When we pick out a book for storytime just before bed, my 3-year-old son (and, increasingly, his 1-year-old little brother) makes a point of hauling almost every volume off the bookcase and forming a big pile of books to play with.
In Storytime with Spot, the little puppy from Eric Hill’s much-loved children’s book series has the same idea: he hides behind the books, climbs up a tower of books and uses one to make a pup tent (groan). Every pre-schooler, and every preschooler’s parents, should be able to relate. Of course, in the end, Spot enjoys reading the books with his mother even more.
Eric Hill knows how little children think, and that’s reflected in his wildly successful book series. That carries over to the eight five-minute episodes of Spot, originally made for British television, featured on the Storytime with Spot DVD.
The stories, including ones in which Spot plays in the garden, goes on a picnic with his animal friends and rides his hobby horse, are simple, gentle and perfect for young children. There’s no violence, and little Spot’s behavior can never be called anything worse than mischevious.
Children who love the books should enjoy this series, and kids who don’t know about the books should have their interest piqued by these enjoyable cartoons. That said, I wish the voices hadn’t been Americanized for release on this side of the Atlantic.
When the Spot cartoons were brought to America in the early 1990s, young Jonathan Taylor Thomas was drafted to provide the voice of the title character, and other American voice actors took over the narration and other characters. The original British version, by contrast, was narrated and voiced by just one actor – more like it would sound if a parent was reading the book to a child – and had a better theme song, too. (Compare the UK and US versions of Spot Goes to the Farm, and you’ll see what I mean.)
As I noted in my review of the latest Thomas and Friends release, it would be nice if the original British audio track was available as an option on the DVD. Even in its North American incarnation, Storytime with Spot is ideal viewing for young children, but I have more faith than the producers that even the littlest Americans and Canadians can handle British accents.