Judge Jim Thomas does not look good in yellow.
"Daddy, ca' I watch Kuwious George?"—my three year-old son
I'm working on the assumption that you have not spent the last twenty years stranded on a desert island and thus already know who Curious George is. If you have, then congratulations, either for being rescued or for getting a DSL line out to your island.
Oh, okay…here's the bullet: George is a monkey who lives with the awkwardly named Man with the Yellow Hat. As you might have heard, George is a good little monkey, and always very curious. That curiosity sometimes gets George into trouble, and sometimes just leads to interesting adventures.
Last year, my kids and I were watching some Road Runner cartoons. My youngest, who was two at the time, watched with rapt attention as the coyote prepared each trap. As each trap went awry, he'd sit up and say "OH!," with a look that clearly said "I did not see that coming." He didn't know how the genre worked and so everything was a completely new experience. That's George: Eternally cute, wide-eyed, innocent, and well-meaning, discovering the world for the first time, much like his audience. The show emphasizes the importance of curiosity (duh), but develops consequences just enough to discourage abject recklessness, which I, as a parent, really appreciate.
This disc has eight stories:
• "Robot Monkey Hullabaloo"—George creates a robot costume that fools everyone. Lesson: Building using the design process.
• "Curious George, Spy Monkey"—After reading one of his favorite books, Double-oh Doggy, George tries to go undercover to spy on the Man with the Yellow Hat as he goes out to buy George a surprise. Lesson: Learning how mirrors can work as tools.
• "Curious George Rides a Bike"—George loves his new bike. His attempt to help Bill deliver papers goes awry when a he hits a big rock and damages his front wheel. Lesson: Using the correct tool to fix things.
• "Curious George v. the Turbo Python 3000"—The Man in the Yellow Hat struggles to overcome his fear of roller coasters, while George tries to grow tall enough to ride the Turbo Python 3000. Lesson: Measuring and measuring standards.
• "Monkey Fever"—The Man with the Yellow Hat comes down with a bad cold, and George gets tips on how to care for him from various sources. Lesson: Taking care of people when they're not feeling well.
• "The Lucky Cap"—George's run of bad luck takes a turn for the better when the Man with the Yellow Hat gives him a new cap, but then the cap shrinks in the wash. Lesson: Basic counting.
• "Candy Counter"—George helps out at Cayley's candy counter. Lesson: Sorting by size, shape, and color.
• "Gutter Monkey"—George tries to help out the Man with the Yellow Hat by polishing his bowling ball. Lesson: The behavior of a ball on different surfaces.
After each episode is a sort of live-action sequence in which kids engage in an activity related to the episode's lesson. The episodes work on both levels: the story itself is engaging, and the lesson is integrated well enough into the stories that the lessons never feel forced. Some of the lessons are really quite clever; in "Curious George v the Turbo Python 3000," they don't just go for measuring but for the importance of having standards of measurement. It's a fairly advanced concept, but the episode explains it simply and clearly.
Colors are bright and sharp; the stereo sound is clear. I could bore you with more details, but let's face it—this isn't a disc you're buying for its technical merits.
This is a solid disc, particularly for preschool kids. My 3-year-old will watch the whole disc and then ask to watch it again; my 5-year-old and 8-year-old aren't quite that devoted, but enjoy watching a few episodes here and there.
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