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Directed by Lee Atkinson
KLA Visual Productions, 1993. VHS cassette, 8 min., $55.00.


Directed by Lee Atkinson
KLA Visual Productions, 1993. VHS cassette, 16 min., $55.00.


Directed by Lee Atkinson
KLA Visual Productions, 1993. VHS cassette, 14 min., $55.00. All distributed by Magic Lantern Communications.

Grades K to 6 / Ages 5 to 11

Reviewed by Pat Steenbergen

Volume 22 Number 6
1994 November/December

These short videos combine documentary footage with animated sequences. In The Story of Aviation, two children are playing with a model airplane that disappears in the forest. While searching for it, they visit Herm -the friendly hermit of Roosters Hamlet. He shows them his flight scrapbook, asserting that he helped each inventor with his early craft.

There is an interesting sequence showing early flight in Canada at Baddeck; unfortu­nately, Herm has been added to most pictures. The pictures come to life with a short video clip. For example, the flight of the Silver Dart is shown. Again, Herm claims to have helped design and build each machine in Baddeck. Continuing the story of Canadian aviation through both wars and into the North, Herm knew or helped everyone. Making a story "interesting" for children by adding "appeal­ing" characters is most flagrant in this video.

In Fossils and Dinosaurs, Jimmy is fishing when a talking salamander (Sal) points out that the pattern in the rock the boy has just noticed is actually a fossil. Herm, who has been sleeping nearby, volunteers to show them fossils. They travel in Herm's time machine to the Cretaceous period and then to the age of dinosaurs. Returning to modern times, Herm shows them his trip with Tyrrell to Alberta looking for fossils. The documen­tary footage includes Tyrrell discovering dinosaur fossils in Alberta as well as a modern dig and behind-the-scenes work preparing dinosaur bones for study and exhibit. Although there is less intrusion of Herm into the documentary aspects in this video, a lot of time is spent watching flashing dials indicating time travel.

In Exploring Space, two children out watching for shooting stars see a strange object in the sky. Is it a UFO? They visit the girl's grandfather, an amateur astronomer wearing the robes, beard, and amulet of an ancient Chinese wise man. He takes the children into space to visit an animated Anik satellite. Anik talks to the trio, explaining how satellite communication works. Next they visit the space shuttle and here docu­mentary footage is inserted showing lift-off, training of astronauts, Marc Garneau, Roberta Bondar and the Canadarm. Finally, Grandfather takes the children to visit the space station. The film clip looks as real as the space shuttle did. It would not be clear to the intended audience that the space station is still on the drawing board!

Although the documentary sections in each video are useful, I feel their value is seriously diminished by the presence of Herm in particular. Claims to have been present at various historical events cannot be evaluated correctly by early elementary grade children. In addition, the children present in many Canadian schools today do not have the background in English or the stimulation at home that would allow them to distinguish fact from fiction. This would be particularly difficult when some facts are presented in animated form (Anik or the Cretaceous period) and some fictionalized sequences (space station or Herm being at Baddeck) are presented in "film" clips.

Not recommended.

Pat Steenbergen is a job-sharing librarian in the Professional Library of the Board of Education for the City of York in Toronto, Ontario.
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