A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that some kids may be bored by parts of this literature-centric live-action series. Some scenes include mild violence -- punching, swordfights, etc. -- but there's never any bloodshed. Each episode teaches a key life lesson, and the human characters are good role models. The fantasy sequences are engaging, but the simple script makes some of the non-fantasy scenes seem fake. (All the easier for younger kids to follow, but not exactly cutting edge.) That said, this award-winning PBS series encourages kids to read and introduces them to classic books (most of which are more sophisticated fare than what you might find on Reading Rainbow).
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What's the story?
In the award-winning live-action series WISHBONE, curious, witty pup Wishbone (a lively Jack Russell terrier) jumps out of his normal surroundings and into an imaginary world where he experiences life as Robin Hood, D'Artagnan, Ali Baba, and other classic characters from world literature. Wishbone's time-travel adventures are always triggered by something going on in his daily life, as when one of the terrier's human pals enters a science fair, so the pup dreams himself into the laboratory of Mary Shelley's diabolical Dr. Frankenstein. Other times, he might find himself in the company of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, tracking the hound of the Baskervilles, or playing hide and seek with the Phantom of the Opera. Most of Wishbone's adventures are inspired by American and European English literary standards, but some episodes feature African-American, Native American, Chinese, and Mexican tales. No matter where he ends up, Wishbone wears period costumes to match his elaborately staged daydreams (the series won awards for art direction, costumes, and scenery, and it shows).
Is it any good?
Some of the adventure scenes include punching, swordfights, and other types of combat, but the violence is mild compared to other shows, and no blood is ever shed. And Wishbone's junior-high-school owner Joe (Jordan Wall) and his friends are good role models -- they're active and curious, they love to learn, they always try to do the right thing, and they aren't afraid to stand up for their beliefs. Since the terrier's adventures are tied to events in the humans' lives, the whole gang ends up learning an important life lesson by the end of each episode.
Wishbone is a good bet for early elementary-school kids, but tweens who are into edgier shows like SpongeBob may find it dull. Wishbone livens up any scene he's in with his joie de vive gusto, but the human characters' oversimplified dialogue sometimes sounds fake. Because of this, younger kids should be able to follow the story, but older kids may lose interest. A quick wit and free-spirited sense of adventure make it hard to resist Wishbone (plus, he's just so darn cute), and his lively narration invites kids to follow him into the high drama, adventure, and intrigue of great literature. The show is a way to get kids excited about reading, and parents, kids, and teachers can all take it further by organizing creative story-telling events and other fiction-inspired fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Wishbone's adventures and the stories presented in each episode, using the show as a jumping-off point to learn more about the authors. For example: How did Mark Twain's personal experiences inspire him to write Tom Sawyer and other stories set on the Mississippi River? The series is a great way to get kids excited about reading, and parents can take it further by planning special trips to the library and creative story-telling circles. Other questions to ask: What do kids enjoy about story time? Does this show make your kids want to read more? Why is reading so important?
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