Children's CDs and DVDs in the spotlight
All the adventures of Curious George in one spot, Robbert Bobbert's lastest infectious beat, a Carly and Lucy Simon classic reissued, and more.
Trout Fishing in America: 'Big Round World'
Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet have been recording together for more than three decades, and it shows in their effortless professionalism and careless whimsy. Not surprisingly, their 10th album, "Big Round World" (Trout Records, $15), was up for a Grammy this month for Best Album for Children. (It's their fourth nomination, but who's counting?) Topics cover everything from everyday kid matters, "My Favorite Jeans," to sage advice, "Always Chew Your Food," to American history, "Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks," and the style is almost as wide-ranging, hitting everything from bluegrass to jazz.
Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine: 'Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine'
If you can get past the cutesy name (and I nearly didn't), you'll discover that Mr. Bobbert is the alter ego of Robert Schneider of the indie band The Apples in Stereo. Fortunately, preschoolers don't have my prejudices and will happily bop along to the CD's infectious Beach Boys-style pop tunes. Highlights include "The Mighty Mighty Elephant," "We R Super Heroes," and the very funny "Fee Fi Fo, Fee Fi Fum," in which a thieving mouse runs into a sleepy homeowner searching for a midnight snack. The CD, put out by Little Monster Records ($15.98), includes comic-book illustrations and a coloring book, which weren't yet available for review. Odds are, the letter B will figure prominently.
The Simon Sisters: 'Sing Songs for Children'
Never before available on CD, this album features sisters Carly and Lucy Simon singing duets of poems by Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Blake, and more. (It was originally released in 1969 as "The Simon Sisters Sing the Lobster Quadrille and Other Songs for Children.") The content has less of the aggressive "whee" factor of some of today's releases for children, instead relying on close harmonies and the timeless words. It makes for a lovely change. "The Owl and the Pussycat" and "A Pavane for the Nursery" are among the standouts, while Grammy legend Carly has one solo: "A Red, Red Rose" by Robert Burns. Folk aficionados will want to grab this reissue (Shout! Factory, $13.98), some children (or grandchildren), and enjoy.
Curious George: Monkey Collection, Vol. 1
This four-disc DVD collection of the Emmy-nominated PBS series has enough monkey business to entertain the most inquisitive preschooler. The TV George remains pretty faithful to Margret and H.A. Rey's classic creation as he "Plays in the Snow," goes for a "Rocket Ride," and even tries out gainful employment in "Takes a Job." The 32 episodes put out by Universal Studios Home Entertainment ($39.98) incorporate basic science and math principles (as well as Oscar nominee William H. Macy as narrator), as George explores his world. Oh, and of course The Man with the Yellow Hat is still along to keep the little guy out of trouble.
The Best of the Electric Company, Vols. 1 and 2
"HEY, YOU GUYS!" News that a remake of "The Electric Company" started airing on TV last month had this child of the '70s scratching her head and reaching for DVDs of the original in bafflement (Vol. 1 and 2 by Shout! Factory, $49.98, $39.99). Did they think they could improve on the cast? Regulars included Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman; quadruple threat Rita Moreno, who picked up an Academy Award, Tony, Emmy, and a Grammy during her storied career; and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Bill Cosby – not to mention guest appearances by Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, and Zero Mostel. (Maybe we won't mention Joan Rivers.) Or the songwriting? Satirist Tom Lehrer and famed "Sesame Street" composer Joe Raposo both lent their considerable talents. Or the cartoons? Chuck Jones directed original "Road Runner" shorts, and Spider-Man was a cast member starting in the fourth season. I've got nothing against the new series, which may be quite enjoyable. But for those who really want to "turn on the power," go directly to the source.