The Halloween Stories Collection Vol. 2 Scares Up Lots Of Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Kideo/New Video

Scholastic’s latest installment in its hugely popular Storybook Treasures series “scares” up lots of fun for the whole family just in time for Halloween.  This set boasts so many positives that there simply isn’t time to go into depth concerning each one.  The very first thing that audiences will appreciate in this latest box set is a collection of not only stories but songs, too.  The collective stories and songs will appeal to audiences of all ages.  Not every story or song is appropriate for all viewers.  So parents should use their discretion in deciding which stories and songs their children can watch.  Parents will appreciate that Scholastic has included songs and stories for viewers of all ages in this set.  And by connection, parents will also appreciate that Scholastic has also included once again, the standard read-along feature that can be toggled on or off depending on their young readers’ ages.  This and the inclusion of the stories of songs together make this set another success from Scholastic.

Scholastic has made a tradition of including some wonderful, family friendly stories in each of its previous Storybook Treasures Collections.  The stories culled for its previous releases have run the gamut from classic fairytales to more socially relevant stories to everything in between.  This latest collection is a little different from those sets, though.  And that’s not a bad thing, either.  This collection includes not only some fun and scary stories, but a collection of songs, too.  The interesting thing about the stories collected for this set is that they don’t really fit into the set’s overall Halloween theme.  Again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It makes for a nice change of pace in the grand scheme of things for viewers.  Most audiences will recognize the classic ‘Hush Little Baby.’  Perhaps less familiar are the songs, ‘The Erie Canal’ and ‘The Fox Went Out on A Chilly Night.’  So for some, hearing them here might be the first time for just as many audiences.  Audiences of all ages will especially enjoy the Dixieland feel of the prior of the two.  The latter of the two might not be entirely suitable for all audiences.  That’s both because of the song’s lyrics and its imagery.  It involves the fox hunting and killing some geese.  Some younger viewers might actually be unsettled by such imagery.  So parents should use their discretion in terms of this piece.

The songs included in The Halloween Stories Collection: Volume 2 are a nice addition to this set, even though one of them might not be suitable for all viewers.  In that same vein, Scholastic has offered viewers of all ages a grouping of stories that will appeal to viewers of different ages.  This is major boon to this set as parents can pick and choose which stories they want their young readers to take in regardless of age.  One of the best of the stories is the set’s anchor, “The Day of the Dead.”  This short story is fitting for audiences of any age.  It is so important in that it presents Halloween from a perspective with which many young viewers might not be so familiar.  It presents Halloween from the perspective of the Hispanic culture.  Young viewers will learn in this story that unlike in American culture, Hispanics use October 31st to November 2nd to honor the loved ones who have moved on in the previous year.  They honor their loved ones by baking good food and lighting candles that will attract home the spirits of their loved ones.  Viewers will learn that this is done not just in Mexico but in many Latin American and Central American countries.  It serves as an excellent starting point for a discussion with young audiences over what is known as cultural relativity.  Whether in the living room or the classroom, young viewers need to learn that not everybody does things the way that they do things.  So what better way than to use a holiday to explain this concept?

Where “Day of the Dead” is a great story for any younger viewer, the much scarier “Teeny-Tiny and the Witch-Woman” is more fitting for older audiences.  The story, which is somewhat similar to the Brothers Grimm’s story of “Hansel and Gretel”, follows three young boys that go off into the forest and encounter an evil witch despite the youngest of the three having tried to keep his brothers from going in the first place.  The boys had been told about the legend of the witch-woman.  The combination of the narration and the illustrations in this story make it an especially scary story.  Scare factor aside, it does have a happy ending.  Parents should still use their discretion with this story.  It is up to parents to decide if their children are old enough to take in such a scary story.

Scholastic’s The Halloween Stories Collection: Volume 2 offers plenty of fun and scares for the entire family.  Each of the set’s three discs offers stories and songs for young viewers of every age.  And because parents will enjoy them all too, they can sit down with their kids and decide which of the stories are fitting for their young viewers.  Something else that parents and young viewers will appreciate in this set is that Scholastic has once again included the read-along feature that has become standard on each of its Storybook Treasures collections.  This feature can be toggled on or off depending on a child’s reading ability.  It is a wonderful tool to help children develop their reading ability.  It makes this latest set one more invaluable learning tool for any young viewer.  It is available now and can be ordered direct via the New Kideo website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-halloween-stories-collection-volume-2/.  More information on this and other Scholastic releases is available via the New Kideo website and Facebook page, http://www.newkideo.com and http://www.facebook.com/NewKideo.  More information is also available on the Scholastic Facebook page and website, http://www.facebook.com/Scholastic and http://www.scholastic.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.

Giveaways, Giveaways, And More Giveaways!

The Phil’s Picks blog keeps rolling in 2013 with lots more giveaways.  I’m proud to announce that I have LOADS of new giveaways this coming week.  First up, I’ve got three (3) copies of Anthony Hopkins’ new movie, Hitchcock on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack to give away.  I’ll give away these copies Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday March 25th, 26th, and 27th.  The first person to get five (5) people to “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page each day will win their own copy of this brand new release.  Each person that “likes” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page has to either message me or post on the Phil’s Picks Facebook page timeline letting me know who sent them so that I can keep track of each person’s entries.

The second of the week’s contests will be drawings for copies of the brand new Digimon Adventure: Volume 2.  I’ll draw three lucky winners’ names Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Just “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page to get your name in for this drawing.  On Friday, one lucky person will win a copy of Digimon: The Complete Season 2 for themselves.  Again, this is a straight up drawing.  You can enter simply by posting on the Phil’s Picks FB page’s timeline or messaging me via the Phil’s Picks FB page.

I have a third contest for all the parents next week.  One lucky parent will win Scholastic’s brand new triple disc set, Scholastic Storybook Treasures Spring Collection.  I also be giving away that box set on Thursday, March 28th.  The process is the same as above.  Simply either message me or post on my timeline letting me know that you want in on this drawing.

And last, to cap off this coming busy week, I’ve got one more HUGE giveaway for my brothers and sisters in the Metal Nation worldwide.  On Thursday, March 28th, I’ll be giving away a copy of Anthrax’s new EP, Anthems.  One person will take home this disc.  And then finally on Friday, March 29th, I’ll draw the name of one person who will win not just the new Anthrax EP, but also a pair of tickets to see Anthrax when the band headlines the Metal Alliance Tour at its stop in Charlotte, North Carolina on the Metal Alliance tour.  Again it’s a drawing, nothing more.  So make sure that you start getting your name in ASAP if you want to have the chance to win.

If any of this confuses you, just message me and let me know via the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.  You can’t enter unless you “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page first.  So get out there, get the word out, and get your name in!

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news, 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, reviews, and giveaways in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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/.

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’s Latest A Delectable Dish Of A DVD

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/Weston Woods

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/Weston Woods

Scholastic’s latest collection from its Storybook Treasures series is another hit for audiences of all ages.  This single disc compilation offers four more stories that not only entertain but also teach very important life lessons.  It’s all anchored by the famed children’s story, The Red HenThe Red Hen makes this compilation well worth the compilation’s price.  Though, it isn’t all that makes it so enjoyable.  Veteran actress Lily Tomlin (The Magic School Bus, Prairie Home Companion, Malibu Country) adds her touch to the short story, Bread Comes to Life.  And while it isn’t animated, this short story offers a nice little lesson how bread is made that easily understandable for younger audiences and just as entertaining.  Along with the entertainment factor of Bread Comes to Life, the other features on this disc offer their own entertainment from both their genuine animation and their lessons.  And as with Scholastic’s previous releases, this one also offers the option to toggle the read-along feature, depending on the age of one’s child/children.  It’s one more continued tradition that parents will enjoy whether they are first time audiences or more experienced.  And of course, let us also now forget the bonus recipe for Simply Splendid Cake that kids and parents can make together.  That recipe, along with the four features included here all come together for a compilation that will leave a great “taste” in any viewer’s mouth (ba-dump-bump-bump). Thank you, thank you.  I’ll be here all week!

The Red Hen…and More Cooking Stories is anchored by its title story.  The Red Hen is a story that both children and parents will enjoy because of its ability to connect to viewers.  The Red Hen wants to make a cake.  But no one will help her.  So she is left to do all the work of making a cake all alone.  When the work is all done and the cake is decorated, the cat, the rat, and the frog all offer to help her eat it, but get none.  There’s a very valuable lesson to be taught here.  It’s a lesson of cooperation and responsibility.  The cat, the rat, and the frog learned the hard way that no work means no reward.  This applies not just in the kitchen but in everyday life.  One reaps the rewards of the work that one does whether with a team or by one’s own self.  Considering this factor, “The Red Hen” instantly becomes that much more of a fit to start off this new set of shorts. 

The lesson on cooperation and teamwork makes for a wonderful start to this most recent set.  It’s not the only lesson taught.  “How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food” also teaches another important lesson for children.  It teaches a lesson about manners.  What young child doesn’t love dinosaurs?  By using that connection, it teaches children that while they may be wild creatures, even dinosaurs have manners.  So if dinosaurs can have manners, so can children.  They should use the dinosaurs as an example of what behavior is right and wrong.  And that it features actual animation instead of CG based visuals makes it that much more enjoyable, especially in an age when so much children’s programming is CG-based.

“The Red Hen” and “How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food” are both enjoyable additions to Scholastic’s latest Storybook Treasures compilation.  The other pair of shorts is entertaining for its own purposes, too.  And just as they make for their own entertainment, so will the bonus feature, teaching kids and adults how to make The Red Hen’s Simply Splendid Cake.  The Red Hen takes viewers through the process of making the cake in this bonus feature. She even makes certain to point out to younger viewers that they should not try to make the recipe on their own.  They should have adult supervision in making it whether for cupcakes or for an entire cake.  So not only does the Red Hen teach about cooperation and teamwork, she also teaches young viewers about safety in the kitchen.  It makes for one more positive to this already enjoyable set for the whole family.

The Red Hen…and More Cooking Stories is available now.  It can be ordered online at the New Kideo online store at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-red-hen-and-more-cooking-stories/

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’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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