Picks and Pans Review: Great Northern Diver: the Loon
by Barbara Juster Esbensen; Illustrated by Mary Barrett Brown
Here is another tale from the north country—this one dedicated to the bird behind the unforgettable call. Esbensen's stodgy, schoolmarmish approach is reminiscent of those nature films many of us endured in the '50s and '60s. Although Brown's detailed illustrations provide some lovely and gentle relief from the lecturing tone, in general, this is a book desperately in need of a sense of humor. (In other words, Mom almost fell asleep while reading it.) (Little, Brown, $14.95)
MOTHER GOOSE ROCK 'N' RHYME
Part Pee-wee Herman, part Salvador Dali—with a definite streak of Yellow Submarine—this psychedelic, irreverent nursery tale will delight kids and astound (or outrage) their parents. Mother Goose (Jean Staple-ton) is missing, as well as Bo Peep's sheep, so Peep (played by Shelley Duvall, who also produced) picks up Mother Goose's son in her salmon-colored, Dalmatian-up-holstered convertible, and together they survey the loony land of Rhyme land and its inhabitants, from Debbie Harry's seductive Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe ("Who ya callin' old?") through Harry Anderson's Peter Piper. Little Richard's Ole King Cole and Paul Simon's Simple Simon (for that alone, he deserves an award). Songs like Dan Gilroy's "Hop to It!" keep the story moving, along with such humorous touches as an old and faded Mary (Cyndi Lauper), still followed by a lamb who is now potbellied and cigar-smoking (Woody Harrclson). In other words, this is not one of those sweet little nighttime stories. Kate and Nick, though, not only adored it but ask to see it again and again and again. (Media Home Entertainment, $79.98 as of June 6; 800-421-4509. Also broadcast on the Disney Channel starting May 19 at 7 P.M.)
EVEN MORE BABY SONGS
BABY SONGS PRESENTS JOHN LITHGOW'S KID-SIZE CONCERT
Even More Baby Songs may be placid to a fault, with 32 minutes of Blandy Panda tunes ("Getting Up Time," "I Can Put My Clothes On By Myself") by children's composer Hap Palmer. All the songs are about the same length and tone, and are all sung in voice-over while the screen shows children performing some relevant activity. Only brief animated segments break up the pace.
The Lithgow tape, also 32 minutes, is livelier. The resourceful actor (The World According to Garp, Terms of Endearment) is on-camera most of the time, though there are clips of kids and parents, including John Ritter and his family. The songs are fun too, from She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain to some of Lithgow's own compositions, the best of which is the very sing-alongable "Mr. McCloud" ("Mr. McCloud likes to sing real loud/ Mr. McCrofty sings softly"). Lithgow is an engaging host, with nary a glimmer of condescension to the children gathered around him. (Both. Hi-Tops, $14.98; 800-645-6600)
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