PBS Kids Releases Release Date, Info For New WordGirl DVD

Courtesy:  PBS Kids/PBS/Scholastic

Courtesy: PBS Kids/PBS/Scholastic

PBS kids will release another new DVD featuring episodes of its family favorite series WordGirl this summer.

Wordgirl: Monkey Business will be released Tuesday June 10th. The upcoming DVD will feature four more shorts from the hit animated vocabulary-building series from Scholastic Media. The first of the DVD’s four new shorts sees WordGirl’s trust sidekick Captain Huggyface having to face Chuck The Evil Sandwich Making Guy on his own after having accidentally been left behind by WordGirl early in their day. Huggyface decides to do what he wants after being left behind (again), which leads to his face off with Chuck.

“The Meaty Dimension”, the second of the DVD’s shorts features The Butcher. In this episode, WordGirl and Captain Huggyface have to face off against The Butcher once again. What they don’t know is that The Butcher has a plan to trap them and take over the city after discovering a portal to the dimension where all of his meat is stored. It’s up to them to outsmart The Butcher and close the portal in hopes of stopping The Butcher once and for all.

WordGirl and Captain Huggyface have to stop The Whammer from ruining Mr. and Mrs. Botsford’s anniversary in “Whammer Anniversary”, the third of the shorts included in the new WordGirl DVD. Becky is left to babysit her brother TJ when their parents go out for their anniversary. But then Becky has to figure out how to keep her identity secret after The Whammer starts whamming at the same ice cream parlor where Becky’s parents are enjoying their anniversary. This is another “sweet treat” short for viewers.

In the last of the shorts included in the new WordGirl DVD, WordGirl has to once again face off against Chuck The Evil Sandwich Making Guy. This time, Chuck has added a new weapon to his growing arsenal. His weapon? Peanut butter! When he shoots it at his victims, a giant ball of peanut butter envelops them. And WordGirl becomes one of his victims. So she and Captain Huggyface have to figure out how to get her out of her *ahem* sticky situation and save the day once again.

WordGirl: Monkey Business will be available Tuesday, June 10th on DVD. It can be pre-ordered now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Wordgirl-Monkey-Business-Tom-Kenny/dp/B00IVLRBHU/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1400375319&sr=1-1&keywords=wordgirl+monkey+business. More information on WordGirl is available online at http://www.facebook.com/WordGirl, http://www.pbskidsgo.org/wordgirl, and http://www.scholastic.com/wordgirl. Parents and kids can also go to http://www.pbskids.org/wordgirl to check out more episodes of WordGirl and to play WordGirl games. 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.

Geronimo Stilton Sniffs Out More Family Fun In New DVD

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures, the latest home release from the short-lived Canadian TV series, is another fun collection of episodes for the whole family. The new DVD contains four more episodes from the series’ twenty-six total episodes. Whether or not one is familiar with the Geronimo Stilton literary series or the TV series spawned from the books, viewers will all agree that there is plenty to say of this new home release. The first aspect worth noting in this group of episodes is its writing. The TV series is an import. But it will translates well enough for audiences of any age to enjoy it. The next factor to be taken into consideration in this compilation’s success is its animation style. One part hand-drawn and seemingly one part flash/CG, it still manages to maintain its own identity among the masses of full-on CG series that pollute the television spectrum today. Last but definitely not least worth noting is the show’s voice cast. Most viewers likely don’t know the cast’s names. But they will definitely recognize the cast’s voices. That who’s who of voice actors, the animation, and the writing all come together to make this DVD another from Entertainment One that is worth at least one watch regardless of how familiar one is with the series or the books on which it is based.

The first aspect of the new compilation from Geronimo Stilton that viewers will appreciate is its writing. The series is an import from Canada. Few may realize it, but there is a difference in the writing (and overall structure) of Canadian-based series and American television series in general. The case with this series is different, though. American audiences will enjoy the episodes on this disc just as much as their Canadian counterparts. It translates so well primarily because of all the action and comic relief tied into each of the four episodes. Geronimo’s globe hopping adventures echo hints of both Indiana Jones and James Bond in one. And parents will appreciate the pop culture references tied into each script.  Those pop culture references include spoofs of Agatha Christie and so many classic kung-fu flicks of the 1960s just to name a couple.  The Agatha Christie spoof comes in the DVD’s opening episode, “Intrigue on the Rodent Express.  It’s a reference to the famed story, Murder on the Orient Express.  The original story was written by Agatha Christie and is not only one of the most famous detective novels of all time, but was also adapted into an equally famous big screen feature.  The spoof of all the classic kung-fu flicks comes in “The Mask of the Rat-Jitsu.”  This one sees Geronimo getting caught up in a web of intrigue centered around a group of ninjas led by an evil mastermind bent on stealing a priceless mask.  Younger audiences won’t get the references.  But their parents (and potentially even grandparents) will appreciate the attempts by the show’s writers to reach them as well as their children and grandchildren.  It’s all a collective example of what makes the writing in this group of episodes central to the success of this DVD.

The writers that worked on all four episodes included in Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures are to be commended for crafting stories that will entertain audiences of all ages.  The series’ animators are just as deserving of applause with these episodes.  They are deserving of applause in that they have largely crafted the cartoon through hand-drawn animation.  There were some potentially computer generated elements to each episode.  But by and large, it looks as if this cartoon was in fact crafted by hand.  There are still hand-drawn cartoons out there today.  But as many studios over utilize computers for their “animated” series, this series incorporating more hand-drawn animation than computer generated gives its episodes more of their own identity, which in turn makes them stand out even more among the masses.  The closest comparison that can be made in terms of the animation in these episodes is perhaps to DC’s short-lived series, Krypto The Superdog.  That it can only be loosely compared to one other series solidifies the originality of these episodes’ animation.  It’s one more reason that this new DVD is worth at least one watch.

The writing and animation that make up this latest compilation of episodes from the Geronimo Stilton animated series are both key to the overall enjoyment of this new DVD release.  There is one more factor that older audiences will appreciate in this latest collection of episodes from the Canadian import.  That factor is the series’ voice cast.  Most audiences might not know the names of the people that make up the series’ voice cast.  But they will recognize the various series on which the cast members work/have worked.  Patricia Drake is one example of this.  Most people don’t know her name.  She voiced the scheming Sally Rasmaussen (pronounced Ras-mousen) in Geronimo Stilton.  She has also worked on the cult favorite anime series Dragonball Z.  She also starred alongside Mandy Moore and Macauly Culkin in Saved as well as voicing characters in recent Barbie CG based features just to name a handful.  And fellow cast member Lee Tockar, who voiced a number of characters through each of the four episodes also has voiced characters in Johnny Test, Slugtera, and Max Steel and a number of others.  Having such experienced cast is important to the episodes on this DVD.  It is important in that it means the ability to properly interpret scripts and present the best possible performance.  That top notch performance means more enjoyment for audiences in the long run, which is exactly the case with these episodes.

Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express and Other Adventures is available now ins ores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FWQAOUS/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0N4SB5TCEE2XTG37PZRG&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846.  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 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.

The Scary Fun Keeps Coming In The Haunting Hour Volume Five

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/The Hub Network

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/The Hub Network

The fifth volume in author R.L. Stine’s spine tingling series, The Haunting Hour is another spine tingling compilation that is just as much scary fun for kids as it is for adults.  Right from the outset of each episode, parents will be smiling thanks to a small but important addition.  That addition is a disclaimer about just how scary each episode can potentially be depending on a viewer’s age.  From there, kids and parents will enjoy watching all four episodes included in this compilation (one of the episodes is split into two parts) because of how scary they are.  As an added bonus, parents will appreciate the episodes because of the lessons that are taught in such subtle fashion.  All said and done, The Haunting Hour Volume Five is one more wonderful and wonderfully scary addition to any young horror fan’s collection.

Ever since its inception years ago, the ratings system used for television shows has come under a lot of fire.  It has come under fire because of its inconsistencies and ambiguous nature.  So the inclusion of a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode is an important addition to the compilation.  The disclaimer spells out in no uncertain terms that some of the included episodes may be too scary for some younger viewers.  And rather than just using the standard “parents discretion is advised” line, the people behind the show took another road in telling parents and children that they should watch the show together.  Believe it or not, this is HUGE.  It’s saying without saying that parents need to be more involved with their children and be parents.  It’s saying that parents need to see what their kids are watching so that they can make a responsible decision on what they think their children should or shouldn’t watch.  All parties involved in making this happen are to be highly commended for this subtle yet at the same time blatant statement.

Having been told that they should watch the show with their children, parents and children will both appreciate the scares and chills offered in each episode.  Even parents will have to admit that even in Volume Five, there are some scary stories, starting with the two-part episode, “Scary Mary.”  This episode sees young Hanna (Eva Allen) and her friends learning the dangers of peer pressure.  It all starts when she and her friends decide to play what they think is a harmless paranormal based game called “Scary Mary.”  It just so happens that the game is just like a certain paranormal game that some people try to play in real life, which is just as dangerous and should not be attempted.  It also plays on a very real belief about the paranormal linked to mirrors and spirits.  Anyone with any understanding of the paranormal will appreciate that inclusion.    The set’s second episode, “Swarmin’ Norman” teaches another valuable lesson to young viewers.  It teaches the lesson that revenge is a dish best served cold.  On top of that it teaches about the dangers of getting power hungry.  It offers both through the story of a young boy named Norman (Bobby Coleman) who learns that he can control insects after being bullied one time too many.  He had great power.  But he didn’t use it responsibly.  The result was quite deadly to say the least.  These episodes are just a couple of examples of why parents will love to use The Haunting Hour Volume Five this Halloween for their children’s Halloween parties.  Of course, there is still another reason that this set is such a scary joy.  That reason is the guest spots.

The people behind The Haunting Hour have made a tradition of including young well-known guest stars to help drive the show’s popularity.  The episodes culled for Volume Five are no different.  This time out, Frankie Jonas (Jonas L.A.), Liam James (The Killing), Dakota Goyo (Real Steel), and Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Kyle XY) make appearances.  Goyo stars as a young boy named Josh on a flight sharing a seat with a ghost that only he can see.  The problem is that the ghost in question is trying to get away from the Grim Reaper, who is also on board the flight.  Liam James and Frankie Jonas share the screen in the set’s closing episode, “Pumpkinhead.”  And Jean-Luc Biloddeau guests in the set’s opening episode.  This continued inclusion of younger stars will definitely help to bring in younger viewers.  And together with the aforementioned factors, the total presentation that is The Haunting Hour Volume Five turns out to be another welcome addition to any young horror lover’s home collection.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/node/217796.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Hub Network is available online at http:/www.shoutfactory.com, http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial, and http://www.hubworld.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 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.

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.

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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.

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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.