News Article

Creature Comforts

New books, tunes and a somewhat familiar TV show -- ''Animal Playground'' offers critter-geared world-music, plus two new books and Pooh's return

New books, tunes and a somewhat familiar TV show

Music

Animal Playground
Various Artists
If the mere humming of ''Itsy-Bitsy Spider'' induces a huge eye roll in your house, it may be time to up the culture quotient on your music collection. And there's no better way to do it than with Putumayo Kids' latest offering, Animal Playground, a lively grab bag of critter-related tracks from Australia to the Netherlands that once again showcases the world-music label's strengths.

The discs in Putumayo's Animal Playground series typically concentrate on a specific region (France, New Orleans) or style (folk, reggae), but this 13-song set knows no musical borders, hopping playfully from the Chicago-based Wee Hairy Beasties' punny ditty ''Animal Crackers'' to the hip-shaking Surinamese rhythms of Samba Salad's ''Bigi Kaiman.''

The one-world musical approach reaps other rewards, too, with several well-loved songs receiving international makeovers. Asheba brings a delightful Caribbean flavor to ''No More Monkeys,'' while ''Mbube'' is Ladysmith Black Mambazo's popular rendition of ''The Lion Sleeps Tonight.''

But what's really fun is seeing kids discover that familiar melodies can come with a twist: What is it about Quartetto Cetra's ''Nella Vecchia Fattoria'' that rings a bell? Ah, yes, it's ''Old MacDonald Had a Farm'' — in Italian. Just one of the great musical treats on Animal Playground. A-Michael Berick
Recommended ages: 2-10

TV

My Friends Tigger & Pooh
Saturdays, 10 a.m.
Purists may balk at My Friends Tigger & Pooh's CG Pooh, and a new character — a girl, no less — in the Hundred Acre Wood does take some getting used to. While this updated Pooh is undeniably jazzier than its predecessors, inviting viewers to ''Think, Think, Think'' (as the snappy song goes) about answers to questions posed, the simple, gentle stories about friendship and solving mysteries, not to mention the familiar voice of 20-year Pooh vet Jim Cummings, are all still there. B+Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 2-5

Books

The Human Body Book
By Steve Parker
For kids interested in bodies and how they work — and who aren't ready to dig into Grey's Anatomy — there's no better reference than Steve Parker's vividlyillustrated The Human Body Book, which is divided into different systems (nervous, respiratory, etc.) and loaded with straightforward text and excellent photos (ugh, so that's what impetigo looks like...). What's especially stunning are the diagrams — the page showing how muscles contract and how they work together is just terrific. ATina Jordan
Recommended ages: 12 and up

Chew on This
By Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson
The subtitle — Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food — pretty much says it all. Now that it's out in paperback, this investigative thriller should find its target audience: teens. ''This is an industry that both feeds and feeds off the young,'' say Wilson and Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation). Their descriptions of slaughterhouses, poorly treated workers, and scary chemical additives might just stop a kid — or a parent — from ordering that next Big Mac. ATJ
Recommended ages: 12 and up

Originally posted May 24, 2007 Published in issue #934 May 18, 2007 Order article reprints
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