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DVD Review: Scholastic Storybook Treasures Adventures at School

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No, Adventures at School is not about identifying whatever is floating in the cafeteria’s alphabet soup. It’s a three-disc set with 14 stories, most of which are award-winners, related to…you got it, school.

The stories address fears that children have about returning to school and whom their new teachers will be, various other unknowns, stage fright, mean kids, and rejection, and offer imaginative, fantasy-filled dream worlds with dinosaur students, monstrous teachers, crazy coaches, and alligator school buses. There are stories rooted in reality, stories that challenge the imagination, and stories that reassure.

Recommended for children ages 3-9, the selected stories will appeal to both boys and girls, offering characters that are sympathetic and familiar. Several stories are designed to boost self-esteem (Crazy Hair Day, The Dot) and a few stories are just for fun (The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash). Some of the stories stress that you can’t succeed unless you try (Amazing Grace), and others invite children to solve problems along with the characters (Monty).

Adventures at School is a marvelous showcase of styles—writing, illustrating, and narrating—offering diversified viewing to its audience. Kids may already be familiar with some of the characters from books they have read; parents may recognize a few favorites from when they were young.

Like most of the Scholastic Storybook Treasures, Adventures at School is entertaining and sneakily educational, providing reinforcement of lessons already learned and insight into potential problems. Each story is short enough to amuse and hold a child’s attention—comically, humorously, or with great charm.

The three discs are The Teacher from the Black Lagoon…and more slightly scary stories, Crazy Hair Day…and more funny school adventures, and Miss Nelson Has a Field Day…and more school adventure stories. The stories support reading, reading comprehension, self-esteem, problem-solving, and vocabulary, as well as active imaginations. They all feature the read-along option with which the viewer chooses whether to see captions or not.

The Teacher from the Black Lagoon includes the title story, The Gym Teacher from the Black Lagoon, The Librarian from the Black Lagoon, and Shrinking Violet. The three Black Lagoon stories are written by Mike Thaler and illustrated by Jared Lee; Shrinking Violet is written by Cari Best and illustrated by Giselle Potter. Narrators are Jonathan Lipnicki, Diana Canova, Alexander Gould, Joey Stack, and Calista Flockhart. DVD extras are  interviews with author Mike Thaler and illustrator Jared Lee and discussion questions aimed at comprehension.

Crazy Hair Day includes the title story narrated by Zach Braff (written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg), Petunia (written and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin), How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? (written and narrated by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague), Monty (written and illustrated by James Stevenson), and Will I Have a Friend? (written by Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, narrated by David de Vries). Extra features are Monty in Spanish, an interview with Crazy Hair Day author/illustrator Barney Saltzburg, and discussion questions.

Miss Nelson Has a Field Day includes the title story and Miss Nelson Is Back (both written by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall, and narrated by Diana Canova), The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash (by Trinka Hakes Nobel, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, narrated by Brianna Kittrell and Heidi Stallings). The Dot (written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, narrated by Thora Birch), and Amazing Grace (by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch, narrated by Alfre Woodard). Extras are The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash and Amazing Grace in Spanish, and discussion questions.

Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream Adventures at School? Yes, it is especially appropriate for those end-of-summer doldrums when the kids are actually looking forward to their return to school, or for a break between school and homework. Adventures at School will be released on August 24.

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