With A Little Help From His Friends

Children's author Trevor Romain tries out DVD

With A Little Help From His Friends

If you're not a school-age kid, a member of Parent Council, or a regular reader of School Library Journal, the name Trevor Romain probably means nothing to you. Romain is the based-in-Austin brains behind Cliques, Phonies, and Other Baloney, True or False? Tests Stink!, and other motivational books, brimming with goofy gags and puns, for the primary grades.

If you are a school-age kid, a member of Parent Council, or a regular reader of School Library Journal, the name HorseBack Salad probably means nothing to you. Former code monkeys who turned their severance pay from Sapient into a thriving animation business, HBS has inked videos for Patty Griffin ("Rain") and Riddlin' Kids ("I Feel Fine") and are the creators of Question Authority, a trivia game screened at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.

Combine the two, and you get three straight-to-market videos for the family: Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain, How to Do Homework Without Throwing Up, and What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?

The videos' stars are Skye (voiced by Anna Reyes) and Jack (Eli Black, son of Chronicle Editor Louis Black), best friends and students at James Tovar Junior High – named for HBS co-founder Jimmy Tovar. Tovar and colleague Yehudi Mercado are among the animation team, a local who's-who that also includes Cinematexas alums Shea McFarland ("Cat Fight") and Max Porter ("Red Things"), Samantha Harte and Dominic Vitucci (co-instructors at the Center for Young Cinema), and Korey Coleman (film commentator and creator of Eddie the Albino Squirrel). In a playfully slapdash style, Jack and Skye contend with schoolyard toughs, geometry homework, and the loss of loved ones. A live-action Trevor Romain plays God around them, tossing out advice and scribbling helpful maxims ("Start with the hardest assign-ment!" and "Keep a journal!") amid the scenery.

Didactic? Quite. But the series maintains Romain's cornball bonhomie – booger jokes being a hit with the 10-and-under crowd – and the animators sneak little touches of offbeat visual humor here and there. The homework episode is par-ticularly ambitious, following Jack and Skye on a jungle adventure whose musical montage interlude (to Darin Murphy's "Finish Line") recalls the madcap heyday of "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?"

Elsewhere, you'll hear Lisa Tingle and Donnell "Overlord" Robinson, and local producer Carl Thiel kicks in the peppy score. Additional voices are "The kids at the Dougherty Arts Center," and how cool is that?

DVD and VHS editions go on sale in stores March 8. Until then, they're available at Romain's Web site, www.trevorromain.com.


Trevor Romain will be at BookPeople on Thursday, Jan. 13, 7pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Trevor Romain, Eli Black, Anna Reyes, HorseBack Salad

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