Your Humble Blogger should remember to do puff pieces with much greater frequency; I’m not really as cranky as I seem on-line. And, as it happens, my Perfect Non-Reader is learning to read Between the Lions.
Now, just the title works really well for me. The lions in question are not, however, Patience and Fortitude, but Cleo and Theo, and their cubs Lionel and Leona. They do inhabit the Barnaby B. Busterfield III Public Library, and they host a show about learning to read. Well, cute little announcer bunny is the emcee, but that isn’t important.
Anyway, if you have fond memories of Sesame Street, the show is far more like Sesame Street than Sesame Street is these days. It also has something of the old Electric Company about it, and it also has a touch of the Reading Rainbow. Lots of little segments wrapped around a goofy storyline involving reading a book. In addition, each episode focuses on a particular vowel sound, and words that contain it. Those words and sounds show up in the main segment, and also in the segments with Martha Reader and the Vowelles, the Adventures of Cliff Hanger, Chicken Jane, Gawain’s Word, the incredibly catchy song with all the names, and, of course, the trouser-defying magic of the Great Smartini.
The whole thing is extremely silly, and seems to have a words-can-be-fun attitude, which is my attitude as well, of course. They have a liberal helping of Stuff for Parents (frankly, I hope my Perfect Non-Reader never does come to understand why I laughed when the Baha Men took the dog books out of the library) and general silliness. The adventures of Sam Spud, Par-Boiled Detective always end with a distressed viewer. “Mom! The talking potato with no mouth is back, and his incessant wordplay is making me queasy.” “It’s educational television, dear,” says the mother, absently, from the next room. “I’m sure it’ll help you in school. Somehow.”
The web site is also tremendous. In addition to having about a billion songs and clips and things to print and so on, they have half-a-dozen recommended books to go along with each of the seventy episodes. Not bad.