David Weinstone's new ''Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals'' compilation celebrates the quirks of urban living in songs for young kids. Plus: ''Lil' Jams'' for lil' uns, Nicktoons' ''Secret Show,'' and three must-reads

By EW Staff
Updated January 19, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

The best of ”Music for Aardvarks” hits CD


David Weinstone Presents Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals
New York City parents have been listening to David Weinstone’s Aardvark music for almost a decade now. The former punk-rocker started his own interactive music classes for preschoolers when he realized the choices out there were slim for his own son, Ezra. Word of mouth helped balloon the classes — which currently have waiting lists to get in — and the songs, many celebrating everyday life in the city, are now taught by other singers all over the country.

Weinstone has released more than a dozen CDs (which were simply numbered instead of given titles), burned in his own home, to sell to parents of kids in his classes. Following his appearance on Noggin’s Jack’s Big Music Show, Weinstone decided to professionally re-master and re-record the most popular tunes for this 20-track compilation. What’s the great appeal? You won’t find songs about rainbows or unicorns here — more like bagels and belly buttons. Weinstone is all about telling it like it is, with an urban edge. Just try to get the lyrics of ”Taxi,” the album’s title track, out of your head: ”Taxi, taxi, riding in the back seat / Roll the windows up / Roll the windows down.” It won’t be possible. Weinstone understands what tickles kids’ funny bones, from laughing for the sake of laughing (”I Crack Me Up”) to dissing a father’s sleeping habits (”Daddy’s Snoring”).

But it’s also the charming music that may make your little ones want to move, doing their own versions of cha cha (”Swing Town”), the dance of Argentina (”Tango”), waltz (”Ruby’s Friends”), or rumba (”Have You Seen My Nose?”). And that’s something every kid in any town can relate to. A-Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 1-7

Lil’ Jams Vol. 1
Lil’ Jams
Normally I’m not a fan of the little-kids-singing-adult-songs genre, but Lil’ Jams Vol. 1 (available exclusively at Target stores) has gotten the formula down right — not too heavy on the kiddie background vocals, and no inappropriate songs about getting down and funky with the opposite sex. It’s the best way to bring the fun of hip-hop and R&B to tweens without harsh lyrics about hos and pimps. All of the songs are covers sung by the Lil’ Jams (a group of eight kids ranging from 11-15), such as Kris Kross’ ”Jump,” Lupe Fiasco’s ”Kick Push” — a great song for the roller-rink — and Ne-Yo’s ”So Sick,” minus the phrase about someone ”having my first child.” There is one original song on which Sierra Somone (daughter of Gnarls Barkley rapper Cee-Lo Green) waxes on about ”My New Boyfriend,” but her vocals and the lyrics could use a little maturing. BEC
Recommended ages: 5 and up


The Secret Show
(Nicktoons Network, premieres Jan. 20 at 8:30 p.m.)
An animated Avengers outfitted with Jetsons-style gadgetry, The Secret Show follows special agents Victor Volt and Anita Knight on their weekly missions to save the world via television. There are some cute running gags: Victor and Anita must hijack their time slot from Sweet Little Granny, who wants to subject us to something called The Fluffy Bunny Show, each week. The head of spy network U.Z.Z. has his name changed daily for security purposes. The Teutonic Professor Professor’s almost-gleeful cry, ”Victor, are you still alive?” gets funnier with repetition (and each extravagant near-death). The episode Who Stole Switzerland — in which dim-witted Martians horde Earth’s gravity in order to throw ”falling down parties” — is witty, though the premise itself may go over younger viewers’ heads. The same probably cannot be said for this promising series’ two upcoming stories, entitled ”Booger Ball” and ”Wedgie Attack.” BHannah Tucker
Recommended ages: 6 and up


I Don’t Like Gloria!
By Kaye Umanksy; illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain
When a saucy little kitten named Gloria saunters into the kitchen, family puppy Calvin discovers he’s no longer the only game in town. ”The first thing she did was eat out of my bowl. MY Bowl. She has her own bowl. It says Gloria on it. Mine says Calvin. Can’t she read?” His increasing unhappiness — he’s disciplined for growling at the new arrival! — is mitigated only by the purchase of yet another pet, a floppy-eared bunny. Suddenly he and Gloria realize the importance of actually getting along. The lessons here, ones all very small children must learn, are imparted with gentle humor — and charmingly illustrated to boot. ATina Jordan
Recommended ages: 1-3

One-Eye! Two-Eyes! Three-Eyes!: A Very Grimm Fairy Tale
Told by Aaron Shepard; illustrated by Gary Clement
Three sisters live in a cottage in the forest. One has a single eye on her forehead; the other has an eye on each side of her face and another smack in the middle of her forehead. One-Eye and Three-Eyes have a sister, Two-Eyes, whom they treat abominably, giving her leftovers to eat and tattered rags to wear. But with the help of a fairy godmother and a magic bleating goat, Two-Eyes ends up marrying a prince and living happily ever after. Many classic Grimm tales are downright frightening, but this modern retelling manages to stay very close to the original while making it completely accessible for today’s kids (who already know they shouldn’t make fun of someone who looks different). Scrappy little Two-Eyes, with her pert nose and pigtails, is an especially appealing character. ATJ
Recommended ages: 3-6

By Rachel Cohn
Sassy, irrepressible, out-of-control Cyd Charisse, one of the liveliest, most unforgettable characters in recent YA fiction, is back for her third book (after Gingerbread and Shrimp). Now 18 and on her own, she’s living with her half-brother Danny in New York City. But being independent isn’t as easy as she thought. While she’s contemplating culinary school, and missing her longtime love Shrimp (they’ve made a ”clean break,” and he’s surfing in New Zealand), she trips down the stairs in her apartment building and breaks her leg in three places. Cooking classes then fall by the wayside as she takes a job as a barista. I liked the earlier Cyd books, though I occasionally blushed at some of the more graphic sex scenes. But in her own cockeyed way — she’s smart, but she barely graduated from high school and has eschewed college — CC is figuring out what’s really important in life. As much as she adores Shrimp, she understands that he loves surfing as much — or more — than her. ”I have my path, and he has his. If our paths are meant to intertwine, they will. The permanent intersection just hasn’t happened — yet.” A lot of parents would hate to admit it, but that CC is one smart kid. ATJ
Recommended ages: Older teens