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Learning to Read With Bert and Ernie



Bert & Ernie's Word Play. Sony Wonder. 50 minutes. VHS: $10. DVD: $13. Ages 2-6.

Move over Elmo. Longtime "Sesame Street" pals Bert and Ernie get top billing as they play hosts of a variety show with a learn-to-read theme in their first direct-to-video special. Naturally, little red superstar Elmo is on hand--pun intended--along with Kermit, Cookie Monster, Grover, Prairie Dawn, Zoe and other familiar and new Muppet pals.

Wrapped up in easy-to-follow songs and comic bits, each animated or live-action "act" is a lesson in forming words and sounding them out. Between acts, Bert tells bad jokes and tries to avoid saying "go," designated as the pie-throwing word. A couple of highlights: gifted physical clown Bill Irwin, a "Sesame Street" regular, demonstrating "open," "closed" and "nevermind"; Cookie Monster scatting in the jazzy "It Takes a Little Letter"; Kermit's escalating frustration at the T-shirt shop, where he finds that he shares his name with a "gorf," a "forg" and a "grof"; and Bert, Oscar and Cookie Monster's Broadway-style encore, an ode to their favorite things--pigeons, trash and cookies, respectively.

Sorcerers & Wizards: Real Magic. Artisan's Family Home Entertainment. 52 minutes. VHS: $10. DVD: $15. Ages 8 and older.

Was there a real Merlin? What is the basis for magic wands and witches' flying brooms? This Discovery Channel documentary explores the roots of magic in herbal lore and pre-Christian religions, and the legends that sprang from rituals and the human need to understand the natural world.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 20, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 17 inches; 617 words Type of Material: Correction
Children's CD--A review in the Look and Listen column in Calendar Weekend on June 13 listed an incorrect phone number for ordering the children's CD "Gina D's Kids Club." The correct number is (866) 446-2333.

It's interesting stuff, although the talks by scientific experts and the reenactments of wizardry and witchery don't mesh well, despite an attempt--more silly than spooky--to sustain an eerie mood by having the experts speak while sitting in shadow. Note: Some content is too intense for younger kids.


Gina D's Kids Club. CD: $13 (plus shipping and handling; the video is $15). (866) 466-2333; www.raven Ages 3-6.

This CD features songs from a wannabe TV show for preschoolers that hasn't made it to the air yet, although the CD and the companion video version include a song that urges kids to ask parents to send family videos to the "show." That premature song should have been excluded. Otherwise, the tuneful pop-style songs are typical of the genre, offering upbeat encouragement for kids to feel special, smile and have a good day. The pleasant, modestly budgeted, 30-minute video is a blend of puppetry and live characters that include gentle mom-type host Gina D, a clownish cook and a clownish Aussie sidekick in khaki shorts, and animated segments.

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