What’s new in kids’ educational TV, music and DVDs
Premieres Aug. 14, check local listings
Sesame Street‘s getting a run for its money, what with Blue’s Clues hugging it out with Joe, and Dora inspiring a generation of sleuths to explore en español. So in this 37th season of PBS’ cornerstone kids’ show, Elmo and friends welcome the first female Muppet to be introduced in more than a decade: Abby Cadabby, a new monster buddy to boost their posse — and ratings — a move surely meant to attract fickle preschoolers who might consider SS baby stuff. As the magically mischievous Abby begins her first day at the Storybook School, she gets a little hapless with her wand — she’s prone to accidentally ”poofing” herself to different locations — and it falls to her teacher, Mother Goose (played by Shirley Jones), and some classic fairy-tale characters to show her the ropes.
And for the parents watching, SS delivers plenty of pop culture references and eye candy: There are spoofs of Law & Order: SVU and Survivor; and Amy Sedaris, John Legend, and Matt Lauer all have their celeb turns. But it’s the bread-and-butter sketches — a girl learning basketball from a player in a wheelchair, an art class with kids in Bangladesh — that keep the show on the must-see-TV list for the toddler set, proving that sometimes the best exploring is right there on every kid’s favorite block. A- —Denene Miller
Jakers! School Days in Tara
(DVD, 92 mins., 2006)
Close your eyes and you’ll actually think Piggley and his friends Ferny the bull and Dannan the duck are kids, the voices and writing behind this Ireland-set series (which also airs on PBS) are that good. Told in flashback sequences, Piggley’s escapades — from cheating on a test to having an Ashlee Simpson moment while performing at a concert — provide lessons without a smidgen of blarney or preachiness. Props to Mel Brooks for his stellar voicing of the sardonic sheep Wiley. A- —Eileen Clarke
Baby Loves Jazz: Go Baby Go!
Ages 2 and up
If the title suggests a Dave Koz lullabies disc, this irresistibly exuberant, New Orleans-style vocal jazz is actually best suited for tykes on a sugar rush…along with parents who’ll find themselves grooving to ”The Wheels on the Bus” even after a playdate drop-off. Think Dr. John and the Dirty Dozen using Old MacDonald’s ”E-i-e-i-o” as an excuse to scat. The best kids’ record in years, Baby Loves Jazz is a godsend for grown-ups eager to get small fry hooked on brass, not Bratz. A —Chris Willman
Do sticky fingers appear whenever you take out your iPod or camera? Fisher-Price offers two solutions. $69.99 each, Windows required.
With two-eye viewing and oversize controls, can store 50+ images.
Holds two hours of songs and stories; expandable memory.