Between the Lions TV Poster Image

Between the Lions

Educational TV with heart -- and a slight flaw.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

All types of people, puppets, and characters play and learn together.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, in terms of PBS educational programming, this series exists somewhere between Sesame Street and The Electric Company. The focus is all about words and letter sounds. Parents will appreciate the parodies of adult shows, and kids will like the characters and the stories read during the program. But how much information is too much? This series is rather wonderful in some ways, but it teeters on the edge of being too chaotic to be effective.

What's the story?

Compelling characters and serials are what make BETWEEN THE LIONS a fun and fascinating television program. The Lion family, who live and work at the library, are the program's main characters. The mother and father lion provide good parental role models as they care for their clan and read, play, groom, and support their children, Lionel and Leona. A frazzled hen supplies library information, while a talking statue lends his curmudgeonly opinion to two pigeons who can't get their thoughts straight. Parodies of the Dick and Jane books and a short called "Gawain's World" will surely appeal to parents.

Is it any good?


In each episode, a vowel sound group (like the short "a" in the sound group "ack") is emphasized. Words containing the sound group (e.g., "back," "sack," and "crack") flash briefly on the screen, while letters are bumped to form new words as they are spoken. Even the strongest readers have to pay close attention to the quick changes in spelling, so it's unclear how the series' creators fathomed that young readers would be able to get the gist of them. It's almost as though the subliminal benefits of quickly flashing words were deemed more important than taking the time to focus on fewer sounds more thoroughly.

Sesame Street does well in this department by slowly sounding out fewer variations of word choices. Otherwise, the young viewer is apt to become frustrated -- or even confused -- by what's going on in the program. In other words, the intention to educate is clearly behind Between the Lions, but the quantity-not-quality axiom doesn't apply when it comes to teaching young readers about phonetics. Other than this educational qualm, Between the Lions is an entertaining, diverse -- and rather educational -- show for young viewers.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the sounds and words introduced in each episode. What other words have the same sound(s) as the ones mentioned on the show? What do you like about the Lion family? Would it be fun to live in a library?

TV details

Premiere date:April 3, 2000
Cast:Pam Arciero, Peter Linz, Stephen Scarpulla
Topics:Numbers and letters
TV rating:TV-Y
Available on:DVD

This review of Between the Lions was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2008
Teen, 15 years old Written byarthur16morgana January 14, 2011
i love this show.i watched all the time as a kid. its all about getting kids to read.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written bymriordan60 October 9, 2010


As a parent and a first grade teacher, I can't recommend this show enough for children. It is not only educational and entertaining, it has been proven by research to help kids learn to read. The beauty of it is, they don't realize how education it is. To them it is just fun. My only problem is that it is often on during the school day when Kindergarten and first grade students are in school. Parents can dvr it but the kids who most need to see it also have the parents who aren't likely to dvr the show. That is why I have purchased the DVD season sets from PBS and show them to the children in my classroom as a treat! CHECK IT OUT on your local PBS station!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models