February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Lincoln, Jefferson, and Franklin | DVD Reviews

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redstarThe Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement. 26 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2014. $59. ISBN unavail.
Gr 7 Up –This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Selma march, and this documentary introduces viewers to a man described as a foot soldier for the civil rights movement: 85-year-old James Armstrong. He carried a flag when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched towards the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and his Armstrong Barbershop (parts of which seem held together with duct tape and love) is as much a civil rights museum as a place of business. Armstrong, an energetic and dapper spokesman, brings the issues to a personal level. The film uses historic footage (including brief, disturbing scenes of beatings) to recreate the atmosphere that Armstrong faced as a young man. His conviction and commitment to nonviolence are obvious. Grainy black-and-white footage captures signs like “Keep Alabama White,” as Armstrong walks with his young sons, Dwight and Floyd, past angry protesters in front of a school. In his 80s, he watches election returns as Barack Obama wins the presidency. (Armstrong passed away in 2009.) Interviews with son Floyd, footage of speeches by Dr. King and President Obama, and a brief narrative of the civil rights time line since 1870 pack a lot of information into this worthwhile film. VERDICT A moving 20-minute capsule of the civil rights movement, particularly in Alabama, brought to a personal level by Armstrong’s sustained narration.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School. Fort Worth, TX

redstarLooking at Lincoln. 10 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633796119.
K-Gr 4 –This animated version of Maira Kalman’s picture book (Penguin, 2012) follows a little girl who wants to learn all she can about Abraham Lincoln, and in her quest she finds out that he’s more than the face on the five dollar bill. The text includes events of Lincoln’s childhood; his time as a lawyer in Springfield, IL; his family; his strong antislavery beliefs; his love for justice; and even that he had a dog named Fido. The text presents an honorable and respectful view of Lincoln, and Kalman’s colorful and uncomplicated drawings are pleasing to the eye. It should be noted that many of the drawings are based on actual photographs, and this is a major highlight of the book. This fact could be used by teachers or librarians as a springboard for a lesson about Civil War photography and the amazing collection of Lincoln photos. Elizabeth Cottle’s narration is pleasant and charmingly complimented with music and sound effects. VERDICT This stands alone and is also useable with the book. A worthy addition for history collections for young readers.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Eastern Illinois Community Colleges, Mount Carmel

redstarPlastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 57 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $350. Rent $85. ISBN 1941545246.
Gr 7 Up –After seeing this documentary, viewers will not think of plastic in the same way again and will likely be inspired to make some personal changes, such as carrying reusable bags. Journalist Angela Sun’s journey to find the so-called drifting plastic island takes her to the remote Midway Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There plastic debris from the waters of the United States and Asia concentrate in a kind of whirlpool of junk. As a result, the massive Great Pacific Garbage Patch is responsible for destroying wildlife and coral reefs. Graphically filmed, the bellies of the dead albatrosses on the island are cut open and the lethal junk inside is revealed. How plastics consumed by sea animals affect the people who eat them is not completely known, but the chemicals in plastics are known to have hormone-disrupting effects. Sun speaks with scientists, including marine biologists and environmental advocates, who stress that the health of the ocean is essential for human survival. She goes undercover at the International Marine Debris Conference, sponsored by the American Chemistry Council and attended by plastics giants, including Dow, DuPont, and Exxon. She interviews several representatives from the industry and exposes their lack of knowledge of the environmental consequences of manufacturing plastics—before she’s asked firmly to leave the premises. VERDICT Throughout, Sun delivers a succinct and attention-getting message in this excellent, chilling film that will both support science curricula and appeal to popular interest.–Constance Dickerson, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, OH

redstarThomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything. 14 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633796188.
K-Gr 4 –Based on Maira Kalman’s delightful book (Penguin, 2014), a great deal of information is presented about Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, including his authorship of the Declaration of Independence; his administration, which sponsored the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition; his love of books and agriculture; and the building of his home, Monticello. Kalman doesn’t shy away from the fact that Jefferson owned slaves and that he had a relationship with one of them, Sally Hemings. Viewers learn that Jefferson was a monumental man who had flaws. Music and appropriate sound effects compliment the narration. Kalman’s illustrations are bright and crisp, and the renderings of Monticello are a major highlight of the book and this animated version. Teachers can utilize this DVD with groups or assign it to individuals. VERDICT A worthy addition for history collections. It’s a fabulous way to get to know Jefferson.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mount Carmel, IL

redstarThe Whole Gritty City. 89 min. Dist. by Alexander Street Press. 2014. $295. Streaming three-year access $295, perpetual $885. UPC 888295104692.
Gr 9 Up –Post-Katrina New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates in the country, and almost half its children live in poverty. That’s the background for this documentary about three local marching bands and their dedicated directors’ efforts to instill discipline as they teach students how to make music, thereby keeping them off the streets and out of danger. These kids discover joy playing an instrument and see that there is a future for them. The film opens with a band playing at a funeral and flashes back to the first rehearsals of the year. It chronicles the progress made as the teens develop technique, strive for perfection for Mardi Gras parades, and returns to the moving funeral of one of their own, whose bright future was cut short by his senseless murder. Several band members reveal what life is like for them away from school and the band, and the stories they tell are heart-wrenching. Their ambition to excel and pride in their band is evident. Violence is referred to, but it takes place off-screen, and a few swear words are uttered when band members are harassed by bystanders and rivals during a parade. Filmmakers Richard Barber and Andre Lambertson capture the right mix of material. This first aired on 48 Hours (CBS) in February 2014. Bonus tracks add depth and context, often tugging harder at the heartstrings, especially the footage following police officer Shelita Haynes, who has two sons in a marching band. VERDICT Highly recommended for libraries collecting urban studies and for building community, music, and band programs.–Stephanie Bange,Wright State University, Dayton, OH

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Preschool to Grade 4

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention. 10 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633794450.

Chicken Little. 5 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2014. $38.99. ISBN 9781633792296.

Go to Sleep, Groundhog! 7 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633794429.

There Was an Old Woman (Who Lived in a Shoe)/There Was a Crooked Man. 4 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633794665.

Welcome to the Neighborhood. (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.) 80 min. Dist. by PBS. 2015 $6.99. ISBN 9781627891462.

Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?/Three Little Kittens. 6 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633794634.

Wizard of Oz. 7 min. Dist. By Dreamscape Media. 2014. $38.99. ISBN 9781629239682.

Grades 5 up

China 2000 BC: The Rise and Fall of Dynasties in Ancient China. ISBN unavail.

––––. China 2000 BC: Unearthing the Truth Behind a Myth: The Xia Dynasty. ISBN unavail.

ea: 45 min. (China 2000 BC.) Dist. by National Film Board of Canada. nfb.ca/USeducation. 2014. Each $195. Both $295.

Cold War Roadshow. (American Experience). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627892025.

DamNation . 87 and 52 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $250. Rent $95. ISBN 1941545211.

Killer Landslides. (Nova.) 54 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627891240.

Of Oozies and Elephants. 89 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2014. $24.99. w/PPR $199.99. ISBN 857063005042.

Olympic National Park, Washington State. (Discoveries…America National Parks). 53 min. Dist. by Bennett-Watt Entertainment. 2015. $24.95. ISBN 9781604901771.

Pembe ya Ndovu. 30 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2014. $69. ISBN unavail.

Shakespeare Uncovered: Series 2. 6 hrs. Distributed by PBS. 2014. $34.99. ISBN 9781627892377.

Somewhere Between. 88 min. Dist. by Good Docs. 2012. DVD $99. Digital streaming license $599. UPC 767685283981.

23 Blast. 98 min. Dist. by Ocean Avenue Entertainment. 2015. $19.95. UPC 602537991242.

Where Am I? (The Nature of Things.) 44 min. Dist. by Bulldog Films. DVD $250. Rent $85. ISBN 1941545181.

You May Call Her Madam Secretary. 56 min. Dist. by Alexander Street Press. 2014. $179. Streaming three-year access $179, perpetual $537. UPC 888295104692.

The Zigzag Kid. 95 min. English subtitles. Dist. by Menemsha Films. 2012. $29.95. UPC 748252384058.

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.