I’m no parent, but I can appreciate the desire to rear one’s child (or children) to grow up to be a responsible member of any society. I’ve often imagined how a parent even goes about starting a youngster out in life – what books to have them read, what stories they can listen to, and how I could best contribute to their education – and, for those formative years, I’d imagine I’d even be comfortable turning to an organization that was around even when I was a little sprite: Scholastic.
I can remember the days when I was in school, and the teacher would hand out the ‘Weekly Reader,’ which was basically a small newspaper designed and formatted with a young audience in mind. In it, Scholastic would include a sales flyer for books they approved, all of them suitable for young audiences. Granted, some of the tomes were designed for older kids, but the organization consistently marketed the kind of materials best-suited to help any young mind along with his (or her) learning.
Fortunately, Scholastic is still around today, and they’ve embraced new frontiers in storytelling, such as their Scholastic Storybook Treasures – DVDs with a helpful read-along feature to aid in teaching students arguably the most important skill: reading.
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
At a quick glance, one couldn’t find greater opposites than Bink and Gollie. One girl is tall, lanky, dark-haired, and maybe even a bit prudish; the other is short and stout with a head of golden hair all a bit disheveled. One prefers embracing the routine in life, while the other is a bit adventurous. Together, they certain prove that old adage of opposites attracting! In these brief adventures – clearly structured to about be the best length to capture a child’s attention – Bink and Gollie experience the ups and downs of getting along with one another. On their way, they learn such concepts as compromise, supportiveness, compassion, and bonding. The stories are written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; the work is illustrated by Tony Fucile; and it’s all narrated by Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome.
However, Bink and Gollie’s exploits aren’t the only ones explored on the disk.
There’s a delightful short called “A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” the tale of an elderly zookeeper who, when he’s bedridden with a cold, receives a busload of unexpected guests to care for him throughout the day. It’s written by Philip C. Stead; illustrated by Erin E. Stead; and narrated by David de Vries. Next, there’s the didactic “The Other Side,” a tale set in the days of segregation of the South where two girls from opposite sides of a fence transcend color and discover they have more in common than they do apart. It’s a smart story written by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by E.B. Lewis; and narrated by Toshi Widoff-Woodson. Lastly, there’s the delightful “Cat and Canary,” the tale of the out-of-the-ordinary Cat who’s prone to friendships with birds and the misadventures they get into while the master’s away at work. It’s written and illustrated by Michael Foreman.
All of these tales are – in short – wonderfully imaginative and deftly illustrated. They range in time limits from, essentially, five-to-ten minutes (that’s why I assumed they’d be the perfect length for young minds). And all of them allow in the DVD set-up screen to turn-on or turn-off the ‘read along’ function. It’s a grand total of 36 minutes that Scholastic recommends for ages 4-9.
There are even a handful of extra features – interviews with the authors and illustrators – that, to my delight, were certainly produced with young audiences in mind. I daresay that children may not retain all of that information, but the accompanying illustrations and references back to the works these talented people represent give some added depth definitely suited for older minds, perhaps even serving to ‘light the fires of inspiration’ and encourage budding artists or authors to explore their crafts in greater detail.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at New Video provided me with a DVD copy of BINK & GOLLIE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.