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Portable Picks: Fun on the Way

Who said traveling with the kids can't be fun? We know that listening to kids' music and movies while on a lengthy car trip is about as enjoyable as having your teeth drilled. But believe it or not, there are lots of musicians who make great music for kids that's just as fun for parents. And what parent wouldn't enjoy some classic childhood stories updated on CD or DVD? Our music and movie selections offer sacharin-free fun for everyone. A long car ride can also serve as a "to-go" family game session. The games listed below are great for some friendly sibling rivalry or to play with mom and dad. Just make sure the driver concentrates on the road ahead. When it's time for some quiet, creative learning, make up your own scavenger hunt and have kids photograph what they find. Or help them learn more about geography and travel while exploring maps. A book about the place you are going to visit or the sights along the way will help build enthusiasm about the trip. So whatever your route, wherever you go, these toys, games and activities, audio books, and music will help make the trip delightful, not dreadful. And be sure to check out our Mobile App award-winners for more fun on the go.
 Art Academy Art Academy
Ages: All Ages
Nintendo of America, $19.99

When purchasing Art Academy, expect not a game, but a series of art lessons packaged in small-screen format. Against all odds, this mini studio is effective for beginners looking to have fun while learning the basics of drawing and painting. Players will learn to draw and "paint" solid artistic efforts, if not masterpieces

Ella Jenkins - A Life of Song Ella Jenkins - A Life of Song
Ages: All Ages
$16.98 (CD)   

Ella Jenkins, the first children's artist to receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award (in 2004), is known as "The First Lady of Children's Music" for her pioneering contribution to the field and for the role model that she has been for the host of children's artists that have followed in her footsteps. This African American Legacy recording of sing-along songs and stories is emblematic of the musical mission that Ella-now in her late 80s-began in 1956, collecting and sharing with children the folk songs she has gathered from around the world and the songs of a personal heritage that includes her childhood in multicultural Chicago.

I Spy Spectacular I Spy Spectacular
Ages: All Ages
Author: Jean Marzollo   Illustrator: Walter Wick  
Scholastic, $13.99 (Hard Cover)   

The simple yet elegant I Spy Spectacular offers more picture riddles from the series now in its twentieth year. Twelve vibrant photos accompany clue lists that will challenge parents and children alike. Search for springs along a crowded boardwalk scene, or a lion tail in a shop window. When eyes become tired, flip to the book’s end for reverse riddles, where visual detectives will be challenged to determine which picture contains a given set of objects. The quick story of the I Spy series’ origin at the back of the book will interest older children and parents.

Picross 3D Picross 3D
Ages: All Ages
Nintendo of America, $19.99

For anyone looking to activate their brain cells, this new 3D version of the original 2D Picross-an outstanding game itself-is packed with more than 350 reasoning and logic brainteaser that are fun and challenging. The format is block grids and numbers. The thinking process is not unlike Minesweeper mixed with Sudoku, except in 3D. Puzzlers determine which cubes in each puzzle structure should be removed or saved to reveal the "object" within the puzzle. That decision is based on numerical clues indicating how many blocks in a row, from zero to the entire row, need to be saved. If it's zero, for instance, using the stylus, you "smash" the useless cubes. Play gets even trickier.

YouTurns by B. toys YouTurns by B. toys
Ages: 1 - 5 yrs.
B. Toys (by Battat), $19.99

The YouTurns toy is a steering wheel lap toy that has a cushioned base. It features a screen that displays gameboard-like scenery of a windy street complete with buildings, cars, and pedestrians. Turning the wheel gives the illusion of driving through the streets of a little picture book town. There is a gear shift to drive forward, backwards, or sit in neutral. There are right and left turn signals, a horn, engine sounds, and even driving music. Our parent test drivers had as much fun as the kids.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? Book + CD Set Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? Book + CD Set
Ages: 2 - 5 yrs.
Macmillan Audio, $9.99 (CD)   

This is an audio version of Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?", a children's literature classic featuring Bill Martin Jr.'s rhythmic, rhyming text. The set includes a paperback copy of the picture book, showcasing Eric Carle's signature bold strokes of color and vividly rendered zoo animals. There are three tracks included on the CD, two in English and one in Spanish. The English versions are read by Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow, and one of the tracks is a read-along for the accompanying storybook.This is a worthwhile variation on the series, and it is good for car trips.

Bugsby Reading System Bugsby Reading System
Ages: 3 - 7 yrs.
Vtech , $29.99

Vtech's reading system features a pen shaped and decorated as we imagine a bookworm to be. Bugsby is a handheld reading/talking pen that when touched on pages of specially coded books, "reads aloud" words and stories. The system comes with one book that is stored on a small flash drive; other books can be purchased separately and work in the same way. He has a volume control that actually functions, an option to turn the music off, and even a headphone jack.

Doctor De Soto Doctor De Soto
Ages: 3 - 8 yrs.
Macmillan Audio, $9.99 (CD)   

William Steig's children's picture book Doctor De Soto is now available in a charming audio version. In the story, two mice run a dental practice that treats all sorts of animals-except cats and other creatures that prove a threat to small rodents. Doctor De Soto reconsiders his policy, however, and takes on a fox as a new emergency patient. The De Sotos have some reservations about this new patient, and wonder how much they can trust him, but Doctor De Soto is determined to at least finish the dental procedure. Steig's text is full of humor, which is echoed in the illustrations in the book that accompanies the CD. Award-winning actor Stanley Tucci makes a fine narrator with his rich, clear voice. There are two tracks on the CD: one simply for listening and one with cues to follow along with the book. This is a fun way to enjoy a classic story.

Doodle Roll Doodle Roll
Ages: 3 - 8 yrs.
Imagination Brands Co., LLC, $4.99

For parents on the go who finds themselves waiting in doctor's offices, traffic, or anywhere else a young child might get fidgety, this economical and convenient art-station-to-go is a fun and handy choice. The Doodle Roll is an inventive take on a traditional coloring book and crayons stashed in the travel bag. It's compact, and the fact that it keeps the paper and crayons all together in one unit is refreshing for parents trying to stay organized while providing their children opportunities to be creative and independent.

The Wheels on the Bus Sing Along Travel Kit The Wheels on the Bus Sing Along Travel Kit
Ages: 3 - 8 yrs.
Foundry Communications, New Video,

Scholastic Storybook Treasures has produced a ready-made kit filled with music, DVDs, an activity book . . . even a box of crayons! Bright, uncluttered animation has read-along captions and pleasant music performed by talented singers. Animated stories on the DVD include The Wheels on the Bus, as well as There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, Dem Bones, and Giraffes Can't Dance, among many popular others. It all adds up to almost 2 ½ hours of viewing. The enclosed activity booklet is nicely designed with sturdy pages, and has over thirty pages of easy, age-appropriate and fun activities. Everything comes packaged in a sturdy box with a plastic handle and Velcro closure.

LeapPad2 LeapPad2
Ages: 3 - 9 yrs.
Leapfrog Enterprises, Inc , $99.99

The LeapPad 2 Explorer can handle three separate profiles (preschool to grade 6), has 4GB memory and is compatible with LeapFrog Explorer cartridges and the LeapFrog App Center for digital content. New this year is the additional camera-one on the front and one on the back of the tablet-and a video camera. The design is similar to the previous LeapPad, but the start up and response times are improved. Pre-reader testers as young as four have been able to navigate the Leap Pad 2 with ease.

Treasury of 25 Storybook Classics: Dinosaurs, Trucks, Monsters...and More! Treasury of 25 Storybook Classics: Dinosaurs, Trucks, Monsters...and More!
Ages: 3 - 9 yrs.
New Video, $29.95 (DVD)   

Twenty-five favorite children's stories are adapted and brought to life in this 4-DVD collection featuring celebrity narration by Chevy Chase, Anthony Edwards, Michael McKean and many more! The books in this set are: How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?(Spanish version included). How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? Danny and the Dinosaur (Spanish version included). Dinosaur Bones. Stanley and the Dinosaurs. T is for Terrible. Pete's a Pizza. Moon Man (Spanish version included). Max's Words. The Great White Man-Eating Shark. The Island of the Skog. What's Under My Bed? The Five Chinese Brothers. I Stink! Trashy Town. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. The Remarkable Riderless Runaway Tricycle. The Beast of Monsieur Racine. Arnie the Doughnut. The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Wee Gillis.

Also look for the Treasury of 25 Storybook Classics: Fairytales, Magic...and More!

Car Valet Car Valet
Ages: 3 & Up
ALEX, $25.00

Play games, create art, or just keep gear within easy reach with a portable, adjustable mobile play center and organizer packed with art supplies. Comes complete with 8 crayons, 6 fine tip markers and a 40-page pad of 9 x 12 inch white drawing paper.

Kidizoom Digital Camera Plus Kidizoom Digital Camera Plus
Ages: 3 & Up
Vtech , $59.99

Perfect for capturing all the moments on family vacations or day to day adventures, the Kidizoom is a rough-and-tumble sturdy camera that makes taking pictures fun and easy. Sized and shaped for small hands, the camera is equipped with software to introduce editing and rudimentary special effects.

My Side of the Car My Side of the Car
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Kate Feiffer   Illustrator: Jules Feiffer  
Candlewick Press, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

The father/daughter team of Jules and Kate Feiffer have teamed again to create a thoroughly endearing reenactment of a long-ago lived true story. Having had three former attempts to go to the zoo thwarted, (mom hurt her foot and had to go to the hospital, the dog ran away and we had to search, grandparents made a surprise visit), this was the day Sadie and her father would finally get to the zoo. Because "if we don't go to the zoo today, I don't think we'll ever get there." No temper tantrums, no pouting; just tacit acceptance of the ill-fated trip. This irresistible story, a brilliant blending of Sadie's determination, enthusiasm, and understanding, is delivered without so much as a hint of the saccharine, or a whisper of entitlement.

Roadwork! Roadwork!
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Sally Sutton   Illustrator: Brian Lovelock  
Candlewick Press, $15.99 (Hard Cover)   

Sally Sutton taps into preschooler's inherent interest in roads and construction in her new picture book, Roadwork. Besides highlighting the equipment used in road projects, Sutton also traces one project from beginning to end, putting it into perspective for her young audience. A helpful glossary of "machine facts" tells more about the vehicles used. Brian Lovelock's ink illustrations are appropriately colorful, rich with safety yellow and blue skies. This book is made for reading--and rereading--with truck-loving preschoolers.

Shrek! Book & CD set Shrek! Book & CD set
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Macmillan Audio, $9.99 (CD)   

Children are likely familiar with the popular Dreamworks' film franchise Shrek. But William Steig's ugly ogre had a loyal following long before the silver screen version. The original picture book is an irreverent, funny fairy tale, complete with princesses, dragons, knights and witches. The difference is that in Steig's fictional world, the hero is a foul-smelling ogre and the princess he's destined to marry isn't exactly a classic beauty. This audio version contains a two-track CD read by acclaimed actor Stanley Tucci, and is accompanied by a paperback of the original picture book; the second track of the CD is designed as a read-along with the book. Steig's illustrations are rendered in vivid greens, yellows and hot pinks, underscoring the cheerful attitude Shrek takes toward his own ugliness.

LeapsterGS LeapsterGS
Ages: 4 - 9 yrs.
Leapfrog Enterprises, Inc , $69.99

The GS is smaller and sleeker than its predecessor and has been reported as a new favorite handheld in testers' homes. The Leapster GS has the horizontal orientation of a gaming device, and it includes a headphone jack. Its 3.5 inch screen can be used as a touchscreen or with the attached stylus. The device has a camera/video recorder, and is motion sensitive too, meaning a child's movements can be incorporated into some games. Like other LeapFrog devices it is very rugged and withstands real-world use.

The Scrambled States of America The Scrambled States of America
Ages: 4 - 9 yrs.
Macmillan Audio, $9.99 (CD)   

The book and CD set let children follow along with a narrated version of Laurie Keller's book, The Scrambled States of America, the story about the day that the 50 states decided to change places and things don't go as well as expected.

Doodlepedia Doodlepedia
Ages: 5 & Up
Author: DK Publishing  
DK Publishing, $12.99 (Hard Cover)   

Doodlepedia reinforces simple science and social studies lessons with fun and creative drawing activities. Children learn about chameleon camouflage and then color several of the creatures to match their surroundings. They later learn that tiger sharks are known as "the garbage can of the sea," because they will eat bizarre things like sun hats and torpedoes. On the accompanying page, children draw a bellyful of strange snacks inside of a tiger shark. Children will enjoy spending hours with this clever activity book, and parents will enjoy bringing this low-tech option along on car rides and camping trips.

SQUIGGLE on-the-go SQUIGGLE on-the-go
Ages: 5 & Up
RandomLine, Inc., $6.95

The object is to turn a squiggle, a random line, into a picture. Who knows what you'll see in your squiggle, it all depends on which way you look it at and that is determined by spinning the arrow on the back of the game. The spinning pad provides a new twist and allows for ultimate comfort and ease of drawing. Compact enough to go anywhere. Product Description

Tell Tale Tell Tale
Ages: 6 & Up
Blue Orange Games, $12.99

Tell-tale is a wonderful game for turning shy sharers into comfortable story tellers. The game, non-competitive by nature, consists of a set of round picture cards (conveniently kept in a compact tin) which can be shuffled and dealt out however the players see fit. Pictures are used to start and move a story along. Some recommended games include one where each player has four cards, and a story is improvised by the group round-robin style, or another in which each player has six cards and tells his her own story. Players can go through the whole stack, if they wish, and make up their own rules. The cards can be used by a single storyteller, to start a bedtime story or to break writer's block. In short, the possibilities are virtually endless.

kidsGO! Travel Series kidsGO! Travel Series
Ages: 7 - 14 yrs.
Haven Books, $10.00 (Hard Cover)   

KidsGO! is a series of pocket-size guidebooks-targeted specifically to tweens-that empower young people to take an active role in planning their next family vacation. New York, London, Sydney, Hong Kong and Bali are among the popular sites currently spotlighted in the series. Each book is written in a voice that speaks directly to kids. "Must-do's" for a week-long trip are curated from suggestions made by real families. From kid-friendly museums, shops, and entertainment to sports activities, neighborhood walks, wildlife encounters, and favorite foods, kids will discover ideas the whole family can enjoy, rain or shine. Hand-drawn maps, foreign phrases, and cultural trivia help kids become savvy travelers.

Ages: 7 & Up
Educational Insights, $12.99

KaBAM! is the perfect card game for travel and going to camp. It is packaged in a tin, making it is easy to keep all of its cards together. The bright colors and fun wordplay will entice all to try playing. As long as one can spell, this game will be very fun, regardless of age.

Spot it! On the Road Spot it! On the Road
Ages: 7 & Up
Blue Orange Games, $12.99

Here's a quick and compact simple road game. First you spot and name the matching image on two cards, and then you find that image on the road. The first player to find it wins the card and the player who wins the most cards out of the 55-card deck, wins the game.

Ultimate Chess Ultimate Chess
Ages: 7 & Up
Author: Jon Tremaine  
Scholastic Inc./Tangerine Press, $7.99 (Hard Cover)   

Opening this 8-by-8-inch book reveals a magnetic chess board on the inside back cover, so all the lessons can be played as they're read. Forty-seven spiral bound pages contain valuable lessons: names and images of the playing pieces, the set-up, how each piece moves, attacks, and defenses, etc. Finally all the lessons are put to use in the playing of two complete games. The set of miniature magnetic chess pieces (not classic Staunton style) is stored inside the spine of the book. Magnetism holds the book closed, making it a good choice for traveling.

Ages: 7 & Up
Bananagrams, $14.95

Bananagrams' Zip-It, the "twenty second crossword race you can play any place," is a unique combination of a crossword puzzle and classic word jumble games such as Scrabble and Boggle. The game includes twenty-four letter cubes, a bonus "Weords" Dictionary of weird words and a re-usable canvas carrying case that also serves as a scoreboard. Two players each get twelve randomly selected letter cubes which they use to create crossword-style configurations of words. The player to use all of his/her cubes correctly wins the round and moves his/her zipper one spot on the carrying case/scoreboard.

Craniatics Craniatics
Ages: 8 & Up
Fat Brain Toys, $24.95

Craniatics is a collection of "magnetic brain puzzles," which includes five double sized puzzle mats detailing a total of ten puzzles and games, 138 magnetic puzzle pieces, a solution guide and a flip-up magnetic puzzle box/carrying case for storage and travel. Craniatics is a great product for honing cognitive skills such as concentration, critical thinking and spatial analysis as well as physical skills such as fine motor movement and hand-eye coordination. It would be a great gift to give to a puzzle-loving child before the start of a long road trip.

Klutz Mix & Match Drawing Klutz Mix & Match Drawing
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: The Editors of Klutz  
Scholastic, $19.99 (Hard Cover)   

Klutz's new book offers a customizable and clever learn-to-draw experience for young artists. Characters, objects, and backgrounds can be combined into silly scenes limited only by a child's creativity. The book's instructions encourage putting sharks on the moon, an octopus in heels, and lion in a living room. On a page showing character drawings accessorized by objects, a pig wears a tutu and heels, and a bear wears a tie and bowler. A helpful index at the end of each section lists all drawing instructions available. Markers, a drawing pen, a pencil, and paper complete the kit.

Super Scribblenauts Super Scribblenauts
Ages: 10 & Up
FortySeven Communications, $29.99

Every level of Super Scribblenauts is a puzzle featuring the main character Maxwell. To solve the puzzle, players type in an object that will be placed in the scene or played with by Maxwell. Super Scribblenauts adds a new dimension to this gameplay with the addition of adjectives. Now, not only can you create a robot and a zombie, you can make a robot zombie. A kitten can be fluffy or scary. A dinosaur can be giant or purple. The depth of what you're able to enter is amazing.

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