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Duke Ellington . . . And More Stories to Celebrate Great Figures in African American History (DVD) Review by Kendra Fletcher

Scholastic Storybook Treasures

Oh boy, do I love this video! How's that for a review opener? Scholastic generally produces good quality materials for children, and Duke Ellington . . . And More Stories to Celebrate Great Figures in African American History is no exception.

Covering excellent children's books about black history ( Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa also by Andrea Davis Pinkney , Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, and John Henry by Julius Lester), the video also features beautiful and appropriate music. The books are narrated by Forest Whitaker, Phylicia Rashad, Billy Dee Williams, and Samuel L. Jackson. Each actor does a dramatic reading of the text, and these are stories you just know they are enjoying themselves.

I played the video in the van on our way to choir practice one day, and my girls (ages 11, 9, and 7) were riveted. One daughter in particular was very interested in Ella Fitzgerald's story. She asked to hear more of her music and now names Ella as one of her favorite singers. This I like; giving my children a broad exposure to music is important to our family, and if that exposure sparks an interest in them for quality music, then we feel we've met some excellent goals.

In addition to the stories, beautiful illustrations, wonderful music, and masterful narration, the DVD includes a "Talk About the Stories" section in which questions are presented to facilitate discussion of each story. Comprehension questions (such as "What happened in the race between John Henry and Ferret-Faced Freddy?" are helpful to see who was paying attention or what aspects to the story they may have missed.

A read-along feature is also included. Students can read the text along with the narrator, which I find particularly appealing for my early readers.

Duke Ellington . . . And More Stories to Celebrate Great Figures in African American History is 70 minutes long and is recommended for 4 to 9-year-olds, but don't count it out for your older students. I caught a glimpse in my rearview mirror of my young teens paying close attention as well.

Product review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2011