World Beat

Trinidadian singer/songwriter/performer Asheba gives traditional kids' songs a distinctive Caribbean/world beat/reggae swaying, rhythmic flavor on No More Monkeys: Children's Songs by Asheba, his second CD for youngsters. From the exuberant "No More Monkeys" and "Yummy Yucca Pie" to lullabies "Uncle Natty" and "All Through the Night," there's much to treasure here. (COV Productions [], CD, $15, all ages, Oct. 2004)

A bevy of other memorable Caribbean voices (as well as Asheba's) can be heard on Caribbean Playground. Jaunty standouts include "Great Big Boat" by Taj Mahal & the Hula Blues, "Jamaica Farewell" by Desmond Dekker, "Three Little Birds" by Keith Frank and the Soileau Zydeco Band and "All Aboard" by Atlantik. (Putumayo Kids [800-995-9588], CD, $14.98 ISBN 1587591332, all ages, Oct. 2004)

For Latin American flair, young listeners can tune to The Peanut Man, a collection of songs and stories by Maria Del Rey. Bilingual lyrics and Del Rey's lovely, bright voice and accompaniment on traditional instruments set this recording apart as something special. Kids who hear this lively and evocative CD may well wish they had an el manigero/peanut man selling treats in the streets of their own neighborhood. (Music for Little People [800-346-4445], CD, $9.98, all ages, Nov. 2004)

A Series of Unfortunate Recordings

Tim Curry, whose appropriately unctuous and sometimes slimy delivery are a hallmark of the audiobook versions of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events titles, is thankfully up to his old tricks. Curry returns on the 11th installment, The Grim Grotto, to play Snicket, Count Olaf and all the gang with welcome flair. The enhanced CD features word games, photos and artwork when played on a personal computer. Curry also returns as the linchpin on a new, multivoice recording of The Bad Beginning, the first book in the series, which ties in to the feature film release of Paramount/Nickelodeon/Dreamwork's Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. (HarperChildren's Audio, Grim Grotto, unabridged, six CDs, 5.5 hrs., $25.95, ISBN 0-06-057947-1, ages 10-up, Oct. 2004Bad Beginning, unabridged, three CDs, 2.5 hrs., $22 ISBN 0-06-076579-8, ages 10-up, Nov. 2004)

Narnia Anew

HarperChildren's Audio completes its latest set of recordings of C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, now available as a stylish boxed set. In 2004, Jeremy Northam and Patrick Stewart were the latest British Shakespearean actors to lend their voices to the classic fantasy series reading The Silver Chair and The Last Battle, respectively. Other previously recorded performers on the collection include Kenneth Branagh, Michael York and Lynn Redgrave. (HarperChildren's Audio, unabridged, 33 CDs, 31 hrs., $75 ISBN 0-694-52475-1, ages 9-up, Nov. 2004)

Listen and Learn

A cross between the Wiggles and the Chipmunks, the Pocket Snails (who live in the pocket of a boy named Jake, of course) help teach and reinforce the alphabet with a techno beat on Letter Adventure & Other Snaily Songs. Phonics, vowels and upper- and lower-case letters get into the groove, too. An animated companion video featuring these concepts and sounds is also available. (Soaring Star Productions [800-477-7811], VHS $12.95, CD $14.95, DVD $15.95, ages 2-5, Feb.)

Inspired by the author's witnessing a Civil War re-enactment in 1999, listeners learn about Sgt. Richard Kirkland and his courage during the First Battle of Fredericksburg, which took place in December 1862 on What Was Civil About That War.... Confederate soldier Kirkland had risked his own life to give water to dying Union soldiers. For that act, he was later known as "The Angel of Marye's Heights." Fredericksburg resident and award-winning storyteller Megan Hicks describes her own discovery of this war hero, providing a compelling and accessible history lesson for a broad array of listeners. (stories: (un)folding [], CD, $15, ages 10-up, Oct. 2004)

Flumpa the tree frog returns as the mascot to accompany Wendy Whitten "the singing scientist" on Flumpa's World: Water Water Everywhere, a musical exploration of all things H2O-related. With smooth vocals, catchy lyrics and pop/cabaret-style singing, Whitten serves up scientific information with a spoonful of sugary sound. Molecules, wetlands, aquatic life, the water cycle and conservation are among the topics covered. (Ion Imagination Entertainment [800-335-8672], CD, $14 ISBN 1-886184-13-5, ages 5-up, Oct. 2004)

For some numbers knowledge, listeners can catch up with the Googols (alien-like "learning buddies for children") on Multiplication Vacation. Sunny choruses and funny character voices fuel this music-filled approach to mastering multiplication tables 0—12. Video and DVD versions are also available. (Googol Learning [866-500-1123], CD, $13.95 ISBN 0-9735642-0-2, all ages, Oct. 2004)