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By the Light of the Halloween Moon. Weston Woods. 6min. $60 (pp).
Ages 4–8. This scintillating picture-book adaptation of Caroline Stutson’s cumulative story about a young fiddler features repetitive lyrics, a sprightly violin background, and digitally animated sequences for added spookiness.
Critter Hunt. SVE & Churchill Media. 6 videos (each 8–14min.). $245.95.
Ages 4–7. A biologist and a small group of young children explore a springtime pond in this wonderfully spontaneous science series, which instructs by means of crystal-clear nature photography and just the right amount of informative commentary.
Dawn of the Eye: The History of Film and TV News. Films for the Humanities and Sciences. 6 videos (each 47–51min.). $799.
Ages 15–adult. How the news camera and the documentary film recorded, broadcast, and then made a business of the day’s news is examined in this rich, fascinating compilation of film clips set against the comments of journalists, cameramen, and historians.
Exploring the Diversity of Life. Environmental Media. 2hrs. $99.95 (pp).
Gr. 4–8. An invigorating pastiche of images visualizes the rich variety of life-forms around the globe. Stunning nature footage, a genial narrator, and snappy electronic editing make these 10 stand-alone lessons into an excellent science series.
Family Name. First RunIcarus. 60min. $390.
Ages 15–adult. The intertwining of the white and black Alston clan in a rural region of North Carolina and Georgia is investigated by filmmaker Macky Alston, who searches for possible family links buried in unspoken memories and embarrassed silences.
4 Little Girls. Direct Cinema. 103min. $99 (pp). CC.
Ages 16–adult. The 1963 bombing of a Birmingham Baptish church, which killed four young African American girls, puts a human face on the tragic civil rights strife. Spike Lee’s affecting depiction transcends the usual history lesson.
Igor: The Boy Who Dared to Dream. Filmakers Library. 52min. $295.
Ages 14–adult. This indelible reminder to “never forget Chernobyl” profiles the antics of irrepressible nine-year-old Igor, whose deformed body belies the sunny outlook and high level of physical activity that he displays in his adopted homeland of Great Britain.
Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery. PBS. 2 videos (each 120min.). $69.95. CC.
Ages 16–adult. Ken Burns eloquently tracks America’s stalwart explorers across the vast, unexplored territory west to the Pacific in the ultimate early-nineteenth-century road picture. A compelling and unforgettable odyssey.
Listening at the Luncheonette. South Brooklyn Picture Co. 6 videos (each 27min.). $350.
Ages 5–adult. The distinct perspectives and common aspirations of people of various ethnicities and special-interest groups wanting to succeed in America are heard in the involving, informal interviews conducted in a vast range of different neigborhood eateries around the nation.
Look for Me Here: 299 Days in the Life of Nora Lenihan. Fanlight. 60min. $195.
Adult. An unobtrusive camera and compassionate narration follow the activities of a 40-year-old woman who declined further treatment for terminal breast cancer. This moving tribute to an independent woman is also a testimony to the comforts of hospice care and patients’ right to “choose a good death.”
Mandela, Son of Africa, Father of a Nation. Polygram. 118min. $19.95 (pp).
Ages 15–adult. The strong, dignified spirit of South African president Nelson Mandela is indelibly captured in this admiring biography featuring gorgeous cinematography and a vibrant folk, jazz, and pop sound track.
Ms. Infinity’s Math Mansion. Rainbow Educational Media. 6 videos (each 40min.). $499.
Gr. 1–5. Brisk and refreshing, this elementary math series mixes just the right amount of humor and high jinks with solid instructional content as kids explore math concepts at various levels in a creative and unusually skillful balance of fun and learning.
Quilt. National Film Board of Canada. 7min. $139.
Ages 5 up. This dazzling animated gem offers an exqisite, computerized melding of high tech and hoedown. An ever-changing kaleidoscope of geometic designs, inspired by traditional quilt patterns and set to a rollicking score of flute and strings, expands kids’ visual and aesthetic awareness. (x Top of the List winner—Youth Video x)
The Science of HIV. National Science Teachers’ Assn. 24min. $45 (pp).
Gr. 9–12. Woven throughout this intelligent, beautifully visualized discussion of the scientific intricacies of the virus that causes AIDS is the cautionary admonition about young people’s vulnerability to and the long-term realities of HIV infections.
The Shakers: I Don’t Want to Be Remembered as a Chair. Films for the Humanities & Sciences. 50min. $129.
Ages 14–adult. This poignant documentary glimpses a nearly extinct religious community that leads an ascetic lifestyle combining work and worship. A simple, elegiac portrait attuned to its subject.
Shyness. Bullfrog. 10min. $150.
Ages 13–adult. Wonderful visual gags, impeccable character voices, and goofy takeoffs on icons of pop culture make this animated short on the painful and embarrassing emotional plight of shyness a delightful study that is, incredibly, both irreverently humorous and respectfully enlightening.
Tell about the South: Voices in Black and White. The James Agee Film Project. 85min. $390.
Ages 16–adult. Excerpted readings, period dramatizations, vintage footage, stills, and other impressive images are intertwined with first-person recollections on the southern experience from such esteemed writers as Pat Conroy and Alice Walker. This outstanding documentary offers a sweeping history of southern literature.
Truman. PBS. 2 videos (each 120– 150min.). $29.98 (pp $79.95).
Ages 16–adult. This memorable political biography (from noted filmmaker David Grubin) summons well-chosen visuals and commanding narration to follow the life of the unassuming former Missouri haberdasher. “Out of his element” when he assumed the U.S. presidency, he successfully faced adversity and remained a “man of personal decency.”
Waco: The Rules of Engagement. ROCK Distribution. 136min. $34.95 (pp).
Ages 16–adult. If it walks like a cover-up and talks like a cover-up . . . This skillful and compelling investigative exposé compiles news footage, U.S. Senate testimony, and searing interviews into a cogent case against the FBI’s Rambo-like actions in its 51–day standoff and eventual siege of the Waco, Texas, compound occupied by David Koresh and his followers in 1993. (x Top of the List winner—Adult Video x)
Wheat. DeBeck Educational Video. 30min. $35 (pp).
Ages 6–10. The life cycle of wheat, from a sprouting seedling to tonight’s pizza dinner, is involvingly related with DeBeck’s trademark mix of visuals and attentive script, which bakes up to a tasty treat of science, technology, history, art, literature, and gastronomy.
The Life and History of the Jews: A Multimedia Study of Jewish Communities across the World, Eastern Europe. MAXIMA New Media. Win/Mac. $49.95.
Gr. 5–10. This beautifully realized, richly informative program effectively integrates text articles with multimedia elements. It also includes a teacher’s guide with lesson plans.
Microsoft Encarta Virtual Globe, 1998
Edition. Microsoft. Windows 95/NT. $54.95.
Gr. 5 up. This powerful electronic atlas combines several types of detailed maps with 6,000 factual articles, video clips, and smooth links to the Internet. Users can personalize maps for research projects.
Science Court: The Water Cycle. Tom Snyder Prod. Win/Mac. $59.95.
Gr. 4–8. Students are captivated by the investigative style used in this science program, which matches excellent use of technology with suggestions for hands-on experiments as follow-up activities.
Accent Reduction Made Easy! Penton Overseas. 180min. 2 cassettes, $19.95.
Adult. This inexpensive resource enables ESL and speech students to practice pronunciation of standard American English as they drive or walk to and from class.
Dinosaur Rock/The Great Dinosaur Mystery. Rounder Records. 2 cassettes (each 44–47 min.). Each $9.50. Each CD, $15.
Ages 4–10. On these two recordings, Michele Valeri and collaborators Michael Stein (Rock) and Joe Pipik (Mystery) bring new life to a long-popular topic. The lyrics are consistently creative and informative, the narratives flexible yet well thought out, and the musical setting diverse and enjoyable.
The Patchwork Quilt & Other Stories from around the World. Rounder Records. 70min. $9.98. CD, $14.98.
Ages 6 and up. Telling from four folklore traditions, Sharon Kennedy uses her lilting voice to describe how the dreams and tenacity of young people bring about happy endings.
Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. Trafalgar Square. 4hr. 4 cassettes, $27.50.
Ages 3–6. The original versions of A. A. Milne’s beloved classics are fully realized here by a fine cast of British actors. Music, songs, dialogue, and narration invoke a truly literary experience for this charming tale of childhood’s special enchantment.
You’re Nice People You Are. Rounder Records. 36min. $9.50. CD, $15.
Ages 4–8. NRBQ, four really nice—and talented—guys, offer a playful potpourri of songs and styles (Dixieland, country, lullaby) that are instructional, cautionary, encouraging, and, of course, friendly.
You’re Not Alone: Conversations with Breast Cancer Survivors and Those Who Love Them. Penton Overseas. 2hr. 2 cassettes, $17.95.
Adult. These candid interviews with strong women and their supportive families will enrich and uplift listeners as they hear the way the women have found meaning and purpose in their struggles with this frightening disease.
By Stephen Ambrose. Read by Cotter Smith. Simon & Schuster. 5hrs. 4 cassettes, $25.
Ambrose’s account of the Normandy Beach invasion and the grueling, months-long Battle of the Bulge is beautifully related with muted expression redolent with underlying passion.
Clinging to the Wreckage. By John Mortimer. Read by Patrick Tull. Recorded Books. 9hr. 6 cassettes, $49.
Tull, the incomparable narrator of the Rumpole stories, is equally impressive with the autobiography of that barrister’s creator. All the author’s mordant wit, recklessness, randiness, and intellectual integrity are revealed through this astute reading.
Coming Out of the Ice. By Victor Herman, Read by Christopher Hurt. Blackstone. 15hr. 10 cassettes, $69.96.
Herman’s chilling autobiography, featuring an American caught in the labyrinthine depths of the malevolent Communist penal system, is narrated by Hurt with heart-gripping intensity.
A Confederacy of Dunces. By John Kennedy Toole. Read by Barrett Whitener. Blackstone. 15hr. 10 cassettes, $69.95.
Whitener captures this novel’s wacky New Orleans characters with perfection, matching his voice to accent, intellect, social position, and linguistic peculiarities. The result is almost like a full-cast recording.
The Moorchild. By Eloise McGraw. Read by Virginia Leishman. Recorded Books. 6hr. 5 cassettes, $42.
Virginia Leishman’s richly cadenced voice imbues this tale of a changeling child, caught in a hostile human world, with poignance, dignity, and magic.
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