Judge Dawn Hunt knows the jig is up…she can’t fly twice as high as a butterfly. Unless it’s dead. Then yeah, she can.

Reading Rainbow, the popular children’s series which started in 1983, has released a few DVDs over the years. The show was not only popular it was well-respected, racking up awards for excellence including 13 Daytime Emmy awards, the Peabody Award, and several Image Awards. Our subject today is Reading Rainbow featuring If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and it includes four episodes.

LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) hosted over 150 episodes which follow a pretty consistent formula. After the iconic and catchy theme song LeVar greets us at the location of the day which usually relates at least thematically to the featured book. Then LeVar gives us a bit of information about the book before we turn things over to a narrator. Sometimes it is a celebrity doing the narrating, other times it is a child. The book is read to us with the pages filling the screen, occasional rudimentary animation helping to make the story come to life. After the narration is finished LeVar talks about the book a bit, gently reinforcing the message. We take a field trip to meet someone who usually has a skill they demonstrate and we learn about their lives. After we return to Burton he once again hands things over, this time to a selection of kids, usually a trio. Each child has a book they recommend and they individually give a video book report, in essence a condensed version of the featured book segment. They summarize the story over visuals of the book’s pages and end their report with a recommendation. Then it’s time to say goodbye.

Reading Rainbow featuring If You Give a Mouse a Cookie contains the following episodes:
“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” — Read by Beth Howland (Alice)
“Owen” –- Read by Matthew Broderick (War Games)
“Two Old Potatoes and Me” –- Read by Jordan Puryear (Cory in the House)
“Mr. George Baker” –- Read by Wayne Brady (Whose Line is it Anyway?)

In 2014 LeVar Burton ran a Kickstarter campaign to help reboot Reading Rainbow, which aired its last first-run episode in 2006. The show has lived on in reruns and to say it has affected many kids would be understating things. The Kickstarter campaign generated six times the goal amount of $1 million, helped by celebrity fan Seth McFarlane’s (Family Guy) additional $1 million donation. Late in 2014 the Reading Rainbow site premiered Skybrary, a new way to bring books to kids and schools. It’s safe to say Reading Rainbow will endure in one form or another for generations to come.

The technical specs are pretty bare bones, not surprising considering the age of the show. The video is a 1.33:1 aspect ratio transfer and it shows its age though there is a noticeable lack of scratches and dust. The most noticeable fault with the video (if you want to call it such,) is a desaturated palette. The audio is a very simple 2.0 stereo and it is serviceable.

There are no special features.

This is a no-brainer. Or rather it’s for a brain. If you watched this growing up, caught reruns while you were home sick, maybe, or have grade-schoolers in your life then this is definitely the disc for you. With a catchy theme song, an engaging host, and the clear love of reading demonstrated by everyone involved with the show, Reading Rainbow featuring If You Give a Mouse a Cookie will without a doubt brighten up your DVD shelf.

THE VERDICT

Not guilty but…you don’t have to take my word for it.

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