1. ALADDIN (Walt Disney) In this enchanting, enchanted world, an impoverished boy can become a prince, a carpet can fly, and Robin Williams is a genie with serious attitude. Disney updates the Arabian Nights story without losing any of the fairy-tale magic: Princess Jasmine is as gorgeous as we demand royalty be, but this modern girl’s not waiting around for her prince to arrive. And the animation is spectacular, a work of art.
2. SHILOH (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor) The book — about Shiloh, a mistreated dog befriended by Marty, a West Virginia boy who is not allowed to have a pet — won the Newbery Award as well as a place on the classics shelf next to The Yearling and Old Yeller. The appeal lies not only in Shiloh’s obvious charm but also in the descriptions of Marty’s preadolescent yearnings — something even adults can, as we adults say, relate to.
3. BEETHOVEN (MCA/Universal) Family meets dog, family loses dog, family finds dog. Formulaic, true, but that’s why formulas work. The fluffy, drooling Saint Bernard in the title role is just what you want in a $ fluffy drooler. And Charles Grodin does a wonderful turn as the man who would be master.
4. BOB AND JACK: A BOY AND HIS YAK (Jeff Moss) In this whimsical and touching tale, Jeff Moss (one of the creators of Sesame Street) writes in rhyming couplets about a boy named Jack who gets the present he’s always wished for — a yak named Bob. The two characters — illustrated by Chris Demarest in all their dignified dorkiness — are inseparable until Jack leaves for college. Whereupon Bob, miserable at his loss, grows old and despondent. The reader worries that, as in ”Puff the Magic Dragon,” there can be no happy ending, but Moss doesn’t disappoint — this is a poignant story about friendship, longing, and growth.
5. THE MUSIC IN DISNEY: A LEGACY IN SONG (Disneyland) Brilliantly produced, this collection-for-all-ages includes such favorites-of-all-time as ”Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and ”A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” as well as more obscure songs. It also features tunes from recent Disney movies such as The Little Mermaid. With performances by unlikely Disney crooners — including Sean Connery, Leslie Nielsen, and Kirk Douglas — the sound is crisp; the old tracks have been cleaned up. And the tunes will stick in your head, we swear, for weeks.
6. CHICKEN SUNDAY (Philomel) A captivating illustrated autobiographical book about Patricia, her two African-American friends, their grandmother Eula Mae Walker, and their plans for an Easter surprise that threaten to go awry. There is, be assured, a moving resolution and valuable life lessons to be learned along the way.
7. WOODY’S 20 GROW BIG SONGS (HarperCollins) Using the same technology that allowed Natalie Cole to sing Unforgettable along with her late father, Nat, the Guthrie family — three children (including Arlo) and seven grandchildren — has recorded this collection of children’s songs ”with” the late legendary folksinger Woody Guthrie. The accompanying book, illustrated by Woody’s wife, Marjorie, is an enriching companion to the music.