A review of ''Go, Diego, Go Live!'' Plus: a not-so-special episode of ''SpongeBob,'' and new books for your wee ones

By EW Staff
Updated April 15, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: John Tellum Productions

Kids’ Corner: A review of ”Go, Diego, Go Live!”

Live Show

Go, Diego, Go Live!: The Great Jaguar Rescue
”Do you like animals?” asks Alicia, the energetic older sister of a certain someone who has yet to make his entrance. ”I love animals.” And it’s clear from the audience’s roar — or, rather, from the growls and jaguar claws popping up in the crowd of tiny fans — that most of the participants do too. Shortly after, Alicia greets everyone in Radio City Music Hall with a robust song of ”Buenos Dias,” and her famous brother, Diego the animal rescuer, enters the rainforest stage via hang glider.

If there’s no one under 36 inches living in your household, a wee explanation: The dynamic duo on stage are the live-action versions of characters from Nick Jr.’s animated Go, Diego, Go!, the popular Dora the Explorer spin-off that debuted in 2005. (For tour dates near you, click here.) Diego and Alicia do a fine enough job keeping everyone focused on the task at hand — the Bobo Brothers, a mischievous pair of spider monkeys, have bottled Baby Jaguar’s growl and hightailed it out of the forest, and it’s up to them to try to get it back in time for Baby Jaguar to sound off at the Animal Carnivale. Apparently, the show’s creators know the secret to engaging toddlers: Keep ’em busy! So before the audience has time to create that unintentional wave that is the norm for kids’ shows — seats being vacated for bathroom breaks, crying fits, and emergency cotton-candy runs — the on-stage talent is leading the chorus and the rest of the audience with calls for jumping, growling, clawing, and, for good measure, the cha-cha, conga, and merengue (the coconut trees get a gold star for cha-cha).

And yes, Diego’s muy famosa cousin, Dora, does appear in the show’s second half via swinging vine, though this slender creature could maybe use a little padding to appear a little more like her 2-D counterpart. Nevertheless, the Great Jaguar Rescue comes to a satisfying end with a rousing Carnivale and a perfect capper to rouse those who may have miraculously napped their way past intermission: a sprinkling from a real snow machine. BEileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 2 to 7

BONUS PICK: Can’t get enough of animals? Check out National Geographic’s new website devoted to creatures of all kinds. From ogling bull sharks, black rhinos, river otters, and West Indian Manatees to keeping up to date on a race between leatherback sea turtles heading to the Galápagos, kids can discover all sorts of neat things about their faves in the animal kingdom. —EC


SpongeBob SquarePants: Friend or Foe?
(Nickelodeon, Friday, April 13, 8 p.m.)
Who isn’t a sucker for a good ”origin story,” even if it does involve anthropomorphic planktology? Friday night brings a very special episode of SpongeBob (”very special” meaning it runs double-length, at a full half-hour; will be released on DVD a few days later; and has fast-food and tennis-shoe commercial tie-ins). The title character takes a squishy back seat as the bitter roots of the long-boiling rivalry between burger magnates Mr. Krabs and Sheldon Plankton is explained in extensive flashback. It’s a little bit Wicked, as we learn that Krabs and Plankton were once school buddies, and it’s a little bit Rashomon, as the two adversaries provide differing accounts of what led to their disharmony.

It’s also a little bit lame, as the episode doesn’t take much comedic advantage of this promising setup. There’s no attempt to make the junior versions of these two already-classic characters seem at all juvenile in their school flashback scenes, and no real logic to their ancient buddyship. Plankton, it turns out, was bent on world domination even as a wee (or wee-er) lad, and Krabs was a money-grubber almost from the start; the story skips over the promised character development to get to the requisite recipe-stealing visual gags. (Since Krabby Patty proprietor Krabs came out ahead in the end, of course, the moral must be: Greed ultimately trumps blind ambition. Or something.)

Are the message-board muckrakers right, with their contention that one of TV’s all-time greatest kids’ shows is drifting dangerously close to autopilot in this elongated season 4? You won’t find much evidence to the contrary in this overpromoted disappointment. Good thing the voice performances by Doug Lawrence (Plankton) and Clancy Brown (Krabs) continue to be hysterical even when the writing isn’t, and that the mere sound effect of Krabs’ little legs scuttling across the ocean floor is still funny enough by itself to cure your own case of the crabbies. C+Chris Willman
Recommended ages: 5 and up


Dear Zoo
By Rod Campbell
Can this charming board book really be turning 25? I couldn’t believe it when the anniversary edition showed up in my mailbox. It’s always been one of my favorites — a funny, simply told tale, with the bonus of lift-and-see flaps (sturdily made to withstand lots of tugging by little fingers). Even the smallest tots, of course, know that the story couldn’t be true: Real-life zoos don’t send children elephants and giraffes and frogs at home. But that doesn’t make the book any less fun. ATina Jordan
Recommended ages: 1-4

Made You Look
Edited by Marilyn Green
This book brims with an assortment of colorful and great-looking visual puzzles. Because they’ve been created by over 40 different artists, each one looks different from the last; they vary in difficulty, too (I loved the one where I had to find all the gnomes in a photo of a crowded swimming pool — trust me when I say it’s harder than it sounds). Like all of publisher Klutz’s books, this is spiral-bound, meaning it will stay open and stay flat (important when you’re trying to solve a puzzle). It’s also oversized, so — even when you’re trying to pick out gnomes — you don’t have to squint too much. ATJ
Recommended ages: 8 and up

Dangerously Alice
By Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
I didn’t know about the Alice series until a few years ago, and I had an enormous amount of fun gobbling up the books, which follow Alice McKinley from early grade school — where she’s uncertain but brave, despite the fact that she has lost her mother—into high school. In Dangerously Alice — the 22nd volume — she’s almost grown up, a junior, grappling with a litany of adolescent difficulties: her often-prickly stepmother, Sylvia; a friend’s devastating bout with leukemia; homework (she’s a good student); driving; and — more specifically — dating and sex. Though this book lacks the graphic portrayal of teen sex you’ll find in the Judy Blume classic Forever (which teenage girls still pass around, over 30 years after its publication), it’s nonetheless an honest depiction of what it’s like to be a young woman pressured by an older and more experienced boyfriend. I’ve always rooted for the frank, forthright Alice, who has been through so much; she has quickly become one of my favorite characters in children’s and YA books. Naylor, who clearly understands this age group, has accomplished an almost impossible feat: She won’t disappoint either teens or parents in this latest outing. ATJ
Recommended ages: 14 and up