October 19, 1998 12:00 PM

Tony Bennett (Columbia/Sony Wonder)

Exposing little children to the sophisticated musical style of Bennett is clearly a good idea, even if they have to endure such painfully cute kiddie ditties as “Dat Dere,” a precious, self-consciously hip Oscar Brown Jr. and Bobby Timmons tune. More felicitous are Bennett’s gently swinging versions of such youth-friendly songs as “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” “Swinging on a Star.” and “When You Wish upon a Star.” Bennett is joined, happily, by Sesame Street’s Elmo on “Little Things” and by Kermit the Frog on “Bein’ Green.” Rosie O’Donnell appears too, on “Put on a Happy Face,” managing to restrain her usual braying but also keeping the melody at arm’s length. Bennett is no Bing Crosby, but he sounds comfortable enough with children. He has fathered four of them, one of whom, son Danny, coproduced this album with him.

Bottom Line: Excellent gift for children

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