Kids Will Love Going Back To School With Arthur

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids

PBS Kids recently released its latest collection of episodes from the family favorite animated series Arthur. Arthur Goes Back To School is an especially fitting addition to any family’s home DVD library now that many children are themselves headed back to school this week. Arthur Goes Back To School boasts plenty of positives. The first of those positives is its writing. The writing behind each of the four episodes is the cornerstone of the overall presentation. The quality animation is another factor to consider in the overall enjoyment of this presentation. Last but not least of all is the bonus material included with this collection of episodes. Each of the factors noted here stand by themselves with their own importance. Altogether, they make Arthur Goes Back To School one more wonderful addition to any family’s home DVD library whether at the start of the school year or any other time of the year.

The writing that went into each of the four episodes featured in Arthur Goes Back To School is the cornerstone of the DVD’s overall presentation. There are many reasons that this sole factor is the cornerstone to this DVD, too.   The primary reason for that is the themes incorporated into each of the episodes. “To Eat Or Not To Eat,” the first of the DVD’s episodes, presents a theme of healthy eating. When a new candy bar catches the attention of all the kids in Elwood City, Buster becomes wary of the candy bar because of its effects. His investigation leads him all the way to the head of the company responsible for making the candy bar. That is because of the chemicals he finds in the candy bar. When he and his mother confront the company’s head representative, Buster’s mother breaks the story in the city’s newspaper. This effectively shuts down the company. In an age when childhood obesity remains such a hot button topic, such an episode becomes increasingly important for children and their parents to watch together. That’s because it could serve as a starting point for a very important discussion about healthy eating. It’s just one of the important themes included in Arthur Goes Back To School.

Being that so many youths are headed back to school this week, the show’s writers tackle the stresses of standardized testing in a way to which the show’s young audiences will be able to relate in “S.W.E.A.T.” The writers also take on the much maligned subject of math education in “Brain’s Biggest Blunder.” Brain has a big chore in getting Binky ready for the school’s annual “Arithmattack” competition in this episode. The writers make the episode relatable to young viewers by showing that math isn’t as bad as they think here. There’s even a nice stand-alone episode in “Baseball Blues” that has come along just in time for the countdown to the MLB postseason. Not only does it promote baseball and athletics, it also teaches young viewers that everybody has a special talent. Even if someone isn’t good at one thing doesn’t mean that a person isn’t good at something else.

On a superficial level, Arthur’s writers are to be commended for crafting four episodes to which young viewers will definitely be able to relate given that so many children are now headed back to school this week. On another, deeper level, anyone familiar with Arthur will appreciate that the writers have actually maintained a certain amount of continuity with the inclusion of Harry Mills in “Baseball Blues.” Harry is a former romantic interest of Buster’s mom, as Buster’s parents are divorced. There’s even a reference to the initial episode in which Harry was introduced here. It’s so subtle. But older audiences will potentially catch this. And those that do catch it will appreciate that inclusion.

The writing that went into each of the episodes on this DVD is the most important factor of all in the overall presentation of Arthur Goes Back To School. Whether it be for its more superficial aspect or the deeper issue of continuity, it should be clear by now why the writing in these episodes is the cornerstone of the entire presentation. Just as important to the DVD’s overall presentation is the animation used in each of the episodes. The episodes included on this disc have been pulled from Arthur’s more recent seasons. That means that the animation used in each episode is actually flash animation instead of the hand-drawn animation used in the series’ early seasons. Despite the use of flash animation, the episodes still maintain the look of the original fully hand-drawn episodes. There are those that have complained about the series’ increased use of flash animation. The reality though, is that it would have been just as easy for the show’s heads to go the full-on CG route. This critic personally is thankful that that didn’t happen. Audiences should be thankful that these episodes still have that classic look. That the show’s animators and heads would go this direction couples with the solid writing to make Arthur Goes Back To School all the more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

The writing and animation that went into the episodes included in Arthur Goes Back To School. Are both important elements to the overall presentation on this DVD. The activities and coloring pages included with the DVD round out the whole thing. One of the key activities included on the DVD is the “Definition of Cool” activity. This activity is directly related to the stand-alone episode “Baseball Blues.” Adults can use this activity to build self-esteem among young viewers. They do so by having children come up with a list of talents and attributes that they think are “cool.” After they come up with their lists, children can talk about why they think that the attributes and talents of other children in a group are cool, instead of their own. It is a wonderful activity for children especially with the current climate of bullying in schools today. The standard “Crazy Bus” activity is included here, as on previous Arthur DVDs as are the trading card and “Groove It” activities. If these activities aren’t enough for viewers, the coloring pages featuring Arthur and his friends will also make audiences happy. Whether audiences prefer the included coloring pages or the activities on this DVD, there is plenty of bonus material included on the disc to make any viewer happy here.

The bonus material included on Arthur Goes Back To School is the final touch to a DVD that every family will appreciate both now in the start of a new school year and any time of the year. Together with the writing and animation featured in all four episodes included on this disc, it makes this DVD a solid choice for any fan of Arthur whether they be kids or kids at heart. Arthur Goes Back To School is available now on DVD. It can be ordered directly from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=41615676&cp=&sr=1&kw=arthur+goes+back+to+school&origkw=Arthur+Goes+Back+to+School&parentPage=search. More information on Arthur is available online at http://www.facebook.com/PBSARthur. More episodes of Arthur are available online at http://www.pbskids.com/arthur along with more activities and games for the whole family. 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights Offer Even More Fun For Parents And Kids On New LP

Courtesy:  Limbostar

Courtesy: Limbostar

Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights’ new full length release, Bandwagon is another fun album for kids from the kindie-rock quartet.  The album—the third from the group in roughly as many years—keeps the pop elements from the group’s previous releases and adds a little more flair with even more of a musical mix this time out.  Along with the more poppy elements of the group’s previous elements, this album includes some rockabilly, bluegrass, blues, country, and even a little island music vibe throughout the record.  That musical variety and the songs that are easily relatable to younger audiences make Bandwagon another nice release from Mrs. Leeds and company.

The album’s opener, ‘Are We There Yet’ is a fun opener that will have parents laughing and kids singing. The semi-1960s vibe of the song makes it just as catchy to parents as it will be to younger listeners.  And lyrically, it will leave parents laughing because of just how real it is, while kids will laugh just for the song’s fun nature. What parent hasn’t been in the situation presented in this song?  Leeds sings, “It’s 6 AM and we’re on our way/Family vacation has come today/I sit in my car seat and I say/”Hey, are we there yet?/Are we there yet?””  Being that we are now coming into the annual Summer travel season, it’s fitting that this would be the first impression from the band on this new record.  The song’s playful nature somewhat serves as a reminder to parents that that’s just how things are.  Because it is so playful and poppy, playing this on the family vacation trip might actually entertain the kids ironically and keep moms and dads happy in turn. 

Just as it’s fitting that this album opens with a song fit for the annual family trip, the album’s second song, ‘Back To School’ will be a good way to get kids excited about the new school year later in the Fall.  It presents the joys of going back to school after an adventure filled Summer.  From the joys of seeing friends again to having new classes and teachers, and having new stuff for a new year, it shows why going back to school isn’t so bad.  Parents that listen to this song with their kids will appreciate this song for that reason.  They will also appreciate it for the subtle reference to legendary John Hughes character Ferris Bueller, from the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Leeds sings of Bueller, “I’ve got pencils and a ruler/Won’t cut like Ferris Bueller/I just can’t wait, wait, wait/To get back to school.”  This along with the song’s poppy vibe is sure to make it one more favorite for listeners of all ages.

Along with songs about vacation and going back to school, parents will appreciate the Leeds and her band mates have also written s song that promotes healthy eating in ‘Nutritions.’  At a time when childhood obesity is a hot button issue nationwide, this song is one more salvo in the fight against childhood obesity.  Leeds sings in the song, “Don’t give no attitude/If you eat the things that come from the land/You’ll grow stronger/Good nutrition’s everywhere/Yeah!”  She goes on telling her young listeners to stay away from candy and ice cream and focus more on eating healthy greens.  This is a message that so many kids need and that parents need to teach their kids (especially through example).  So not only is this an important piece for kids, it’s just as important for adults, too if they want to be positive role models to their kids. 

The songs on the new album from Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights make this latest release plenty of fun both for kids and their parents, as they will hear in listening to each of the album’s fifteen tracks.  The album’s packaging is a positive to its overall presentation, too.  The album, which is due out June 25th via Limbostar, is presented in a gatefold package.  As has been noted with other CD releases, this is safer than having a hard plastic case, as such cases can easily be cracked.  They also present just as much risk of water damage as a CD placed in a gatefold package.  So that argument is instantly shot down for anyone that would try to use it.  Inside the gatefold packaging are lyrics to the songs from the first half of the album.  So why not include the lyrics to the second half of the songs?  Who knows?  But the songs are so easy to understand that that’s a moot point.  Lyrics or not, everything that has gone into making this album paid off as it’s one more enjoyable album for kids released this year.

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.