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Curious George on PBS Kids Review by Lisa Kjeldgaard

(a production of Imagine Entertainment, WGBH Boston, and Universal Studios Family Productions)

Curiosity killed the cat, but the monkey is alive and well! The new Curious George animated TV series, based on the books by Margaret and H.A. Rey, debuted this fall on PBS Kids. It is a welcome addition to an often disappointing category of children's animated shows. The developers of the series have a noteworthy goal: getting children ages 3-5 to appreciate the disciplines of science, engineering, and mathematics. Now this is an objective homeschooling parents can get excited about!

Shown daily on PBS Kids, the show features two animated stories followed by live-action segments that show real children investigating the concepts George discovered in the program. My young boys (ages 7, 4, and 2) were the perfect audience to preview the episode "Curious George Flies a Kite" with me. But it didn't take long for my older children, as well as my husband, to run in to see what we were laughing about. This animated series takes the best of Curious George and brings him to life in an engaging way. My children were naturally drawn into the subject matter of wind and how it makes things move. The show is narrated by the talented William H. Macy, so you don't have to worry about talking monkeys if you don't like animals that can speak. Additional characters from the books make appearances in the TV series. I wasn't thrilled with the arrogant attitude of Bill, the newspaper boy, but his pride was quickly brought down, along with his kite! Some of the story lines in Curious George books have me thinking that George is naughty, not just curious. That wasn't the case with the show I previewed. I was happy to see it was George's natural curiosity, not disobedience, which moved the story along.

By the end of the show, my boys were begging me to make a kite with them. Not to fear! The PBS Kids website holds a wealth of information--including fantastic Discovery Guides in PDF format, which include specific directions on how to make a kite similar to the one viewed on the live-action segment. Beyond the kite instructions, the Discovery Guide has seven additional pages of activity ideas, poetry, recommended literature extensions, art projects, and much more! I'm really excited about these guides. They are well done, with concepts and skills clearly outlined. The projects are simple to do, yet they really help solidify the information learned while watching the show. Reading through the list of episodes available and perusing the other Discovery Guides online, I saw an amazing amount of science that I can cover with my young boys in a fun and engaging manner.

There's only one problem: we don't get any TV channels. Problem solved! A DVD of the first season's shows will be released in the spring of 2007.

Product review by Lisa Kjeldgaard, MS, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2007