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Jewish World Review / Jan. 13, 2000 / 6 Shevat, 5760

Evan Levine

The babies are all right

Baby Songs: Rock and Roll
Anchor Bay Entertainment

Next month sees the re-release of "Baby Songs: Rock and Roll," one of the entries in the "Baby Songs" series.

Unlike some of the videos, which feature original music, this one includes music by the original artists, and that's its biggest plus. The Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout," Ritchie Valens' "Come On, Let's Go," Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'," and Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion" are just a few of the familiar tunes in this compilation. Each song accompanies kids dancing and going through their daily routines; the songs have been picked to correspond to what's happening on the screen. "Come Saturday Morning" provides background for a lazy day, while Livingston Taylor's "Pajamas" provides the background for a bedtime routine. The kids on screen look very "real," and viewers may appreciate that -- or they may find it a bit too much like watching that footage they shot last Memorial Day at someone's barbecue.

Although the visuals are somewhat amateurish, young viewers may still enjoy seeing snapshots of kids' daily lives they can relate to. The video is best appreciated as a way to get kids moving, and maybe to appreciate some classic songs of mommy and daddy's era. It can also be a good way to start a discussion with very young children about certain daily activities.

Emma, 2, boogied her way through most of the songs, although she seemed more interested in the music than what was on the screen.

Ratings Scale: 1-10

(10 is the highest)

Appropriateness: 8 -- Foot-tapping entertainment for kids 2 and up.

Humor: 6 -- The choice of activities and songs to accompany them can be very amusing.

Visuals: 4 -- The weakest part is the look, which may not bother kids.

Social Value: 6 -- A pleasant way to get kids up and moving.

Believability: 7 -- Real kids are certainly convincing.

Fun Factor: 6 -- Kids' attention may wane, but the lively songs are enjoyable.

The Best of Franklin
USA Home Entertainment

Always popular, Franklin the turtle has clearly made it to the superstar league -- he has just been blessed with the release of his own "Best of" video. Franklin is the star of the hit show on Nick Jr., which airs daily, as well as a book series. The video includes six popular episodes.

The gentle pace of the series captures the everyday dilemmas of a turtle who faces the same fears and problems as most kids, from making friends to joining a secret club to learning why it's important to clean up a messy room. In "Franklin Plays the Game," for example, Franklin's soccer team loses every game, but Franklin learns how to put his team first, rather than trying to make himself the best player.

"I liked this story best, because I like playing soccer," explained Toby, 6. "The team we play in school is like that -- they keep losing, but they keep trying." Other episodes include "Franklin and the Red Scooter," in which Franklin and Bear try to earn enough money to buy a scooter, and "Franklin's Fort," which has Franklin trying to hide his fear of heights from his friends.

While some of the themes may seem pedestrian, "Franklin" is at its best when it enlivens these seemingly mundane occurrences with sparks of both the familiar and the fresh.

Ratings Scale: 1-10

(10 is the highest)

Appropriateness: 7 -- The issues that Franklin faces make the show just right for preschoolers and even older children.

Humor: 6 -- Gentle and sometimes self-effacing, the humor is quiet, rather than raucous.

Visuals: 6 -- Perfectly OK animation that's certainly cheery and bright.

Social Value: 7 -- A sweet-natured approach to the ups and downs of early childhood.

Believability: 7 -- At their best, the episodes reflect some of the situations -- and ways of dealing with them -- that young children face.

Fun Factor: 7 -- Kids will root for Franklin, whether he's trying to hide his fear of heights or earning money to buy a scooter.

Evan Levine is the author of "Kids Pick the Best Videos for Kids."


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