News Article

Mixed Media

''Prehistoric Park'' is worth the visit to Animal Planet, and three new books make the grade (A), but DVDs of ''Mario'' and ''Hello Kitty'' not so super

Prehistoric Park
Prehistoric Park

''Prehistoric Park'' is worth the visit

TV

Prehistoric Park
(Animal Planet, Sunday, Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, both at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST)
Wildlife adventurer Nigel Marvin takes viewers on a fantastic journey in this six-part series (four remaining). Imagine being able to travel into the past, say, about 10,000 years or so ago, to bring back a woolly mammoth on the verge of dying. Or save a couple of baby T. rex whose mom was killed in a vicious dino battle. Thanks to some pretty realistic looking CGI, Marvin's collection is entirely believable, and will have kids picking up all sorts of neat trivia. While some T.Rex are chasing down Marvin, they'll learn that T-Rexes are top heavy, and if they fall over, could very well kill themselves. Or that baby T. rex eat lots of meat, doubling their size every year.

Zoologist Marvin, whose easy asides to the camera and seemingly fearless demeanor are reminiscent of the incomparable Steve Irwin, brings back animals from the past in order to save them from extinction, placing them in his park and going back for more. One moment he's staring down a 13-foot cave bear, the next we see him taking cover, perched high in a tree. Still on the wooly mammoth's tree, he's not above pandering to the audience in a sure-to-please gross-out moment for kids: sticking his finger in mammoth poop to see how far off the beast must be.

Then it's on to searching for a Microraptor, a saber-toothed cat, a giant milipede, and back about 75 million years or so to hunt down a 50-foot crocodile. With a mixture of suspense, drama, and nifty scientific facts, Prehistoric Park should definitely be on the school-night TiVo list. A-Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 5 and up

DVD

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! Vol. 2
(10 hours, 1989)
It's hard to remember the time when Super Mario Bros. was everywhere you turned, at least until you hear that theme song again. It was the game that took over the world, not to mention our TVs. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! is a great example of the cross-marketing of toy and videogame that flourished in the '80s. Monday through Friday Mario and Luigi, the plumber brothers whose start as part of the Donkey Kong game won them an international following in their own right, went up against King Koopa in that crazy land of the mushroom people. Most episodes were movie parodies (''Escape from Koopatraz,'' ''Mario of the Apes'') and had the same sound effects as the Nintendo videogame — all the better to foster kids' loyalties. The most dubiously entertaining parts of the show were the live-action sequences in the beginning and the end that featured Captain Lou Albano (of wrestling fame) and Mario and Danny Wells as Luigi and frequent guest stars such as Vanna White and pro-wrestler Sgt. Slaughter. The dated animation in this 40-episode DVD set might prove to be a novelty to today's kids, but not even the bright colors and lulling arcade sounds will hold their attention for very long with such breezy (cheesy) plotlines. Even though the Mario Bros. are still alive and kicking in the gaming world, this outmoded portrayal of Italian Americans (paisanos and pasta abound) mixed with cheap laughs won't help bring back its glory days. This is more of a nostalgia buy for young parents looking to take a trip down memory lane. CAbby West
Recommended ages: 5-8

Hello Kitty: Stump Village
(55 mins., 2006)
And you thought Hello Kitty spent all her time just gracing T-shirts and countless other pieces of accessorizing chotchkes! Touted as the feline's first claymation appearance, this five-episode set has Hello Kitty showing great range: She gets really mad when her friends break her heart-shaped fruit! She gets crafty and makes a pair of sunglasses out of vegetables! And a badminton racket out of embroidery hoops and baguettes! Of course, it is truly difficult to show great emotion when one is limited to sighs, gurgles, and the occasional meow in place of speech (it's all about the narration, dear viewer). But if you get the slightest case of ennui while watching this with your loved little one, there's always the amusement of seeing how and when characters' mouths suddenly appear and then disappear when they don't need them. C+EC
Recommended ages: 3 and up

Books

Keeker and The Horse Show Show-Off
And
Keeker and The Sugar Shack
By Hadley Higginson; illustrated by Maja Andersen
These new books featuring Catherine Corey Keegan Dana — better known as Keeker — and her spirited little pony Plum are both winners, though of the two, I much preferred Horse Show; it's livelier and more original. When Keeker and Plum decide to enter the local 4-H competition, they're both excited (though, admittedly, it takes lots of carrots and apples to lure Plum into the hated horse trailer the morning of the show). But then Keeker meets her first competitor, snooty little ''Tifni with an I,'' and suddenly loses confidence in herself. But Plum, sassy as ever, is determined not to be outdone, especially not by some brushed, braided, fancy-pants pony. These books are terrific first chapter books for young readers, quirky and compelling; the line drawings of the girl and her horse are simple but beguiling. Sugar Shack: B+ Horse Show: ATina Jordan
Recommended ages: 5-8

Moon Plane
By Peter McCarty
A gentle, simply, beautifully illustrated tale of a little boy who looks up in the sky, sees an airplane, and wonders, for a second, what it would be like to be on that plane, travelling to the moon. His imagination takes him there, floating in space, but then he quickly reboards the plane and soars back home in time to be tucked into bed. I don't remember seeing a recent book that so captured the magic, the fabulousness, of what it is to daydream. ATJ
Recommended ages: 3-5

For Your Collection
The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine OR The Hithering Thithering Djinn
By Donald Barthelme
This fabulous reprint of the 1971 classic — a National Book Award Winner — even bears a quote from Thomas Pynchon on its press release (which, I think, must be some kind of first for a children's book. And if any child could actually muddle though the somewhat terrifying praise, they would probably drop the book with undue haste and run away). Illustrated by a pastiche of nineteenth-century woodcuts, Fire Engine is the story of a thoroughly intelligent and self-aware young lass named Matilda who wishes devoutly that a fire engine might appear in her backyard. But when she goes outside, alas, there's only a pagoda. ''Well, a mysterious Chinese house is better than nothing,'' she decides, and in she goes, only to have an extremely satisfying adventure involving a knitting pirate, an elephant, and a djinn. This is the sort of tale children will never tire of — and neither will their parents, no matter how many times they have to read it. (And that's saying something: I don't want to tell you how many books ''disappeared'' around our house, but never this one.) ATJ
Recommended ages: 5-10

Originally posted Nov 01, 2006