At naptime, bedtime, or anytime in between.

Scholastic has long been a world-class provider of all things literature-related to youngsters, and the transition to animating some of the more beloved books they’ve handled is a no-brainer. Children Make Terrible Pets…and more stories about family is another set from the company, this time with four stories included. Each is narrated by a different person. The stories are listed below with synopses:

* “Children Make Terrible Pets”
When a young bear finds a human boy in the woods, she brings him home to be her pet. Soon, though, she learns the downside of pet responsibility.

* “All the World”
A long poem about the world around us.

* “Crow Call”
A young girl goes hunting with her father, who’s recently returned from war and is practically a stranger to her.

* “Elizabeti’s Baby”
When Elizabeti’s baby sibling is born, she wants to take care of him; however, she’s too little, so she must find a substitute for her attentions.

At less than 20 minutes each, and more often less than ten, these stories are quick but also quietly engaging. By offering a read-along track, the set transcends the simple “read to me” element and instead becomes a tool to help young readers gain confidence. For fans of the books, this set is a chance to see them in a new way and the opportunity to hear someone else’s interpretation of the words as well.

The video transfer varies in terms of picture, which ranges from static shots of the book’s illustrations to actual animation. However, keeping a sense of cohesion between the stories comes from the full frame aspect ratio and also the palette, which is pale but in a deliberate way, in an attempt to keep from over stimulating the kids who are watching. The audio track is likewise a subtle Dolby 2.0 mono, and care is taken to keep the dialogue soft yet audible. The read-along track is colored in soothing tones of turquoise. Both audio and visual combine to make this a disc you put on to wind kids down, either for a nap or bedtime.

There were a couple of special features in the form of interviews with some of the authors and an illustrator of the books. The chance to hear from one of the illustrators is really neat, and I recommend checking out that feature.

I don’t usually recommend a disc with a runtime of less than an hour; however, I’ll make an exception here. Children Make Terrible Pets…and more stories about family engages kids with existing books — and anything that helps youngsters become readers earns a pass. It not only offers the read-along option, but the short nature of the stories means this is the perfect thing to put on before bed.

THE VERDICT

Not guilty.

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