Scholastic’s Latest Storybook Treasures Collection A Great Gift For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo

Scholastic’s new Christmas and Winter-themed collection of stories set to the small screen is another impressive set for the whole family.  Not only does it entertain audiences, but it also educates.  The collection is highlighted by a small screen adaptation of author Rob Scotton’s Merry Christmas, Splat.  This story is a fun piece that is actually much deeper than what some might see on the surface.  It’s just one reason that parents, students, and teachers will appreciate the set as a whole.  Viewers will discover in watching all four of the stories that each one has an important message for everybody.  That’s not the only reason that viewers will enjoy this latest set from Scholastic.  Viewers will also appreciate each story’s animation.  Each story boasts its own animation.  By direct connection, the set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette reveals a little known secret about at least one story’s animation.  And what DVD compilation from Scholastic would be complete without the standard Read-Along option?  Yet again that option has been included for all young audiences.  Together with everything else previously noted, it plays just as important a role in the success of the set.

The lessons taught through this collection are nothing new to Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collections.  That’s not to say that the lessons included her are old.  Rather, the inclusion of stories with valuable lessons is nothing new.  And that Scholastic has continued to include such content is a big reason that its Storybook Treasures collections have been so successful.  It’s a big reason for the success of this latest collection, too.  Viewers are taught through the set’s first story that one’s family will love them even if they haven’t been completely perfect.  In its own way, it also helps to dispel the time honored belief that Santa will only bring gifts if one has been good.  It’s a much better lesson to teach kids instead of telling them that they’ll only get gifs from Santa if they’re good.  That lesson is one that parents should not use on their children, especially in the country’s current economic state.

The lesson taught in Merry Christmas, Splat is just one of the valuable lessons taught in this set of stories.  There is also a lesson of appreciating the little things in life in two of the stories.  Those stories are: Owl Moon and Snowflake BentleyOwl Moon teaches young viewers to appreciate the little things in life as a young girl goes out into the forest with her father to see a Great Horned Owl.  The way in which the forest and the moon are both described shows how much reverence author Jaqueline Briggs Martin has for something as simple as the way that snow reflects the light of the moon.  It’s truly something beautiful to think about in seeing the illustrations of Mary Azarian.  Snowflake Bentley is made even more interesting in that it does more than just teach a life lesson.  It also teaches a history lesson.  It teaches a lesson about William Bentley, who first used microscopic photography to take pictures of snowflakes.  Bentley’s name is not one that is very well known among most circles.  But his is a life and career that is definitely worth learning about by viewers of every age.  It’s interesting to learn how Bentley became so famous among scientific and academic circles, yet never gained any real major fame or fortune from his work.

The lessons taught through the stories noted here are important parts of Scholastic’s latest Storybook Treasures collection.  Just as important to note is the artwork in each story.  The artwork used for each story gives each one its own identity.   Again, this is another tradition held by Scholastic with its Storybook Treasures collections.  It’s nice to see the original drawings from each story’s book used in each story, instead of computer generated graphics.  Given, a little bit of computer use is incorporated, as audiences will see in this set’s bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette.  But as audiences will also see, the amount of computer use is minimal at most.  And that is a very good thing.

The bonus “Behind-The-Scenes” featurette included in this latest of Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures collection is the final piece of the puzzle for viewers.  Anyone that has any experience in the use of Adobe’s Creative Suite or that has any interest in graphics work will appreciate this bonus.  Audiences learn how the artwork of Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas was actually pulled directly from the book and used in the small screen adaptation.  It has already been noted how minimal the use of computers was in each story’s animation.  And this featurette proves that.  It shows how the art from the book was scanned into the computer, and actually brought to life thanks to the use of the Adobe Creative Suite.  It is definitely something that older audiences will appreciate.  And along with the stories themselves, it is a fitting final piece for the overall presentation that is Merry Christmas Splatand more winter stories.  It is available now and can be ordered online from New Kideo’s website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/merry-christmas-splat-and-more-winter-stories/.  More information on this and other releases from Scholastic is available online at http://www.newkideo.com, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo, http://www.scholastic.com, and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Children Make Terrible Pets…And More Stories About Family Is Anything But Terrible

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video/Cinedigm

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video/Cinedigm

Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family is the second of the latest pair of releases in Scholastic’s ongoing Storybook Treasures series.  This latest collection of stories offers parents, children, and teachers alike four more short pieces that each group will enjoy every time the pop the single-disc compilation into their DVD or Blu-ray payers.  The compilation is anchored by its title tale, which tells the story of a young female bear that takes in a little boy as a pet.  She leans some very valuable lessons as a result of taking him in, too.  It’s a wonderful example of art imitating life.  And because of its ability to so humorously and truthfully reflect real life, parents especially will appreciate this short story.  On the opposite end, families in whole will appreciate author Lois Lowry’s story Crow Call.  This is a touching story about the relationship between a father and his daughter.  Parents will appreciate this story not just for its central plot but also because it does something interesting.  It challenges the gender roles established by Western society in presenting the pair’s relationship.  It’s one more of the four total stories that make this collection one more joy to watch from Scholastic.

The stories culled for Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family work hand-in-hand to make the entire presentation enjoyable for viewers of any age with every watch.  Audiences that are familiar with Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures series will also appreciate this release because as with previous releases in the series, it also boasts the series’ standard Read-Along feature.  Together with the compiled short stories, this compilation is anything but terrible *ba-dump-bump-bump.*

The title story of Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family is the best of the stories culled for the compilation.  It is such an enjoyable reflection on real life.  Every parent was once a child.  As someone once said, adults are just grown up kids.  Keeping this in mind, any parent will watch the young bear as she begs her mother to let her keep the little boy and laugh uproariously as she becomes frustrated at the responsibilities of being a “pet owner.”  Among her most frustrating moments is her inability to potty train the boy.  This and other moments are entirely real.  Parents are sure to laugh out loud at this moment.  And just as the compilation’s title story offers its share of laughs, it also has its own share of heart.  That heart shows when the young bear discovers that the little boy has a family of his own.  She comes to the understanding in her discovery that she needs to let him go.  It’s a touching moment that does a great job of balancing out the story’s funnier moments.  Author Peter Brown doesn’t waste much time with emotional content here.  Right after the young bear’s moment of maturity and emotion, Brown leaves audiences laughing when the bear finds yet another “pet.”  Anyone that is familiar with Steven Spielberg’s Tiny Toon Adventures could so easily compare her to Elmyra at this point, again leading to plenty of laughs.

Brown’s story about responsibility and maturity is a great way to kick off this compilation.  It’s a wonderfully comical story that also boasts enough heart to make it even more enjoyable.  It’s not the set’s only enjoyable story.  Along with this one, author Lois Lowry offers readers a much deeper and more emotional story in the small screen adaptation of her book, Crow Call.  This story sees an unnamed father and daughter going on a hunting trip in the hills of Pennsylvania.  That in itself is a wonderful setup for a family centered story.  But that Lowry would have a father take his daughter hunting is in itself, a break from the social norms established through Western culture.  And it’s just one of a handful of social norms that Lowry challenges in her story.  That Lowry would have the guts to do this (whether intentional or not) is bold.  She’s not even preachy in presenting her message.  That makes the presentation even better.  And it becomes one more reason for parents to want to order this collection of family friendly short stories.

Both of the stories noted here are impressive additions to Scholastic’s latest release in its Storybook Treasures series.  As enjoyable as the stories presented here prove to be, they are just that without one more factor.  That last factor is the inclusion once again of the standard Read-Along feature.  Scholastic has included the option to include captioning of sorts for young viewers to follow along with has long been a standard for the Storybook Treasures series.  So it’s a welcome addition to have it included once more.  It both teaches and entertains the younger viewers in question.  It’s just one more piece of the whole that makes Children Make Terrible Petsand more stories about family one more must have for any family with young children.  It is available now and can be ordered online direct from the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/children-make-terrible-pets-and-more-stories-about-family/.  Parents can get more information on this and other releases from Scholastic online at http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic, http://www.scholastic.com, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo and http://www.newkideo.com.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New Mo Willems Collection Another Fun Addition To Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures Series

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems is one of two new collections of stories from Scholastic’s beloved Storybook Treasures series.  This half of Scholastic’s two new releases is the third collection of stories from the famed children’s author.  Despite the collection’s title, it is in fact anchored not by its title story but by the second of the stories.  The second of the set’s trio of stories is the latest and supposedly last of the Knuffle Bunny stories.  That’s not to say that the trio’s other two stories don’t have value.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  There’s just a certain something about this story that makes it the most memorable of the trio.  The bonus chocolate chip cookie recipe from Edwina the Dinosaur “sweetens” (pun fully intended) the set, as does the bonus interview with Willems.  It all works together to makes this one of two more great sets from Scholastic.

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion is not the lead story in Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems.  But it is the most memorable and most enjoyable of the trio of stories included in this new set.  That’s not to say that the set’s other pair of stories is any less enjoyable.  It just bears so much heart and is such a wonderful reflection of real life.  According to Willems in his bonus interview, this story is the last in his stories about Knuffle Bunny.  The heart in the story comes as young Trixie finally reaches the point at which she learns that it’s time to let Knuffle Bunny go.  It’s an extremely difficult choice for her, emotionally speaking.  But she knows it’s the right choice.  Much like in the case of Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3, this is a touching story about growing up and letting go, but never forgetting.  Any viewer that doesn’t tear up even in the slightest doesn’t have a heart.  Even this critic has to admit that it brought about a little tearing up.  It is that touching of a story.

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion is a wonderful addition to the latest collection of Mo Willems’ stories.  That’s not to say that the other two stories in the set are any less enjoyable.  They have their own heart and soul.  This one is simply the most memorable of the trio.  If the stories culled for this set aren’t enough for audiences, the bonus recipe for Edwina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies is just as enjoyable of an addition to the collection.  This isn’t the first time that Scholastic has included such a tasty bonus treat for audiences.  Scholastic’s release from earlier this year of The Red Hen included a recipe for the hen’s cake.  There is only one minor problem with the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies.  That one problem is that once the cookie dough is on the baking sheet, there is no mention of how long the cookies should bake or at what temperature they should bake.  Everything else is there, though.  So this could lead to parents having to guess at those last two factors.  For future consideration, this is something important to consider for future recipes.

The recipe for Edwina’s cookies sounds really tasty.  It is a good bonus feature for this latest set.  Parents will enjoy making the cookies.  And trying to guess at the baking temp and time can be fun in its own right despite the potential difficulties associated therewith.  They will enjoy the interview with Mo Willems, too.  Willems shares some interesting insights as well as some funny thoughts throughout the course of his interview.  It only lasts a little over eight minutes.  But in that time, parents and children alike get plenty of entertainment.  He starts off talking to his young audiences, telling them how they had come up with such great ideas for the pigeon’s adventures.  Audiences of all ages will love his anecdote about the pigeon’s thoughts on Willems drawing any book that doesn’t include him in it.  And his revelation that he doesn’t set out to draw books that can be adapted to the small screen is just an interesting to note.  He adds in this discussion that it just so happens that it all worked out that way.  These little nuggets are just part of what audiences will appreciate in Willems’ interview.  There is much more to take away from his interview.  But audiences will just have to find out what other thoughts he shares when they pick up or order this DVD themselves.  Along with those thoughts, audiences will get to enjoy all three of the stories and choose which one is their favorite.  They will also get to try and make Edwina’s chocolate chip cookies with their parents.  It all works together to once again make Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems one more collection from Scholastic that any parent and child will love with every watch.  It is available now and can be ordered direct from the New Kideo web store at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/dont-let-the-pigeon-stay-up-late-and-more-stories-by-mo-willems/.  More information on this and other releases from Scholastic and New Kideo is available online at http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo, http://www.scholastic.com, and http://www.newkideo.com.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Magic School Bus Box Set Will “Rev Up” Viewers Of All Ages

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video Group/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video Group/New Kideo

The history of television is rife with programs that most audiences will agree are timeless.  Among some of the most well known are the likes of: The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle & Friends, Looney Tunes, and The Flintstones just to name a few.  These classics have transcended generations and gone on to become family favorites decades after they ended their runs.  Now in the twenty-first century, a whole new crop of cartoons has gone on to be added to that list.  Among the newer cartoons deserving of the title of “timeless” are most of Nickelodeon’s modern classic Nicktoons from the 1990s and the focus of today’s review, Scholastic’s The Magic School BusThe Magic School Bus has been broadcast on a number of networks.  It has run on PBS, TLC, and most recently, Qubo.  It would seem that Qubo has dropped the classic cartoon though, sadly.  Thankfully, Scholastic has teamed up with New Video and New Kideo in the past year or so to release this modern classic on DVD for both its original audiences and a whole new generation of young fans.  The companies have already put out a number of compilations containing episodes from the justifiably timeless show including the complete fifty-two episode collection. Most recently, the single-disc compilation, The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle was released alongside another new triple-disc collection, The Magic School Bus: Revving Up.  The prior of the two new compilations is impressive in its own right.  The latter of the pair offers just as much enjoyment as the prior, if not more.

The Magic School Bus: Revving Up takes twelve more of the original series’ fifty-two episodes and compiles them for this collection.  The twelve episodes culled for this set are each spread across three more sing-disc compilations within the larger box.  And just as The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle does, the episodes contained on each disc of The Magic School Bus: Revving Up follow a given theme.  The first of the compilations within the box is The Magic School Bus: Under Construction.  This compilation contains the title episode of the larger box.  The kids have to save the Magic School Bus in this episode as it’s in danger of being condemned by their school district’s Vehicle Maintenance Inspector, Junkett.  Get it?  Junkett? Junk It?  Ba-dump-bump-bump.  The late Sherman Hemsely (The Jeffersons, All in The Family, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) voiced the character of Inspector Junkett.  Junkett wants to condemn the bus because he claims it has so many problems.  So it’s up to the kids to find out what’s making the bus sick and in turn save it from being condemned.  It’s one more fun filled episode that parents and kids alike will love watching again and again.  And as with every episode of this modern classic series, it’s another great tool for kids to learn at home or in the classroom. 

The title episode from the new triple-disc set, The Magic School Bus: Revving Up is a joy for parents, teachers and students.  The same can be said of its companion episodes in this first of the set’s discs.  All four episodes on this disc take a look at the different ways in which technology works.  There’s a lesson on how computers work, and even one on construction technology that is just as relevant today as it was in its original broadcast.  These episodes are just part of the whole that makes this set so enjoyable.  Also included across the three-disc set are episodes that teach about how electricity works, and about animals and their habitats.  Whether one is a parent, teacher, or youth, every one of these episodes will entertain viewers of every age.

All twelve episodes culled for this latest multi-disc set are enjoyable in their own way.  They are so enjoyable thanks to the show’s writing staff.  Each episode contained here maintains the standard established in prior collections of simple writing.  The episodes’ writing is simple, but it doesn’t leave viewers feel like they are being talked down to (including adults).  It makes viewers feel like they’re actually watching Ms. Frizzle’s class learning each lesson rather than themselves.  At the same time, they know that they too are learning a lesson without the educational aspect being too overt.  It’s one more of so many positives that can be discussed.  To point out all the positives would take far too much time and too much time.  So suffice it to say that the writing, along with the animation and lessons in general make this latest compilation of episodes one more must in the living room or the classroom.  It is available now in stores and online.  Parents and teachers can order it online via the New Kideo website, http://www.newkideo.com.  And to keep up with all of the latest releases from Scholastic and New Kideo, parents and teachers can go online to the New Kideo website or the official Scholastic website, http://www.scholastic.com or each company’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.     

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com

Scholastic, New Kideo Impress Again With Latest Single-Disc Magic School Bus Collection

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Ms. Frizzle and her students are back yet again for another set of adventures in another new single-disc compilation of episodes.  The new compilation, The Magic School Bus: In a Pickle offers audiences four more episodes that see Ms. Frizzle and her students investigate the process that turns a cucumber into a pickle in the set’s lead episode.  That episode is joined by two more episodes and a bonus fourth episode that investigates another way that something rotting actually benefits other living beings.  The kids also learn how water molecules and how microbes create different scents.  Regardless of which episode viewers choose, each episode offers plenty of family friendly entertainment and equally fun science lessons worth watching again and again.

The lead episode in The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle sees Ms. Frizzle out on “trial” by her own students after Keesha’s cucumber has “gone missing.”  Ms. Frizzle is the main suspect since the cucumber was left in the classroom while the kids were on vacation.  This is a great set-up for this episode’s lesson as “The Friz” has to prove her innocence.  And it’s a creative way to let the kids take control before learning that there’s so much more to the world than they realize.  It’s an example of writing done right.  What kid doesn’t like doing adult things such as playing court?  That makes the episode even more relatable and enjoyable for viewers of all ages.  It’s just one of the truly standout episodes included in this compilation.  For that matter, it’s just one example of writing done right.  The writing in all four episodes included in this set provides its own share of entertainment.

The writing behind all four episodes included in The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle is impressive first and foremost because of its ability to entertain and inform audiences.  The irony of the writing is that many parents will be amazed at what they have actually forgotten since they themselves were children.  As Jeff Foxworthy proved with his short-lived show, Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?, we lose a lot as we get older.  So keeping this in mind, the balance of entertainment and educational content in each episode makes for another wonderful starting point for both parents and children alike.  What’s more, when one takes into account the current state of public education in America, a set such as this becomes an increasingly important, not just entertaining, set for any family.  While it may have been off the air for some time, its material is still just as impactful as any classroom if not more so.

The writing behind each episode in this set is just as important as it is educational.  Its animation is just as impressive.  This critic has noted many times before the increasing de-evolution of animation in children’s programming and the connected dangers of that de-evolution.  More and more programs across the board are switching to either flash animation or CG based “animation” in general.  The Magic School Bus was neither of these.  Each episode of this show–including the ones in this set–was hand drawn.  One might ask what makes this difference so important.  This is important as it serves as a starting point for another discussion.  The discussion in question is of the show’s identity.  Anyone that remembers the days of classic hand drawn animation will recall how every cartoon had its own animation style, thus helping to establish its identity.  This cartoon definitely had its own identity thanks to its original hand drawn animation style.  It’s one more aspect of this new release that especially parents and teachers will appreciate.  It isn’t the last of the set’s positives, either.

So much was done right with the episodes included in The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle.  The episodes culled for this set are each impressive examples of what still makes it a fan favorite cartoon to this day.  It is a fan favorite among viewers of every age.  There is one more aspect of this compilation that makes it a nice addition to any family’s home library.  That aspect is that all four episodes contained within this set follow one recurring theme so to speak.  Each one sees the class shrinking down to microscopic size as it learns its lessons.  From learning how water and soap react with dirt to how smells form to how microbes turn a cucumber into a pickle, all three of the set’s main episodes follow that same theme of the class learning about the microscopic world.  The bonus fourth episode, The Magic School Bus: Meets the Rot Squad doesn’t take the class into the microscopic world.  But it does see the class shrinking down once again.  This time, the class learns a biology lesson and even an environmental lesson.  So while it may not go directly with the set’s other episodes, it’s still a nice addition and worth the watch every time.  The single-disc compilation is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com.  Parents and teachers can also keep up with the latest releases from New Kideo on the official New Kideo Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo.  Even more information from Scholastic is available online at http://www.scholastic.com and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can keep up with all of the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

Scholastic Releasing Two New “Storybook Treasures” Compilations

Scholastic will release two new additions to its highly successful and family favorite Storybook Treasures collection this Summer.

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems will be released Tuesday, August 27th alongside Children Make Terrible Pets…and more stories about family.  Both DVD sets will include the standard Read-a-long feature, allowing children to read the story while they listen to it at the same time.  They will both also include author interviews.  And as an added bonus Don’t Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late!…and more stories by Mo Willems will include a recipe for Edwina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Edwina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies take center stage in the story of Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct.  It’s just one of the stories included in first collection of the pair.  Parents, teachers, and kids will also get to enjoy in this collection, Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion,  and the collection’s lead story.  Mo Willems and Cher Willems both serve as narrators for these stories along with John Sczieska.

Children Make Terrible Pets…and more stories about family is the second release in the pair from Scholastic, New Video and New Kideo.  This compilation’s lead story is a funny but cautionary tale for little ones.  It tells the story of a young female bear that brings home a little boy one day and wants to keep the boy as a pet.  The little bear is warned by her mother that “children make terrible pets.”  But the little bear, named Lucy, sets out to disprove her mother and show that she can be a good “pet” owner to the little boy.  The result will have parents, teachers, and children laughing.  This story is joined by the companion stories, All The World, Crow Call, and Elizabeth’s Doll.  Authors Peter Brown, the man behind Children Make Terrible Pets and Lois Lowry, author of Crow Call, are interviewed in this set’s bonus features as is illustrator Marla Frazee.  Frazee is the illustrator behind the book, All The World.

More information on both of these releases is available online at the New Kideo website, http://www.newkideo.com and the Scholastic website, http://www.scholastic.com as well as their Facebook pages, http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo and http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Get On The Magic School Bus Again With The Phil’s Picks Blog

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Scholastic is loading up the bus again as the year starts to count down.  That is to say that Scholastic is loading up The Magic School Bus.  That’s right.  On Tuesday, July 30th, two more new DVD sets will be released by Scholastic and New Video.  Next Tuesday, the two companies, along with New Kideo, will release the single-disc set, The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle and The Magic School Bus: Revving Up.  The prior of the pair will be presented in a single-disc presentation with four more episodes from the timeless kids’ cartoon.  The latter is a three-disc set containing a total of twelve episodes, thanks to a fourth bonus episode accompanying the main trio of episodes on each disc.

Thanks to Scholastic, New Video, New Kideo, and the Phil’s Picks blog and Facebook page, you can enter for a chance to win one or both sets.  On Friday, August 9th, one copy of The Magic School Bus: In A Pickle and The Magic School Bus: Revving Up will each be given away to one lucky winner.  And one lucky grand prize winner will take home both sets, totalling fifteen episodes.  All you have to do in order to enter is first, “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page.  Once you have done that, just write on the Phil’s Picks timeline or send a private message noting that you want to be entered for a chance at one or both sets.  It’s that easy.  Entries will begin being taken next Monday, July 30th.  So mark your calendars, spread the word and good luck!

Those that aren’t lucky enough to win one of these new sets can still pick them up online at the New Kideo website, at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-magic-school-bus-in-a-pickle/ and http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-magic-school-bus-revving-up/.  Parents and teachers can order even more Magic School Bus DVDs and other new DVDs on the New Kideo website.  And to keep up with even more giveaways and all the latest new releases from New Kideo, parents and teachers can “Like” the New Kideo Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews and giveaways, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Stone Soup Is One More Excellent Addition To Any Classroom Or Family’s Living Room

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo/Weston Woods

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo/Weston Woods

Scholastic has made a tradition of releasing some of the best programming available to children throughout its history.  It has proven that with releases teach reading skills through some of the most entertaining children’s stories written in modern history and by celebrating the ethnic diversity of the world.  Just last month, it maintained that reputation with the release of its triple-disc set centered on the people and literature that have made African American culture as rich as it is.  Scholastic has cemented its reputation even more with the release of a collection of stories celebrating Asian history and culture.   The DVD in question is Stone Soup and Other Stories from the Asian Tradition.

Stone Soup and Other Stories continues Scholastic’s long held tradition of both entertaining young audiences and teaching valuable life lessons at the same time.  This is exemplified by all four of the stories included in this set anchored by the title story.  Stone Soup is taken from the story of the same name.  It teaches the importance of community and generosity as a group of villagers come together to make soup when a trio of monks comes to a small village.  The story is read by veteran actor B.D. Wong (Law & Order SVU).  Parents will appreciate the lessons of community and generosity.  Equally impressive in this short story is the artwork of the pictures that go along with the story.  The artwork of the pictures is rough.  It looks almost like watercolors or even chalk drawings.  Despite that richness, the pictures are so rich and vibrant in their colors.  As minor as this seems, it too plays a role in keeping young viewers engaged.  Together with the story itself and its morals, the story’s pictures bring the story together as a whole, solid anchor to this set.

The lessons of community and generosity are sure to impress parents as they are very valuable lessons that both adults and children should remember.  It’s just one of the many lessons taught through this collection of stories.  Just as important as those lessons is the lesson of being appreciative of what one has and who one is.  This lesson is taught in the collection’s final story, The Stonecutter.  Audiences meet a man named Tasaku in this story.  Tasaku is a lowly stonecutter who wishes for more.  And he gets more.  The problem is that in wishing he had more and was more than he was, he gets more than he bargained for.  He learns this lesson in a very interesting fashion.  That’s something which audiences will have to find out for themselves if they have never heard or read this story.  It’s definitely a story that makes for a wonderful starting point for discussions both in the classroom and at home.  American folk literature has its own take on the story.  But in hearing the story from a different cultural standpoint makes the story that much more interesting.  It’s interesting in that this is obviously a universal lesson.  It isn’t necessarily a lesson that is relegated to one culture and people or another.  It is that likeness of cultures that makes this set that much more enjoyable for audiences.

If the stories and lessons already noted aren’t enough, then how about the inclusions of an Asian take on the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood and a slightly supernatural tale with a moral?  Those are here too, in Lon Po Po and The Five Chinese Brothers.  Both stories add their own touch to this new set, which is available now on DVD.  IT can be ordered online at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/stone-soup-and-other-stories-from-the-asian-tradition/.  Regardless of whether one is studying Asian culture or simply wants to take in some enjoyable stories with equally important lessons, this is another wonderful set from Scholastic that is a good fit in the classroom or in a family’s living room.

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Scholastic Set An Excellent Tool In The Classroom And The Home

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New video/Weston Woods/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New video/Weston Woods/New Kideo

Scholastic’s African-American heritage based box set, Stories About African American Heritage featuring MARCH ON! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World is a wonderful box set.  This triple-disc set is an excellent tool both inside the classroom and in the home, regardless of whether viewers are celebrating Black History month or simply to learn about an important part of African American history.  The stories culled for this collection celebrate some of the most respected and notable figures in the African American community such as musicians Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.  Also featured in this set are stories of famed civil rights figures Rosa Parks and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Viewers are even introduced to some of the most well known African-American stories.  In all, this collection includes thirteen stories for audiences.  As an added bonus, interviews with the sister of Dr. King, Dr. Christine King Farris and with author of Henry’s Freedom Box, Ellen Levine.  There are even discussion questions included for students, children and parents both in the classroom and at home.  And what Scholastic set would be complete with the optional Read-Along feature?  That is here, too.  It all comes together to make a box set that any viewer will appreciate and enjoy.

Stories About African American Heritage (as it will henceforth be known) opens fittingly with a collection of stories centered on two of the most well known figures in the Civil Rights movement; Rev. Dr. martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.  It opens with a story by Dr. King’s sister, Christine King Farris titled, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World.  In this story, Mrs. Farris describes not only how her brother prepared for his landmark speech at the nation’s capitol, but the reaction of the people who were in attendance.  The story is made even more interesting as it includes actual photos of Dr. King throughout the story as well as of those in attendance.  Audiences also learn that Dr. King wasn’t the first minister in his family.  His grandfather, A.D. Williams was also a minister.  Just as interesting to learn is that while most people remember this moment in history for Dr. King’s speech, many may not know that Dr. King had also come to meet with Congressional leaders about passing a new law that would make whites and blacks truly equal.  He hadn’t come just to give a speech.  This story is more than just a story.  It’s a trip back in time to a pivotal moment in history.  It’s a trip that everybody young and old, white, black and otherwise should take at least once.  While the story’s companion interview with Christine King Farris is dated (it mentions the monument built in his honor before it had been built), her interview helps to bring the story full circle and show just how significant his speech was and still is today to Americans as a whole.

The main feature on Dr. King is a very powerful and moving piece.  It’s just one of the interesting pieces included in this set of thirteen stories.  Also included as part of the set, is a feature on famed pianist/composer and band leader Edward Kennedy Ellington, A.K.A. Duke Ellington.  Right from the start, audiences get a little history lesson on Ellington that’s easily accessible for all audiences.  Whitaker reads to viewers that Ellington was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C. and that the name “Duke” was a name he brought on himself as he told people to call him by that name.  Viewers will be interested to learn that Ellington apparently originally did not lean towards music.  Rather, according to the story—narrated by veteran actor Forest Whitaker—Ellington originally was more interested in playing baseball than the piano.  The story of how Duke was drawn back to the piano is just as entertaining as his early lack of interest in the instrument.  The history lesson centering on Duke’s rise to stardom is equally easy to grasp for audiences.  Being that it’s being read out loud, both parents and kids alike will easily remember the majority, if not all, of what they are taught.  That’s really what makes this an especially nice addition to this set.  Just as with the feature on Dr. King, it doesn’t come across as a history lesson.  It comes across simply as a story about important historical figures since it’s coming across on the screen instead of in a book.  The visual images will stimulate the eyes and mind, while the history will stick with viewers.  As a result, it could help to foster an interest in music in younger viewers just as the piece on Dr. King could get young audiences interested in politics.  Again, it’s one more wonderful tool for viewers both in the classroom and in the home.

The last disc in this set celebrating African American heritage focuses on the literature of a people.  Just as religion, politics, and music are important parts of African American history, so is literature.  In the set’s final disc, viewers get a healthy dose of literature from the African culture as it includes five classic stories anchored by the story, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.  This tale tells the story of why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears, just as the title notes.  According to the story, the mosquito buzzes in people’s ears because it has a guilty conscience after causing the death of a baby owl.  This concept might be a bit much for some younger audiences.  So parents should use their own discretion with this story.  That aside, it still is an interesting addition to this final disc’s collection of stories.  Added to the set’s other stories, the entire collection comes together to make a set that again is a wonderful tool that any parent or educator will want to use every year any time of year, not just for Black History Month.  It is available now and can be ordered online via New Kideo’s official website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-heritage-collection/.

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Scholastic’s Latest Collection Is A True Treasure

Courtesy:  New Video Group/Scholastic

Courtesy: New Video Group/Scholastic

The latest installment in Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures series is another enjoyable collection of stories for kids and kids at heart.  The new fourth volume offers kids and parents twelve more short stories with loads of educational lessons and morals.  The new triple disc set opens with its best story, Robot Zot.  It’s just one of the many fun stories included in this set.  Audiences will also enjoy the entertaining and important story, Too Many Toys.  The set’s final disc provides parents and kids alike with a story that provides a very important message without being too preachy.  While it provides an important message, it also entertains just like the set’ other stories.  And a big reason for the entertainment isn’t so much just the story, but also the animation style, just as with the set’s other stories.  Together, they make for one more collection that any parent and child will love watching together any time.

The very first of the stories presented in the new Storybook Treasures is the fun rhyming story, Robot Zot.   Writer/illustrator David Shannon discusses the story in the interview included on disc one.  Parents will appreciate this story more in watching his interview.  He explains how he grew up a fan of classic sci-fi, and that that had an obvious influence on his enjoyment in helping bring this story to life both on the page and in screen.  Kids on the other hand will enjoy simply hearing it read aloud and watching the story’s illustrations as the story moves along.  Both parents and kids will enjoy seeing Robot Zot turn from wanna-be planet conqueror to hero.  The lesson about bravery and the original hand drawn animation style adds even more to the overall enjoyment of this story.  It comes together to understandably make for one of the best shorts of this new set.

David Shannon’s work on Robot Zot does a lot to make that story so fun.  He also provided much of the material for another of the set’s fun shorts.  The short in question is from another of Shannon’s books, titled, Too Many ToysToo Many Toys is an original story about a little boy named Spencer who has too many toys.  So his mom tells him that she’s going to start getting rid of them.  Shannon explains in the interview included with this story about how it was influenced by real life events on his part and to which any parent could relate.  What he has to say will have any parent laughing and agreeing with him.  Both parents and kids will enjoy the actual story.  Parents will appreciate the reality of the story and its original animation. Kids will love it for the narration by Jerry Trainor (iCarly, Drake & Josh).  Of course it’s total “coincidence” that Trainor also played a character named Spencer in iCarly.  The end result will have both kids and their parents laughing, making for yet another enjoyable story from this new set.

Scholastic’s new Storybook Treasures collection offers viewers loads of laughs with its stories. It also provides a very important lesson in one of its stories.  That story is Curious Garden, written by Peter Brown.  Just as with the previous stories, this one also includes an interview with its author.  Brown explains that his story actually came from a real life experience much like what is presented in the story.  Even more interesting is the irony of how the buildings in the story ended up with so much greenery.  This is an oft discussed topic in the business world because of its supposed ability to lower heating and cooling costs.  Brown notes in his interview that his view was the show how much better a community was with gardens everywhere.  There was no mention of economics.  But it is there.  For that subtlety and for the generally positive story about leading by example, Curious Garden proves to be one more impressive inclusion in Scholastic’s newest Storybook Collection.  Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures:  My First Collection Volume Four is available now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/my-first-scholastic-storybook-treasures-vol-4-featuring-robot-zot/.

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