Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Streisand up close, Mandela's autobiography for children, 'Hubble's Amazing Rescue' on PBS, and more.

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Streisand up close

If you've ever wondered what Barbra Streisand would sound like stripped of the gigantic orchestra that always seems to get between her magnificent instrument and real intimacy, here's your chance to experience the diva up close and personal. Her new CD, "Love Is the Answer" (Deluxe Edition), was produced by jazz great Diana Krall, who brought a stellar list of standards to Barbra to record two ways: First with a Johnny Mandel-led orchestra (pretty snoozy), and second with Krall's seasoned jazz quartet (warm and intimate). You can buy the whole 25-track album, or better yet just download the 12 quartet-only versions online.

Mandiba for children

Recommended: Culture and Science

Nelson Mandela's extraordinary life, captured in his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom," is now out in an abridged version for children. Written by Chris van Wyk and illustrated by Paddy Bouma, it offers 6-year-olds a chance to learn about the Nobel Prize winner from his boyhood in rural Transkei to his election as president of South Africa.

Dolphin determination

The story of Winter, the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who lost her tail in a crab trap line and adapted to a prosthetic has been inspiring animal lovers through news reports and a website (www.winterstail.com) for nearly four years. Now, the tale of the brave little dolphin who triumphed over life-threatening adversity arrives in a glossy, elegantly photographed hardcover book and a video game for the Nintendo DS. "Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again" arrives from Scholastic Inc. Oct. 7 and on Nintendo DS in late October.

A cautionary tale

Based on a true story set in 2000, "American Violet" (now out on DVD), is about a single African-American mother of four in rural Texas whose life, already bleak, is made nightmarish when she is mistakenly rounded up during a drug bust. She has no record of substance abuse and yet she faces a damning decision: Plead guilty and go free as a felon, or fight the charges and risk a long-term prison sentence.

Horses adrift

Sculptor Heather Jansch has taken her passion for horses and created a striking series of life-size horse sculptures out of driftwood. For a little creative inspiration, take a look at www.heatherjansch.com.

The little telescope that could

"Hubble's Amazing Rescue," a new PBS NOVA documentary premièring Oct. 13 at 8 p.m., follows the astonishing mission mounted this past May to save NASA's "eye on the universe." For 20 years, the famed telescope had sent back historic images giving scientists new information about the age of the universe and the power of black holes, but the delicate space tool was dying. Cameras capture the years of training for this mission as well as the 37 hours of spacewalking and grueling "surgery" required to revive the telescope. Newly relaunched and 10 times more powerful, the Hubble has new life and NOVA reminds us once again of the risks and rewards of deep space exploration.

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