Bon voyage! Travel, language DVDs are a trip

Video - May 2006


Sylvia M. Ewing

Travel—whether you actually pack up and go someplace or travel vicariously via video—opens the door to new experiences and other cultures. Language, too, opens doors to other cultures. This month’s video selections take you on journeys to Toad Hall, the Caribbean and China. Enjoy the trip!

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS: A TALE OF TWO TOADS, not rated, 2006, $19.95 DVD; ages 4-9.

The residents of Toad Hall are back, in a follow-up to the classic, "A Wind in the Willows." This time, we go beyond the vagaries of driving and other adventures in Toad Hall to a more action-oriented plot that finds the real Toad kidnapped and held captive in the cellar of his estate while an imposter takes his place as lord of the manor. Badger is the best defense against the fake Toad and his wicked weasel allies, and, of course, order is eventually restored for all.

This is a worthy addition to a sweet story. The production values are high, and the settings picturesque. I have a soft spot in my heart for stop-motion animation, which here is used to make the world of the woodlands come to life. I reviewed the "Wind in the Willows" special edition earlier this year, and I’m excited to present this follow-up.

Sylvia says: A.

TRAVEL WITH KIDS CARIBBEAN, not rated, 2006, $14.95 DVD, www.island; ages 6-14.

Move over, Swiss Family Robinson. The Roberts family shows us the islands. Whether you are planning to travel or not, this is a fun video. This is a travelogue for families. The Roberts toddlers are clearly real kids who run around in old forts and also throw a tantrum or two. They don’t say much, but their presence is important. Pop-ups give interesting facts, like the cost of seaplanes from island to island and details on the African presence in Puerto Rico’s past.

This edition of the travel guide series covers Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, Tortola and more. Safety and affordability played into the destinations featured on this DVD. Highlights include pirates, old forts like El Moreo in San Juan and the rainforest.

"Travel With Kids Caribbean" is useful on a variety of levels. The DVD is a cool way to include older kids in planning your next trip or simply a great way to see a different world of blue skies and green water.

Sylvia says: A. This DVD offers a fun and practical armchair journey anytime you want.

AFTER SCHOOL CHINESE, Levels 1-4, not rated, 2006 $199 DVD,, (800) 765-5885; ages 8-13.

Call me crazy if you want, but I think you should check out "After School Chinese." I personally know of three families who have adopted a child from China in the past year. How nice it would be for friends and families to know some Chinese. Researchers say that the years from birth to adolescence are ideal for learning new languages. Why not throw Chinese into the mix?

This video puts learning a new language and cultural information in the hands of average parents and kids for a casual, at-home setting. It is not cheap, but could be shared among friends. The 15-minute lessons are offered in four levels.

The DVD puts Chinese kids like Ding Ding in real-life settings to teach conversational Chinese skills such as basic greetings and common phrases. It’s fun to watch and could be a way to open the door to enjoying learning other languages.

Sylvia says: A. This is an awesome adventure.


Sylvia M. Ewing is a mom and a writer. She also is a producer at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.

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