Tag Archives: children’s books

DVD Review: Caldecott Favorites featuring “The Snowy Day”

Because you can only interestedly read Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings” to your toddler or silently prop up Ezra Jack Keats’ “The Snowy Day” only so many times, Scholastic Storybook Treasures has released a massive DVD set of filmed adaptations of a bunch of classic, Caldecott Medal-winning or nominated children’s book classics. Well, adaptation isn’t exactly the right word. They’re pretty much stills of the books with gentle transitions from one page to another with warm narration by celebrities. In other words, these are books-on-DVD.

And they’re wonderful. The three-disc set of video storybooks (available Nov. 22) is a great wind-down tool for a holiday-crazed little one. It includes 20 stories, most based on Caldecott-honored children’s books. Named for 19th century illustrator and children’s publishing innovator Randolph Caldecott, they wouldn’t be here if the images weren’t child-beloved and visually stimulating. None live up to the honor more so than “The Snowy Day,” probably the most famous and treasured picture book ever. Scholastic captured Keats’ book in that it’s just as gentle, beautiful, and quiet as the book, or a real snowy day.

“Snowy Day” leads off a whole disc of Keats stories, which also includes “Whistle for Willie” and “Pet Show.” The second disc is all animal stories, including “In the Small, Small Pond,” and the wonderful cap-thieving monkeys of Esphyr Slobodkina’s “Caps for Sale.” The third disc: all duck stories. Special features: Spanish versions of a lot of the stories, and open-captioning, or as its encouragingly called, a “read-along” option. It’s three and a half hours of classic, innocent, warm toddler books, video versions of a great early library.

Either your kids will recognize and enjoy these video versions because they know the books, or the videos will make them want to read the books, which you probably have already. Or you should have already. Why don’t you own “Snowy Day” or “Caps for Sale”?

Book/CD Review: Jett Beres, “Starfish: A Bedtime Story”

Well, I learned the hard way that you have to read press materials sometimes. In the case of the children’s book and accompanying lullaby CD by Sister Hazel’s Jett Beres, Starfish: A Bedtime Story, you have to read the press release and note from Beres on the back of the book before attempting to read the book to your kid. Unless of course you’ve followed Sister Hazel more closely than I have.

Anyway, I tried reading this book to my one-year old son Jonathan last night, and he promptly threw it on the ground, demanding a pretzel or some ice-cream instead. So my wife let me try it again this afternoon before Jonathan’s nap. I put in the lullaby CD, which is all instrumental, and began reading the book to Jonathan. He was sort of paying attention, but not enamored like he is with books such as Goodnight Moon or Five Little Monkeys. And as I was reading to him, the words didn’t seem to make sense. “I saw a starfish on the ground/He was half buried in the sand/Just so out of place…and ahhhhhhhh/He was a long, long way from home.” Nice enough, but what was the “ahhhhhhh” for? And then the words kept repeating themselves on the pages that followed. And more ahhhhhhh’s. Huh? So it’s about a dude that meets a starfish and has a nice time with said starfish. And the illustrations by Sean Kelley are really well-done. But I didn’t get it, and you can bet Jonathan surely didn’t get it.

Then a funny thing happened. I read the press release and the notes on the back from Beres, and found out that “Starfish” is a Sister Hazel song, one that Beres wrote about the loneliness of being on the road back in the mid ’90’s, but that came more into focus for him when he had two kids of his own. The words in the book are the lyrics to the song. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Now it makes sense. So I downloaded the song, and then listened again to the instrumental versions of it–a lullaby, a string arrangement and a classical guitar take. Suddenly it all came together for me, the dumbass dad.

The moral of the story is this….if you don’t know what you’re getting into, read the damn press release. If I knew the song, or knew the sentiment, I might have approached it differently. But I still think Jonathan throws the book on the ground.