Visiting magical kingdoms
For the family
(too intense for young children)
The life of a sperm whale is told through a masterful mix of live action and CGI effects that plunge viewers into ocean depths barely explored by humankind. There are mountains taller than Everest, abysses deeper than the Grand Canyon, erupting volcanoes, absolute darkness, titanic storms and deadly adversaries. This perilous deep-sea landscape frames the story of a 45-ton bull sperm whale from his life as a calf in 1929 to his last breath on a New Zealand beach in 2004 -- and a haunting twist ending. In between: encounters with a colossal squid and a nuclear submarine, whaling ships and killer orcas. Fascinating and thought-provoking.
The Land Before Time:
The Great Day of the Flyers
DVD: $19.98; ages 3 to 9
Against the odds, this feature-length, dino-centric cartoon series retains the freshness and sweetness of its first outing about 18 years ago. Through the adventures of good-hearted dinosaur pals, young viewers absorb gentle life lessons. Petrie the pterodactyl worries that he can’t fly like his siblings, a hatchling triceratops upsets big sister Cera’s world, and odd-looking newcomer Guido (he has feathers) isn’t sure what he is or where he belongs. As always, the little dinos are drawn and voiced with charm -- Camryn Manheim is featured -- and their idyllic Great Valley home is vibrant with color and detail.
The Golden Compass
9-CD set: $44, ages 12 and older
The first volume in Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy, “His Dark Materials” leaps into life in a theatrical presentation by the author and British actors. In an alternate history where “daemon familiars” are part of being human, the discovery of strange “dust” and a city in the sky triggers a battle between the forces of dark and light. At its intense center: 11-year-old Lyra, whose mysterious destiny leads her to child-stealing “Gobblers,” horrific scientific experiments, witches and armored bears.
I Wanna Play
Round River Records
CD: $15; ages 4 and older
Bill Harley, this year’s Grammy winner for children’s spoken word album (“Blah Blah Blah”), always gives kids his best. His new CD recognizes the challenges, wonders and everyday concerns that make up young lives -- served with a contagious acoustic vibe and a heaping helping of silliness, Harley style. Highlights: “You Got to Ask,” a gentle reminder and reassurance; the T-Bone Walker-inspired “C-R-A-Z-Y,” “Barbie’s Head Is Missing” (she wasn’t using it much) and “To the South Pole,” a kid’s destination after escalating unfortunate events.
My Green Kite
Ages 4 and older
When folk rocker/pop-cult heavyweight Peter Himmelman applies his brainy quirkiness to kids’ music, the result is an off-the-wall treat for ears and minds. Luckily, Himmelman, who keeps busy scoring such shows as “Bones” and “Men in Trees,” found time for his fourth delightful new family release, applying his singular imagination to “Feet” and eggs (“Have You Ever Really Looked at an Egg?”), a tender ode to low-profile dads (“My Father’s an Accountant”) and other colorful, kid-savvy contemplations.
CD: $14.99; ages 3 to 8
Singer Lisa Mathews and guitarist Mikel Gehl (of the indie band Love Riot) front Milkshake, a fizzy contemporary band that really rocks without losing sight of its target audience. Imaginations spark in such easy-breezy observations of life and play as “Pirates,” “Superhero,” “Plant a Garden,” “Parade” and “Magic Ride.” And no matter how bouncy things get, a tender touch prevails.