If, as MTV taught us, "video killed the radio star," one is left to wonder what this gigantic compendium of video versions of children's books will do for the goodnight story. Comprised of 16 DVDs, each built around a theme or particular author, the Scholastic Video Collection offers an abundance of delights for children of all ages, and, lest the guilt of not reading becomes too great to bear, offers a "read along" extra on each DVD (AKA subtitles), where concerned parents can at least pretend not to (solely) be using screentime as they watch these with their kids.
The set consists of:
Where the Wild Things Are and Other Maurice Sendak Stories. Including the title story, as well as "The Nutshell Kids" and "In the Night Kitchen," with extras including a vintage live-action documentary about Sendak and a Spanish version of "Where the Wild Things Are."
Harry the Dirty Dog, a compilation of doggie stories, including the title story, "Officer Buckle and Gloria," and "Angus and the Ducks." Extras include "The Beast of Monsieur Racine," "14 Rats and a Rat-Catcher," and "John Brown, Rose, and the Midnight Cat."
Curious George Rides a Bike, devoted, as in the title story, to tales of mischief. This DVD also includes "The Great White Man-Eating Shark," "Flossie and the Fox," and, as extras, "The Happy Lion," "Cat and Canary," and a Spanish version of the title story.
Goodnight, Gorilla is billed as a compilation of goodnight stories, perhaps wishful thinking as per my comments above. The DVD also features "How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?", "Happy Birthday, Moon," and one of my kids' favorite books from their childhood, "The Napping House," as well as the extras "The Paperboy," "Patrick" and "The Hat."
Chrysanthemum features three Kevin Henkes tales, including "Owen" and "A Weekend With Wendell," as well non-Henkes extras "Picnic," "Monty" and "The Wizard."
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is geared toward the toddler set as it teaches some basic concepts like the alphabet in such titles as "Trashy Town," "Rosie's Walk," "The Caterpillar and the Polliwog," and the extras "The Foolish Frog," "Joey Runs Away," and "Changes, Changes."
Harold and the Purple Crayon posits the artistic little boy in three adventures, including the title story, "A Picture for Harold's Room," and "Harold's Fairy Tale." Extras include "The Mysterious Tadpole," "Drummer Hoff" and "Smile for Auntie."
Click, Clack, Moo--Cows that Type will appeal to animal lovers with stories including "The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash" and "The Pigs' Wedding." Extras include "The Cow Who Fell in the Canal" and "Charlie Needs a Cloak," as well as a Spanish version of the title tale.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly is musically oriented, with some cute tune-filled episodes including "Antarctic Antics" and "Musical Max." Extras including "Keeping House" and "Waiting for Wings," as well as a Spanish version of the "Musical Max."
Robert McCloskey's stories are represented in Make Way for Ducklings, which also includes "Blueberries for Sal" and "Time of Wonder." Extras include "Burt Dow: Deep Water Man," "Lentil" and a Spanish version of the title story.
Strega Nona is one of the more visually arresting sets in the box as it includes Caldecott winners (an award given for outstanding childrens' book illustrations). The stories include the title adventure, as well as "Joseph Had a Little Overcoat" (not the Bible story) and "Stone Soup." Extras include "The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks" and a Spanish version of the title tale.
The children's classic Corduroy heads up this DVD (and is the only live action feature in the set), which also includes "Yo! Yes?" and "Here Comes the Cat!". The only extra on this DVD is "The Rainbabies."
Every kid's fantasy comes true in The Snowy Day, which also includes other Ezra Jack Keats stories "Whistle for Willie," "Peter's Chair" and "Pet Show," as well as the extras "A Letter to Amy," "The Trip" and "Apt. 3." As with the Sendak set, there's a nice featurette introducing Keats to his young readers and their parents.
Is Your Mama a Llama? confronts the problems all kids have as they begin to grow, and also includes "Leo the Late Bloomer," "Elizabeth's Doll" and "Goose," as well as the extras "Five Creatures" and Spanish versions of both the title story and "Leo."
Hallowe'en comes alive in The Teacher from the Black Lagoon, which also includes the "slightly scary" stories "What's Under My Bed?," "By the Light of the Halloween Moon" and "The Three Robbers." Extras include "A Dark, Dark Tale," "Georgie," and "Teeny-Tiny and the Witch-Woman."
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears features some fascinating African stories, including "A Story, A Story," and "Who's in Rabbit's House?" Extras include "The Village of Round and square Houses," "Hot Hippo" and a Spanish version of the title story.
This is a bountiful collection of beloved stories, all produced with a great deal of care and frequently including the original authors and illustrators as collaborators. The voice talent is also uniformly excellent and includes such names as James Earl Jones, Mary Beth Hurt, Laura Dern, Rob Reiner, Cyndi Lauper, Randy Travis, John Lithgow, Debby Boone, Sarah Jessica Parker and Meryl Streep. Virtually all of the features include superb scores, including one by Lauper on the feature she voices, and two on the Sendak set by the quirky Peter Schickele (AKA P.D.Q. Bach), who also narrates both the features he scores. The third Sendak tale has a wonderful score by Carole King.
The only drawback to this set (if one chooses to see it that way) is that these are not really adaptations to a new medium, but are, for the most part, simply read versions with (sometimes minimal) animation. Since the animation dutifully follows the style of the original book illustrations, there's not much "new material" here to sustain older children's interests. Younger kids are sure to be enthralled, though, by seeing their favorite books "come to life," however haltingly, in this generally excellent set.
A lot of the content comes from the 1980s and 1990s, though some of the extras venture back into the dark ages of the 1970s and even include some material originally shot on film. There is a surfeit of styles included here, as befits the many authors represented, which should keep most kiddies interested for hours and hours to come. This is also certainly a relative bargain in the boxed set as opposed to buying each of the titles separately. With only (fill in the blank) shopping days left until the holiday of your choice, this looks like a big winner for parents and kids.
For the most part, the consistently 1.33:1 shot on video elements look fine when one takes into account their varying ages. As mentioned above, some of the extras are on film and are older, and therefore show quite a bit more wear and tear. That said, there's nothing egregiously awful about anything in the set--just don't set the expectation bar too high, especially for the older material.
The standard stereo soundtracks (both English and Spanish) are all great. Narration is clear and crisp and the features with song scores sound just fine.
Individual extras are listed above. Additionally, each DVD offers the "read along" option mentioned in my introduction, which is basically a euphemism for subtitles.
This is the mother of all storybook collections, at least those in the Scholastic family. There is such an excellent variety of material featured here that even Scholastic would be hard-pressed to outdo itself with a follow-up. Don't expect radical re-thinkings of these classics--these are, for the most part, simply read versions of the stories with sometimes minimal animation. Even with that caveat, all of the DVDs contain enough charm to delight all but the pickiest children, especially those younger than 8 or 9.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet