Here's just a sampling from the bumper crop of quality family audio recordings to come out this year:
**** AN AWFULLY BIG ADVENTURE, THE BEST OF PETER PAN, 1904-1996, Delos International. Cassette: $10.98; CD: $15.98. A nuanced, vivid classical treatment of songs from stage and film, capturing the tale's poignancy and soaring joy. (800) 364-0645.
**** BABAR THE ELEPHANT, Koch International Classics. Cassette: $10; CD: $15-$18. In tribute to Audrey Hepburn and her work with children, Meryl Streep provides captivating narration for Poulenc's seldom-heard classical work based on Jean de Brunhoff's beloved children's book character. Streep also narrates fairy tale introductions to Ravel's "Mother Goose" Suite. The evocative music is a delight in the hands of pianists Mona and Renee Golabek, conductor JoAnn Falletta and the New Zealand Symphony.
**** CHINESE LULLABIES, Wind Records. Cassette: $10.95; CD: $15.95. Exquisite, soothing songs recorded in Mandarin by the aptly named Beijing Angelic Choir. You don't need to understand the words to be transported by the grace of these young singers. (800) 850-5015.
**** DIDI CONN, "Mommy, Gimme a Drinka Water!" Verese Sarabande Records. Cassette: $9.98; CD: $12.98. The "Shining Time Station" star captivatingly paints a spirited portrait of a 5-year-old's world in this rich musical production. Widely available.
**** PETER DENNIS, "The Original Pooh Treasury, Vols. 1 & 2," Kid-Tel International. Cassette (three per volume): $17. This British actor's interpretations of A.A. Milne's beloved creations are simply magic. (800) 328-6640, Ext. 418.
**** SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK! Kid Rhino. Four-CD boxed set: $49.98. A delicious smorgasbord of educational morsels slipped into kids TV in the '70s and '80s, with terrific jazz, witty lyrics and such musical greats as Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Jack Sheldon and Blossom Dearie. (800) 432-0020.
*** 1/2 BIBBIDI, BOBBIDI BACH, Delos International. Cassette: $9.98; CD: $14.98. A notable sequel to Delos' "Heigh Ho, Mozart" makes orchestral and choral magic of even the most overexposed Disney tunes.
*** 1/2 TISH HINOJOSA, "Cada Nin~o / Every Child," Rounder Records. Cassette: $9.50; CD: $15. Musical integrity and heart fill this folk-pop artist's first bilingual children's album. (800) 443-4727.
*** 1/2 LINDA RONSTADT, "Dedicated to the One I Love," Elektra. Cassette: $10.98; CD: $16.98. The pop icon's first children's album is a delicate transformation of mostly golden oldies into tender lullabies.
*** 1/2 A CHILD'S CELEBRATION OF FOLK MUSIC, Music for Little People/Rhino Records. Cassette: $9.98; CD: $15.98. Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Sweet Honey in the Rock and more--a comical, soulful family treat. (800) 727-2233.
*** 1/2 NORMAN FOOTE, "Shake a Leg," Oak Street Music/Sony Music. Cassette: $10.98; CD: $18.98. The quirky Canadian entertainer knows just how far to go with his sly flights of fancy in his best album yet. (800) 668-0242.
*** 1/2 JAZZ-A-BYE LULLABY CLASSICS, proDUCKtunes. Cassette: $9.99; CD: $14.98. Sleek instrumentals render nursery tunes with soulful piano stylings, sweet sax and sleepy bass and percussion. (800) 816-6706.
*** 1/2 JIM RULE, "Let It Shine," PNO Tuna Music. Cassette: $10; CD: $15. Inventive, adept and parent-savvy, Jim Rule turns the ups and downs of childhood into musical delights. (800) 541-9904.
*** 1/2 SINBAD THE SAILOR, TOKENS FROM A VOYAGE, InPhase Inc. CD: $14.95. Heroes and magical beasts, absorbing narration and positive messages for girls and boys. A "theater of the mind" celebration. (800) 878-7323.
Albums and other items in the Gift Guide are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).