Judge Bill Gibron hopes she dies.
Growing up in the 1960s, there was no bigger thrill in the simple course of the school year than when it was time to get a copy of Scholastic's Book Club Catalog. A cornucopia of classic and newly created titles, the teacher could hold her class in abject silence as they waited to pore over a copy, #2 pencil in hand, daydreaming about and finally making a list that Mom and Dad would hopefully write a check for. Actually, ordering was the second biggest thrill. The most overwhelming excitement came when the large box was delivered to the classroom, and students would help their instructor make ordered piles of the texts: little squares and rectangles of reading material, all ready to be placed on desks or chairs.
Perhaps better known today by parents and children as the publisher of a certain Master Potter and his wizardly adventures, Scholastic is still the preeminent distributor of young people's literature, and has been for over 80 years. Amazingly, they have just begun branching out into DVD, releasing animated versions of their classic children's tomes for education and entertainment purposes. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, and More Stories That Sing is a collection of clever, creative cartoon versions of some of Scholastic's more popular volumes, and there is frankly no better way (besides Harry's hijinks at Hogwarts) to interest the wee ones in books.
There are five short subjects here, each running between 9 to 19 minutes. Viewed individually for both form and content, we start with:
• There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
• Antarctic Antics
• Musical Max
As part of the "bonus" features, we get two additional stories. Both have their excellent elements, but one clearly stands out over the other.
• Keeping House
• Waiting for Wings
The additional extras here include an entire version of Musical Max in Spanish, a subtitle selection so you can "read along" with the stories, and some colorful menu screens. Visually, the 1.33:1 full screen image is immaculate, radiant with detail and visual delight. Even with all white backgrounds (Max) or intense coloring (Old Lady, Wings), the video elements never resort to flaring or bleeding. The Dolby Digital Stereo also excels, making the music here ascend with sonic sizzle.
The art of enjoying literature has fallen off the educational radar since television has become the overwhelming entertainer of everyone, including children. While they are far from flawless, the video/DVD offerings of Scholastic may help remove some of the stigma associated with books and reading, and help lead children toward a more fully rounded intellectual experience. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and More Stories that Sing may not do the hungry old bat any credit, but the rest of the offerings are a magical blend of song and story.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scholastic Video
• Two Full Length Bonus Stories
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