Sunday, November 8, 2009

Busytown Mysteries TV Series & Website Review

One of my favorite books growing up was Richard Scarry's Best Mother Goose Ever, I can still close my eyes and see the soft water colored hued illustrations that I loved. I also remember hunting for Gold Bug on every page of my younger brother's much loved copy of Car Trucks and Things that Go. The action-packed layouts, many with everything labeled, provided hours of fun and learning for us both.

Richard Scarry's books have sold over 150 million copies and have been translated into 30 languages over the last 40 years. Now his endearing characters have been brought to life on the new television show, Busytown Mysteries. You can see it Saturday mornings on CBS, click here to find out what time it airs on your local channel.Yesterday, ER and I watched the episodes One2OneNetwork sent us to review. We both enjoyed seeing the two eleven minute stories that make up an episode of Busytown Mysteries. I thought the translation of Scarry's trademark style of illustration from book to on screen was very faithful. While I am sure it's done digitally, I liked how an effort was made to give parts a hand illustrated look.

I also liked the stories, that feature classic characters who engage viewers with fun storylines and lovable characters, while introducing them to deductive reasoning skills. Who? What? When? Where? Why? Huckle and Sally Cat work together, share, and encourage one another while solving problems. While Pig Will and Pig Won't provide a good foil for them and show how NOT to get along and work well together.

There was lots of thinking aloud and observations made by the characters during both episodes and it was nice how Gold Bug acts as a reporter and summarizes the action at various points. I also liked how near the end of the episodes what had happened was reviewed as well as the steps to how the problems was solved. The mystery concept is a great one, especially since who, what, when, where, and why vocabulary are specifically reinforced. There's also a companion website, that entertains and educates fans at home with the fun. At the interactive site, kids can explore different neighborhoods in Busytown, interact with the Busytown characters and play 14 games and activities designed for preschoolers, including interactive games, a Fan Club and “My First Email,” which lets your child email their progress to pre-approved friends and family addresses.

ER really liked getting to choose her character and the car it drives around BusyTown. There were lots of fun places to go. She especially like the park, where you can play a matching game, watch episodes of the show, make a collage you can print, save, or email, and visit the library. At the library you can click on different things you see around BusyTown that are shown on the bookshelves. As you click on it the word appears, it's kind of like the virtual equvalent of how all the pictures are labled in Scarry's books.
The Printshop in the Downtown was also a big hit, you can print out pictures to color and your collages there. However, I could not get them to print out full sized on the paper, instead each one printed on the top left corner, only a fourth of the page size. We also had trouble with the website freezing a few times, mainly when leaving one neighborhood and going back to the map page.

I found the activities at Busytown Mysteries to be very appropriate for preschoolers. There was a nice variety overall. A lot are purely for fun, like changing up the car you drive around and drawing. I do wish that there was a letter and a number focused activity, that level of learning seems to be skipped. Some activities like matching are prereadiness skills but then there is the word activity at the library. There kids will see and hear the whole word. I'd have liked it better if it spelled out the word with the letter being said hightlighted.

The Countryside had the most learning games, you can learn about growing and plant virtual flowers and sort recycleables. I also liked how you need to look for baby butterflies and things to pick up for your collage throughout the different neighborhoods.

The overall look of the website is very nicely done and it's a safe online environment for kids, a good free resource. I think in a few more months ER will really love it. She's just over three and needs a ittle bit more patience to sit through the page loading and better fine motor skills so she can use the mouse better.

If you're a big Richard Scarry fan, be sure to watch Busytown Mysteries, airing on Saturday morning. In the meantime, visit the Busytown Mysteries website and let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: Thank you to One2One Network and Cookie Jar TV for this review opportunity. A DVD episode was provided, and the opinions expressed in this review are personal and unbiased.

1 Friends Said:

maryanne said...

I just signed up to review this after playing around on their website. We haven't gotten our DVD yet, but it was fun to read what you thought of the online site and the episodes.

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