March 19, 2012
Classical Baby (I'm Grown Up Now): The Poetry Show
Directed / Produced By Amy Schatz
3-4 Preschool Primary HBOFamily
Classical Baby (I'm All Grown Up Now): The Poetry Show is the sequal to the HBO Family series, Classical Baby. In it, the young protagonist from the original series has grown from a music loving baby to a preschool poetry enthusiast. The 30 minute episode is expertly designed to appeal both visually and aurally to young ones, as each poem is accompanied by a brief, animated "frame story" while the poem itself is set to gentle music and an understated kaleidoscopic display - just enough to keep young attention spans from wandering.
The poems (and songs) range in style from "How Do I Love Thee" (read beautifully by Gwyneth Paltrow as a love poem from mother to child) to Robert Frost's "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening" and were selected to appeal emotionally to their young audience. Preschool and primary school age children may not understand every aspect of the poems, but the words and images will resonate at an emotional level as they alternate between soothing reassurance (John Keats) to good old-fashioned fun (Woody Guthrie).
Each poem is presented by the young protagonist by theme - "roses", "love", "birds" and more are all represented. This is the only place where I feel that the production falls flat. The animation is a bit stilted and the voice-over work for the boy is, quite frankly, creepy (it's a strangely synthesized child-voice, which stands out even more compared to the warm, very human narration of the poems). Still, it's a small complaint in an otherwise excellent production. The show keeps a constantly moving pace that nevertheless manages to feel both meditative and calm, while presenting a wide range of poetry to children in a fashion that is naturally engaging. While poetry is still best experienced at home, with a loved reading to a child, The Poetry Show is an excellent compromise.