Quick, humorous, and engaging--that's what these mini mysteries
are. Created and staged with a youthful audience in mind, these
60-second video segments entertain adults as much as they educate
kids. Jam-packed with historical American biographies, these DVDs
highlight the famous and the not-so-famous in brief vignettes that
can be enjoyed over and over again. The "who am I?" format gives
the viewer a chance to learn about adventurers, politicians, inventors,
entrepreneurs, and more.
Paul Niemann is talented in his humor, his costuming, his delivery,
and his ability to piece together an informative and educational
product in such a unique format. There are three DVDs, each with
ten mysteries. In total, each DVD takes only ten minutes to view,
and I must confess that I was immediately wishing all 30 videos
had been placed on one DVD rather than three, partially for the
convenience it would be to have it all one disc. Nonetheless, these
mini-movies are well produced and worthwhile. Each mystery begins
with Niemann introducing himself and inviting the viewer to guess
who he is. He then launches into a mini biography of an historical
figure while wearing an informal and sometimes humorous costume.
Some of the information would be considered fairly common knowledge,
but other information is a bit more obscure and unusual, which
makes it fun for adults too. Each minute-long segment concludes
with Niemann sharing the answer to the mystery.
The videos incorporate several digitally produced features. During
Niemann's character presentation, blue information boxes pop up
around him, reviewing key information or dates for a visual aid.
In addition, a black-and-white sketch related to the topic appears
as an overlay, which adds interest and aids in identifying the
mystery person. These sketches have a slightly cartoonish look
to them, but they also aid in memory long after viewing, making
it possible for our family to recall certain stories much later
The set is also digitally produced, though it is quite realistic.
Niemann is actually a live character who is essentially placed
into a digital set where he stands at a table covered with diagrams,
a pencil, test tubes, a baseball glove, and other somewhat random
items that a creative time-traveler might need. He is the sole
actor in essentially every video, frequently changing into several
costumes to suit the story he's telling. Some costumes are quite
elaborate, and others involve nothing more than a shawl. Regardless
of the outfit, the quick-paced monologue holds interest and ends
in what becomes a familiar and entertaining closing where he tells
the answer to the biographical mystery and then says with a smile, "But
you knew that all along, didn't ya." Then he makes a humorous reference
to the imaginary "satellite office" that he is supposedly broadcasting
from. If you listen closely, these references are related to the
story he just told, making the entire viewing experience entertaining
to the last second.
While these mysteries are not specifically designed with homeschoolers
in mind, they could be used to accompany history, literature, science,
or any other topic that references the historical figures highlighted
in the series. Once we enjoyed one video, we just had to watch
more, which makes them great family entertainment as well. The
only drawback is that the 30 mysteries are divided into three separate
DVDs, making them a bit more expensive than I expected.
While these mysteries would not be the highest priority in my
tight homeschooling budget, we truly enjoyed them and will use
them repeatedly. If visual media is effective and motivating in
your homeschool, Red, White & True Mysteries would
be an asset.