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The trippy, live-action ''Alice in Wonderland''

Eileen Clarke reviews the trippy, live-action ”Alice in Wonderland,” plus a new Winnie the Pooh video; Shanelle Rein-Olowokere watches Elmo’s latest; and Tina Jordan rounds up books

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The trippy, live-action ”Alice in Wonderland”


Alice in Wonderland
(1985, 187 mins.)
Want to teach your kids a new vocabulary word this week? Watch Alice with them and keep repeating the word bizarre. Based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this star-studded, live-action Alice will have kids wondering what size Alice will be next, and parents trying to recognize her accomplices: On her way to the other side of the mirror, Alice bumps into Red Buttons (White Rabbit), Shelley Winters (Dodo Bird), Sid Caesar (Gryphon), Imogene Coca (Cook), Jayne Meadows (Queen of Hearts), Sammy Davis Jr. (Caterpillar), Martha Raye (Duchess), Telly Savalas (Cheshire Cat), and, in one of many odd musical numbers gracias a Steve Allen, Ringo Starr (Mock Turtle).

As the forthright Alice, Natalie Gregory certainly holds her own against her stellar costars, though she does look a little uncomfortable in her JonBenet-like wig. Children who have read the story will no doubt delight in seeing it on screen — watching Alice grow and shrink, or swim in a river of her own tears, shed when she was 9 feet tall. Just be sure to warn younger viewers about the trip down the rabbit hole; it still makes my 3-year-old scream, even after repeated viewings. A- —Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 6 and up

Elmo’s World: Pets!
(53 mins., 2006)
Elmo has lots of experience helping kids understand their place in the world, so who better to introduce the little ones to the concept of man’s best friends? In three short segments, Elmo (along with close pals Mr. Noodle and his beloved goldfish, Dorothy) demonstrates the basics of pet ownership (feedings, groomings, and visits to the veterinarian) and shares some fun tidbits (about canine jobs and how to decipher animal talk). But despite the well-intentioned lessons, your child — especially if he/she owns a rabbit, a ferret, or even a snake — might notice that something is missing. Elmo focuses mainly on owning and caring for obvious, furry sidekicks (cats and dogs), leaving the rest of the pet kingdom to fend for itself. B+ —Shanelle Rein-Olowokere
Recommended ages: 1 and up

Winnie the Pooh: Wonderful Word Adventure
Winnie the Pooh: Shapes and Sizes
(30 mins. each, 2006)
The Hundred Acre Wood becomes a scene for learning in Wonderful Word Adventure, when Pooh and his pals try to speed their way to the finish line in a race set up by Owl; the only way they can advance is by figuring out what words are opposite of one another. Before you can say up and down or over and under, one of the friends wins a special medal (hooray for the honeypot song). In Shapes and Sizes, Pooh’s posse helps Rabbit harvest his garden, and must figure out which vegetables go into different-shaped baskets. Both DVDs, part of the Disney Learning Adventures series, combine the gentleness of a Pooh storyline with fun ways to learn the basics. B+ —EC
Recommended ages: 3-6


Gideon the Cutpurse
By Linda Buckley-Archer
If you have kids who love Harry Potter and are constantly casting about for similar books to read, Gideon might be just the ticket. Thanks to an unfortunate encounter with an antigravity machine, Peter and his friend Kate are suddenly catapulted from the 21st century all the way back to 1763. Soon after they land, shaken and bruised, in a country field spattered with cowpats, a criminal known as the Tar Man makes off with the antigravity machine — their only hope of returning home — and leaves them at the mercy of one Gideon Seymour, ”cutpurse and gentleman.” The rollicking historical adventure brings 18th-century London, with all its noises and smells, to vivid life. Buckley-Archer plans a trilogy, so the book ends on a fabulous cliff-hanger. A- —Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 10-13

The Big Book of Games: 1000 Playthinks of Art, Mathematics, and Science
By Ivan Moscovich
This reprint — a massive compendium of clever, off-the-wall brainteasers — is technically for adults, but it will appeal to teenagers as well: My 14-year-old has been happily consumed by it for days. (And what’s more, she’s much better at it than I am.) She and I are both fans of all kinds of puzzles and games, and neither of us has ever seen a collection so wide-ranging and imaginative. A —TJ

Hot Dog and Bob and the Seriously Scary Attack of the Evil Alien Pizza Person
By L. Bob Rovetch; illustrated by Dave Whamond
Calling all fans of Captain Underpants! In other words, lovers of slime, cafeteria food fights, and teachers who turn into ”evil mutant alien” pizza people. That’s exactly what happens to our narrator, the unfortunate Bob, who opens his lunch box in the cafeteria one day only to have a talking hot dog pop out. Naturally, calamity ensues. On a scale of 1 to 10, the book scores only a 7 for sheer grossness, but that’s certainly enough to appeal to elementary-school-age readers — the ones who like to be disgusted, that is. B —TJ
Recommended ages: 6-10