KIDVID by Harold Schechter (Pocket Books: $3.95). Any parent who has been overwhelmed by the number and variety of children's videos ("kidvids" in trade talk) on the market will welcome help in separating the good from the bad and the mediocre. The packaging, however, is often so jazzy and so misleading that it's hard to judge a kidvid by its cover.
Meet Harold Schechter.
In what must have been one of the most grueling assignments ever conceived, Schechter, a professor of English at Queen's College in New York City and an editorial adviser for the Journal of Popular Culture and the Journal of American Culture, has critiqued more than 250 children's videos. His findings confirm what any parent browsing the store shelves probably suspected all along: Very few kidvids are worth watching.
But there are some gems out there, and Schechter's easy-to-use guide eliminates a lot--but certainly not all--of the guesswork.
"Kidvid," which analyzes videos geared toward children through roughly age 10, runs the gamut from "ABC Funfit" to "Ziggy's Gift." Some are familiar titles; most are not. Each gets a chatty but substantive review, a rating, an estimate of the tape's intended audience, and a price tag. What parent could ask for anything more? Except more four-star videos.