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2001 Awards
Arthur's Famous Friends
(Sony $12.95 Score:) This is the best Arthur video we've seen in ages! Each of the three stories features a guest visitor whose voice is used with animated images. In the first segment, Mr. Rogers comes to visit, but Arthur thinks Mr. Rogers is for babies and is surprised to discover his friends want to meet their old friend. In the second story, poet Jack Prelutsky comes to the local library for a poetry contest and recites some of his own verse. There's some gratuitous gross-out verse in this segment that we could have done without, but kids will find it funny. The third episode, with Yo Yo Ma, centers on a debate about jazz vs. classical music. 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2001 Awards
Behind the Scenes with Robert Gil de Montes
(First Run Features $14.95 Score:) With lots of amusing help from the comedy team of Penn & Teller, playfully introduces viewers to the "tricks of the trade" of color and perspective that artists use on canvas or computer. Watching de Montes' painting evolve may inspire young artists or at least help them to better understand the creative process at work. Like others in this outstanding series, this is a keeper! 8 & up. Also new and top rated: Behind the Scenes with Allen Toussant and Joann Falletta. Previous OPPENHEIM TOY PORTFOLIO PLATINUM AWARD 2000 winners: Behind the Scenes with Max Roach, David Hockey, and Carrie Mae Weems. 8 & up.

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

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2001 Awards
The Artists Special: Mary Cassatt: American Impressionist
(Devine Entertainment $19.95 Score:) Rather than doing biographies of an artist's whole lifetime, these new made-for-TV Artists Series zoom in on a short but significant period in an artist's life. They weave fact and fiction in a relationship between an artist and a young person with very human and universal problems. For example, in Mary Cassatt: American Impressionist, the artist fears her visiting family from America will intrude upon her work in Paris. Instead the children provide inspiration plus a meeting with Edgar Degas. Amy Brenneman (of "Judging Amy") stars as Mary Cassatt. 8 & up. Also top-rated, In Degas and the Dancer, struggling with debt and his own self-doubt, Edgar Degas inspires a young dancer to believe in herself and her talent. In helping her, he helps himself. For those who love Degas, the ballet, or both-this is not to be missed! Also top-rated: Rembrandt: Fathers & Sons and Monet: Shadow & Light. 8 & up.

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

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2001 Awards
Stuart Little
(Columbia Tristar $24.96 Score:)

Those who loved E.B. White's book may feel betrayed yet again with the Hollywood version, but some parents preferred the film to the original. Unlike the book's ending, here Stuart (Michael J. Fox) is happily reunited with the Littles (played by Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, and Jonathan Lipnicki). The mix of animation and live-action high jinks can be confusing and a bit scary to preschoolers who don't have real and make-believe sorted out quite yet. A better choice for 6 & up. Closed-captioned.

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

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2001 Awards
October Sky
(Universal $14.98 Score:) It's 1957 and Homer's sights are on the stars and Sputnik, not the coal mines that have swallowed the dreams and hopes of his father's generation. An inspiring film that speaks to believing in oneself and keeping hope alive. Closed-captioned. PG.

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2001 Awards
My Dog Skip
(Warner Bros. $22.96 Score:) With the help of his dog, 9-year-old Willie overcomes loneliness, fear, and his small stature. Set in WWII, this is a good blend of humor, adventure, and the bigger issues of growing up, finding friends, and figuring out what being a hero really means. Skip's eventual death, after Willie grows up, is treated sensitively at the end, with just a voice-over. 8 & up.

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

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2001 Awards
Disney Presents Annie
(Disney $19.99 Score:) If you missed this on network TV during the holidays or you wish you could see it again, here's a masterful, made-for-TV production of the musical Annie. Kathy Bates plays the dastardly Miss Hannigan to 12-year-old Alicia Morton's spunky Annie, with Victor Garber as Daddy Warbucks and Audra MacDonald as his secretary. It's better than the movie or other revivals we've seen. This is a keeper! 5 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2001 Awards
Chicken Run
(Dreamworks $26.99 Score:) Like many so-called family films, this one is loaded with visual quotes from movies that kids won't know. Yet, on a very basic level, this is the tale in which the underdogs (make that the chickens) join forces and use their ingenuity to outwit the evil, greedy, inhuman humans who are plotting to turn them into pot pies. With plenty of sunny-side up chicken/egg jokes to lighten the dark side, it's "Stalag 17" and "The Great Escape" recast in fine fowl claymation. 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2001 Awards
Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
(Disney $26.99 Score:) A satisfying sequel to the "happily ever after" tale of the Little Mermaid. The drama begins when Ariel's daughter Melody is threatened by the sea witch Morgana. To keep her safe, Ariel decides that her daughter should never know of her mother's past or her relations in the sea. Rebellious like her mother, Melody dives in and runs into her own set of underwater sidekicks and big-time trouble. Another happy ending, of course. The music isn't as grand, but will satisfy those looking for more adventures. Two fins up! Because the opening is particularly scary, our recommendation is to save this for 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2001 Awards
Joseph: King of Dreams
(Dreamworks $26.99 Score:) It's refreshing that this animated version didn't take liberties with a story that needs no added drama. Joseph's coat is not quite as colorful as one might imagine it, but the story of jealousy, dishonesty, courage, and forgiveness is all here. Though the animation does not compare to Dreamworks' Prince of Egypt, the images, the straightforward script, and even the music bring Joseph and his dreams to life without turning them into a nightmare! 6 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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