The holidays are what we make of them-a mirror of our best and worst tendencies during a time of chaos and joy. A good video can be stress-free entertainment and a gift that gives lasting pleasure. This month's selections should be on your list for watching and giving.
THE MONEY MAMMALS: SAVING MONEY IS FUN, not rated, 2006, $19.99 DVD, www.themoneymammals.com; ages 2-6.
If your family is like mine chances are the holidays will bring some gifts in the form of cash. What a great time to start to teach about saving and managing money. This Money Mammals video is an award-winning production that uses songs like "Saving Money Really Rules" and "I'm Frugal" and a dilemma over buying a gift for a friend to get its point across. Joe the Monkey and Clara J. Camel are cute and age appropriate characters. The special feature with kids talking about money is hilarious and the advice for parents is solid.
Sylvia says: A. A great way to begin a discussion of money or reinforce what you are already teaching your child.
ELOISE: LITTLE MISS CHRISTMAS, not rated, 2006, $14.98 DVD; ages 4-8.
Imagine a cold crisp day with a bright blue sky and luminous sunshine reflecting off clean white snow and you'll know how it feels to watch Eloise. In Little Miss Christmas it is six days, 10 hours and 27 minutes to Christmas Eve, which is also the day an inspector is coming to determine if the hotel retains its five-star rating. This subplot may go over the head of younger viewers. Eloise and her friends are planning a big show. As Eloise counts down to Christmas with Nanny and all of her friends, there is a sweet energy here that is infectious. Eloise jumps up and down squeals with delight over her plans and antics with the enthusiasm of a real 6-year-old and the wisdom of a smart and sensitive child.
Sylvia says: A. The story of the little girl who lives in the fancy hotel translates well to video.
EZRA JACK KEATS' THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY ... AND 4 MORE HOLIDAY STORIES, not rated, 2006, $14.95 DVD; ages 3-7.
Scholastic videos have a certain pace that is entertaining yet soothing. This is the perfect way to have a book-like experience on video where the story is restful and has time to sink in. This video is no exception.
The title story is a lovely version of the familiar tale of the Little Drummer Boy. The illustrations by Ezra James Keats are beautiful and culturally sensitive. It is a Christian-focused story with an underlying sense of hope that people of all faiths can appreciate. But there is more. James Marshall's "Merry Christmas, Space Case" adds a lighthearted and precocious look at the holidays with a far out visitor in the form of a UFO. "Sam and the Lucky Money" is the backdrop for a lovely modern story that reflects urban reality. In this story, young Sam meets a homeless person and decides to do a selfless act. All in all a first class effort with diverse stories.
Sylvia says: B+. The fourth story about a winter troll can be enjoyed year round but is the weakest of the collection.
Sylvia M. Ewing is a mom and a writer. She also is a producer at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.