Released August 3, the newest Scholastic Storybook Treasures is The Rosemary Wells Collection Featuring Max and Ruby, a two-DVD boxed set. Like previous Storybook Treasures, there is a read-along feature that is optional. It is recommended for ages two through seven.
Noisy Nora is comprised of four stories, “Noisy Nora,” “Emily’s First 100 Days of School,” “Voyage to the Bunny Planet,” and “Reading to Your Bunny.” All of the stories feature animated versions of the Rosemary Wells stories, all populated by an assortment of friendly, anthropomorphic animals.
“Noisy Nora” is the story of a family of mice, one of whom craves a bit more attention than she is getting. That would be Nora. The story is nicely narrated by Mary Beth Hurt, and like all the stories in this set, ends happily. “Emily’s First 100 Days of School” tells the tale of Emily, a rabbit who is learning to count in school. Every number is accompanied by a two- or three-sentence story or explanation. Narrated by Diana Canova and played against the background of BNN (Bunny News Network), it’s a fun counting lesson, though the first time you watch, it seems to go on forever—it’s a short video but the countdown makes it seem longer. Happily, each number is accompanied by clever details and music.
Maggie Gyllenhaal narrates “Voyage to the Bunny Planet,” a sweet collection of three short stories about bunnies who find themselves “far beyond the moon and stars, 20 light years south of Mars” on the “gentle Bunny Planet.” The Bunny Planet is the place we all want to visit on days when everything seems to go badly. Gyllenhaal’s reading is soothing, sympathetic, and expressive, making the stories even more appealing. It should be prescribed for all children having a bad day—and perhaps adults as well.
“Reading to Your Bunny,” narrated by Mary Chapin Carpenter, emphasizes reading to little ones. It’s about a little rabbit who only wants to play with his Game Bunny and watch TV. The book fairy visits his parents, teaching them how to help their son do better in school. It’s a great introduction to libraries and a reminder to read to children daily. And, yes, it includes “I’m Gonna Read to My Bunny” performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter and John Jennings.
Noisy Nora’s extra features are a Spanish version of “Noisy Nora” (“Nora, la bulliciousa”), “Rosemary Wells Interview: ‘Voyage to the Bunny Planet,’” in which she describes the creative process and her childhood, “Gonna Read to My Bunny” music video, and “Talk about the Stories”—suggested questions for discussion with children.
Max’s Chocolate Chicken includes four stories: “Max’s Chocolate Chicken,” “Max’s Christmas,” “Morris’s Disappearing Bag,” and “Otto Runs for President.” The first story has Max and Ruby competing for a chocolate chicken; whoever finds the most Easter eggs wins it. Ruby has wonderful luck finding eggs, Max finds everything but. As a solution, Max runs away with the chicken, eating the whole thing. The Easter bunny saves the day. “Max’s Chocolate Chicken” is narrated by Clayelle Dalferes.
Max knows Santa won’t come if he doesn’t go to sleep, but in “Max’s Christmas” (narrated by Jenny Agutter and Rex Robbins) he sneaks downstairs to await Santa—will Santa come? Will Max see him? It’s a cute story for kids who ask “why?” but never seem to get a satisfactory answer.
“Morris’s Disappearing Bag” (narrated by Nicole Freshette) is another Christmas story. Jealous of his siblings’ presents, Morris is convinced theirs are better than his because they shared their gifts but weren’t interested in Morris’s teddy bear. Soon he finds an unusual gift that makes him the envy of his sisters and brother.
In a school full of dogs, “Otto Runs for President” (narrated by Diana Canova). When Tiffany, the valley dog, and Charles the jock fight it out in expensive campaigns, Otto throws his hat in the ring. Will the little dog with the can-do attitude stand a chance against deep pockets? It’s a nursery-appropriate parallel to political campaigns.
Bonuses on Max’s Chocolate Chicken are a Spanish version of “Max’s Christmas (La Navidad de Max),” Rosemary Wells Interview: ‘Otto Runs for President’” in which the author addresses political campaigns—the inspiration for this story, “A Visit with Rosemary Wells,” “Talk About the Stories” and a trailer. “Talk About the Stories” reinforces concepts in the videos and allows adults to check children’s reading comprehension. It also offers activities for learning.
The stories included in The Rosemary Wells Collection Featuring Max and Ruby are short enough to hold the attention of younger viewers, and simple enough for beginning readers to read along. They are entertaining and some offer a lesson or two, but they are not heavy-handed in the delivery. What’s especially nice about the stories is that they are relaxing; they will not overstimulate a child, instead they offer positive messages in a calm context.
Bottom Line: Would I buy The Rosemary Wells Collection Featuring Max and Ruby? Yes; I would especially like to share “Voyage to the Bunny Planet” with a young audience.