CM March 1, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 20

image Round The Twist (Series 1):
Cabbage Patch Fib.

Australian Childrens Television Foundation, 1989. 24 minutes, VHS, $79.95 each of 13 episodes.
Distributed by T.H.A. Media Distributors Ltd.
1 (800) 661-4919.

Grades 7 - 9 / Ages 12 - 14.
Review by A.Edwardsson.


The Round the Twist TV series was developed from short stories by one of Australia's most popular children's authors, Paul Jennings. (Penguin Books Canada has recently published the stories of Paul Jennings in print form.) Each episode is self-contained and has a surprising twist at the end.

The sample episode, "Cabbage Patch Fib," has several problems. The series focuses on the lives of the members of a single-parent family living on the coast. Bronson, aged seven or eight, is the star of this episode.

"Cabbage Patch Fib" refers to the lie Bronson's brother tells him about where babies come from. Bronson asks his distracted Dad if this is true, and he agrees. The boy goes out at night followed by his bemused brother to check their cabbage patch. Surprise -- he finds a green baby lying under some leaves.

The baby is only happy when Bronson is holding him. When his brother takes it in his arms, the baby holds its breath and turns blue. The same thing happens when anyone else tries to hold it. The family keeps the green infant, and enjoys the media circus.

Soon, however, the novelty wears off and everyone is yelling at Bronson to tend the baby. He has to take it to school, and finds he can't play with his friends at breaks because he has to feed it. In class, everyone complains when the stinky "nappies" need changing.

One night, he decides enough is enough and creeps out to return the baby to the cabbage patch. He leaves it under the leaves and stands by the garden fence watching it turn blue. His brother and sister rush in imploring Bronson to help them as they try to revive the infant with mouth-to-mouth respiration. Finally, Bronson relents and they put the baby into his arms, where it turns back to its normal green colour.

Then comes the twist: suddenly, one of the cabbages begins to shake and then grow. When it is spaceship-sized, a leaf opens and a green mother rushes out. She seizes her baby from Bronson, scolding him in a foreign language (followed by green media people with microphones and video recorders). They return to the cabbage, which shrinks back to normal size as a tearful Bronson waves and says "Good-bye son."

The next day the family digs up all the cabbages in the garden. The elder kids tell the Dad to explain the facts of life to Bronson. Later, his sister sees the youngster dragging a ladder, and asks him what's up. He responds that he's going to block the chimney so a stork can't nest there. "It's called BIRD CONTROL" (ha, ha).

There are some disturbing aspects to this story. No one investigates the child's sudden appearance, and the media uproar is unbelievably short-lived. While fishing with his siblings, Bronson is annoyed when he's interrupted by the screaming infant. He leans over the basinet and warns the baby "I'll give you something to cry about." And after dumping it back in the garden, he watches, stone-faced, while the baby appears to die.

The story is weak, and so are the special effects. The same shot is replayed each time the baby "turns blue." (It appears to hold its breath, then freezes and a blue light shines on its face.) The green mother appears to be wearing a wrap-around towel. Viewers would have to know the facts of life to get the "jokes," and if so, it's doubtful they'll be entertained by the trials of eight-year-old Bronson.

The sound quality and pacing are fine, but the colour is a bit washed out. There are a variety of shots indoors and outside.

Although it's essentially harmless, this video isn't recommended for school or library purchase,

Not recommended.

A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. She has a Bachelor of Education degree and a Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Authors' Association.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364