''High School Musical'''s Corbin Bleu does double dutch, ''Cyberchase'' makes math fun and a new book helps kids learn about Islam
Jump In!: Freestyle Edition
G, 85 mins., 2007
Only in the magical world of Disney would an all-American teenage boy who’s on the path to local boxing fame suddenly find a passion for competitive double-Dutch jump rope, and somehow the world seems a better place for it. That stretch is made not only plausible but pleasurable by the acting chops of good-natured cutie Corbin Bleu (High School Musical) as the pugilistic lead and Akeelah and the Bee‘s old soul Keke Palmer as the neighbor who introduces him to the sport. Naturally, there are lessons for our hero to learn and fears for him to overcome — such as public humiliation and the disappointment of dear old Dad, played by Bleu’s real-life father, David Reivers. (And, of course, there’s the children’s-movie staple of the dead mother.) But the jump-rope-competition scenes, with their intricate steps and tricks, are full of the kind of nonstop, whirling-dervish action that can keep parents and kids alike engaged. And if everyone learns a little something about personal choice, gender equality, or teamwork along the way, so much the better.
Bonus: Kids can get into the groove with a step-by-step double-Dutch primer. (And parents can make sure they try it outside and away from Grandma’s china.) A — Abby West
Recommended ages: 5 and up
Does My Head Look Big in This?
By Randa Abdel Fattah
Like most girls in this book’s leafy Melbourne, Australia, suburb, Amal likes studying, shopping, and text-messaging friends. But when she decides to wear a Muslim scarf called a hijab, she finds prejudice everywhere — even at her ritzy private school, where she refuses to lecture on Islamic terrorists: ”Maybe somebody else could talk about the IRA,” she says. ”I’m just dying to understand how the Bible could allow people to throw bombs and still go to church.” A fascinating look at Islam. A — Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 9-14
PBS, Check Local Listings
Listening to the not-exactly-easy-on-the-ears voice of star Gilbert Gottfried first thing in the morning may not be what you’d want with your latte, but it’s worth the sacrifice. Now in its fifth season, Cyberchase provides a dose of good-for-you TV without kids even realizing it — they’re so wrapped up in kid-oriented outer-space drama they don’t even register they’re learning about parallelograms, fractions, money, robotic reasoning, and so on. B+ — Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 6-11