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1997 Awards
On the Day You Were Born
(North-South $19.95 Score:) The Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Bill Eddins, debuts its Notes Alive series with a stunning animated version of Debra Frasier's picturebook, On the Day You Were Born. The story weaves animation with the orchestra's performance of Steve Heitzig's original score, and is followed by the author and composer discussing where they found their inspiration. Truly a gem! 4 & up.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 1997.

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1998 Awards
Lamaze First Mirror
(Learning Curve International $19.99 Score:)

Newly updated with bright graphics, this fabric-covered wedge with a mirror for baby to peer into is ideal for tummy time play. Covered in eye-grabbing orange with multi-colored piping. The unbreakable safety mirror in a soft fabric frame can be removed and used separately. Birst & up.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 1998. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2000 Awards
Tolo Activity Cube
(Reeves International $10 Score:)

Glad to see this line back in the market place. We awarded the collection a Platinum Award in 2000. We're now adding them to our Blue Chip Classics award winners. What we wrote in 2000: We were really impressed with this new but classic-looking line of baby toys, crafted of sturdy primary-colored plastics. An Activity Cube for little fingers to activate has a mirror, squeaker, roller and spinning ball. The Gripper Ball has four easy-to-grab rounded handles and a see-through hourglass in the middle with beads that roll from side to side. Also highly recommended: Triangle Rings, Abacus Rings, Roller Rattle Ball ($5 each) with a jolly sound, and Reflector Rattle ($16) with colorful marbles that look almost liquid as they spin around a mirrored triangular well.

SNAP INFO: To develop two-handed play, kids need a variety of manipulatives with interesting payoffs. Tolo's Activity Cube has a mirror, squeaker, roller, and spinning ball for little fingers to activate. The Gripper Ball has four easy-to-grab rounded handles and a see-through hourglass in the middle with beads that roll from side to side. New for 2000, Play Triangle with spinning mirror and big beads.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2000. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2000 Award
Ambi Ted Triple Teether
(Brio $5.99 Score:)

The body of this teddy bear teether has three different colors and textures for baby to feel and taste. Just right for little hands.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 2000. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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1998 Awards
Deluxe Gymini 3-D Activity Gym
(Tiny Love $50 Score:) Sadly, this product has been discontinued.

This play mat remains our favorite with two arches and dangly toys baby can gaze and eventually bat at. It gets high marks for keeping baby entertained. We prefer this design to the classic plastic activity gyms. Available in high-contrast black, white, and red version. Not for babies who are beginning to pull themselves up. Deluxe version is slightly larger.

SNAP INFO: This soft fabric playmat with dangly toys on soft arches comes in a variety of choices. For bold visual graphics select the black. white and red version. Easy to fold and carry along, the deluxe version is larger than most, a plus for bigger babies who may not be on the move, but ready to reach out and activate things. Like all playmats, this is to be used only with supervision and is not intended for babies who are pulling themselves up. Adaptation: Babies stop noticing toys that are always in their sight- just as you stop noticing a vase that's always in the same place. Change the soft danglies positions or substitute others to add visual interest.

Age: Infants. Award Year: 1998.

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2000 Award
Tolo Musical Activity T.V.
(Reeves International $20 Score:)

You can attach this musical toy to crib rails and use it later on as a take along musical. Totally low tech, this music box with a handle plays "It's a Small, Small World" as bunnies and bear pictures scroll slowly on the "TV" screen. Tots can wind the knob, spin a roller or beep a button.  We have not received safety verification for this product and we have not had it tested in an independent lab.

Age: Infants, Toddlers. Award Year: 2000. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

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2001 Awards
Dear America Series
(Scholastic $12.95 Score:) Based on the award winning Dear America Diaries we have recommended for school-aged readers, this series of made-for-TV videos combine history with story in live action dramas. In So Far From Home, Mary flees Ireland and the potato famine only to struggle for humane work conditions in the textile mills. Remember Patience Whipple is the story of a girl who arrived on the Mayflower and keeps up her courage even after she losses her mother. In Standing In the Light, a Quaker girl and her brother are captured by the Lenape and come to respect their new family and its traditions. A Picture of Freedom is set in the antebellum south, where Clotee, a slave who knows how to read and write, helps others escape. These films are engrossing, but some have content that may be disturbing to younger viewers; for example, there is a whipping scene in Picture of Freedom. It's historically accurate, but not for young viewers. Similarly, Valley Forge Saga includes an off-screen amputation and a birth with sound effects you'd expect. 8 & up.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2001.

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2000 Award
Winnie the Pooh Series
(Disney $12.99 Score:) In the past we have recommended this series as "kinder and gentler animated cartoons than most of Saturday morning fare." Unfortunately, all recent Pooh videos have gone in another direction with story lines that are too intense for young viewers. For example, in Tigger-ific Tales, Tigger's so-called friends give him a bath and his stripes disappear-for preschoolers who typically worry about body integrity, this video is developmentally inappropriate. We still recommend the original videos: A Blustery Day and The Honey Tree. Closed-captioned. 2 & up.

Age: Toddlers,Preschool. Award Year: 2000.

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Rainbow Fish High Tide Heroes & Fintastic Friends
(Sony $9.99 Score:) Both of these videos spend a lot of energy on the stereotypical war between girls and boys; the subject matter in Heroes doesn't seem to match the audience for Rainbow Fish - boy-crazy girls trying out for the cheerleading squad-talking in annoying voices that sound more like Flintstone soundtracks than videos for preschoolers. Slangy clichés with school-aged nasty relationships-what are they thinking of?

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: .

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2000 Awards
Madeline at the Ballet
(Sony $9.96 Score:) Once more they've come up with a new story based on the original characters in the Ludwig Bemelmans book series. This one will have special meaning to the many little ballerinas who long to get their first toe shoes and worry about living up to their dreams of becoming prima ballerinas. Narrated by Christopher Plummer, this one talks to the importance of practice and believing in oneself. Closed Captioned. 4 & up.

Age: Preschool,Early School Years. Award Year: 2000.

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