Case Number 03837: Small Claims Court

THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER EZRA JACK KEATS STORIES

Scholastic Video // 1992 // 50 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // January 14th, 2004

The Charge

Beloved stories come alive in a celebration of friendship, learning, and growing up.

The Case

New Video has compiled a DVD series of classic and award winning children's stories enhanced by animation. Reviews of other releases in the series include Harry the Dirty Dog and More Terrific Tails, Good Night, Gorilla and More Bedtime Stories, or Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type and More Fun on the Farm. This particular release focuses on the work of respected author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats.

The Snowy Day (6 min, 1964)
Narrated by Jan Harvey.
In this Caldecott Medal winning story, school has been cancelled, due to a winter storm. Peter is excited by the prospect of having a day all to himself and sets off on a snow filled adventure through the streets of New York.
Thoughts: One of my personal favorites as a child, this story translates quite well to animated form.
Grade: A

Whistle for Willie (5 min, 1965)
Narrated by Jan Harvey.
Try as he might, Peter simply cannot whistle. Not one to give up, he goes about his day, wandering his neighborhood in search of divine inspiration. Lo and behold, when his dog Willie is spotted walking down the street, Peter is able to get off a perfect whistle and surprise his pooch.
Thoughts: Keats loved using the same characters to tell a variety of stories, reinforcing familiarity with his diminutive readers.
Grade: B

Peter's Chair (5 min, 1971)
Narrated by Loretta Long.
Peter has a new baby sister. Unfortunately, everything that used to belong to him -- his crib, play pen, highchair, and more -- now belong to Suzie. What's worse, his parents are painting everything pink. When Peter comes across his favorite blue chair, he packs up his most prized possession and runs away to the sidewalk outside the house. Yet when he goes to use his old chair, it dawns on him that he has outgrown all of these things and returns home to help his parents paint.
Thoughts: An important realization for kids dealing with new siblings.
Grade: A

Pet Show (7 min, 1992)
Narrated by Terry Alexander.
Archie wants to enter his pet cat in the town pet show, but he can't find him anywhere. As all the neighborhood kids depart for the show, Archie is left behind looking for his cat. Just as the show is about to end, in walks Archie with an empty jar containing his new pet -- a germ. The judges are so impressed with his creativity, he wins a prize.
Thoughts: Keats was the master at equalizing his characters. In this case, all of the kids won prizes for entering the pet contest. On a side note, pay close attention to the cameo appearance by Peter and Willie.
Grade: A-

Presented in 1.33:1 full frame format, the transfers for all of these films suffer greatly from deterioration and age. It's unfortunate that we did not have the foresight to more effectively preserve these works of art. I cannot fault New Video, as the investment in restoring them would likely be cost prohibitive. Perhaps, at some point, some studio will do an artist's masters series and return them to their original glory. In the meantime, these films still manage to get their point across to the children. In the same respect, the Dolby 2.0 audio track is acceptable to the medium and target audience in question. After all, these are not audio and videophile releases.

This collection of Keats work is quite impressive -- even more so with three bonus stories and a behind the scenes look at this respected author and illustrator.

Getting to Know Ezra Jack Keats (6 min, 1970)
This Brooklyn native had a unique talent for sharing his thoughts, feelings, and experiences through the eyes of an ethnically diverse group of children. His favorites character, Peter, was based on photos of a young child published in a magazine 22 years before The Snowy Day was ever written. His artwork is an impressive mix of pencils, paint, and collage inspired by neighborhoods, people, and materials collected throughout his adventures in and around the boroughs of New York City.

A Letter to Amy (6 min, 1970)
Peter wants to invite Amy to his birthday party. Afraid of what the other boys might think, he writes her a letter. On his way to mail it, the wind blows the letter into the hands of Amy. In a panic, he grabs it and runs away, accidentally knocking Amy to the ground. Upset by his actions, he's afraid she will not come to his party, but his best surprise is yet to come.

The Trip (6 min, 1978)
Louie's family has moved away from the neighborhood he grew up in, leaving all of his friends behind. To escape, he creates a new world for himself inside a cardboard box and goes on a fantasy trip to visit old friends. Amy and Archie make cameo appearances.

Apt. 3 (9 min, 1977)
On a quiet rainy day, Sam is captivated by the sound of a harmonica playing in his building. Curiosity peaked, Sam and his little brother Ben set off to investigate the source of this music, encountering all of the building's residents along the way. The music for this tale is supplied by blues legend Sugar Blue.

The remaining bonus materials, like other Scholastic Video releases, include a read-along feature (English subtitles) and a studio trailer.

With a price tag of $14.95, this release is worth its weight in gold. Credit New Video for releasing collections focusing on great artists such as Maurice Sendak and Ezra Jack Keats. These simple yet powerful stories are something all children should experience. This court is adjourned.

Review content copyright © 2004 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile
Studio: Scholastic Video
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* English

Running Time: 50 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Featurette: Getting to Know Ezra Jack Keats
* Bonus Stories: "A Letter to Amy," "The Trip," "Apt. 3"
* Read Along Option
* Studio Trailer

Accomplices
* None