Timeless tales

By Lee Littlewood
Copley News Service
       New vintage books, or books written long ago but rereleased, are flooding the children's book marketplace. Proven winners among generations of readers, these classic tales, revamped with vivid color, are tried and true. Baby boomer parents and grandparents love introducing nostalgic books to young readers. (And so do publishers).
       According to Larry Stipe, children's literature professor at the University of Pennsylvania, "There is something comforting about these books that appeals to today's kids."

"Petunia" by Roger Duvoisin; Random House; 32 pages; $16.
       In "Petunia," first released in 1950, a proud, silly goose thinks owning a book will make her smart, and sets about dispensing all kinds of wacky advice to fellow farm animals. After causing confusion, accidents and an injurious fireworks explosion with her ill advice, Petunia finally realizes that "it is not enough to carry wisdom under my wing. I must put it in my mind and in my heart," and learns to read. Pleasing retro illustrations, gentle humor and an indispensable lesson prove "Petunia" is still ripe reading material for young children.
"The Little Fire Engine" by Lois Lenski; Random House; 48 pages; $14
       Fireman Small is back in full color. Penned in 1946, Lenski's famous fireman romps through a typical day sliding down a pole, ringing his truck's bell, zooming to a fire and spraying the hose at a burning house. Simple, but enormously appealing, with wondrous vintage pictures, Lenski's tot-friendly text ends with, "And that's all about Fireman Small."
       Also from Lenski is "The Little Train," from Random House. In this, Engineer Small and his train pick up passengers at the station, wait for a drawbridge, head for a tunnel and drop off the people. Plenty of action words, (Huff! Huff! Who-o-o-o-o! Toot! Toot!), pepper the lovable pages, making this a must for preschool train lovers. Two more beloved releases by Lenski, "Now it's Fall" and "I Like Winter" are colorful, smaller-shaped, and rhythmic. "I Like Winter" is a particularly pleasing read about a brother and sister who sled, shovel snow and sing Christmas carols - the perfect stocking stuffer, priced at $10.

"Bonjour, Babar!" by Jean de Brunhoff; Random House; 276 pages; $30.
       Need a classy gift book for a young child? Six stories about Babar the Elephant are here, including "The Travels of Babar," "Babar and His Children" and "Babar and Father Christmas." The cleanly-penned tales, all written between 1931 and 1941, are full of adventure and fantasy, family celebrations and the stuff of real life. With an introduction from award-winning author Kevin Henkes and a profile of de Brunhoff, this compilation is full of the magic generations of children have come to expect from Babar.

       Every day, unintentional injuries end the lives of 16 children, leave 328 permanently disabled and injure thousands of others. These tragedies could be prevented with education. One publisher, Backyard Books, is attempting to rectify the horror with its new line of books.
       Recommended by the National Safe Kids Campaign, (NSKC), the story and activity books are reasonably priced, ($3 to $7), and are engaging and fun. The books, aimed at kids 3 to 7, are available at national bookstores, or by phoning 877-NOW-SAFE. They feature stories about water safety, new baby and pet safety, how to conquer pretend monsters, how to be safe at the mall and on bikes. Activity books include reusable stickers and plenty of coloring.
       "Fantasia 2000," newly on video and DVD from Walt Disney Home Video, is beautiful, lilting and full of incredible classical music. Released on the 60th anniversary of the original "Fantasia," this entertaining film is the work of more than 1,200 Disney artists, with lush hand-drawn animation and computer graphics. Walt Disney would be proud.
       Want a luxurious, imaginative plaything for a child this holiday season? Folkmanis puppets, available at fine toy and nature stores, give a child a lovable friend, plus a high quality puppet for story telling. With many animal reproductions, (and some wizards, children and firemen, too), Folkmanis puppets are numerous. Their new snow leopard - large, spotted and cuddly - is particularly beautiful; and the raccoon in a garbage can is fun and promotes recycling. To see more, visit

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After-school brain ticklers

By Lee Littlewood
Copley News Service

       As the school year is now firmly entrenched in the rigors of studies, children may need a fun impetus for extracurricular learning at home. These products are exciting, innovative ways to get kids reading, doing math and using their brains, all while having a blast.

"Quiz Master," Big Fish/C&B Publishing; $13 each.
       A colorful quiz game for two or more players, the "Quiz Master" series, for kids 8 to adult, comes in several thought-provoking editions, "Super Knowledge," "World Knowledge" and "Science Knowledge." The "World" package, for example, includes questions, clues and answers regarding culture, places, our planet, ecology and animals. On all three, kids use slide cards that have picture clues on one side and questions and answers on the reverse. The cards, called "Head Hummers," "Skull Sizzlers" and "Brain Boilers," include over 500 questions, making these games great for improving general knowledge.

"Coin Collecting for Kids" by Steve Otfinoski; illustrated by Jack Graham; innovative Kids Publishing; $13.
       Coin collecting is a wonderful way for children to learn about math, history and culture; plus, what kid doesn't love money? This sturdy, interactive kit is a book full of splendid monetary information, but is also a means for kids to store their coin collections. The acid-free board pages contain slots so youngsters can organize their coins safely. Slots for buffalo nickels, liberty walking half dollars, Indian head cents and all new state quarters are included, plus many more areas for coins and nifty money trivia.
       This great new publisher, a division of innovative USA Inc., offers many book/kits that combine reading and play.
       "Dino-Might" is a fact book combined with a board game and play dinosaurs. "I Know My ABCs" includes magnetic letter tiles and picture puzzles to help kids learn to read, write and spell. "What Do You Want to Be?" includes picture blocks preschoolers can put together to answer rhyming puzzles; and "Rough Roads" and "Whose Back is Bumpy?" are textured, soft-shape books with safe, thick foam figures kids can pop out.

"Read With Pooh" from Fisher-Price, $40.
       This interactive Pooh holds his own books and, with the help of a child's remote control "book," magically turns pages exactly when the child turns his or her page. Pooh, in his ever-sweet voice, reads one of two learning stories while the child follows along. Buttons in the book also provide fun sound effects or ask questions regarding the story. Pooh also comes with a soft backpack that holds both books.
       Introducing fun ways to get your kids interested in reading is always smart, especially with the lovable Winnie the Pooh.

"M&M's, the Lost Formulas" CD-ROM; Simon & Schuster Interactive; approximately $29.
       This wacky, high-energy game, for Windows and Macintosh formats, pits colorful M&M candies, with legs, against robots, churning chocolate and cascading candy. Kids ages 5 to 10 will love this game, as it plays like a video game with plenty of action and high-resolution 3-D graphics. But they'll also be faced with plenty of math challenges and drills that adjust to each player's skill level and are key in helping the M&Ms restore sanity to their factory. Plenty of fun and learning are here.

"Sports Nut" trivia game from Radica; approximately $30.
       Learning about sports is still learning, right? Sports fans 8 and up can ask this "sports nut," (he's actually shaped like a nut with legs, arms and a tongue), 800 questions about almost every sport. Up to four players can play Norm Nutman's game after pushing his tongue to hear him talk. When players need even more, a Nut eLink, sold separately, helps, download new trivia every week from

"Angelina Ballerina" book and doll set; American Girl Publishing; $28.
       The "Angelina Ballerina" books, about an adorable mouse who loves to dance, are now available from American Girl. The hardback books, numbering at least six, are perfect for girls 3 to 7. In this special set, a velvety plush Angelina, dressed in a removable pink tutu and ballet slippers, is packaged with the first book in the series. Fans can find other Angelina Ballerina accessories, clothes and books at

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Valuable tales teach healthy values

By Lee Littlewood
Copley News Service
       We all want to teach our children healthy values, such as the importance of being polite, kind and strong. Reading to them morality-based stories is one way to accomplish that goal. These books, non-preachy and fun, offer plenty of tales sure to make lasting impact.
       "The Adventures of Sam the Crow: Sam's Search" by Pam Avery Yielding; illustrated by Angie Lee Talbott; Trois Cousines Publishing; 38 pages.
       This self-published storybook, from a trio of Georgia cousins, is already a winner in classrooms and school readings. The tale, about a wandering crow with personality-plus, has longer, rhyming text than most picture books, making it accessible for all ages of kids, even the finicky fifth- and sixth-grade crowd.
       In the rollicking read, Sam the Crow tries to take up residence at a sunny farm, but its grumpy residents (scarecrow, hen, swan, duck) are very wary and cautious. Though Sam tries to sway their opinions with friendly chatter, kind persuasion and even dance, the farm animals send him away. During a coming thunderstorm, however, Sam saves the swan's baby, and the group welcomes him back. A gentle, entertaining lesson in acceptance, kindness and neighborliness, "Sam's Search" preaches non-violence in an inviting, lusciously-illustrated way, making the tale perfect for class or home. For sale in Border's and other book stores. If hard to find, call (706) 882-8643 or visit to order.

"The Children's Treasury of Virtues" edited by William J. Bennett; illustrated by Michael Hague; Simon & Schuster; 335 pages; $30.
       Bennett, respected champion of ethics, does wonderfully with stories for kids. More than 70 allegories, verses and capsule histories featured in Bennett's three best-selling books for children are brought together in this grand volume.
       "The Children's Book of Virtues," "The Children's Book of Heroes" and "The Children's Book of America" are full of character-building lessons sure to train youngsters' minds and hearts toward morally sound attitudes.
       Stories feature George Washington and his cherry tree, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, Johnny Appleseed and classics such as "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," "A Child's Prayer," "Yankee Doodle" and Martin Luther King's dream. Poems, songs, folktales and unforgettable illustrations by Hague make this grand compilation an essential tool for building a new generation with character.

"A Brave Little Princess" by Beatrice Masini; illustrated by Octavia Monaco; Barefoot Books; 32 pages; $16.
       Barefoot Books is dedicated to creating lovely books that encourage independence of spirit, promote understanding and acceptance of different traditions and foster a lifelong love of learning. Their books are also marvelously worldly, colorful and harmonious.
       In this tale, a young princess is made fun of for being small. After her grandmother explains that her grandfather, who was also tiny, was a war hero, the princess sets off on her own to combat her little image. Although all alone, the courageous Leonora turns back a dragon, undoes a magician's spell and conquers a flock of hungry vultures. Because of her heroic deeds, she brings peace to a village, making everyone proud. Charming, sun-tinged hues highlight the wondrous pages of a tale sure to make kids understand they can fulfill their dreams, no matter how small they feel.

"The Boy Who Stuck Out His Tongue" by Edith Tarbescu; illustrated by Judith Christine Mills; Barefoot Books; 32 pages; $16.
       In this Yiddish folk tale, made clearly understandable and lively for all audiences, a boy taunts and sticks out his tongue often. But when his tongue is stuck to a frozen fence rail, his mother trudges through deep snow to find help. After asking the shoemaker, butcher and baker for help, the carpenter is finally able to free the boy, with the help of everyone else. When the boy sees how much his neighbors care for him, he's moved to tears, and vows to stop being naughty and help his mother whenever she needs it. Packed with humor and nail-biting excitement, this vivid story is sure to appeal to youngsters 5 to 8.

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