Oh boy, do I love this video! How's that for a review opener?
Scholastic generally produces good quality materials for children,
and Duke Ellington . . . And More Stories to Celebrate Great
Figures in African American History is no exception.
Covering excellent children's books about black history ( Duke
Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Ella Fitzgerald:
The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa also by Andrea Davis Pinkney ,
Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, and John
Henry by Julius Lester), the video also features beautiful
and appropriate music. The books are narrated by Forest Whitaker,
Phylicia Rashad, Billy Dee Williams, and Samuel L. Jackson. Each
actor does a dramatic reading of the text, and these are stories
you just know they are enjoying themselves.
I played the video in the van on our way to choir practice one
day, and my girls (ages 11, 9, and 7) were riveted. One daughter
in particular was very interested in Ella Fitzgerald's story. She
asked to hear more of her music and now names Ella as one of her
favorite singers. This I like; giving my children a broad exposure
to music is important to our family, and if that exposure sparks
an interest in them for quality music, then we feel we've met some
In addition to the stories, beautiful illustrations, wonderful
music, and masterful narration, the DVD includes a "Talk About
the Stories" section in which questions are presented to facilitate
discussion of each story. Comprehension questions (such as "What
happened in the race between John Henry and Ferret-Faced Freddy?" are
helpful to see who was paying attention or what aspects to the
story they may have missed.
A read-along feature is also included. Students can read the text
along with the narrator, which I find particularly appealing for
my early readers.
Duke Ellington . . . And More Stories to Celebrate Great Figures
in African American History is 70 minutes long and is recommended
for 4 to 9-year-olds, but don't count it out for your older students.
I caught a glimpse in my rearview mirror of my young teens paying
close attention as well.