Whoopi Goldberg and composer Herbie Hancock pair up to spin a sprightly African folk tale about the clever son of a chief looking for respect in "Koi and the Kola Nuts," an audio release from Rabbit Ears' "We All Have Tales" series.
Hancock composed the eccentric, percussive score; his keyboard wizardry is complemented by African percussionist Bill Summers. Side 2 of the recording is instrumental with strong adult appeal.
Goldberg proves to be a comfortable, conversational storyteller, coloring events with a dash of humorous irony but never overwhelming the language. She draws listeners into the adventures of Koi, who sets out on his quest with only a bag of "kola nuts."
In universal fairy-tale tradition, Koi befriends creepies and crawlies. They return the favor when it looks as if he's doomed to be the main course at a tribal feast, unless he can accomplish three impossible tasks.
Along the way, listeners are treated to plenty of humor and painless lessons in self-respect and respect for others. The 45-minute audio version (including the all-music flip side) is great for a bedtime treat; there's also a 30-minute video version, with illustrations by Reynold Ruffins.
* "Koi and the Kola Nuts," Rabbit Ears Productions. Kid Rhino: Audio cassette, $7.98; CD, $11.98. Uni Distribution: Video, $9.95. Information: (800) 243-4504.
A Fine Art: Art teacher Donna Hugh's two 50-minute videocassettes, "Art Lessons for Children," Vol. 1 and 2, though not inexpensive, are so frill-free they might as well be home videos. No fancy camera angles, no animated titles, kicky set or jazzy music. Just Hugh giving instruction at a table, offering dry comment and occasionally fumbling for the right word as if she's not used to talking to children. Sound grim? Far from it.
As you watch--and be warned, this does mean adults, too--you get a yen to make scissors crunch through construction paper. Fingers start itching to pick up a fat paintbrush ("a small one will be inhibiting to you") and slosh it around in all those little watercolor cakes ("don't get upset if your paint box looks messy, that's OK. If your colors run together, that's all right").
You're suddenly compelled to see if you, too, can create a bas relief design that looks like pewter, using aluminum foil and black shoe polish. You want to paint watercolor flowers and desert scenes, tracing the outlines with a black crayon, pressing as hard as you can. If your crayon breaks, "that's good"--you're pressing hard enough.
An accidental blotch is a "happy accident" that makes your picture more interesting. "Everybody's picture is going to look different than everybody else's," Hugh says, "and that's OK."
Hugh goes through each project step by step and, in the doing more than the telling, encourages creativity.
* "Art Lessons for Children: Vol. 1, Easy Watercolor Techniques; Vol. 2, Easy Art Projects." Coyote Creek Productions. Ages 7 to 11. $29.95 each. Information: (619) 731-3184.