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DVD Review: Giggle, Giggle, Quack…and More Stories by Doreen Cronin

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Giggle, Giggle, Quack…and More Stories by Doreen Cronin is so much fun, you don’t need to watch with kids to enjoy it. Comprised of five children’s stories written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin and Harry Bliss, Giggle, Giggle, Quack is an entry in the “Scholastic Storybook Treasures” of read-along DVDs. Randy Travis narrates three of the stories; Abigail Breslin and Alexander Gould each narrate one.

Randy Travis was an excellent choice for the three Farmer Brown stories. His reassuring, down-home delivery combines well with the background bluegrass music to bring the stories to life. The first farm-based story, "Giggle, Giggle, Quack," tells about the time Farmer Brown went away on vacation, leaving the farm in the capable hands of his brother, Bob. Duck, who happens to be a… um… duck, is a bit of a problem for Farmer Brown who warns Bob to keep an eye on Duck, leaving him with a to-do list. Bob doesn’t know that Duck has gotten hold of a pencil and can write his own to-do list. Like all the stories on Giggle, Giggle, Quack, this one is short enough—and funny enough—to hold the attention of its intended audience, three- to eight-year-olds. They are also droll enough to amuse some of us older folk, who watch with big smiles plastered across our silly faces. MaGic Studio deserves a gold star for bringing Betsy Lewin’s charming watercolor illustrations to animated life.

"Dooby Dooby Moo" is the tale of a talent show at the county fair that is offering a prize that Duck really wants. The cows rehearse “Twinkle, Twinkle,” the sheep rehearse “Home on the Range,” and the pigs rehearse an interpretive dance to the strains of an Enya-esque song. The day of the fair, Farmer Brown loads all the animals onto his truck, drives to the fair, and immediately heads for the free barbecue (hey… my county fair doesn’t offer free barbecue!), leaving the animals in the bed of his pickup. When he’s out of sight, the animals head over to the show tent to perform. There is something innately funny about a bunch of farm animals signing in with a human fair worker who doesn’t bat an eyelash. The animals do their thing and, of course, there's a slight hitch. Without revealing too much, I must say that you’ve never heard or seen anything like a duck singing “Born to Be Wild.” When the animals complete their performances they return to the truck, and Farmer Brown is none the wiser. As a buzz-killing adult, I wondered, “Why did Farmer Brown take the animals to the fair if he wasn’t showing them?” but the answer is obvious. If he didn’t, there’d be no story.

"Duck for President" begins by telling us “Running a farm is very hard work.” It’s more work than Farmer Brown can do himself, so he delegates chores to his animals. Duck doesn’t like his chores, and decides that Farmer Brown should be impeached and schedules an election. Duck wins, but is disappointed to find that all that work is not fun. He decides to run for governor—“Vote for Me!! I’m a Duck, Not a Politician!”—leaving Farmer Brown in charge while he campaigns. Duck beats the human incumbent only to find that “running a state is very hard work.” Duck’s solution is to run for president—“The Duck Stops Here”—winning, yet finding that “running a country is no fun at all.” Duck checks the help wanted ads, sees his old position as “duck,” and returns to the farm where he lets Farmer Brown continue running things while Duck starts a new venture. The Vice President gets to run the country. Given the quality of recent gubernatorial and presidential candidates, I don't think this story is so far-fetched.

Alexander Gould narrates "Diary of a Worm," a fanciful depiction of the life of a young earthworm. We learn good and bad things about a worm’s life, and somehow Doreen Cronin manages to throw in a little science lesson as well. Gould’s narration is perfect, relaying the enthusiasm of discussing things he enjoys, and the grudging disinterest in describing things he doesn’t. Worm writes in his diary about his parents, sister, best friend (Spider), and his experiences throughout the day. Harry Bliss’s illustrations make characters like worms, flies, spiders, and maggots engaging (well, maybe not the maggots) and watchable.

"Diary of a Fly" is the last story on Giggle, Giggle, Quack, and is narrated by Abigail Breslin. It begins with the diary entries of a little girl housefly who is nervous about the first day of school (“What if I’m the only one who eats regurgitated food?”). We know she’s a girl because she has a bow atop her head. She takes flight class and we learn a few facts about flies. This fly-girl has aspirations to be a superhero, which allows Cronin to introduce even more fly facts. Breslin does a great job with the narration, giving Fly personality. Viewers will also enjoy the sly picture show that alternates with the credits.

DVD extras include Spanish language versions of two of the stories (with “Read-Along en Español"), an interview with illustrator Harry Bliss, and “Talk about the Stories” (questions that support comprehension). The “Read-Along” feature can be turned off, eliminating subtitles from the bottom of the screen. For children who do not yet read, this is a welcome plus. Beginning readers and those who are having some difficulty will benefit from the captions.

Bottom Line: Would I buy Giggle, Giggle, Quack? Yes. It’s a collection that adults will enjoy watching with their little chaperones.

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