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1999 Awards
Playing From the Heart
(Globalstage/BBC $27 Score:) This is the story of Evelyn Glennie, the world famous percussionist, and her determination to become a professional musician despite the fact that she lost her hearing at eight. A stylish performance by the Polka Children's Theatre in England, not your typical TV dramatization, this is an inspiring story about a young woman with dreams and the family that supported her. Followed with a delightful interview with Ms. Glennie. (98 mins.) Closed-captioned. 8 & up. SNAP INFO: This is the story of Evelyn Glennie, the world famous percussionist, and her determination to become a professional musician despite the fact that she lost her hearing at eight. A stylish performance by the Polka Children's Theatre in England, not your typical TV dramatization, this is an inspiring story about a young woman with dreams and the family that supported her. Followed with a delightful interview with Ms. Glennie. (98 mins.) Closed-captioned. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 1999.

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1998 Awards
Silent Lotus
(Reading Rainbow / GPN $23.95 Score:) A fascinating video about how people who are deaf communicate. Also, the storybook Silent Lotus is about a girl who cannot hear or talk but learns to communicate through dance. Also includes a section on signing. Closed-captioned SNAP INFO: How people who are deaf communicate is the main thrust of this excellent video from the PBS show "Reading Rainbow." The storybook Silent Lotus is about a girl who cannot hear or talk but learns to communicate through dance. Also includes a section on signing. Closed-captioned

Age: Early School Years,Later School Years. Award Year: 1998.

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2000 Awards
Behind the Scenes with David Hockney
(First Run Features $12.95 Score:) Hosted by the witty duo Penn & Teller, this video introduces young viewers to ideas about perspective, illusions, and the unique ways artists like David Hockney look at an object as familiar as a chair. Originally broadcast on PBS, this is a better choice for young viewers than the Julie Taymor video which goes behind the scenes with a production of The Tempest. The latter is more suited to older audiences. 8 & up.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2000.

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2000 Award
Sesame Street Let's Eat!
(Sony $12.95 Score:) Billed as Funny Food Songs, Grover the waiter (who works at Planet Storybook) and his pals serve up a lot of good advice about the most important meal of the day with a ditty called "Cereal Girl." That's just for openers. There's a trip to a pasta factory, foods that we like that animals eat, and a visit with a picky eater. As always, Sesame Street manages to deliver information wrapped in good humor instead of the typical food pyramid preachment.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2000.

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Blue's Big Treasure Hunt and ABC's And 123's
(Paramount $ Score:) These two videos mark a turn in the road for blue-not necessarily a desirable one for programming targeted to old toddlers and preschoolers. The happy thing about Blue was how smart kids felt as they shouted to Steve and tried to show him the clues they saw before he seemed to. Now, the climate has switched to quizzes that undermine kids' sense of smarts with questions they should not be asked, or know the answer to. The letter P is introduced-the sound of paw, and pop, and the next thing we see is a sign for phone-but no one mentions that "ph" sounds like "f," not "p." Further, kids are supposed to follow reading clues and rebus pictures, but without left-to-right readiness cues-initial sounds for the word k-e-y are introduced and the word is spelled from top to bottom instead of left to right. All in all-a treasure map? reading for preliterate kids? Sorry-it's off track, Blue!

Age: Toddlers,Preschool. Award Year: 2000.

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1999 Awards
Gears! Gears! Gears!
(Learning Resources $35 Score:)

This is a more open-ended set than the motorized models like Oogly Googly. Kids can build horizontally or vertically. There are sets with small gears only- a good place to start. There are also sets with large gears with optical patterns on them and other doo-dads. All in all it's a great building system that allows kids to experiment with making machines. Great for solo play as well as co-operative building.

SNAP INFO: Fitting gears together not only develops dexterity; it's a challenging way to promote problem-solving skills as kids make moving "machines." Motors can be added, but start with hand power. ACTIVITY: Play a game of "Keep It Going!" Players take turns adding one gear at a time but every gear added must connect and keep the motion going.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 1999. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2001 Awards
Number Express
(Lauri $13.95 Score:) Here's a playful way to learn number sequencing from 1 to 5. This colorful puzzle with five trains invites counting, color concepts and pretend play. SNAP INFO: Learning number sequence from 1-5 and the shapes of numerals is fun with a five-piece train that links together like a puzzle. For counting, big easy-to-grasp pegs fit onto each car and colorful pegs can be stacked. Also, Tall Stacker Peg & Pegboard Set ($13.95). Not for kids who still mouth their toys. ACTIVITY: Explore the materials in a playful way. Challenge child to discover how tall a stack of pegs they can make before they fall. Are there more red pegs or yellow? Make patterns with a few pegs like yellow, green, yellow-what comes next?

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2000 Awards
Letter Detective
(Ravensburger $18 Score:) Kids who are learning their letters often benefit from getting the feel of the shape of letters as well as their look. This game comes with a box that kids put their hands in to feel and try to name the letters. Don't put all the letters in at the start. Use a few letters. If your child is working on sounds play a game by asking them to say the letter and a word that begins with that letter's sound. SNAP INFO: This game centers on a special box that kids can put their hands into and feel letters that they try to identify by touch. Start with just a few letters rather than the whole alphabet. There are several games suggested that our testers enjoyed. Adaptation: You can also use this well-made box for other feel-and-say games with shapes, textures, numerals and other objects. This is a good game that provides multi-sensory experiences. It is obviously a good one for kids with visual impairments.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2000.

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2001 Awards
Lauri's Lacing & Tracing Dinosaurs
(Lauri $6.95 Score:) Dinosaur lovers will enjoy these bright dinos that they can lace with colorful yarn. These are a fun way to develop fine motor skills. New for 2007, Farm Lacing and Tracing Set (Lauri $6.99 ) with pig, horse, sheep, cow, hen, barn, and farmer on a tractor, plus colorful laces for “sewing.” SNAP INFO: These dinosaur boards with prepunched holes to lace are an entertaining way to motivate kids to use and refine their fine motor skills. These dinos are slightly more challenging than some of the shapes in other chipboard sets offered by Lauri. ACTIVITY: Kids can trace the dinos and use them for cutting, pasting or coloring.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2000 Awards
Zoo Puzzibilities
(Small World Toys $8 Score:) Kids will have fun fitting together these splinter-free, giant, pegged whole-piece puzzles. Lift the giraffe, elephant and zebra and there's a matching animal below. Still recommended: Fruit, Farm, & Pets. SNAP INFO: Lift the giraffe and what's underneath? Another giraffe. For young puzzlers this is a matching game and the picture below helps kid discover how to rotate the whole piece into the space. These three place puzzles with large easy to grip handles are a good place to start.

Age: Toddlers,Preschool. Award Year: 2000.

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