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Mice of the Herring Bone DVD Review by Heather Jackowitz

ShowForth DVDs
BJU Press
Greenville, SC 29614-0062

Mice of the Herring Bone by Tim Davis is the first book in a series from BJU Press. Now ShowForth DVDs, a branch of BJU Press, offers this delightful DVD, which is a cross between a book on tape and a movie, with read-along text and very simple animation. It is the tale of two brave mice that accidentally fall in with a crew of pirate dogs on a mission of treachery--to capture the Queen's treasure from the Nine Lives, a ship manned by Her Majesty's loyal cats. When the mice discover the plot, they risk their own lives to warn the cats and help protect the treasure.

This 53-minute DVD includes two different tracks: watch and listen or read along. Children can also select individual chapters. The read-along track shows the words at the bottom of the screen. The narrator has a pleasant voice and reads slowly enough for beginning readers to be able to follow along, but not too slowly. Children can pause the DVD if they need to catch up. The narrator also gives each character a different voice, which is a good example for young readers.

This book is appropriate for children who are ready to move beyond beginning readers into chapter books. Some of the dialogue is a little difficult at first because the dogs speak like pirates. Here is a sample: "Well, Cap'n, I smells a nasty piece o' business, us bein' roused up fer a secret chat. Hee, hee. What'll it be? A cat what needs drownin'?" This is where the DVD comes in handy. As children follow along on the screen, they pick up the pirates' way of talking, and this opens up a whole new world of reading for them. Learning to read different dialects is an important reading skill - just try reading Redwall, Huckleberry Finn, or Uncle Tom's Cabin without it! After hearing a couple of chapters, my beginning readers had no problem reading the pirate talk.

The Mice of the Herring Bone DVD also includes an activity book in a PDF file that you open on your computer. This printable book contains an activity page for each of the ten chapters. Mazes, dot-to-dots, and map activities help children interact with what they have read. One activity even shows them how to perform a science experiment at the sink or in the bathtub so they can see how the mice stayed dry under the diving bell.

I have two new readers, and both thoroughly enjoyed this DVD. I should mention that the animation is very simple, so children who watch a lot of movies might find it boring. The purpose of this DVD is not to replace reading but to strengthen it, so animation is kept to a minimum. I encourage you to think of this more like a book on tape than a movie. With that said, however, my little boys were delighted to have their own DVD, and I felt good knowing that it was helping their reading and not just putting their brains to sleep.

My three older children became voracious readers once they discovered a series they enjoyed, such as Little House on the Prairie or the Boxcar Children. My two little ones love ships and pirates, so the Mice of the Herring Bone series is right up their alley. Highly recommended!

Product review by Heather Jackowitz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2008