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  More information on this and other releases from Scholastic and New Kideo is available online at,,, and

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

New Scholastic DVD Another Winner From Scholastic

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New Video/New Kideo

Scholastic’s new DVD, Bink & Gollie…and other stories of Friendship is another enjoyable presentation for any young viewer.  The stories culled for this collection of stories are presented on a single disc just as with The Red Hen, Stone Soup and other previous releases from Scholastic.  And just as with previous Scholastic DVD releases, the stories included on this disc stand out not just for their stories, but also for the artwork used in each story.  The artwork whether static illustrations or moving, give each story its own identity and show that hand drawn animation and art in general still very much have a place in today’s world of art.  Together, the art and stories presented here make this latest collection one more wonderfully enjoyable release.

This latest collection from Scholastic opens with a series of shorts involving the characters Bink & Gollie.  The two young ladies cannot agree on anything in each of their adventures.  Yet in the end, they learn that despite their own biases, they have to come to compromises.  On the surface, learning about the importance of compromise is itself an important lesson for viewers.  It teaches young viewers that while they may not agree with someone else’s views on this or that in the world, it’s okay to have one’s own view.  But to try to force one’s views on another is wrong.  Both younger and older audiences will appreciate the different ways in which this message is conveyed through the series of shorts involving the two young ladies.  Older audiences will appreciate the interview with illustrator Tony Fucile included as a bonus feature.  It is interesting to note considering the animation used in these shorts that Fucile’s resume includes having worked on some of Disney and Pixar’s biggest titles including: The Little Mermaid, The Incredibles, Aladdin, The Lion King and others.  Considering his resume, having done the illustrations for these stories was quite a step in an opposite direction.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  It is just one more showing of his talents as an artist.  And it makes one hope to see even more work from Fucile in future Scholastic DVD releases.

The Bink & Gollie shorts are enjoyable in and of themselves.  But they are just part of what parents and children will enjoy in this latest release from Scholastic.  Just as endearing is the trio of stories included along with those of Bink & Gollie.  Each one presents a scenario of completely unlikely friendships that still worked.  In “A Sick Day for Amos McGee”, audiences are treated to the story of a zookeeper who was so beloved by the animals for whom he cared at his zoo that they came and cared for him when he had to stay home sick one day.  “The Other Side” is an endearing tale of two young girls from two different ethnic backgrounds who break all the social norms and sit together on a fence that separates their two communities.  What is so interesting here is that the fence is a physical object, but it is also used as a metaphor for the barrier between blacks and whites.  By the girls climbing on it, it represents them not just breaking the norms of their time, but physically overcoming that barrier.  This is still something that blacks and whites are still trying so hard to do even now in the twenty-first century.  So it’s a story that is still very relatable to this day.  Author Jacqueline Woodson hints at this in the bonus interview included in the disc’s bonus features.  Her interview is definitely a bonus, as it adds quite a bit of insight into her now decade old book. 

The last of the three included stories on this DVD follows the theme of polar opposites defying social norms to become friends.  “Cat and Canary” sees a cat and a canary living together in an apartment.  One would automatically think that this would lead to a conflict.  But the pair’s secret is that they are friends.  Not only that, but Cat is friends with all birds, unlike other cats.  The friendship results in quite the adventure for Cat, which audiences will have to discover for themselves.  It’s just one more enjoyable story that viewers will enjoy watching and reading time and again on this DVD.

The stories included in this new DVD are heartwarming and funny in their own way.  But there’s an added element to the stories that makes them even more enjoyable.  That element is the inclusion yet again of the read-along feature.  This is a standard that Scholastic has included in all of its previous DVD releases.  It allows young readers and audiences to not only watch the stories, but literally read along with the narrator in each feature.  This is a wonderful tool both in the living room and the classroom in developing children’s reading skills.  Being that the world is becoming increasingly digital, this makes for one more opportunity for parents to spend time with their children at home, and for teachers to teach outside the box in the box that is a classroom.  So regardless of where or how it is used, Bink & Gollie…and other stories about friendship proves yet again why Scholastic continues to be a leader in children’s education.  The DVD is available now.  It can be ordered online direct from the New Kideo website at

Parents and educators can keep up with all of the latest news on new releases and more from Scholastic online at and  

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

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  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.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

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

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

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

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at