From Dan Zanes' indie rock to ''Mickey Mouse Clubhouse'' and more

By EW Staff
Updated May 05, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Kids’ Corner: Recommendations for the week of May 19

Catch That Train!
CD, Festival Five/Starbucks Hear Music, $16.98
For someone who presented himself as a funky, unformulaic alternative to traditionally dorky kids’ music, Dan Zanes sure has his own formula down pat. Catch That Train!, his fifth album of tunes for adventurous tots rarely deviates from the routine: There’s the loosey-goosey frolic song (”Catch That Train!,” an outdoor version of House Party‘s title track), the dance song (”Let’s Shake”), the requisite cameos to satisfy indie-rock adults (Nick Cave, the Kronos Quartet), and the expected forays into world music (with the Children of Agape, a South African children’s choir). Along the way we again hear healthy doses of Zanes’ reverb-y electric guitar and affable croak.

Pleasant as it is, the album can feel as predictable as the records Zanes has always sought to counter. Just when bored parents may be ready for a nap, though, come moments of quirky splendor: ”Mariposa Olé” is a Spanish-language charmer featuring Barbara Brousal; Zanes and Natalie Merchant add a lovely lilt to the Scottish ballad ”Loch Lomond.” He also slips in a pointedly political statement with the Depression-era anti-rich-folks anthem ”I Don’t Want Your Millions, Mister.” Even if he’s caught this particular train before, moments like those make you glad Zanes is still the anti-Raffi. BDavid Browne
Recommended ages: 2 and up

Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons
DVD, Unrated, 670 mins., $39.99
A squabbling dinosaur family stars in this Jim Henson-hatched animatronic sitcom, Dinosaurs. Pitched at both kids and adults, the series looked great, but its tone was sour. Even the baby dinosaur’s catchphrase, ”Gotta love me!,” was more irritating than lovable. (Henson died before the show was actually produced.) Kids reared on Pixar-style animation probably won’t get hooked, and a making-of featurette may startle. C+Ken Tucker
Recommended ages: 12-15

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters
Book; written by Robert Sabuda, illustrations by Matthew Reinhart, (Candlewick, $27.99
Robert Sabuda’s finest pop-up book to date, is a real work of art: A truly scary megalodon head rears up, baring its enormous white teeth; an elasmosaurus and a mosasaurus engage in a vicious ocean battle; an entire kronosaurus snaps to life with the turn of a page. Reptile lovers big and small will ooh and aah over the detail of every scary 3-D skeleton. ATina Jordan
Recommended ages: 5 and up

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney Channel)
TV, Disney Channel
It is fascinating that children who have had little or no exposure to Mickey Mouse (at least to their parents’ knowledge) seem to inherently know who that cute little rodent is. Walt Disney’s signature character gets a fresh CG update — complete with Dora-like call-and-response segments — encouraging youngsters to work on math skills, shapes, and problem-solving. It also features an infectious end song (and dance), ”Hot Dog!,” courtesy of They Might Be Giants. A-Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 2-5

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