April 2001


By James Merrill
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ID VIDEOS Quiet time music Does listening to Mozart really increase one’s IQ? After viewing Mozart Nature Symphonies, you will probably decide that it doesn’t really matter. What really matters is where this video takes you. With birds in flight and swirling schools of fish matching Mozart’s soaring notes and spinning melodies, rich and colorful footage of animals in their natural habitats eases viewers young and old into a wonderful calmness. If it increases the IQ, so much the better but if not, this tape is still a keeper.

Recommended for ages 0Ð2 Let’s make music Pre-schoolers adore Steve, his imaginary dog Blue and the rest of the Blue’s Clues fanciful cast. In Blue’s Big Musical Movie, real-person Steve awakens in an animated, boldly colored world where he and Blue are planning to produce a backyard musical. Steve, using the Blue’s Clues format of tracking down clues, shows his viewers as well as his imaginary friends how to organize such an event. What sets this piece apart from the rest is its fabulous lesson on writing music. The affable G Clef (Ray Charles) explains notes, harmony, rhythm and tempo to Steve, who jumps from one piano key to the next to demonstrate how the written music sounds. It’s a terrific introduction to music that bridges the abstract and the concrete.

Recommended for ages 5Ð8 Flying colors Mac, a 150-year-old talking parrot (voice by John Goodman), is The Real Macaw in this high-flying adventure that includes pirate treasure, the South Pacific, a villainous curator and a somewhat eccentric Grandpa played by Jason Robards. Mac is a brilliant bundle of color and one-liners that leads teenager Sam away from his home in Australia to recover a treasure chest of riches for Grandpa, whose debts threaten to force him from his home. The music, like the script, is hip, upbeat and funny. Fantasy melding with real-life family issues will also appeal to older teens, and a noble, culturally sensitive ending redeems Sam’s run-away behavior. Recommended for ages 8Ð12 VIDEO PICK OF THE MONTH Dreams of many colors This year, April is the month of Easter and the Jewish Passover, a perfect time to share an Old Testament story of forgiveness. The privileged youngest son of Jacob loses his famed coat of many colors but not his dreams in Joseph: King of Dreams and, in the end, forgives his brothers for their betrayal. Animation can sometimes exceed real-life acting because portrayals are not colored by our knowledge of the mortal actors, and such is the case in this animated musical masterpiece. Joseph (Ben Affleck) is convincing as a human who grows into a hero. Saturated colors, artistic rendering and an inspiring score do this timeless story justice. And Joseph’s Vincent van Gogh-like dreams may color the dreams of your teens at a time in their lives when they are just beginning to build them. Recommended for ages 12 and up Deborah Cool is the jury coordinator for the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media. The Coalition’s KIDS FIRST!¨ project evaluates and rates children’s videotapes, CD-ROMs, DVD, audio recordings and television programs, using a volunteer jury of child development professionals, teachers, parents and children of diverse geographic, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. KIDS FIRST!¨ ( publishes The New York Times/KIDS FIRST!¨ Guide to the Best Children’s Videos.

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Collected Poems

Collected Poems

By James Merrill
ISBN 9780375411397

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