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Scholastic Video (DVD) Collection: Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics Review by Donna Campos

Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, New York 10012

The Scholastic Video Collection: Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics includes 16 DVDs. One hundred classic stories are organized into general categories, such as stories from Africa, stories about growing up, stories about friendship, Caldecott Award winners, etc. Adorning the storage box are images of Curious George and images from the Maurice Sendak story Where the Wild Things Are. The bottom of the storage box lists all 100 stories alphabetically as well as which disc to find them on. Spanish versions are included for some of the stories, and a helpful read-along option allows viewers to read the words at the bottom of the screen. Narrators include celebrities such as James Earl Jones, Forrest Whitaker, Cyndi Lauper, Sarah Jessica Parker, and more. Each DVD lasts just under one hour, for a total of 14 hours and 41 minutes for the set. Some of the stories are fully animated cartoons, some are illustration shots that are moved from scene to scene, and a few are live-action. Designed for ages from 2 to 9 years old, this video library includes classics you will remember from your childhood and a few new ones sure to be favorites for today’s children. All 16 DVDs come in individual, fully illustrated cases and are stored in a handy cardboard box.

Homeschoolers could use these DVDs to entertain younger children while older children are working on curriculum. Creative homeschool families could even build a study around a particular author or subject area and use the videos to more closely understand the writing style of different authors.

This set includes many of my old childhood favorites. Harold and the Purple Crayon was particularly enjoyable as Harold demonstrated perception along with his imaginative drawing style. I quickly recalled Georgie as the adorable little ghost I found so amusing in my storybooks. And who could forget such classics as Harry the Dirty Dog, Make Way for Ducklings, Corduroy, and Curious George? Corduroy is one of the few live-action stories in the set, and my children enjoyed it very much. Elizabeti’s Doll was new to my family; it tells of a young African girl who longs to care for a baby the way her Momma did. We enjoyed the wonderful example of a family supporting one another. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly is often a favorite for children; this rendition is very creatively done and repeats the entire story in song at the end, which we enjoyed very much. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is a fantastic lesson on being thrifty. Joey Runs Away had our 8-year-old laughing harder than I had heard in a while; a little kangaroo runs away, and other animals desire to move into his room. Joey eventually finds that the best place for him is in his own room, and he learns a bit of obedience as well. Lastly, I have to reference The Trip, as it included a wonderful diorama and could easily be used in an educational setting to encourage a child to design and create his own diorama. We found this set of videos to be very enjoyable overall. Although there are a few objectionable stories, most are very good.

On the negative side, several stories refer to witches, including Strega Nona, Teeny-Tiny and the Witch Woman, and By the Light of the Halloween Moon. The Teacher from the Black Lagoon is a bit scary for young children, although it is very imaginative. Others include references to spirits or gods of some sort. Hot Hippo referenced a "god of everything and everywhere." The Village of Round and Square Houses refers to ancestor spirits and calls the volcano "Our mother." A Story, A Story includes "Nyanme" the sky god, and Rain Babies calls on "Mother Moon Shower" to bestow a human child on a couple longing for children. Many of these stories can be enjoyed with additional explanation and discussion, but parents should be wary of allowing children to view the stories without supervision. The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks refers to "merciful Buddha." Although this particular story offers some positive elements (such as a loving couple having many children and being very happy), we still found a reference to Buddha inappropriate for such a young age group. A minor complaint is that the words in the "read-along" mode sometimes covered the pictures a great deal. And I wish the stories were automatically in read-along mode with the option being to turn off the words, rather than vice-versa.

Our most adamant complaint regarding this product has to do with the inclusion of a controversial story that could have easily been left out of this set. In The Night Kitchen, a lesser-known book by Maurice Sendak, has repeatedly been criticized for its inappropriate subject matter for young children. It tells of a child who is curious about the nighttime noises of the kitchen, but in the process of his dreamlike state, his pajamas slowly fall off and he becomes completely nude. Our family considers nudity in any book for children inappropriate, and therefore we will not view the video again. We are disgusted that Scholastic would flaunt that particular title when more appropriate options are readily available.

We love books and often enjoy viewing movie representations of our favorites on a Saturday afternoon. This product offers an excellent opportunity for families to purchase 16 DVDs at a much lower cost per video because of the inclusion in a set. Most of the titles are suitable for young children and will be greatly enjoyed by families. I would strongly encourage reading the actual books before viewing any of these DVDs, as that will help solidify the value of real books over movie versions. Most libraries will carry the classics found in this set. Even the stories with objectionable references hold value because of the opportunity for family discussion. And of course, parents could simply skip over any DVDs or stories they deemed inappropriate for their family. We would not suggest throwing out the whole set because of a few "bad apples." The Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics will provide hours of enjoyment for the entire family.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2008