Eileen Clarke reviews two new DVDs, while Tina Jordan previews a Nick News segment on ''Surviving Middle School'' and recommends a roundup of excellent books

By Eileen Clarke
December 27, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

Will wee ones give a hoot about the ”Hoot” DVD?


(2006, 90 mins., PG)
It’s nice that Hoot, based on Carl Hiaasen’s best-selling novel, will encourage kids to think about the land and the environment that surrounds them. It follows the story of Roy (Logan Lerman), a quiet boy who’s often the new kid at school since his father’s job requires lots of moves and who joins forces with two other rebels on a mission: to prevent a planned pancake house in Coconut Cove, Fla., from displacing spotted owls on a construction site.

But it’s the manner in which the head rogue goes about his work — putting a mini gator in a Porta John, setting loose cottonmouth snakes to scare off guard dogs, vandalizing the construction site, that would give any parent pause in advocating this film — no matter how noble nature’s cause may be. It may even be confusing to some youngsters who the bad guys are supposed to be. Most of the adults are portrayed as either evil (the pancake people) or buffoonish (Luke Wilson’s police officer gets demoted to riding a three-wheeler). Gee, the only one who comes off as cool is the teacher, played by Jimmy Buffett, who also happens to sing the soundtrack and produced this puppy.

Still, aside from seeing that the owls remain safe, there is one other thing that may make young viewers happy: seeing the film’s bully get his comeuppance, not once, but twice. Justice, tween style. C+ —Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 7 and up

Magilla Gorilla: The Complete Series
(2006, 539 mins.)
I know adults past the age of 40 who can still belt out Magilla‘s theme song, and many of you have probably whiled away hours watching Mr. Peebles try to unload the oafish gorilla from his pet shop in this 1964-67 Hanna-Barbera animated series. Magilla was dopey in a harmless, Jessica Simpson kind of way, and the humor will still tickle your funny bone. There’s also the always-feuding Punkin’ Puss and Mushmouse, who made Tom and Jerry look like the best of friends, and Sheriff Ricochet Rabbitt (Bing Bing Binggg!!) and his deputy Droop-A-Long to round out your ”Wow, we’ve witnessed a lot of violent cartoons growing up and we’re still fine” nostalgia trip. As for the kiddies watching, might as well throw caution to the wind and sit them down with a big bowl of sugary cereal to celebrate along with you. B —EC
Recommended ages: 4 and up


Nick News With Linda Ellerbee: The Worst Years of My Life? Surviving Middle School
(Aug. 20, 8:30 p.m. ET/PT)
In this Nick News segment, anchor Linda Ellerbee takes on middle school. Or, as she says, getting instantly to the heart of the matter in her graveled honey voice, ”What’s it like to be you, wrapped up inside an unfamiliar package?” Ordinary kids as well as celebs weigh in on the experience, talking about peer pressure (and what they did, or didn’t do, to fit in), clothes, looks, grades, parents, and love (as Jon Stewart puts its, ”Cooties go away. Now there’s a delicious longing for cooties.”). Taylor Hicks remembers he started getting gray hair. Jewel says she was embarrassed to be getting breasts, but author Judy Blume admits to stuffing her 32A bras with cotton balls and tissues. The Wayans brothers talk about how they used humor to keep from getting the crap beaten out of them. While the recollections from the glitterati — and the mortification and humiliation that they, too, suffered — will certainly make tweens feel better, it’s the regular kids who ground the segment. One girl sums up the whole sorry experience best when she says, ”You feel like everybody notices every single flaw you have.” There isn’t much real advice here, just a lot of commiseration. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing: How many middle schoolers listen to advice, anyway? B —Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 11-14


Kangodile: A Mix and Match Menagerie
By Janet Landay
Is it an elephion? A shurtle? A vebra? This bright, lively accordion book, printed on sturdy laminated paper, is nothing but a parade of vibrantly drawn animals, which — when opened and closed at different points — creates all kinds of wacky new creatures. Good fun (even for toddlers: they don’t need to be able to read the names to have fun). A —TJ
For all ages

T. Rex
By Vivian French; illustrated by Alison Bartlett
As they wander through the T. Rex exhibit at Chicago’s Field Museum, a grandfather tries to answer his grandson’s questions about dinosaurs (”How were his teeth, his terrible teeth? Were they sharp? Were they long? Were they terribly strong?”) A nice book for parents to read to little dinosaur buffs, or for young readers who have moved past beginning fare and are ready for slightly more challenging vocabulary. A? —TJ
Recommended ages: 5-8

Stoo Hample’s Book of Bad Manners
”The kids in my book are rude, loud, and mean — the worst mannered kids that you’ve ever seen!” proclaims the book’s cover. And it doesn’t disappoint. In hilarious, disgusting rhyming prose, accompanied by equally hilarious, disgusting drawings, are descriptions of every kind of abysmally behaved kid: the name caller, the greedy guy, the toy hog, the nose picker (”Watch out for this sort/And try not to meet them/Especially the pickers/Who pick them, then eat them!”) and on and on. Kids will laugh, but the idea of what’s socially acceptable — and what’s not — is the message here, conveyed in language that they’ll all understand. A? —TJ
Recommended ages: 4-9

For Your Collection
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
By Robert C. O’Brien (both hardcover and paperback)
Atheneum has just released a beautiful new edition of this Newbery Award-winning classic. The magical tale follows the adventures of a widowed mouse named Mrs. Frisby, who must evacuate her home beneath Mr. Fitzgibbon’s vegetable garden before he begins to plow. But because she cannot do it alone — her son Timothy is dangerously ill with pneumonia — Mrs. Frisby turns to some very special rats for help. O’Brien’s novel has been enchanting young readers for 35 years now. A+ —TJ
Recommended ages: 8-13

  • Movie
  • PG
  • 90 minutes
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