Monday, March 9, 2009

Butterfly in the Sky...

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

... I can fly twice as high...

Sometimes I wonder why I didn't particularly care for Reading Rainbow as a small child. It took me until I was eight or so before I enjoyed the show for the books. Before that, I only liked the field trips. I did always have a thing for the books that featured other cultures (like Native American or Chinese) and would take facts from the books and use them in real life, no lie. And the opening, so great. Both the song and the animation. :)

The show began before I was born, and I was saddened to find out while I was compiling information for this post that it stopped being broadcast in November 2006. For 24 seasons, LeVar would read books to kids, and the show was aimed at getting kids to the library. There was a featurette at the end of every episode that recommended other similar books to the one read that day. There were occasional guest-readers, like Bill Cosby, Michelle Tractenberg, and Hulk Hogan. I'm sad that PBS just couldn't afford to keep going, as the show won 26 Emmys among other awards. But, it was funded heavily be "viewers like you" and while I'd beg my parents every year to pledge something during the PBS telethons, they never did. And I guess other parents gave up, too. :(

While a lot of the books were pretty plain, the later seasons (which I would catch occasionally in college) would include books with themes like poverty and prison, which I think was probably a wake-up call of sorts for the elementary-age viewers. Apparently, the pilot also dealt with financial difficulties, but I haven't seen that one. Reruns ran all the time, so it's kinda bittersweet I never saw the opener.

My Top Ten Favorite Episodes of Reading Rainbow:
10. Perfect the Pig - I really enjoyed the animation in this one. and that fact that Kermit guest-starred. It's about a runt piglet who wants wings.
9. Miss Nelson is Back - kids act up when they have a substitute teacher. oh, and LeVar gets great makeup.
8. Arthur's Eyes - the beginning of the Arthur phenomenon, I imagine. An aarvark that got glasses and dealt with the fear he'd be the geek of the grade.
7. The Bionic Bunny Show - another Arthur special, in a way. Arthur and Buster love Bionic Bunny, and the book talked about how a bunny was made-up to do the show. LeVar showed how he got dressed up for his Star Trek role as well.
6. Unique Monique - a private school has a dress code, and Monique is upset. But she finds a way to show off her style anyway.
5. The Patchwork Quilt - a little girl and her mother take on the family tradition of quilting after grandmother gets sick. It made me wish my grandmother did something really neat that I could learn. Perhaps that's how my interest in my grandmother's genealogy got started...
4. A Chair for My Mother - A family's apartment burns down and the neighborhood helps them save money to get new furniture. Meanwhile, LeVar and some other guys are rehearsing for a musical.
3. Mama Don't Allow - this is an all-time favorite of mine, and one I hope that my future children will love as well. The Weekend Special version also has a special place in my heart. It's set in a bayou of Louisiana, where animals play music (but not at the house, because Mama don't allow that).
2. A Three Hat Day - LeVar visits a hat shop. BUT, when you put on a hat you're transported to a place where someone would wear that hat. A jockey cap takes us to the horse races, an engineer's hat takes us to a model train place, and a goalie's helmet that takes us to the ice! The book is about a man who loves hats and meets his wife in a hat store.

My all-time favorite book that LeVar Burton featured was Meanwhile Back at the Ranch. A farmer is out of town, and we learn about his day while crazy stuff happens back on the ranch as his wife plants potatoes. I really find it hilarious. I can't find an audio, video, or even an image clip of the book, so I'm going to suggest you head over to your local library. The author's name is Trinka Hakes Noble. :)
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