I truly appreciate Scholastic Storybook Treasures' offerings on DVD. The series, which breathes animated life into a diverse array of classics children's books, is chock full o' charm and warmth. But Chicka Chicka 1,2,3 ... and More Counting Fun, a collection of four mathematically minded animated shorts, does not add up to one of the series' more engaging efforts.
Chicka Chicka 1,2,3 -- written by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Lois Ehlert
A 2004 sequel to Martin and Ehlert's celebrated 1989 kid book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (which Martin co-wrote with John Archambault), Chicka Chicka 1,2,3 is a whimsical vignette about anthropomorphized numbers that climb up an apple tree while poor lil' Zero wonders aloud if there will be any room for him.
Then along comes a swarm of bees to create havoc and send the 99 numbers toppling to their death. OK, I was kidding about the death part, but they do get scuffed up a bit.
The animation is pleasant, but best of all is how the book's text has been transformed into a pretty nifty sing-along by Crystal Tallifero. Running time is six minutes, 13 seconds.
Emily's First 100 Days of School -- written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Imagined as a special report on the Bunny News Network (BNN), Emily's First 100 Days of School is about a young bunny whose teacher, Miss Cribbage, has the students keep a log about their first 100 days of school. If that sounds like it has the potential for exhaustion, congratulate yourself on your good instincts. Narrated by Diana Canova, this animated short takes us through every single day of the aforementioned assignment.
The gimmick here is that Emily works every number between 1 and 1000 into her seemingly interminable narrative. On Day 2, for example, she learns to sing the song, "Tea for Two." On Day 29, she meets a student from Twentynine Palms, California. On Day 98, Emily's temperature is 98.6.
Uh-oh, I think that might've been a spoiler. At any rate, on and on it goes -- for nearly 36 minutes. Before it's all over, glassy-eyed parents might understandably think Emily has endured roughly 100,000 days of school. Granted, my 3-year-old daughter enjoyed it well enough, but moms and dads are likely to find Emily's First 100 Days of School slightly more pleasant than being waterboarded.
How Much Is a Million? -- written by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Informative and fun, this seven-minute, 36-second animated short introduces us to Marvelosissimo the Mathematical Magician (yep, kids adore alliteration), who illustrates the sheer size and scope of a million, a billion and a trillion. Example: If a trillion children climbed on each other's shoulders, the human chain would stretch as far as Saturn's rings. Moral: Don't try this at home. Bruce Johnson provides the voice of Marvelosissimo.
If You Made a Million -- written by David M. Schwartz, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Marvelosissimo is back in this 1994 sequel to the aforementioned 1985 book. This time, the math-minded magic man explains to children various denominations of dollars and coins. As they did in How Much Is a Million?, Schwartz and Kellogg make learning clever and humorous, although the 16-minute, 11-second running time is a little, um, taxing.
Presented in full-frame, the picture quality is fine but unremarkable. Colors are nicely saturated and lines are strong. Minor (and sporadic) tears and softness in some images are not a distraction.
The 2.0 mix is clean, crisp and gets the job done. Optional read-along subtitles are also available.
Chicka, Chicka 1,2,3 ... and More Counting Fun boasts two very good pieces (Chicka, Chicka and How Much Is a Million?), one so-so effort (If You Made a Million) and one that might make you reconsider watching TV with your kids (Emily). That said, my toddlers enjoyed all four animated shorts, which do manage to make counting seem fun.