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DVD Review: Super Why!: Jack and the Beanstalk & Other Story Book Adventures

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Written by Caballero Oscuro

One of the newer shows in the PBS kids lineup is also one of their best from both educational and entertainment standpoints. Super Why! follows the adventures of four Super Reader friends who band together to solve storybook puzzles based on familiar titles such as Little Red Riding Hood. Although the show is only two years old, it has garnered significant recognition such as the Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award and National Parenting Center Seal of Approval and was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Preschool Children’s Series. It’s presented in an appealing format that will allow discerning parents to happily join in the viewing experience, unlike some other painful shows out there (I’m looking at you, Dora).

Each episode opens with the star character, a little boy named Whyatt, encountering a problem that needs solving with the help of his three friends: Alpha Pig with Alphabet Power, Wonder Red with Word Power, Princess Presto with Spelling Power. Whyatt, aka Super Why, has his own Power to Read and the characters frequently address the viewer for assistance as well, making your child Super YOU with the Power to Help. The four friends have their own vehicles called Why Flyers that allow them to enter the storybook of their choice where they interact with the characters while searching for Super Letters to help them solve the word puzzle of the day which also ties into the problem resolution.

The presentation of the program really shines, as it’s rendered in a colorful widescreen CG world that really pops in HD. It doesn’t feel like a cut-rate production in any way, and in fact can go toe-to-toe with the best of anything else on Nick Jr. or the Disney Channel. The character designs are well done and the vocal talent is perfectly matched to their animated avatars.

The best part is the show’s strong emphasis on reading comprehension, as it constantly asks children to spell out the letters they find and compare the differences that happen when the characters change key letters in words, then replace those words in sentences. While it’s geared toward children in the 3-6 age range, younger children can also join in the fun as the show moves at a forgiving pace that allows even the youngest viewers to grasp the gist of the adventures. Nick Jr. and Disney may boast of shows that promote positive social values, but Super Why! is one of those far too rare shows that actually packs in some core educational content, dovetailing nicely with fellow PBS stalwart Sesame Street .

The new DVD, which is the first widespread US DVD release for the show, contains four full half-hour episodes: "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Princess and the Pea," "The Three Little Pigs," and "Little Red Riding Hood." In addition to the episodes, the DVD includes Interactive Games, Music Videos, Printable Activities and Coloring Pages, and Resources for Parents. The extras are largely inconsequential, but the core episodes are entertaining and well worth repeat viewing. Super Why!: Jack and the Beanstalk & Other Story Book Adventures is now available on DVD.

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