It’s a time to recall pleasant memories from the past and create new traditions for the future, and these tantalizing tales will fit right in. These are videos for going back to school, knowing that anything is possible and everything is fresh and fun at the beginning of a new school year. And a new story from the Thomas the Tank Engine folks can be a treat for little viewers who don’t want to be left out of the fun.
THE DAY JIMMY’S BOA ATE THE WASH AND MORE BACK-TO-SCHOOL STORIES, July 2005, not rated, $9.95 VHS. $14.95 DVD; ages 5-9.
In accordance with an intrafamily negotiation, I am making breakfast for my daughter and she is typing this for me. When she hears that "The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash" is one of this month’s selections, she says, "I love that story!" I think you will, too.
A young narrator gives an animated retelling of a field trip; it is an engaging adventure told backward. Calista Flockhart (remember her?) is the narrator on "Shrinking Violet," one of the "more back-to-school" stories included. This is one of the Scholastic Video Collection releases, always nicely done and literary, appropriate for kids who are more used to books than to video. The pace can be slow for some young viewers but just right for others. Videos in this collection, "Jimmy’s Boa" included, are often illustrated by someone whose art would make the whole video worth it even without the story. That’s true in this case; Steven Kellogg’s whimsical illustrations are a treat.
Sylvia says: A+.
TIKKI TIKKI TEMBO AND MORE FAVORITE TALES, not rated, July 2005, $9.95 VHS, 14.95 DVD; ages 4-7.
When my children were much younger, this dramatic Chinese folktale of the boy who fell into the well and the near-tragedy caused by his long name was one of their favorites. It is good to see that once again Scholastic Video has done a great job translating words into moving pictures. Pay careful attention, adults, because this is an easy and fun story to remember and tell when you don’t have other means of entertainment. I recommend that you totally overact when you are saying the name: Tikki Tikki (gasp, wheeze) Tembo … No Sa ... Rembo … (cough) Chari Bari Ruchi, Pip Peri Pembo.
This production also includes two animal tales that are not as famous, but are nicely animated and entertaining. A hippo wants to beat the heat by leaving behind the dry land and taking a cool dip in the water in "Hot Hippo." On the other side of the world, a new take on Cinderella involves a penguin who loses her—get ready—magic flipper.
The DVD has more bonus material from the Scholastic catalog: an Anansi spider tale.
Sylvia says: A. Some excellent classics.
THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS, rated PG, July 2005 $14.95 DVD; ages 7-14.
If Scholastic videos are all about the story, here’s a departure: It’s all about the gross and slightly naughty characters. This is a cult classic that adventurous kids will really enjoy. Parents might remember owning or seeing the Garbage Pail Kids stickers years ago. There is a little bit of a story here … a battle against bullies led by escapees from a magical trash can. But the real fun comes from the characters, such as Foul Phil and Messie Tessy. Their names say it all.
Sylvia says: B+. Good-natured fun.
PERCY SAVES THE DAY, not rated, July 2005, $12.99 VHS, $17.99 DVD; ages 2-7.
This is a new set of stories from the well-known and much-loved "Thomas the Tank Engine" series.
In this video, Percy takes the limelight in several of the stories, including when he saves Thomas from a broken railroad track. But Thomas and other favorites such as Sir Topham Hatt and Henry have stories, too. Thomas is a television favorite, but was originally inspired by books, just like the Scholastic series. The Railway series of books first captured children’s imaginations with train stories. I know that this is a title that many parents are already familiar with, but it’s nice to know when new features are available from old favorites.
Sylvia says: A. All aboard for fun with a positive message. Special VHS and DVD editions that include a custom Percy engine toy are also available.
Sylvia M. Ewing is a mom and a writer. She also is a producer at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.