My Very First Treasury of 50 Storybook Classics - Preschool Stories
New Video // Unrated // $49.95 // March 31, 2009
Review by Brian Orndorf | posted April 12, 2009
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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A DVD box set such as "Preschool Stories" fills me with equal parts delight and sadness. The discomfort emerges from the reality that kids who sit down to watch these award-winning presentations of literature might never know the magic of the book experience, and how textures and shapes contribute to the rapture of reading. My happiness with this release arrives with the knowledge that a sale for this collection means one less parent will be forced to turn to the pure inanity of basic cable to babysit their kids. That's a victory in my book.

"Preschool Stories" isn't some pantywaist assortment of middling titles for children to consume. The set offers some of the most delightful, iconic stories around, offering the average youthful viewer a chance to sample the finest in kid-lit escapism. Since the collection pulls material from the last 50 years of film and video production, adults are sure to be pleasantly surprised by the memories the material evokes, perhaps taking a few back to the glory years of early development and customary 8mm kindergarten time filling.

To keep matter reasonably educational, the shorts gathered here have a "Read-Along" option that pastes the text karaoke-style on the screen for viewers to follow. It's no replacement for the real thing, but at least there's an effort to push the reading button, even if it means staring intently at a TV screen.

THE DISCS (note: narration credits aren't always listed on the shorts or packaging)

Harold and the Purple Crayon...And More Stories to Spark the Imagination (61 minutes)

"Harold and the Purple Crayon"

Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson, Narrated by Norman Rose

"A Picture for Harold's Room"

Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson

"Harold's Fairy Tale"

Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson

"The Swineherd"

By Hans Christian Anderson, Illustrated by Bjorn Winblad

"Time of Wonder"

Written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, Narrated by Ted Hoskins

"The Foolish Frog"

By Pete Seeger and Charles Seeger, Illustrated by Miloslav Jagr, Narrated by Pete Seeger

"Drummer Hoff"

By Barbara Emberley, Illustrated by Ed Emberley

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly...And More Sing-Along Favorites (65 minutes)

"There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly"

Written and illustrated by Simms Taback, Sung by Cyndi Lauper

"This Land is Your Land"

Written by Woody Guthrie, Illustrated by Kathy Jakobsen, Sung by Arlo Guthrie

"Frog Went A-Courtin'"

Written by John Langstaff, Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky, Sung by Rust Young and Jack Sundrud

"Over in the Meadow"

Written by John Langstaff, Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky, Sung by Mae Robertson

"Giraffes Can't Dance

Written by Giles Andreae, Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, Narrated by Billy Dee Williams

"Dem Bones"

Written and illustrated Bob Barner, Narrated by Raul Malo

"The Chinese Violin"

Written by Madeleine Thien, Illustrated by Joe Chang, Narrated by Lulu Li

"Changes, Changes"

Written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins

Corduroy...And More Stories About Caring (60 minutes)

"Corduroy" (Live-action)

Based on the book by Don Freeman

"Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel"

Written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton, Narrated by David de Vries

"The Happy Lion"

By Louise Fatio, Illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

"I Love You Like Crazy Cakes"

By Rose Lewis, Illustrated by Jane Dyer, Narrated by Mia Farrow

"Smile for Auntie"

Written and illustrated by Diane Paterson

"The Happy Owls"

Written and illustrated by Celestino Piatti


Written and illustrated by Molly Bang, Narrated by Laura Dern

Is Your Mama a Llama?...And More Classic Children's Stories (67 minutes)

"Is Your Mama a Llama?"

By Deborah Guarino, Illustrated by Steven Kellogg, Narrated by Amy Madigan

"Noisy Nora"

Written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells, Narrated by Mary Beth Hurt

"Each Peach Pear Plum"

Written and illustrated by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Narrated by Buffy Allen

"The Little Red Hen"

Written and illustrated by Paul Galdone, Narrated by Roberta Maxwell

"Reading to Your Bunny"

Written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells, Narrated by Diana Canova, David de Vries, Rosemary Wells, Leigh Corra, and Joey Stack

Good Night, Gorilla...And More Great Sleepytime Stories (61 minutes)

"Good Night, Gorilla"

Written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann, Narrated by Anthony Edwards

"Happy Birthday, Moon"

Written and illustrated by Frank Asch, Narrated by Melissa Leebaert

"The Napping House"

By Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood Narrated by Melissa Leebaert

"The Rainbabies"

By Laura Krauss Melmed, Illustrated by Jim LaMarche, Narrated by B.J. Ward

"Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin"

Written and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, Narrated by Maureen Anderman, Music by Marvin Hamlisch

"Elizbeti's Doll"

By Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, Illustrated by Christy Hale, Narrated by Lynn Whitfield

The Ezra Jack Keats Collection (63 minutes)

"The Snowy Day"

Narrated by Jane Harvey

"Whistle for Willie"

Narrated by Jane Harey

"Peter's Chair"

Narrated by Loretta Long

"Pet Show!"

Narrated by Terry Alexander

"A Letter to Amy"

Narrated by Loretta Long

"The Trip"

Narrated by Charles Turner

"Apt. 3"

Narrated by Charles Turner

Knuffle Bunny...And More Great Childhood Adventure Stories! (66 minutes)

"Knuffle Bunny"

Written, illustrated, and narrated by Mo Williams

"Shrinking Violet"

By Carl Best, Illustrated by Giselle Potter, Narrated by Calista Flockhart

"Possum Magic"

Written and narrated by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Julie Vivas

"Planting a Rainbow"

Written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert

"Brave Irene"

Written and illustrated by William Steig, Narrated by Lindsay Crouse

"Will I Have a Friend?

By Miriam Cohen, Illustrated by Lillian Hoban, Narrated by David de Vries



It's a full frame presentation for all the shorts included on these DVDs, with visual quality ranging wildly from story to story. Expectedly, the fine folk at Scholastic didn't go to the trouble to clean up a few of these films, especially the older ones. "Corduroy" and the Ezra Jack Keats shorts seem especially worse for wear, riddled with scratches and assorted print defects. While sure to rile up the DVD purists, I'll be controversial and write that I enjoyed the rough quality of these classics, conjuring an atypical amount of nostalgia within me for the warm years of pre-responsibility life. These slightly tattered shorts hold a superb celluloid quality that the newer, created-on-laptop material can't match, rendering the event watching them more enjoyable than previously thought possible.


The 2.0 Dolby Digital sound mixes on the shorts are basically interchangeable, with a satisfactory separation of narration and cartoon antics. The musical selections are agreeably crisp, with lyrics easy to understand. Again, the newer material trumps the older stuff in the quality of fidelity, but the shorts maintain a consistent value that never disappoints.


Spanish versions of "The Snowy Day," "Whistle for Willie," "Is Your Mama a Llama?," and "Noisy Nora" are included.

"A Visit with Rosemary Wells" is listed on the packaging, but I couldn't find this supplementary feature.


While hardly a comprehensive journey into the riches of kid-lit highlights (50 of these things only scratches the surface), "Preschool Stories" does a fine job hitting the proper tones of imagination, morals, and mischief. Certainly children love anything that's put in front of them, but this DVD collection is a swell antidote to the aggressive norm, offering viewers an opportunity to bask in the glow of classic storytelling and agreeable artistic whimsy, away from the violently popsicle-colored splashes of noise that often pass for youthful entertainment today.

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