Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

'Slings and Arrows' comedy on DVD, charming new children's book from Arnold Lobel, National Geographic's 50 scenic drives, and more.

Harper Collins
The Frogs and Toads All Sang by Arnold Lobel.
Courtesy of Oliver Heisch
Arve Henriksen.
Courtesy of Sue Bruce Photography

One (last) froggy evening

A newly discovered Arnold Lobel book is cause enough to smile. That "The Frogs and Toads All Sang" (HarperCollins, $16.99) features the late Caldecott medalist's gently whimsical amphibians means it's time to party. Fortunately, Lobel ("Frog and Toad Are Friends") has taken care of the festivities with the title poem, in which "They danced in the meadow./ They danced in the street./ They danced in the lemonade/ Just to cool their feet." Originally a handmade book given as a gift, and skillfully colored by Lobel's daughter, Adrianne, it's a labor of love all round.

If meditation had a sound

Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen's latest CD, "Cartography" (ECM Records, $17.99), is hauntingly beautiful, traversing a musical landscape between ambient, nu jazz, and contemporary classical. His warm "vocal" trumpet tone recalls his label mate Jon Hassell, as well as Japanese Shakuhachi flute music. The album is bookended with melancholy spoken vignettes written and recited by British chanteur David Sylvian. Rich with reverberant electronics and digital sound design, the music feels like sheets of mist suspended over a fiord.

Enchanting comedy

Much of the drama is offstage in "Slings and Arrows," a Canadian television series now available on DVD. The show pokes fun at life in a fictitious Shakespearean theater group in which artists battle business people, actors slip in and out of character, and the artistic director is haunted – literally – by his predecessor. Splendid acting; witty writing; and the occasional, dazzling glimpse of Shakespearean drama at its best are stretched out over three six-episode seasons with a different play ("Hamlet," "MacBeth," and "King Lear") at the center of each.

When dreams are deferred

In "Sugar," young Miguel "Sugar" Santos is one of the hot baseball prospects in the Dominican Republic, banking on a professional career in the US. Yet the movie (out on DVD Sept. 1) is not about the fulfillment of one's dreams but about what happens when those dreams are deferred. Knocked out of contention in the minor league by injury, Sugar sees his chances for a pro career dim. But the hard knocks he accumulates along the way ultimately bring forth a kind of wisdom.

Drive into fall

Summer may be drawing to a close, but the autumn is still ripe for road trips. National Geographic offers 50 Drives of a Lifetime, all at

Favorite things

Inflatable vases, solar flashlights, award-winning crab cakes, handmade soaps from Afghanistan – these are a few of's favorite things. Five days a week, the 10-month-old site posts a fresh product or service that fits its goal of stylish, inventive, or useful – and sometimes all three! Perfect for present-shopping, the site highlights each new item with a homey video about its creative back story.

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