Hey, potty-training parents: A great DVD for you!
Elmo's Potty Time
(45 mins., 2006)
For many years, the potty-training bible has been Alona Frankel's wonderful book and video Once Upon a Potty, made separately for boys and girls to explain the fantastic, frustrating, and often freakish activity that all toddlers must eventually accomplish yep, going to the potty. (The only problem with the video was that it was too short, and before you knew it the portion where the pediatrician reassures parents in his monotone voice comes on, and many wee ones would start to wail.) Well, it's time to make room for another must-have potty primer, and it couldn't come at a better time, as many parents are under pressure to get kids out of Pull-Ups and into underwear for nursery school in September.
Elmo looks back on his own potty-training experience, and gently talks about having accidents and why it's important to keep trying. His dad belts out a rollicking, bluesy potty song (''It's potty time/ Just let it go/ Go with the flow/ You can do it, Elmo''). Baby Bear tries to coach his little sister to make No. 2, which she calls ''woo woo,'' a conversation that leads to a hilarious array of potty terms that'll appeal to many older siblings watching (justifiable use of potty talk!). But it's not all about the poop: There's a lovely song about trying things for the first time zipping a jacket, pouring a glass of milk, and blowing bubbles that'll make kids understand it's okay to make mistakes.
Elmo's Potty Time covers all the bases, from the pragmatic (a trip to a toilet-paper factory reveals how the rolls we buy start out as one giant log) to the downright artistic (a auditory montage of toilets flushing, faucets running, and paper towels being torn that's worthy of Stomp). Elmo, you deserve a sticker! A Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 2 to 4
(PG, 2006, 90 mins.)
Yet another boy-and-his-dog movie, you say? Well, this one, the third in the Shiloh trilogy (based on the books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor), is more than that. It's about a boy who sticks his neck out for a crusty old neighbor, Judd Travers (Scott Wilson), a man who not only used to abuse Shiloh but who is suspected of murder. Young Marty Preston (Jason Dolley) shows compassion and persistence, bringing Judd squirrel stew, building a fence for his dogs so he won't have to chain them, and, in essence, giving him a chance to redeem himself when others in town have crossed him off their list. There's a lot of nail biting going on toward the end's big rescue scene, so it's not as gentle as canine tales of days gone by, but older kids will respond to the drama. B EC
Recommended ages: 7 and up
Read Chris Nashawaty's list of recent dog-movie classics.
By David Wiesner
This is, simply put, one of the most beautiful picture books I have ever seen. As he sifts through the flotsam washing up on a sandy white beach, a young boy finds a battered underwater camera. And when he has the photos developed he sees a magical, fastastical undersea world of seashell palaces, urchin balloons, even octopi at home, lounging in their easy chairs: a whole other universe. After some thought, he reloads the camera with fresh film and tosses it back into the water, for the next being fish or human to find. There are no words in this book; there don't need to be. The fabulous pictures tell the whole tale. A+ Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 5-8
Mercy Watson Fights Crime
By Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
This is the third outing for Mercy Watson, the crime-fighting pet pig, from Kate DiCamillo (who also wrote the Newbery Award-winning Tale of Desperaux). Being a pig, Mercy naturally loves food, and it's her penchant for toast with lots and lots of butter that helps her capture the cowboy robber who's taken the Watsons' kitchen appliances. Smart and funny, with terrific illos, this will deservedly end up on the best-seller lists, like the first two Mercy books. A TJ
Recommended ages: 6-8
FOR YOUR COLLECTION
Mary Poppins; Mary Poppins Comes Back; Mary Poppins in the Park; Mary Poppins Opens the Door
By P.L. Travers; illustrated by Mary Shepard
Harcourt has just released hardcover facsimile editions of the original Mary Poppins books, with jackets in coordinating colors: olive, turquoise, mustard, dark red. These are keepers, so beautifully made that they'll be around for your children's children. A TJ
Recommended ages: 6 and up