike & More Tales of Mischief ($9.95/$14.95) 3–8.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Brother Bear
(Disney $29.99 Score:) Kenai, trying to avenge the death of his brother, kills the grizzly bear he believes responsible for his brother's death. The spirits then turn Kenai into a bear. Kenai is rescued and befriended by an orphaned bear cub named Koda. Can you guess who killed his mother? In the end, Kenai chooses to remain a bear to be with Koda. Classic Disney. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas add comic relief as two wandering moose. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Shrek 2
(Dreamworks $22.99 Score:) Can you live happily ever after? Shrek and Princess Fiona put the famous fairy tale ending to a test when they go home to meet Fiona's parents, played by Julie Andrews and John Cleese. The anxiety-ridden premise of meeting your in-laws appealed to the grown-ups in the audience. Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots got high marks from both young and older viewers. An engaging sequel that will be playing in living rooms, over and over again. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Families of the World Series
(Master Communications $19.95 Score:) Newest in the series, this year's video is set in Vietnam. Narrated by a child from the featured country, these are low on energy but high on information about the food, work, school, and customs, told from a child's point of view. More like social studies films for school or libraries, these are nevertheless one way to introduce kids to far-away places. Earlier videos cover, among other places, China, Thailand, Mexico, India, Korea, and Israel. 30 min.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Look Mom! I Have Good Manners
(Thinkeroo $14.95 Score:) Based on the title alone, we expected this would be a didactic thumbs down. But with its quiz-show format, the hyper-happy show host involves viewers as players with questions that center on table, good health, playground, and school manners. Kids featured are school-aged kids—the audience for this lively and non-preachy video.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
Angelina Ballerina, The Show Must Go On
(HIT Entertaiment $12.99 Score:) It's Christmas in Mouseland and Angelina wanted to be the star of the show. But, alas, she dances better than she sings and ends up cast as the mean old stepmother in Cinderella. This is the first feature-length special (50 mins.) and the best of this year's Angelina videos. 4–8.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2005 Award
The Incredibles
(Disney $29.99 Score:) We first reviewed The Incredibles in a packed New York City movie theater. Parents and kids found aspects of the movie that especially appealed to them. Kids loved the fast paced adventure and were big fans of Dash's speed. While siblings could identify with the tension between Dash and his big sister Violet, parents identified with the everyday problems and frustrations of the middle aged former superheroes. Unlike many family films that are tolerated by adults, The Incredibles is truly family entertainment. The adult humor is there but not in an over the top way that would make you or your 10 year old uncomfortable. The DVD's extras are worth a look. The short, Jack Jack Attack chronicles the adventures of the youngest superhero. Kids and adults also enjoyed the behind the scenes information about the making of the film.

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 2005.

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2006 Award
The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash
(Scholastic $14.95 Score:) This collection might have been subtitled, “Tales out of School.” Steven Kellogg’s illustrations come to life in this lightly animated version of one of the zaniest class trips in children’s books. It’s one of those tall tale stories that grows as the narrator goes on and on. Other stories on the video include “Shrinking Violet,” narrated by Calista Flockhart, and “Will I Have a Friend?” which is much younger than the other stories. DVD bonus stories are “Wings: A Tale of Two Chickens” and the marvelous Canadian film, “The Sweater,” about a boy who receives the wrong sweater through a mail order mix-up and is an outcast on his hockey team. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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2006 Award
Peep and the Big Wide World
(WGBH $29.95 Score:) A set of three DVDs from the young science show that introduces children to big science concepts, first through a cartoon and then with live-action film. For example, Peep’s New Friends focuses on the metamorphosis of a butterfly, told through a cartoon story and followed by a visit to a real butterfly pavilion. Other concepts include things that hatch, making boats that float, and a follow-your-nose smelling adventure. “Nova” for the preschool set. 21⁄2 & up.

Age: Toddlers,Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2006.

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