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.
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.
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.
loved using the same characters to tell a variety of stories, reinforcing
familiarity with his diminutive readers.
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
Thoughts: An important realization for kids dealing
with new siblings.
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.
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
Getting to Know Ezra Jack Keats (6 min, 1970)
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)
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
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.