Monday, July 27, 2009

My Baby Banana

In May singer and actress Debi Derryberry launched her new website My Baby Banana. She's best known as the voice of Jimmy Neutron, but this site is a platform for her music and music videos; it has information for grown-ups about her performances and releases, plus some videos, games, activities, and so forth for the kids. The launch, it appears, coincided with the release of a tropical themed CD, and the video on the site's main page will quickly bring out the little calypso dancer in your tyke. 

Here's a short review/endorsement by the IE Mommy. (It included a contest that is now closed, but it's a good note from someone who's heard more of the music than I have.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Latest Library Post: Dallas

This is the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in downtown Dallas. I've never been to the city but I recently came across a few items that resonate with what I've written about libraries here in New York and in Philly and elsewhere. Like in other cities, the Dallas public library system is having its financial woes as the municipal budget is cut. But this central unit could be in an even worse predicament due to a recent emphasis on renewing other areas of downtown with a new arts center and other architecturally daring new buildings--not to mention a lot of attention diverted to the Trinity River project and other things going on in the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth area. The possible result: that the central library could fade in importance and fall into disuse, disrepair, and disregard as patrons use the branch libraries and head to the newer venues downtown.

That's why I was pleased to read this story by Willard Spiegelman in last month's D Magazine. (Yes, I do indeed read D Magazine.) In it he reports that, despite this potential neglect, the library remains as central as ever. It is well used and well kept, and I'm sharing this because I think it's true of most libraries across the country. Patronage is up and librarians are responding with remarkable vigor, keeping things running, advocating for increased (or maintained) budgets, improving collections, serving job seekers and other community members, and even developing an innovative program or two. 

The latter is true in Dallas, though it predates the recession by a few months (particularly since, as I understand it, the recession came to Dallas a bit later than other parts of the country). But I am referring to Bookmarks, the city's first library exclusively for children that opened just over a year ago. A branch library devoted exclusively to kids is pretty unique in and of itself. What makes this even more of an entity to watch is its location in the NorthPark Shopping Center, an indoor shopping mall in the northeast part of the city. The idea was evidently to situate the library in a trendy new venue that would Bookmarks that would attract children anyway. I don't have any report on how it's doing, but hope use is up--despite a decrease in consumer spending at the surrounding stores! Here is Bookmark's official site, complete with an extensive line-up of kid and toddler entertainment, and here is a short article about its opening last June 13th (2008). Here's the main page for the Dallas Public Library. Good luck to them and librarians in every city, big and small. 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Original Transformers DVDs

I confess to not having seen either of Michael Bay's films yet--I suppose one day I will, after I work through the entire Roberto Rossellini Eclipse series--but I am the world's greatest connoisseur of the original Transformers cartoons. Now, piggybacking on the success of the films and in celebration of the series' twenty-fifth anniversary, two DVD collector sets are in the works.

Ah, the good old days, when Optimus Prime actually still looked like a semi truck in his robot mode...

Here is an April 21 article by Emily Claire Afan of KidScreen. The first DVD set was released in mid-June, with the second, more robust, version still forthcoming or just hitting the shelves now:

"Transformers fans will be able to get their DVD fix soon, as Hasbro and Shout! Factory have entered production on The Transformers: The Complete First Season 25th Anniversary Edition DVD box set, slated for a June 16 release.

"The set (SRP US$29.99) features all eps from season one of the original 1980s series, with remastered audio, bonus content and is packaged with a collectible Autobots magnet.

"Also in development is the 16-DVD The Transformers: 25th Anniversary "Matrix of Leadership" Edition Collector's Set (SRP US$29.99), with more than 38 hours of content, including the entire original animated G1 series, extras and special collectible book, slated for a mid-July release."

There's more info at the Shout! Factory website, plus something about a G.I. Joe collectors' set as well...  Or you can buy the thing--for a mere $15!--at Amazon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

WordGirl's Summer Road Trip

There's good news for all WordGirl fans waiting for new episodes: WordGirl is going on summer vacation, and that means new episodes today and tomorrow and fan favorites the rest of the week. See how excited Bob is?

I'm obviously posting too late to be much help for today, but one of tomorrow's episodes seems to be about saving the city's candy supply, which involves an encore appearance by one of the least-seen villains, the Birthday Girl. The second episode is about Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy and his much more successful brother. I'm anxious to see how he combs his hair, if his head is ever on screen, that is. Here is the full story from Animation Magazine, with a schedule for Wednesday and Thursday as well. I've seen all of those episodes and thought they were all pretty great.

If you missed my mentioning it a couple weeks ago, WordGirl has been renewed for a third season. 

Also, if you like Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy as much as I do, you might want to swing by my own website to see the sample script I wrote entitled "Duck! Soup!" (that's a link to a pdf; here's the page of all nine of my sample television scripts). (Oh, and there's no Marx Brothers beyond the title.)

Little Airplane Cafe

Ever wander around lower Manhattan and get a hankering for a stick of celery? Well now all your problems are solved! Little Airplane Productions, creators of Wonder Pets, 3rd & Bird, and the new interstitial Tobi! opened their doors yesterday to create their newest venture, the Little Airplane Cafe. The cafe is located at the studio at South Street Seaport (207 Front Street, actually). I'm not sure exactly how the layout works, since the studio itself doesn't have any street-level space, but my hunch is that it's up one flight of stairs in or around the space that has housed Little Airplane's gift shop. 

I also don't know for sure if celery's on the menu, but I do know that a series of children's music stars will be performing on various dates. Yesterday's opening was hosted by kids' DJ Mindy Thomas of the Absolutely Mindy Show and featured Laurie Berkner. Never fear if you missed that: Milkshake is coming up, as well as a reading by Stinky Cheese Man author Jon Scieszka. 

Here's a press release on the new space, and here's the cafe's page on Little Airplane's website. I suspect that future events will be posted there. 

Friday, July 10, 2009

Two Annotated Wind in the Willows

We recently celebrated the centennial of one of the great children's books of all time, Kenneth Graham's The Wind in the Willows. Though that event was last year, the festivities are continuing. Most recently there has been the publication of two commemorative annotated editions. One is by Seth Lerer for Harvard UP (the Belknap imprint, actually), and the other by Annie Gauger for Norton. 

Both of these editions were reviewed in today's New York Times by Charles McGrath. I don't agree entirely--or much at all--with his evaluation that the Toad material is the thematic center of the work; I myself was much more drawn into the elegiac, nostalgic portions involving Rat and Mole. But that is of course an eternal point of controversy. The point is that both new editions reveal much fascinating material amidst other moments of tedium (too much annotation, evidently, doth not a classic make). You can read the review here

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Sneak Peak at WordWorld

Today WordWorld LLC sent me a link to two clips of WordWorld that are set to debut on July 13. I don't often get to post sneak peak clips up here, so I thought I would do so now. Here's the link

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New News on Educational Video Games

I've lately come across a few items about how video/computer games can help youngsters learn. I remember explaining the benefits of hand-eye coordination to my mother when I was a kid, but research today has gone well beyond that. 

On June 23 the KidScreen newsletter reported on a new study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center that basically uncovered new and unexpected ways in which games can be beneficial. Here's that summary, by Emily Claire Afan. The actual report, of course, is available for download at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center publications webpage. (Those who want to scroll down on that page will also find a lot of other great studies--I'll have to find time to read all of these soon.) 

There's a lot of other material out there about this. Just browsing around I came across this two-year-old article on the subject. It lists a lot of game names, which are now obviously two years old, but it's still a good guide for seeing the kinds of things that are out there, especially for a fellow like me who hasn't really played games since the original NES (i.e. there's more to educational gaming than squashing walking mushrooms).

Along those lines and perhaps most exciting of all is the creation by the National Geographic Society of a video game unit, National Geographic Games. Here's the press release from last November. What's particularly cool about this, for me, is the apparent range of what they're going to undertake, particularly that they're going to make games for preschoolers and for older kids and even grown-ups too. In the former category we have National Geographic: Panda, seen below, in which kids can care for a panda like a pet, learning about its habitat, etc., and hopefully really coming to care about the real animals. Here's a review from Tech Talk for Families.

In the grown-up category the press release describes NGG's first release, Herod's Lost Tomb, which is history, archaeology, and heaven knows what else all wrapped up in one.