Like every year, this year too new books, games and toys have come out for Hanukkah, but first, let's consider some that have been on the market since last Hanukkah. Among the toys: dollhouses that are pretty, colorful and easy to play with, by Mega Bloks (as opposed to the sets of dragons and castles, which are not long-lasting like Lego); the board game Blokus, an attractive and challenging game of strategy; Wonders of the World Monopoly, which all its beautiful parts; toys for the kitchen for preparing ice cream, chocolate and snow cones, according to the BBC cooking program Ready, Set, Cook; and of course the fifth generation of Bionicle by Lego (its DVD will be coming out in time for the holiday).
Among books there's "Eloise in Paris," by Kay Thompson; "Love That Dog" by Sharon Creech (a lyrical and beautiful book of poetry); "The Water Hole" by Graeme Base (a book of games and counting, with unique illustrations); "Hanan Hadagan" by Rinat Hooper (and also "Ayelet Mitayelet"); and "The Best Ever Cat" by Maggie Smith (a sad and wise book).
In addition, Warner has now issued Charlie Chaplin's films on a DVD; they make children of all ages laugh, a gift that is also a long-term investment.
The newest Felix book in the best-selling series by Annette Langen and Constanza Droop happens to be the worst of them. This is a game book, like the earlier books in the series, but this one emits noises. On the side of the expensive book are 10 keys with pictures, which make sounds when they are pressed. In order to activate the children, the book contains very artificially inserted activities that will cause them to press the keys. For that reason, Felix whistles a lot for no reason, giggles meaninglessly and makes kissing sounds. In the final analysis, the preoccupation with pressing the keys breaks the flow of the reading and comes at the expense of content. And there's another problem: In this book Felix sails off to the realms of fantasy, and if in the earlier books the boring rabbit could still tell some details about the places he visited in letters, this time the entire adventure takes place in his imagination, which is very limited.
Much more successful are a series of classical Israeli books in new editions by Hakibbutz Hameuhad. "Ha'aryeh She'ahav Tut" (The Lion Who Loved Strawberries) by Tirtza Atar, with illustrations by Danny Kerman, is a funny and appealing book, which teaches children (with a wink) to eat what Mommy gives them. In the book "Nisa El Hasadeh" (We'll Go to the Fields) by Fania Bergstein contains rhymes that are familiar to toddlers. The book is illustrated by Michal Efrat (her illustrations for the older editions that were published about 30 years ago were better). "Hayeled Haim Ve'hamifletzet MiYerushalayim" (Haim and the Monster from Jerusalem) by Meir Shalev, illustrated by Moshik Lin, which was first published in 1982, tells in amusing rhymes about the child Haim, who tells the residents of the city that there is a monster in the area, and even leaves her footprints, without knowing that the imaginary monster does in fact exist. The price of each book: NIS 54.
Star Party by Smoby offers budding stars a small tape recorder with a microphone, the possibility of adding four types of music, and four different beats. The children sing into a green-pink microphone decorated with a flower, and record the song with the accompaniment of the sound effects and even applause. The device itself is colorful and attractive (apparently designed for girls) and provides born singers a great deal of room for expressing themselves. Expensive (NIS 290, distributor: Dr. Baby, in toy stores and chains, can be connected to a hi-fi system).
Last year the toy that all the children wanted was Beyblade. This year its success will not be a surprise. A new season of Beyblade is being broadcast on the Children's Channel, and the new tops are already in the stores. This time there's a Beyblade with a remote control that makes it possible to move the top in the arena even after the catch is released. The arenas have also become more sophisticated. The charm of the previous Beyblade was its reasonable price (NIS 60). Today the distributors have seen that they have a good thing, and they are selling Beyblade with a remote control for NIS 250 (distributor: Hasbro, in all the toy stores and chains).
Other new television series whose toys children will want are Dragon Bull-Z, in the new season of the Children's Channel, and Transformers Armada, which has returned to the Fox Kids channel, and whose spin-off toys are sold in a variety of sizes and prices, from the Minicons at NIS 50 to the Unicorn that cost NIS 400 (without the four large batteries).
For very little children, Lullaby Gloworm, a cute and cuddly fabric doll with a plastic head, in keeping with the fairies fashion that is taking over girls' rooms (a store for fairies and their products at the Renanim Mall in Ra'anana, that looks like an enchanted forest and is called Ya'ar [Forest], will provide good Hanukkah presents). When you press the dolls, their faces light up and play lullabies (Playskool, distributor: Hasbro, NIS 90 per doll).
Before the screening of the film "Spy Kids 3," there is a promo for a Disney cartoon, "Brother Bear," in which a deer turns to the audience and says that if they usually go to one movie a year, it should be to the one about the bear. The second deer tells him that if the audience goes to only one movie, then apparently the one they're about to see will be their only one this year. The first deer understands (barely), and recommends that they all leave the theater now.
Good advice, and not only for those who see only one movie a year. "Spy Kids 3," with all its Hollywood stars (Antonio Banderas, George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone, Selma Hayek, to name only a few), is the weakest of the three films about the child spies who save the world. The young agent, who works as a private detective, is called upon by the agency and his parents to save his sister, who has become stuck inside a computer game that is about to take control of the children of the world.
In order to give the theater audience a similar feeling of a virtual world, they get 3-D glasses when they enter, which primarily limit their viewing. The characters can be seen in 3-D, but in few and dark colors. It seems that the method that was common in the 1950s, and even then was considered unsuccessful, hasn't developed at all.
The 3-D technology is also central to the musical "Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn." Behind the actors, parts of films will be screened, and when they are viewed through paper glasses one can see three-dimensional figures, next to the real three-dimensional figures on the stage (Yaakov Cohen, Hani Nahmias, Oded Menashe, Tom Avni and others). The musical, which was written by Smadar Shir and directed by Moshe Kaftan, will be performed at Hanukkah at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, in Binyanei Ha'uma (the International Convention Center) in Jerusalem, and at the Conference Center in Haifa.
With marvelous coordination with the fifth book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which will hit the bookstores tomorrow evening in Hebrew, in time for the holiday, a Harry Potter computer game is coming out; it's called Quidditch World Cup, and is produced by EA (distributed by Hed Artzi, NIS 200). This is the FIFA of the witches' and wizards' game. Anyone who is familiar with the game from the book knows the rules. You ride through the air on broomsticks, score through three goal rings on both sides of the court, and also have to catch the Golden Snitch, and do everything at top speed. Those who score express joy, each one in his own way, as is usual among soccer players.
The players choose a team from among the four Hogwarts houses - Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor which we can assume that many players will want to join, and Slytherin, which it turns out kids like to join, too. These houses have teams all over the world (England, the United States, Japan, Australia), and each team has its own way of playing and different sites on the court. Suitable for children in the lower grades.
For young children, about four years old, there is educational software about Snoopy and the Charlie Brown gang, "Where's the Blanket, Charlie Brown?" (Tivola Games, distributed by Hed Artzi, NIS 110). Peanuts, a group of clever children with the insights of adults, was never a hit in Israel, but everyone knows Snoopy, and it's worth getting to know them.
One of Charlie Brown's friends is Linus, the little brother of know-it-all Lucy, who walks around with a baby blanket and refuses to part with it. In this game the blanket has gotten lost. Snoopy is supposed to return it to Linus, and the other players can be either Lucy or Charlie. Clues about the blanket are scattered all over the house. An entire family - parents and children, who are very experienced with games and educational software - tried as hard as possible to leave the house and find clues, got angry, left the game and entered again, but were unable to find the blanket (experts promise that it's possible).
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