Oh, Earth Day is nearly upon us and in celebration thereof, Scholastic Storybook Treasures offers He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands…and More Stories to Celebrate the Environment. In all, there are seven stories included on this read-along DVD that encourages reading skills. As with other titles in this series, the read-along feature can be turned off, and is available on the featured stories ("He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands," "Come On, Rain!," "Giving Thanks," and "Owl Moon").
Instead of a saccharine, made-for-children rendition of the famous song, "He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands," singer Crystal Taliefero leads a group of children in a soulful, bluesy interpretation that is simply infectious. Accompanying the music is a slide show of illustrations from Kadir Nelson’s picture book, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.
"Come on, Rain!" is a tale about a little girl, a parching summer, and the hope for rain as told by Karen Hesse and illustrated by Jon J. Muth. Narrator Laila Ali brings life to Tess, the protagonist who is “sizzling like a hot potato.” The text is so evocative of summer, one can nearly feel the rays of the sun beating on bare shoulders. Muth’s watercolor illustrations are perfectly paired with a joyful story that celebrates some of life’s most simple pleasures. Jerry Dale McFadden’s musical score sounds ripped from the pages of a Randy Newman songbook: bright, bouncy, and a little honky-tonky. "Come on, Rain!" is a vividly descriptive story that manages to catch—and spread—good feeling.
"Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message," written and narrated by Chief Jake Stump and illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr., is a message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. Told in two languages, English and Mohawk, "Giving Thanks" is a reminder of all earth offers and the role these gifts play in our lives.
"Owl Moon" details a father and daughter’s journey into the woods at night as they search for the Great Horned Owl. Written and narrated by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr, "Owl Moon" brings us deep into the woods when the snow is thick on the ground, the moon is high, and the air is frigid. Owls don’t always appear on such a night—or any other night; will one appear tonight?
There are three bonus stories included on the He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands DVD: "The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks," "Patrick," and "A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog." In "Patrick," a wordless story, a young man obtains a fiddle, and his music (Dvorak) brings color and life to the countryside. Written and illustrated by Quentin Blake, "Patrick" is a bright foray into fantasy.
"The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks," delivered in the soothing tones of B.D. Wong, examines values, honor, and loyalty. Illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon contribute beautiful work based on classic Japanese art. Author Katherine Paterson’s story of love and kindness seems like an ancient tale, artfully told, and yet it is a product of the 1990s.
"A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog" is a 1967 live-action film based on the book by Mercer Mayer. It tells of a young boy on a frog hunt. The boy is an inept hunter, and the frog seems to enjoy the chase. It all ends with a satisfying but improbable reunion. "A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog" is wordless, pastoral, and charming.
It’s very difficult to pick a favorite story from He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands; they are all wonderful. Should I have to choose, at best I could narrow my favorites down to "Come on, Rain!" and "The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks." Each of the seven books presented are excellent and they each tell their stories uniquely. It's impossibly hard to pick the “best” among equals.
Bottom Line: Would I Buy He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands? Yes, it is a well made, entertaining video for children that won’t drive adults nuts after repeated viewings. (Recommended for pre-school through second grade; reading level, ages 9-12.)