Here's why Eileen Clarke fancies ''Postman Pat,'' the U.K. stop-motion series now airing Stateside. Plus: Tina Jordan on a new ''Judy Moody'' book, and a keepsake album

By Eileen Clarke
Updated July 13, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Eileen Clarke fancies ”Postman Pat”


Postman Pat
HBO Family, 8 a.m. weekdays
Kids across the U.K. have been watching Postman Pat deliver letters and parcels for more than a quarter of a century, and now the Yanks have got him too. The mild-mannered mailman serves the tiny fictional English village of Greendale, and has become such a popular character across the pond that he (or the bloke who wore the costume, anyway) went to Buckingham Palace to toast the queen for her 80th birthday.

American children may immediately think of Bob the Builder when viewing Pat, which is filmed in stop-motion animation and has the same kind of small-town, let’s-fix-the-problem gumption as its counterpart. But Pat‘s characters, and their situations, are a lot more interesting. There’s Dorothy, who always has some sort of crisis in her garden: One day her strawberries go missing; another, her lettuces are being attacked by swarms of bugs. Little Meera wants to perform a traditional Indian dance for the school assembly with her friend Sarah, but can they do it without help from Meera’s mom, Nisha, and will Meera’s sari arrive in time?

The affable Postman Pat usually comes to the rescue just in the nick of time. All the stories are told and resolved in such a lovely manner, and have a universal appeal, despite all the tea-and-crumpeting going on. Indeed, Postman Pat is first-class. A-Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 2 to 5


Judy Moody Declares Independence
By Megan McDonald; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Hear ye, hear ye! The spirited, spunky Judy Moody is back, and this time, galvanized by a family trip to Boston — where she learns quite a bit of history — she decides to declare independence from her little brother Stink, and from brushing her hair, to name a few things. But is Judy ready for more independence? (Not to mention more allowance?) Her declaration seems to get her into trouble…and then more trouble…and then even more. Like its predecessors, this Judy book is clever, slightly twisted, and downright hilarious. ATina Jordan
Recommended ages: 7 and up

School Years: A Family Keepsake of School Memories
I had one of these as a child, a big spiral notebook with envelopes for each year, and my kids love leafing through it, looking at my horrible school pictures, pulling out my report cards and battered crayon drawings and research papers. I’m glad that they still make these — should I call them notebooks? Scrapbooks? Well, whatever it is, School Years, with its aqua-tinted pages and cool fonts, is funky and fun — as well as a nice way to keep a record from kindergarten through 12th grade. ATJ