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Zippan, Fiona and Doug Atkinson
Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada,
1993. 350pp, paper, $12.95, ISBN 0-590-74577-8. CIP

Subject Headings:
Children's films-Reviews.
Video recordings-Reviews.

Adult / Professional

Reviewed by Christine Jacobs

Volume 22 Number 2
1994 March / April

Fiona Zippan and Doug Atkinson are the founders of The Original Kids' Video Store in Toronto. They have written a very usefull guide for parents, based on screenings of the videos, other reviews, and the comments of customers young and old.

There is a brief introduction that explains rating systems and the methods and symbols used. Zippan and Atkinson also give tips on the positive and negative elements to consider when making viewing choices, the kinds of productions children like, and difficulties to watch out for. The last chapter consists of listing under popular topics such as "Dinosaurs and Dragons" and "Canadian Settings" (the videos listed here do not necessarily appear in the review section). There is an index listing titles, and Disney, Muppet and Sesame Street productions (in one alphabetical sequence).

The approximately 320 pages of reviews are organized by age group. Each review consists of production information and a description of 100 to 200 words, followed by brief resumes of any reservations the authors have about the video and any positive comments. These comments are noted as "stop," "caution" and "go," "stop" indicating that there may be serious problems. Note that "stop" and "caution"; are not necessarily negative evaluations, but often point out aspects that parents should be aware of before they show the film. A video may have comments at all three levels.

Generally speaking, the plots are carefully described and reservations are very specific. However, I did find that when a film was given "stop," "caution" and "go," it was often difficult to make an overall evaluation of the video. For example,  My Girl (in the 10-13 years category) is noted as dealing with death and grief under "stop"; as showing dead bodies, dealing with death of loved ones and life changes, and referring to menstruation under "caution"; and having a great last line that children, unfortunately, won't understand under "go"! There is no mention that this is a very good family film for mature children and their parents.

Similarly, the view of  Edward Scissorhands has "stop" and "caution" notes (certainly necessary), but under "go" it is stated only that it is "uniquely different," scarcely a valid reason for showing a film to children. There is no mention that it is an excellent film that deals metaphorically with troubling social issues, and as such can be a good film for parents to watch with older children.

Nonetheless, the authors have performed a valuable service in providing the synopses and comments. Video marketing and packaging can be very misleading, and, as Zippan and Atkinson point out in the introduction, it is impossible to preview everything. This guide takes much of the guesswork out of recommending and choosing videos for chiIdren.

Recommended as a selection tool, as reference tool, and as part of the circulating collection for all libraries with children's video collections.

Christine Jacobs (Montreal, Que.) is a freelance indexer who for the past eight years has indexed films and videos for Film/Video Canadiana

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