on September 19, 2014
As a children's librarian, I frequently buy these Scholastic DVD presentations of popular and classic picturebooks. This one is not among their better products. The biggest problem is that in all four stories the pictures are static. The camera merely pans over the still pictures from the books. Children just don't get as excited about these DVDs as they do about the ones where Scholastic takes the time and expense to animate the books. The stories included are:
Stone Soup - There are many versions of this tale. In this case, they are using a version set in old China. It goes along with the Asian theme of this DVD, but to be honest, It's not as good as Marcia Brown's version of Stone Soup--nor as popular with children.
Five Chinese Brothers - This is a classic that has been around since 1938. This feels very nostalgic because the narration they use is taken from the old Weston Woods filmstrip--probably from the 1950s or 60s. I like the retro feel of this selection, but I'm wondering if the illustrations of Chinese men in little hats and pigtails aren't too stereotypical. Just a thought.
Lon PoPo - This is sort of a Chinese version of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. I think this is the best story on this DVD. The narrator is really a wonderful reader with great expression in his voice, especially when he does the voices of the children.
The Stonecutter - Continues the Asian theme, but is dry and boring to me.
I appreciate that Scholastic Storybook Treasures is representing different cultures with their DVD programming, and these adaptations of classic Asian tales fit nicely into their ever-expanding (and increasingly diverse) filmography. If you are not familiar with the Scholastic Storybook Treasures series, it might be important to note that these are not really traditional animated features. Instead, these presentations are relatively simple in movement, more akin to a picture book presentation than to a frenetic cartoon. Geared toward the age range of 4-9 (to my mind, they skew at the younger side of that spectrum), these stories do have the "Read Along" captioning function that allows your kids to follow along as the narrator (in this case, B.D. Wong) relays the tale. I'm a big fan of anything geared toward kids that promotes reading, so this is a big plus in my book!
At only 43 minutes, "Stone Soup And Other Stories From The Asian Tradition" presents four distinct narratives. The initial inspiration was Jon J. Muth's book "Stone Soup" which adapted the classic folktale for the kid's market. "Stone Soup" is a story reliant on the importance of cooperation and how strength is achieved in unity. This tale and the others support lessons in Generosity, Community and Caution according to the Scholastic ranking scale. Muth is also on hand for a DVD extra where the author and illustrator consents to an interview. While I liked hearing from Muth, this feature is probably more interesting to the parents.
1) Stone Soup
2) The Five Chinese Brothers
3) Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story From China
Truthfully, the stories themselves are pleasant if not exactly revelatory. The lessons that they teach can be found in countless other sources. I do, however, like that these tales are being preserved and passed on. Sometimes I fear we're losing an interest in storytelling, tradition, and even reading. For emphasizing just these elements in releases such as this, I will continue to be a strong supporter of the Scholastic Storybook Treasures series. KGHarris, 2/13.