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The Best in Books, Videos and Computer Games for Kids

November 04, 1994|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; He is a columnist for Newsday

In a world of too many media options, a new publication has cut through the clutter to size up 72 videos, 35 books, 58 computer games and 17 movies aimed at children.

TV Guide next week will publish Parents' Guide to Children's Entertainment, the latest in what is expected to be a number of one-shot magazines designed to extend the franchise of one of publishing's most familiar brand names.

Parents' Guide aims to help readers in areas in which the parent book cannot, according to executive editor Janice Kaplan. For example, TV Guide twice a year features a roundup of quality TV shows for youngsters, as it has done in this week's issue, but the new Parents' Guide can also play around with 86 children's toys in advance of holiday gift buying.

"We've seen that our regular issue gets a good bump in circulation when we include the parents' guide to TV, so it sort of begged to come out as a separate book," says Joseph E. Barletta, the president and chief executive officer of Rupert Murdoch's News America Publications Inc., which owns and publishes TV Guide.

Parents' Guide is being printed as a standard-size magazine so as not to confuse the readers of the smaller TV Guide.

Barletta says he expects to sell 300,000 copies of the $2.95 Parents' Guide through the holiday season.

The next stand-alone will be a "Star Trek" issue planned for March.

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Best Records: The cumbersome size of Billboard has long allowed the magazine to pack in volumes of esoteric trade news each week about the recording, video and radio industries.

For the 100th-anniversary issue dated Nov. 1 and priced at $8.95, Billboard has mined its archives and compiled all-time-greatest record charts that make the special edition accessible to the general consumer as well.

The old ads for Dean Martin ("America's Newest Singing Sensation") and Screamin' Jay Hawkins ("A Wild Weirdie!") are as much fun to page through as the various charts that make up Billboard's Greatest Hits.

The charts, assembled for the first time, are designed to measure the relative popularity of all releases since 1958. Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" tops the Hot 100. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is the most popular album and the top R&B album. The Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" is listed as the No. 1 rock album.

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Rice Guide: With four books by Anne Rice already listed among USA Today's top 50 sellers in the country and the screen version of "Interview With the Vampire" about to open, Ballantine is tapping into the fever for the author's dark tales by releasing Katherine Ramsland's "The Witches' Companion." It's a hardcover guide (and scholarly reference) to Rice's trilogy about the Mayfair witches, including "The Witching Hour," "Lasher" and the new "Taltos" . . .

Seven months after Lewis Grizzard's death at age 47, the politically incorrect humorist (and consistent best seller) is being represented by competing books.

Longstreet already has made it to the national best-seller lists with Grizzard's "The Last Bus to Albuquerque" and Villard has laid down 150,000 copies of another collection of his pieces, "It Wasn't Always Easy, but I Sure Had Fun". . . .

Sydney Biddle Barrows--yes, the Mayflower Madam of yore--respectfully reviewed a tell-all by one of Elvis Presley's former lovers in Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

*&Afterwords: Alan Isler, whose first novel, "The Prince of West End Avenue," was published in May by Bridge Works Publishing Co. in Bridgehampton, will be awarded this year's National Jewish Book Award for fiction.

Isler, who teaches English literature at Queens College, won praise from critics for his story about the residents of a Jewish retirement home. A paperback edition will be released next summer by Viking Penguin.

The fiction award is among several literary honors administered annually by the Jewish Book Council, a Manhattan-based clearinghouse for books of Jewish interest.

* Paul D. Colford's column is published Fridays.

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