Posted in Animal Fiction, Media, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

In Which I Explore an An Animated Book: Hondro & Fabian

Hondo & Fabian. Written and Illustrated by Peter McCarty. 6 minutes. DVD. Weston Woods. 2006. $ 59.95 ISBN 0-439-84909-8

Suggested for ages 3-6

When I saw the animated books at my local library, I have to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was I just going to be staring at a static series of pictures with a voiceover laid over the whole business? I decided to give it a shot with Peter McCarty’s Caldecott Honored-story, Hondo & Fabian. I am very happy to say I was delighted by what I watched.

hondo & fabian

Hondo & Fabian is the 2003 Caldecott Award-winning story of Hondo & Fabian, a dog and cat who live in the same household and have very different experiences one day, when one goes to the beach and one stays home with the family baby. Who has the better day?

Weston Woods produced this animated version of the book for schools and libraries, and author Peter McCarty’s soft, grey pencil on watercolor paper illustrations come to life as narrator Jeff Brooks tells the tale of the two friends who spend their day in two different ways. The illustrations are animated, allowing viewers to see Hondo’s ears blowing in the breeze as he hangs out a window, and Fabian putting his claws to work, shredding toilet paper. The story is brief, and Joel Goodman and David Bramfitt’s music adds to the beauty of the artwork, bringing with it a relaxing feeling as the story’s events unfold. Readers will enjoy viewing this story about pet friends; the option to use English subtitles will allow for new readers to read along with the narration. A study guide comes with the DVD that provides pre- and post-viewing activity ideas that can be incorporated into a storytime session, such as a discussion about pets and which animals are pets versus which are not.

This would be an interesting addition to a pet-related storytime. The DVD could break up the routine of a traditional read-aloud and attract renewed attention from attendees. The Perry Public Library’s Parade of Pets storytime theme has pet-related songs and fingerplays, and having a sing-along to an animal song-related CD, like Raffi’s Animal Songs, would make for an interactive and fun time.

The Hondo & Fabian animated book has received numerous accolades, including designation as an ALA Notable Video; Honorable Mention from the Columbus International Film & Video Festival; and was an Official Selection at the Kids First Film Festival.

The Hondo & Fabian series of books by Peter McCarty also includes Fabian Escapes.

Posted in Media

Media Review: The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie (DVD, Universal Studios, 2008)

Directed by Mike Nawrocki. 85 minutes. DVD. Universal Studios. 2008. $ 9.99 ISBN 000013830397

Recommended for ages 2-8

veggie tales pirates

VeggieTales is an American series of computer animated family movies featuring anthropomorphic vegetables. The stories convey moral themes; many retell Bible  stories. The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything was the first VeggieTales movie released theatrically through Universal Studios. Taking place between the late 17th century and the present, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything follows Veggie characters Elliot, George, and Sedgewick (“played” by popular Veggie characters Larry the Cucumber, Pa Grape, and Mr. Lunt, the Gourd). Working as servers in a pirate-themed restaurant, they wish they could be heroes rather than cabin boys; after they discover a “Helpseeker” sent back in time by Princess Eloise, they are transported back in time, where they become actual heroes and learn that being heroic has nothing to do with how someone looks, but in his or her actions.


The computer animation is well done. The VeggieTales franchise has been around since the 1990s; creators Mike Nawrocki, who voices main characters George, Sedgewick and Bob the Tomato , and Phil Vischer, who voices main character  Elliot – have built a successful book, movie and merchandising business, and reinvest money into it to keep it fresh and well-produced. The animation is rife with bright primary colors, and the Veggies themselves have expressive face with large eyes. The movie stumbles with its dialogue, which, while delivering an honorable message, does so with lackluster dialogue. The pacing is also a problem; the movie tends to drag as characters get caught up in dialogue over action, which may lose young viewers’ attention.   It can also be confusing to those viewers new to VeggieTales that the characters are “acting”, and therefore playing other characters.


The movie’s positive message and popular characters make it a good choice for a movie day or evening at the library.  The tone of the film is relentlessly positive; when the characters are feeling down, they lift one another up and always look for the bright side.  The villains are never truly scary or horrible; they appear goofy more than anything else. A viewing, with a discussion about what makes people heroes, and how actions speak louder than words or appearances, would be a good way to communicate the values demonstrated in the movie. The VeggieTales webpage provides free downloadable printables that viewers can color and take home.


Posted in Media, TV Shows

Media Review: Yo Gabba Gabba: The Dancey Dance Bunch (DVD, Nickelodeon Studios, 2008)

Directed by Scott Schultz and Christian Jacobs. 99 minutes. DVD. Nickelodeon. 2008. $14.98. ISBN 097368925847

Recommended for ages 1-5

yo gabba gabba dancey dance

Yo Gabba Gabba is a fun Nickelodeon series that teaches children social skills. The Dancey Dance Bunch DVD packages four episodes from Yo Gabba Gabba’s first season in 2007: Eat, Dance, Friends and Happy. Each 23-minute episode features human host DJ Lance Rock (Lance Robertson) and his costumed character friends, Muno (voiced by Adam Deibert), Brobee (voiced by Amos Watene), Foofa (Emma Jacobs), Toodee (Charme Morales), and Plex (voiced by Christian Jacobs). The group sings, dances, and plays together while teaching children lessons about friendship, eating healthy, and respecting one another. The show is live-action, with animated sketches and segments featuring real children dancing and playing. Celebrities including Elijah Wood, Mya, and Mark Mothersbaugh teach dance moves and give drawing lessons.  The music, while geared toward a very young audience, is set to pop, rock, and hip-hop beats, and the songs stick with you long after the episodes are over. The sets are simple, almost stripped-down, so the emphasis is on the characters.


Color is an important part of Yo Gabba Gabba. DJ Lance Rock’s costume is bright orange, and the characters are all brightly colored. Children appearing in sketches often wear colorful clothing with Yo Gabba Gabba characters on them, and the backgrounds where the characters sing and dance range from bright green grassy fields to icy blue glaciers to 8-bit computer backgrounds. The characters’ voices are high-pitched like a child’s, but the language never speaks down to the audience; rather, it takes concepts like learning how to lose gracefully and simplifies the concepts through song and conversation to reach their viewers on their level: “We play games to have fun, not to win or lose”.


The episodes in this video can be used to teach toddlers and preschoolers alike about forming good habits early in life. In the episode Eat, for instance, the character Muno has a party in his tummy that carrots and string beans want to be invited to. Space and cleanup permitting, this could be a great idea for a healthy eating workshop, with finger foods like baby carrots, celery sticks, and sliced up fruit for preschoolers to invite to the “parties in their tummies”, while dancing and singing along with the video. It would be a great teaching tool for teachers and librarians alike, particularly with episodes that teach the joy of playing, that it’s more important to enjoy a game rather than worrying about winning or losing, and how to be a good friend.