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Kids' Corner: A dazzling introduction to flamenco

A dazzling introduction to flamenco on DVD. Plus: A TV series that encourages youngsters to read; a new spring-themed ”Animal Planet,” and an audiobook of the original ”Shrek!”

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Kids’ Corner: A dazzling introduction to flamenco


Flamenco for Kids (Flamenco Para Niños)
55 mins., 2007
Think your little ones’ ears are not sophisticated enough to appreciate the sounds of a world beat like flamenco? Think again. Silvia Marín, a dance teacher and director of Compañía El Flamenco Vive, has been instructing young children in this fine art for years, and she brings an infectious enthusiasm for flamenco to all who watch this DVD. This is not so much a how-to as it is an introductory look at all the things that make up flamenco — the cante, or song, palmas, or clapping, followed by the instruments: el cajón, or box, and of course, la guitarra.

Kids will learn how to clap the rhythm, or compás, of a tango (four beats), fandango (three), and alegrias (12) along with the children in the DVD’s audience (students from elementary schools in Madrid, most of whom are festively dressed in Sevillanas dresses and flamenco skirts). Marín creates a mini-tablao of her own, with singers explaining what the songs are all about (anything from work, fishing, love, freedom, peace, or children) to a palmero explaining how to clap, and a guitarist explaining not only the physical parts of the instrument but the many different styles of strumming. It’s clear that Marín understands her audience, especially when she asks if anyone can figure out what a singer has just sung (flamenco songs can be difficult for even native Spanish speakers to decipher). She also interviews some of the biggest stars in flamenco today — from dancers Sara Baras and Belén Maya to singers José Mercé and Pitingo, and gets them to talk about how they started. (Just note that if your child has never watched anything that’s been dubbed before, it may take them a while to understand why the mouths and voices aren’t in sync.)

After demonstrating some fancy footwork of her own, Marín tells the story of how, as a young girl growing up in Milan, she once saw a flamenco show and was completely captivated — so much so that she moved to Spain to study and has been there ever since. So here’s a great way to spark a similar fire — without ever having to pack a suitcase. B+Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 5 and up
To find this DVD, visit elflamencovive.com


Discovery Kids, Weekdays at 11 a.m.; starting 4/23 also on TLC at 7:30 a.m.
In this new series conceived by three moms, a calf named Wilbur and his three friends, Dasha the duck, Ray the rooster, and Libby the lamb, learn a lot of life’s lessons by reading books. The animals, shown using the ”Shadowmation” technique (full-size puppets seen in a virtual 3-D world), usually encounter some sort of dilemma. But when they start reading a story — which itself comes to life in an animated setting — a solution emerges. For instance, when Dasha is worried that her caterpillar friend has gone missing, she and Wilbur read The Caterpillar’s Big Change, and she realizes that her friend has formed a cocoon and is awaiting a transformation. And when Ray thinks he can’t crow without the aid of his usual perch, the weathervane, he and his friends read a story about a captain who discovers he doesn’t necessarily need his hat to sail a ship. Along with some interesting stories, kids can enhance fundamental skills like sequencing, structure, and drawing conclusions. B-EC
Recommended ages: 2-5

Spring Watch USA
Animal Planet, begins 4/21 at 8 p.m.
Still feel like you’re hibernating? Sit down and see how animals celebrate spring’s rite of passage. There’s a rare look inside a sleeping mother bear’s den — animal experts employ blowdart tranquilizers so they can check on her two-week old cubs and then rub mentholated cold medicine on them to mask the human scent. Motherless northern elephant seal pups, cared for by marine mammal experts, get as close to mother’s milk as possible (a milkshake of ground herring, salmon oil, milk, and vitamins). And, something we never get tired of looking at: a corn snake expanding its jaw to swallow a mouse whole. Ah, spring! BEC
Recommended ages: 4 and up


Baby’s Day and Let’s Play
by Michael Blake
These little board books have flexible, extra-large bindings, which mean their pages open easily and stay flat — an extra-nice feature for little hands. Like the most appealing books of this type, they both feature photos of babies and small children; in this case, they’re black and white with bold color accents. Candlewick calls these ”first word books,” and indeed, each page is marked with ”bib,” ”hat,” and so on, but I think these books appeal to the very young child, the six, eight, and 10-month olds who can not only grasp a book but are entranced by photos of other babies too. A-Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 2 and younger

The One and Only Shrek! Plus 5 Other Stories
by William Steig; read by Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci
I don’t review audiobooks very often, mostly because I have trouble finding ones I like. This one, however, is a real jewel. Before Shrek was a hit movie, it was, of course, a story by the beloved author William Steig. Here Streep and Tucci read not only Shrek!, but also a handful of my other Steig favorites, including Spinky Sulks and Brave Irene. With such fabulous presentations (this isn’t just great car listening, it’s great anytime listening) I hope parents — and kids — will be inspired to go find some of the great Steig books (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, anyone?). ATJ
Recommended ages: All