Tuesday, March 22, 2011

THE WRITERS FLIPPED, WE HAVE NO SCRIPT, WHY BOTHER TO REHEARSE?  Inspired by the recent Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast on "everything a little kid could need to grow up strong, smart, and addicted to lots and lots of elements of pop culture," I grabbed the Animaniacs Vol. 1 DVDs for Lucy recently and, holy cow do they still rock.

I started watching the show during college when it first aired, and like so many went crazy for it's high-low mix of pop culture references, wordplay and what can only be described as "cartoon humor" in its purest form.  The first cartoon from the pilot, "De-Zanitized." does a brilliant job of setting up the universe of the show, and from there on it's full steam ahead -- Yakko, Wakko and Dot meeting Einstein, Michaelangelo and Picasso, the songs, the secondary characters like Pinky and the Brain and Slappy Squirrel (whom I appreciate more now than then).  Lucy was absolutely in heaven, even if the whole point of the Goodfeathers went over her head, because everything works on a gag level even if the references don't connect.  (Though for real, when she does finally see Goodfellas in a decade or so, there's going to be questions.)

Apropos of all that, we are due for some list-building of our own: what, recently, have you turned to in ensuring your kids grow up strong, smart, and addicted to lots and lots of elements of pop culture?

87 comments:

  1. Tosy and Cosh9:58 AM

    My twin girls just turned 7. For reference. And I am constantly surprised by what connects/doesn't.

    Bugs Bunny cartoons - love. Especially Road Runner.

    Fraggle Rock - Very little interest

    Muppet Show - strong interest

    Muppets Take Manahattan - Some interest, don't adore.

    Pixar movies - love Wall-E, liked Up a lot, Ratatouille less so, love Toy Stories

    Disney movies - One loves Beauty and the Beast, the other actively dislikes; mostly apathetic to others. Used to like Cinderella, but then refused to watch because "stepsisters are mean."

    Ramona Books - Worship

    Charlotte's Web - One read in class and loved - expected her to be deeply upset by ending; nope. She also loves Stuart Little with a fiery passion - was the #1 request fom Santa.

    Star Wars - Can't spark an interest. Will keep trying.

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  2. Marsha10:00 AM

    I'm a  bit hampered by the fast that my 6 year old is scared of, well, everything, and not terribly fond of fictional TV shows because of it. He still refuses to watch movies - at all. So we've been introducing things veeeeeery slowly. That said, here are a few things we've already gotten started on: 

    The Muppet Show
    Schoolhouse Rock
    Animaniacs (the CDs so far, not the cartoons, but that's coming)

    Relatively soon, Bugs Bunny and friends will become part of the equation. And I'm sure at least one of the two will have Mommy's sense of humor, and thus will be exposed to Airplane, Animal House, Ren & Stimpy, South Park, and a variety of old comedy albums, such as Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, and Alan Sherman.

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  3. That tracks Lucy well (turns 8 in May), especially on the anti-Fraggle stance (Phoebe, 3 1/2, too), but she did like all the Muppet movies.  On Pixar, I think Incredibles is her favorite, followed by the Toy Story films, and she got very into the Star Wars films this year.

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  4. Because of the subject, I get the opportunity to name-drop.  I am friends with Nate Reugger, the (then) kid who played Skippy Squirrel.  He's an excellent filmmaker now.

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  5. shonda rhimes10:19 AM

    <span>Pink Panther.  My daughter can't get enough of it.  Also Bugs Bunny and Friends is very loved.  I also have the Schoolhouse Rock DVDs which she likes to watch.  She saw Star Wars and watched with a bored patient expression on her face -- my heart broke.  She refuses to watch E.T. because "that thing is scary."</span>

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  6. Joseph J. Finn10:19 AM

    "Who's on stage?"  "Who?"  "Exactly."

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  7. Marsha10:33 AM

    Pink Panther the cartoon or the Peter Sellers movies? (And I'm with her on ET - much as I love the movie, it's pretty damned scary.)

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  8. shonda rhimes10:59 AM

    The cartoon Pink Panther -- although I suspect she would like the movies.   Does anyone know the appropriate age for Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Just for reference, my tiny human is 8 years old...

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  9. Lucy was surprisingly not-freaked-out by the half of it that we saw, but she didn't clamor to finish it either. I figure any kid that can make it through the first sequence, given what happens to Alfred Molina, can make it to the end.

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  10. lisased11:19 AM

    We're trying it out this weekend. I showed them the first part as a preview last week, and they were fine. I figure at the end, we'll all just follow Indy's orders -- "Don't look! Whatever you do, don't look!"

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  11. Heather K11:34 AM

    I watched Raiders at about about 7 although as a result of my parents' best friends' sons' favorite game that was probably titled, "Let's see what we will make the little girls cry because we have no sisters!"  They were about 10-13 at the time and among shows they showed us that we survived relatively unscathed were the first two Indian Jones' (3 hadn't been made yet) and all three of the original Star Wars, and Stand By Me (although somehow I missed that there was a dead body ever in it).  All of which I still enjoy.  Things that will make a girl that age cry are Rambos and Beastmaster.  And I only liked the part in Rocky where he chased a chicken.

    However, that is where I patented my watching things through my fingers makes ookey things bearable technique (which I still employ today in movies and on tv shows that might have ooky homicide or ooky medical grossness).

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  12. Maggie11:40 AM

    I would also avoid Nightmare on Elm Street for 8 year olds.  My friend's 16 year old brother made us watch it and I didn't sleep for 3 weeks without a nightmare, which my mom deemed "punishment enough" for not excusing myself from watching a movie I knew I wasn't supposed to watch.

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  13. Eric J.11:50 AM

    '60s Batman (and The Brave and the Bold)
    Muppet movies, but not The Muppet Show so much
    Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry
    Carefully selected MST3K episodes.

    (We've recently cut out school-night TV, so their pop-culture education has slowed a bit, but the positive effects have been worth it.)

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  14. I grew up with all of the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elmstreet flicks and I hated them. But as a kid, I was  forced to watch them at sleepovers and such. When watching scary movies my older brother would say to me, "Imagine the director standing behind the camera and screaming 'Cut! You aren't being scary enough. Try it, again. More blood. More yelling. More scary!'" Oddly, this worked. Even more odd is the fact that I have the only older brother in history who tried to make sure that his little sister would enjoy scary movies versus hoping they would give her nightmares. I still don't like them, but my brother's tip has helped me through many scary movies over the years.
    On a separate note, I watched Anamaniacs when they first came out and was obsessed with them. It's also how I learned the names of all of the states and capitals. Of course, I sing them.

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  15. Genevieve12:09 PM

    My kiddo is 11, and I believe watched Raiders at age 9 1/2 or 10, and the other two Indy movies at age 10.  Have not yet shown him Jaws, which a friend's parent brought me to at age 6 - scared me very much at the time but I did not grow up afraid of the ocean. 
    Showed him Back to the Future around age 9, I think, but haven't watched the next two movies, and we should (at least the second).

    He's seen the new Karate Kid, so I screened the old one for him, but he got bored halfway through and hasn't wanted to see the rest.

    Recently he's loved My Cousin Vinny (R-rated for language, I realized after the fact, but I was fairly OK with the language as he is highly unlikely to repeat it), Dr. Horrible, and Groundhog Day.  I promised to show him True Grit.  Have taken him to tons of theater (musicals mostly, but also straight plays) and we're going to watch the movie of Evita soon, though I'll have to see if there's anything I need to fast-forward through.   We've been watching the new Doctor Who, which he loves.  I was thinking that soon we should watch Stand By Me, maybe Footloose, and WarGames (he liked but did not love Max Dugan Returns, the first Matthew Broderick movie I saw).

    What do you think is a good age for Ferris Bueller, Buffy (which I've never seen), and Smallville?  Those all struck me as for teens, but whether early to mid, I don't know.

    We're reading Fellowship of the Ring right now (his choice for school, though I don't know if he's going to want to read the next two).  He wants to read To Kill a Mockingbird, and I said after he reads it we'll see the movie.  He loved last year's Newbery, When You Reach Me, and the book it pays tribute to, A Wrinkle in Time (though I could not get him interested in the second book, A Wind in the Door, which I never loved but I liked -- need to skip ahead to the third book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, which is marvelous).  He also loved The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (Newbery Honor a couple of years ago) and we are eagerly awaiting Schmidt's new book, Okay For Now, which is supposed to be even better and has serious Newbery buzz for this year.  He loved Alan Gratz's book The Brooklyn Nine, which I highly recommend for baseball fans and lovers of historical fiction. 

    We've reached the point where he's schooling me on pop music, though I can take credit via the ThingThrowers for introducing him to Taio Cruz's Dynamite (he would've heard it eventually) and Arcade Fire.

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  16. Dan Suitor12:16 PM

    I've actually been wondering for a while, even before PCHH raised the question, if maybe I (and people my age) grew up in a golden age for childrens entertainment. Being ages 3 - 13 from '92 to 2002, I have a certain set of experiences that I'd like to pass down:

    Animaniacs - its brilliance has already been stated

    Batman The Animated Series - If your kid's a secret geek-cub, this will out him/her. If not, it just might convert them.

    Dexter's Lab - consistently one of the funniest cartoons of the era. It has a madcap conviction in its sense of imagination that makes it a joy to watch

    Rugrats - Largely gentle, usually funny show with a refreshing feeling of whimsy

    Bill Nye The Science Guy - NEVER underestimate the power of hearing the phrase "Science Rules" early and often. The '90s music video parodies will go over the kids head, but the show has a surprising sense of humor and makes all the science accessible.

    Freakazoid/The Tick/Earthworm Jim - I didn't really see a need to separate these out, because they all fall into a very similar lane: alternatingly surreal and absurdist takes on common genres and tropes. If you want to teach your kid to pick apart fiction and understand it at an atomic level, start with Animaniacs but quickly move onto these, particularly Freakazoid and The Tick. Like the best kid's shows, they work on a second or third level while never sacrificing the "right in front of you" humor.

    Gargoyles - It's much darker, perhaps reserve it for for 9-year-olds and up, but Gargoyles is an exquisite bit of epic storytelling that never panders to a young yet remains accessible along the spectrum. It updates some classic fantasy storytelling to the modern day, giving kids an entrance point to lots of other fiction.

    Samurai Jack - Again, with the violence (he most kills robots, though) this might be better for 8-and-ups, but Jack is an incredible work of art. The show is stylized and beautiful in a way almost nothing else approaches, and sometimes Tartakovsky and Co. would just go "hey, let's do 80% of the episode in the pitch dark", or "hey, this episode doesn't need dialogue, right?". It has an "epic journey" structure, allowing each episode to simple act as another stop on Jack's quest to return to his home century (he's lost in time) and the dystopian future world they created has tons of brilliant nooks and crannies. It's probably the most artful show of all the ones I listed, and it's a perfect way to introduce kids to lots of different storytelling techniques and genres in a largely non-threatening way. 

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  17. Adam C.12:17 PM

    We need to do a more complete Bugs/Merry Melodies experience, but the ones we've shown them (the one with the dog and the cat and "What, no gravy?" as the catchphrase, What's Opera, Doc?, Rabbit of Seville) have gone over like gangbusters.  Prompting this discussion the other night that 140 characters did NOT do justice:  

    9-y.o.:  Wait, it's Elmer Fudge, right?
    Me (grinning, stifling laugh): No, F-U-D-D, Fudd.
    7-y.o.: Yeah, I thought it was weird that a pig would marry a rabbit.
    Me (really straining now):  Umm, he's a man, not a pig.
    7YO: Oh.  He really looks like a pig, though, because his skin is really pink.  
    [a few minutes later on...]
    Me: So, any changes of opinion now that you know that Elmer's a guy and not a pig?
    7YO: It's a little less weird.  Because if he was a pig, and he married Bugs, what would we call their kids?  Pabbits?  Riglets?
    Me: [blink.  blink.  Hysterics.]

    Beyond that, they watched the new Pink Panther cartoons that were on last year, they've seen a couple seasons worth of The Muppet Show, and they've dipped their toes into the original Electric Company (but far prefer the new version).  Schoolhouse Rock and E.T. were big, big hits.  The Muppet Movie, Great Muppet Caper, and Muppets Take Manhattan all got thumbs up; Muppet Treasure Island got the proverbial finger.  They are not ready for the scary stuff in Raiders, but I do hope for that day.  I tried Star Wars on them about 2 years ago, but they weren't biting - I'll try again soon.  

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  18. isaac_spaceman12:24 PM

    You know, I was thinking about doing a whole post on this, but the Lego video game series.  That was how the boys got into Star Wars, and they also played Batman.  Then they started Harry Potter, and I have to say, that game is spectacular.  The game play is not really any different from the other lego games, but they did something really ingenious in combining both level/task-based game play and a central Hogwarts hub that you can just to explore and find things.   It's similar to what Nintendo did with the first Mario Galaxy game, but on a much grander scale.  The whole Hogwarts/Diagon Alley area is so well done, with a bunch of mini-games and tiny puzzles buried in various areas.  It does a great job making the sets from the movies habitable.  This is a really great, great game.  And before you say "ugh, giving your kids video games is child abuse," it got both of my kids interested in Harry Potter as a cultural phenomenon, and one of them is now reading the books (where he wasn't interested before). 

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  19. isaac_spaceman12:26 PM

    Bill Nye got his start on the same weird low-budget amateurish variety/sketch comedy show in Seattle where Joel McHale got his start -- Almost Live. 

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  20. Adam C.12:27 PM

    Should have clarified as others did - 9YO and 7YO girls.

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  21. The Lego games are great because they work both as a introduction (for kids) and homage (for adults) and easily allow cooperative play.  The "no dialogue/no blood" keeps them kid-safe, and generates humor for adults.  (Yes, in Lego Star Wars there is "Luke, I Am Your Father," without dialogue.)

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  22. Adam C.1:06 PM

    Thanks for this suggestion - we've been thinking about what use we might have for the XBox, which we received as a gift with the Band Hero set (which disc subsequently bricked, so we've replaced that with Beatles Rock Band - BIG improvement!), beyond the band-type games.  The 9YO devoured the Potter books this past year, and the 7YO is certainly curious (but has seen only the first movie so far), so that might be right up their/our alley.

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  23. PiledHighandDeep1:13 PM

    At 3, it was Pixar all the way, especially Toy Story I and II, which lead to a very Pixar Christmas:  mommy and daddy living on eBay trying to track down Woody, Jessie, and the gang...toys she still plays with at age 10.
    Then, we had a stop at Sesame Street, followed by a few Disney classics, like Cinderella and Aladdin and Mulan and Beauty and the Beast.
    Then, a Star Wars phase; we won't let her watch Episode 3 all the way through, but she was obsessed with eps 4,5,6 for quite awhile. 
    She has always love the television series Avatar: The Last Airbender, and I highly recommend that series to anyone--excellent writing, animation, music, characters, plot, it's truly outstanding.  They have a new series coming out that takes place in the same universe, but many years later.  Very excited about that.
    We are now into Harry Potter, and videogames.  The Lego games are excellent in so many ways:  clever, set recognizably in their worlds, accessible to little ones.
    Plants versus Zombies is destined to become a classic.  My husband is now addicted to that game.  It's campy and witty and totally cracks them up.

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  24. Thank you, Hub Network; I think Lucy saw about 90% of all Batman episodes produced, during the last 3-4 months. They are so much funnier for me <span> </span>to watch now.  Holy [SOMETHING]!<span> </span>

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  25. isaac_spaceman1:20 PM

    Lego Harry Potter is definitely appropriate even for younger kids, although often they need adult help solving the puzzles.  I think that playing through and learning about the HP world helped the kids not get overly scared by the movies.  Although we were all really sad when SPOILER ALERT Harry was cradling Cedric Diggory's lifeless plastic head. 

    There are two significant bugs in the Harry Potter game.  If you do get it, google the bugs so that you can work around them.  One of them allows you to keep playing but you miss a level and can't complete the game.  The other one might not let you out of a level, so you have to save it for last.  I highly recommend that you google them before you and the kids start playing. 

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  26. isaac_spaceman1:22 PM

    My kids loved PvZ.  Drew pictures for weeks of stick-figure zombies saying "hhhhh ... braaaaains."  And I have a beautiful picture next to my bed of a sunflower. 

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  27. Robin1:31 PM

    I was a child when Animaniacs first aired, so I saw Goodfeathers before I ever saw Goodfellas, or really any other mob movie. So yes, when I came of age and caught up on the Scorsese & Copolla catalogues it was like, ohhhhh...

    See also, watching The Thing with my fiance this weekend and him saying, "Oh, this was referenced in the Licecapades episode of South Park!"  Was backwards appreciation of pop culture references always this common, or is this what we have to thank Gen X for?

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  28. Adam C.1:34 PM

    Totally forgot another show I've been doling out to the kids when I find the best episodes on Syfy:  The Twilight Zone.  We've watched "Time Enough at Last," "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," "To Serve Man," and "Eye of the Beholder" over the past few weeks; I've been holding back on "The Invaders" for a daytime showing, because that one might prompt a couple nightmares too close to bedtime.

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  29. Tosy and Cosh1:41 PM

    So maybe worth trying Animaniacs. Was worried the gags wouldn't track, but sounds like the energy/slpastick more than compensates. One twin is hesitantly into superheroes (the other not at all) so thinking Incredibles too. They're odd ducks in that too much drama overloads them - sobbed and hid eyes at Tangled.

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  30. bella wilfer1:42 PM

    "That's all the capitals there are!" "I'm sorry, you didn't answer in the form of a question." - my favorite Animaniacs skit ever, and yes, I totally know the entire song.  

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  31. Adam C.1:59 PM

    Our kids were like that too until fairly recently re: heavy (melo)drama, T&C -- I think the 7YO actually helped the 9YO past it.  And now that the older one has read all the Potter books, I can't imagine it'll be much of an issue going forward.  (They still go through the appropriate emotional rollercoaster in certain movies, but it's no longer debilitating, to the point of having to shut the movie off!)

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  32. Joseph J. Finn2:31 PM

    I think we need to talk more about books.

    The All IN Teh Family series by Dydney Taylor

    Eleanor Estes Melendez Family quartet

    Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Like series

    Narnia

    The Hobbit

    Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy, Tacy and Tib books

    The OZ novels

    And so on...

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  33. Joseph J. Finn2:31 PM

    There's certainly more of it, but I've been catching up on Hitchcock and it's amazing how referenced his movies are by everyone else.

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  34. Maggie2:56 PM

    I'd add the following series to Finn's list: 
    The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner)
    Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (Betty MacDonald)
    My Father's Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett)
    Little Pear (Eleanor Frances Lattimore)
    Streatfeild's various Shoes books (Ballet Shoes, Skating Shoes, etc)

    And my favorite book as 8-10 year old - Gertie's Green Thumb (Catherine Dexter) about a girl who finds a wishbone in the park and basically turns her house into the outdoors...

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  35. gretchen3:02 PM

    Take that list, and mix in Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Noel Streatfeild, Madeleine L'Engle, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, and I'm in heaven.

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  36. Joseph J. Finn3:16 PM

    Oooh, definite on Boxcar Children.  I introduced my nephew to that and he loves them.

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  37. Tosy and Cosh3:24 PM

    That's encouraging. What's really weird is that a year ago, when Twin B was a 6YO, E.T. happened to be on HBO one morning, and she ended watching the last 2/3, including the rather intense finale, which I did NOT think she would like.

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  38. Tosy and Cosh3:28 PM

    Marsha - I feel your pain. My 7YO twins still won't go back to Finding Nemo. Not because of "dead mom" (which I always skipped). Not because of lost son, Dad's panic, sharks. No, because of "dentist makes guy yell in pain."

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  39. My children understand that daddy has an Xbox which he uses to play Madden when they are asleep or away. It may be time to introduce them.

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  40. Genevieve4:51 PM

    When my son was very small, I gingerly showed him The Wizard of Oz, ready to turn it off at any minute.  He had no trouble with the witch.  No trouble with the trees throwing parts of themselves at Dorothy. 
    When did he dissolve into tears?  When the guard tells them "Nobody sees the Wizard!" and slams the window shut.

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  41. Genevieve5:00 PM

    Yes! 
    Also, at age 10, North by Northwest enjoyed very much, leading to a request for more mysteries/suspense. 
    Rear Window enjoyed (though not quite as much).  Murder on the Orient Express enjoyed so much I fear it may spoil others for him (as its one of the most twisty, plot-wise).  A Ngaio Marsh mystery set in the theater was enjoyed at first, but a solution involving essentially a mad murderer was unsatisfying, as the kiddo apparently demands reasonable motives.  Thinking we will read some Josephine Tey next.

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  42. Genevieve5:23 PM

    LOVE Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind Family series.  There are a couple more books than I knew about as a kid, though sadly they are mostly out of print now (hooray for libraries!).
    And everything Gretchen mentioned (though I didn't discover Noel Streatfeild till I was grown). 
    And Roald Dahl, Julie Edwards [Andrews], and everything by Edward Eager, especially Seven-Day Magic, Knight's Castle, and Half Magic.
    E.B. White's less celebrated book, The Trumpet of the Swan.
    Joan Aiken's series starting with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea (though the later books did not grab me).  Also her wonderful short story collection, A Necklace of Rainbows, perfect for the 5 to 10 year olds.
    The Phantom Tollbooth.  Early Judy Blume (Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing, etc.).

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  43. While my first kid is still aged (approximately) negative one month, so no pop-culture assessments have been made thus far, I was terrified of 'kids' entertainment' as a child.  In retrospect, Follow that Bird was obviously some sort of commentary on interracial adoptions, but Big Bird being taken away from his loving Sesame Street family and getting kidnapped was pretty terrifying.  My mom had to resort to showing me 1930s screwball romantic comedies, which were not scary and also not sexually inappropriate for a 5-year old.  

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  44. Adam C.5:26 PM

    The band games really are fun to do together, although the instruments are still a bit complex (even on the easy setting) for the kids to handle solo.  But they can go to town on the mic, or we can share drumming duties, or they duet while I "play" guitar.  (My wife wants no part of it, though - for her, we have Namco Arcade Classics.)

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  45. Genevieve5:35 PM

    Oh!  Reading Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game with the kiddo was one of my favorite shared pop culture experiences - he loved it so much and couldn't wait to read the next part.  And I remembered how much I'd loved it long ago.
    For slightly younger kids (maybe 3rd/4th grade, though later is fine too), Raskin's The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) is terrific.

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  46. I would just like to second the Batman: The Animated Series (and Gargoyles, although I've never revisited them but enjoy loving them at the time).  Batman premiered when I was six or seven and I thought it was the greatest thing ever.  As it turns out, child me was very smart.  It is perhaps one of the best cartoons ever made (IGN rated is as such) and probably the best version of Batman.  It is, at the very least, the best at handling the Batman/Bruce dynamic, which Kevin Conroy handles so well.  The AV Club has been doing recaps of old episodes every Monday and it's been a gloriously nostalgic read.

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  47. You are an awesome dad.

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  48. bella wilfer5:50 PM

    The Westing Game is one of the few books in my "sorely in need of a feature film treatment" pantheon.  Apparently Raskin's estate has been just impossible to deal with, rights-wise.  They got burned by a bad TV movie version and now want bazillions for remake rights.  

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  49. Tosy and Cosh6:03 PM

    My twins will not watch The Wizard of Oz, but loved having the book read to them at age 4 or 5.

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  50. Anonymous7:29 PM

    The original 6 part BBC Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is now streaming on Netflix. Forcing 12 year old son to watch.

    --bd

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  51. Anonymous7:58 PM

    Daniel Pinkwater books (I came to them as an adult, but would have loved them as a child).
    All of the Alvin Fernald books (I especially loved Alvin Fernald: Mayor for a Day)

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  52. KCosmo9:55 PM

    This is such a good list.  I have very little to add.  My kids love Schoolhouse Rock.  Also Star Wars first generation (4 year old boy more so than 7 year old girl). Muppet Show didn't take about a year ago, but I should probably try it again. 

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  53. This reply co<span>nfused me a little bit because Hitchcock is my last </span><span>name.</span>

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  54. Adam C.12:40 AM

    Aww, thanks!

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  55. Marsha12:42 AM

    I am absolutely terrible at the "what's the right age for this" game. I can't stand scary movies or TV and never could - anything visually scary is not for me. But I read Carrie when I was 8 and had worked my way through everything Stephen King, Peter Straub, John Saul, etc had (to that point) written by the time I was 11.

    Which, of course, explains everything you need to know about me.

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  56. Marsha12:48 AM

    At the Borders out of biz sale, I raided the kids' section and bought a bunch of the pre-teen and teen books that I always meant to read and never did. Finished "The Great Gilly Hopkins" last night and loved it, read "The Phantom Tollbooth" last week, and just started "The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963." In the pile is Matilda, Boxcar Children, Milkweed (I'm a huge Jerry Spinelli fan), and a few others.

    Genevieve - Westing Game is still, to this day, my favorite book of all time, bar none. I re-read it once a year or so and have made all four of my book clubs read it at various points.

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  57. kenedy jane12:55 AM

    I skew much older than the general demo here with my 20 year old daughter but I have realized recently that I did a horrible job of introducing her to the appropriate pop culture.  Although she did discover the John Hughes films and fell in love just as I had when they premiered in my high school (college?) days.  Can never get enough Duckie.  She also texted me recently that I should be thrilled because her boyfriend had convinced her to watch Monty Python's Holy Grail which I had been bugging her to watch for years.  She was underwhelmed but gave her boyfriend and I a great opportunity to swap favorite lines.

    I could never convince her of the awesomeness of Sesame Street although, like her mother, she did like Grover.  (And The Monster at the End of the Book!)  She was big on Rugrats which was fortunate for me because I enjoyed them as well.  Sadly, there was a dark period in our life largely controlled by a purple dinosaur.  However, single mom with young child + video that hypnotizes child for 30 minutes allowing mom to accomplish something (anything) = WIN!

    Her favorite book - probably to this day - was/is To Kill A Mockingbird.  Took her to see the movie which they show every summer in a very old theater in town and she fell even more in love.  Like mother, like daughter.  My Kindle's name?  Atticus.  :-)

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  58. Genevieve7:03 AM

    We still have all my old Oz books - read them all to the kiddo a few years ago, up till Glinda of Oz, where we gave out (I think he was finding the flaws in the writing by then, but I need to re-read the bit about the sunken island before we give them away - love that one, and the island that captures people in The Scarecrow of Oz - what is it with the dangerous islands?).

    I just tried reading Raskin's "The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues," thinking I might like it better than an adult than as a kid, but nope, still disliked it.  But my love for "The Westing Game" is huge, only outweighed by my love of all things L'Engle.  Very very cool that you had your book clubs reading it, Marsha!  I loved hearing about when the kiddo's class read it (he had read it with me previously and had to be careful not to give away clues when everyone in the class was trying to figure out the mystery - wonder if the adult bookgroups were quicker at figuring it out or still stunned by it, and what they thought of the characters).

    "The Great Gilly Hopkins" is one of my favorite Katherine Paterson books.  I need to go re-read "Of Nightingales That Weep," one of her books set in Japan.  "The Watsons" is so good, and so are Curtis's other books, especially "Bud Not Buddy."  And I never read any Spinelli till I was grown, but I liked "Maniac Magee" nearly as much as the kiddo did.

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  59. Adam C.9:01 AM

    Marsha - me too for King, except Salem's Lot was my entry point.

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  60. Marsha11:07 AM

    Interesting - Salem's Lot is probably my least favorite of the early books and the only one I haven't reread a bunch of times.

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  61. Marsha11:11 AM

    Maniac Magee is an extraordinary book, and I also dearly love Stargirl. (I have an irrational affection for Who Put That Hair in my Toothbrush?, which I am aware is an unexceptionabl book, but it's a family favorite.)

    My grownup friends mostly took to The Westing Game like a duck to water. They didnt' really figure it out beforehand. For me, rereading it now and knowing it so well, it's about watching how she puts the pieces together and build the characters. It's really perfectly constructed - the rare mystery where you *don't* figure everything right away, and yet when you go back, you can see the perfect trail that led you there.

    I never liked Tattooed Potato either, though I do love Leon (I Mean Noel).

    You and I are kindred spirits, Genevieve!

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  62. Tosy and Cosh1:42 PM

    Marsha - Me too!!! I may have only read it once. ;) I've hesitated giving my 12-year old niece The Eyes of the Dragon. Maybe I shouldn't.

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  63. Adam C.2:50 PM

    @Marsha - I agree Lot is not his richest storytelling, nor his most re-readable (I haven't re-read it since around 10th grade, so that's nearly 25 years now) but as I say, it was an entry point, from which I moved on to Christine, Carrie, Cujo, The Shining, etc. -- he immediately became my favorite author at that stage of my life.

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    Firestarter was my entry point. I think my Aunt lent it to me. . .

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