August 20, 2017

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DVD: Folk Tales, Eco-Activism, & Art as Therapy | August 2017 Xpress Reviews

Timeless folk tales are rejuvenated for a young audience; two documentaries explore the poor effects of artificial light on fireflies; an analysis of the Battle of Waterloo.

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Nero’s Sunken City | SLJ DVD Review

Nero’s Sunken City. (Secrets of the Dead). 55 min. PBS. 2017. $24.99. ISBN 9781531701758.

Gr 9 Up –This episode examines the archaeological remains of Baiae, an ancient Roman city in the Bay of Naples. One half of the ruins are now underwater, as the land has shifted over time owing to seismic forces. This city is the site of ruins of palaces of the Roman Empire’s elites in the first through third centuries AD. Emperor Claudius (10 BC–54 AD) had an […]

Friendshape | SLJ DVD Review

Friendshape. 7 min. Weston Woods. 2017. $59.95. ISBN 9781338184501. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –Never have circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles had such personality! Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld’s picture book has become a fully animated, joyfully scored video. Rosenthal narrates, but children voice the shapes, who bounce and wiggle adorably when they laugh. Their outlines give and bend, suggesting a wide range of movement, and their simple facial features move expressively. They wrinkle when they have a disagreement and straighten […]

Right Footed | SLJ DVD Review

Right Footed. 82 min. Nick Spark Productions. Rightfootedmovie.com. 2015. $200. ISBN 827377000583.

Gr 5 Up –Jessica Cox was born without arms, and this documentary traces her journey, beginning as an angry, frustrated child. As time went on, she embraced her differences, eventually becoming a renowned motivational speaker as an adult as well as a disabilities activist traveling the globe. The program highlights Cox’s amazing ability to use her feet in place of her hands to do everything from opening […]

Good Morning Yoga & Good Night Yoga | SLJ DVD Review

Good Morning Yoga. 20 min. ISBN 9781520069524.

Good Night Yoga. 17 min. ISBN 9781520069494.

ea DVD: Dreamscape. 2017. $38.99.

K-Gr 2 –These animated programs are tailored to short attention spans and don’t demand rigorous adherence to specific form. Good Morning begins with perky piano music and a brief introduction before depicting a series of brightly drawn multicultural children breathing in, breathing out, and demonstrating clearly described and unembellished yoga poses. Boldly colored and simply illustrated birds, butterflies, crabs, and […]

Wolfie the Bunny | SLJ DVD Review

Wolfie the Bunny. 8 min. Weston Woods. 2017. $59.95. ISBN 9781338161953.

PreS-Gr 2 –It’s bad enough when a new baby usurps your parents’ time and affection, but it’s worse when you’re a bunny and that baby left on the doorstep is a wolf. Dot is convinced the adopted child is going to eat the family up, but her parents are smitten. Just how long can her new baby brother survive on carrots alone? What to do, what to do? […]

Heidi | SLJ DVD Review

Heidi. 111 min. Omnibus Entertainment. 2017. $14.99. UPC 859686006109.

Gr 4 Up –Filmed on location, this adaptation of Johanna Spyri’s 1881 novel about a Swiss girl who finds a home with her grandfather in the Alps is nearly perfect. Director Alain Gsponer’s evident affection for the story informs the retelling. Each building, room, costume, and prop paints a convincing portrait of 19th-century Germany and Switzerland, from the elaborate table settings to the rustic but solid simplicity of the grandfather’s […]

Duck on a Tractor/Un pato en tractor | SLJ DVD Review

Duck on a Tractor/Un pato en tractor. 11 min. Weston Woods. 2017. $59.95. ISBN 9781338161885. BL

PreS-Gr 3 –In 2002, Duck tried out a bicycle in Duck on a Bike, but author David Shannon left his audience on tenterhooks. What’s the next vehicle Duck will try? Here’s the answer: Duck drives the farm tractor, taking the other barnyard animals on a joyride through town. Shannon’s newest Duck tale follows the same pattern as the first, comparing what is said […]

Duck on a Bike/Un pato en bicicleta | SLJ DVD Review

Duck on a Bike/Un pato en bicicleta. 8 min. Weston Woods. 2017. $59.95. ISBN 9781338187021. BL

PreS-Gr 3 –Duck is a fowl with a fervor for adventure. Can he ride a bike? A few wobbles and he’s on his way! The other animals on the farm all have their say. Their responses range from amazement to scorn to envy. Envy wins out, and when more bikes are available, the whole barnyard is soon pedaling. This silly, delightful tale, based […]

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise | SLJ DVD Review

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. (American Masters). 114 min. PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627899871.

Gr 6 Up –Ask students if they recognize the name Maya Angelou (1928–2014) and most will respond that she’s a writer and a poet, but few will know about the remarkably varied and prodigious path her life took. Directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack combine archival photos and film and interviews with an impressive array of high-profile individuals and, most effective, with Angelou […]

A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent | SLJ DVD Review

A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent. 14 min. Dreamscape. 2017. $38.99. ISBN 9781520066141.

Gr 2-5 –Anne Rockwell’s exquisitely written picture book biography about an unknown African American hero of the Revolutionary War is noteworthy on many levels. The addition of the richly textured illustrations of Floyd Cooper makes it a winning selection. Everyone knows the names Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington and their contributions to the establishment of the United States. Lesser […]

Treasures of the Earth | SLJ DVD Review

Treasures of the Earth. (NOVA). 3 hrs. Dist. by PBS. 2017. $24.99. ISBN 9781627898546.

Gr 7 Up –This program contains three hour-long episodes (“Power,” “Gems,” and “Metals”), which examine the earth’s geological resources. Each focuses on the natural forces that have created them and the human manufacturing processes that transform them into products. For example, viewers learn about different metals used in jewelry, warfare, and modern electrical wiring. Through computer animation, the program details atomic composition, production techniques, and […]

My Congo | SLJ DVD Review

My Congo. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627898737.

Gr 5 Up –It pays to travel with a professional photographer. Stunning images of the landscapes, wildlife, and people of the Republic of the Congo grace this wonderful film that draws viewers into a world of beauty and diverse cultures. Wildlife filmmaker Vianet D’jenguet spent his childhood there before moving to Europe. His return to his homeland is moving and informative. The film takes viewers on a […]

I Voted? | SLJ DVD Review

I Voted? 77 min. Dist. by Tugg Educational. 2016. $75. ISBN unavail.

Gr 9 Up –Jason Grant Smith, a young independent filmmaker, asks, “Are we the country we think we are?” in this timely, provocative, and important exploration of America’s voting procedures. His initial interest in the unlikely primary victory of an unknown candidate for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina morphs into a general investigation of current voting systems, which are likely to be vulnerable to error and […]

Incarcerating US | SLJ DVD Review

Incarcerating US. 84 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2015. $350 (PPR). Rental $95. ISBN 1941545629.

Gr 9 Up –A brutal and honest look inside the U.S. prison system. Colorful graphics help viewers visualize alarming statistics. For example, the federal prison population rose from 36,000 in 1985 to 200,000 today. Five grams of drugs, the amount equal to a sweetener packet, can get someone a five-year sentence. Additionally, judges, under the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, have little room for compassion. […]

The Story of Cats | SLJ DVD Review

The Story of Cats. (Nature). 106 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627898751. Blu-ray $29.99. UPC 0841887030472.

Gr 5 Up –This engaging film offers an incredible amount of information. The focus is on the most widespread of all carnivores, cats, found all over the world, even in our homes. The 37 different species of cats today live in every climate, and the program chronicles the evolution of the first breed of cats known to have existed 11 million […]

Long Way North | SLJ DVD Review

Long Way North. 81 min. Dist. by Shout! Kids Factory. 2016. $16.99 UPC 0826663172027. Blu-ray $22.99 UPC 0826663172034.

Gr 5 Up –Viewers are introduced to 15-year-old Sacha as she explores her lavish Russian home and dances with a prince at a ball. This lovely animated film quickly reveals that Sacha Tchernetsov is no princess wannabe, but a strong-minded adventurer. She feels kinship with her explorer grandfather, who disappeared while seeking the North Pole. When she finds his notes in […]

Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants | SLJ DVD Review

Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627898744. POP

Gr 5 Up –Dr. Julian Fennessy has spent the last two decades studying giraffes. Astonishingly little is known about them, especially compared with other high-profile animals whose populations are also under threat, such as elephants and rhinos. Alarmed that giraffe populations have declined 40 percent in the past 20 years and are thus threatened with extinction, Fennessy developed a relocation project for 20 giraffes. […]

The Choice | SLJ DVD Review

The Choice. (Frontline). 120 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627899031.

Gr 8 Up –The PBS series presents a biography/documentary to examine the latest presidential candidates, an election year tradition since 1988. This edition concentrates primarily on the psychological makeup of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump and the influences that combined to create their well-known personas. The candidates are presented in an evenhanded manner that allows their primary personality traits to surface through archival footage that reaches […]

SLJ’s February 2017 Popular Picks

These materials will fly off the shelves, from a story about a young boy who loves his green pants to a timely YA novel centered on gun violence and Islamophobia by Barry Lyga.