”Flight 29 Down”: ”Lost” for little ones
Flight 29 Down
(Discovery Kids, Monday-Saturday at 8 and 11 PM ET. New episodes on Saturdays)
The teen survivors of a small plane crash are decidedly of two mindsets: There are those who want to make their stay on an island off of Guam as comfy-cozy as possible by hauling their burnt-out plane to the camp site for shelter, and there are those who want to focus on hauling their collective booties off the island altogether. The students who were stranded on the way to an eco-adventure trip include nice-boy Nathan (High School Musical’s Corbin Bleu), who’s madly ”in like” with Daley (Hallee Hirsch, pictured with Bleu); guitar-playing bad boy Jackson, who’s crushing on Legally Blondish Taylor; lazy boy Eric; Daley’s clever little brother Lex; and practical nice girl Melissa, who’s holding a candle for Jackson.
With adolescent hormones in full rage, it’s a wonder they have time to worry about survival — but survive they do, with lessons along the way on how to make fire, get safe drinking water, and gather food, along with the much larger issues of teamwork, democracy, debating, voting, and getting along. They manage well as a team until one survivor of the wreck returns from a different part of the island with a personal agenda. Then no one can agree on anything (kill the chicken, or keep it for eggs?) Now in its second season, Flight 29 Down is a tamer version of Lost — perfect for kids, and just as addictive as its adult counterpart. If you want to catch up on this season’s episodes before the March 10 cliffhanger at 8 PM, there’ll be a marathon session that day from noon-6 PM. A-—Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 6 and up
My Life As A Child
(TLC, Mondays at 7 PM ET)
Parents always want to know what our kids think about the big, and not-so-big, issues in their lives. Maybe we should just give them a digital recorder, sit back, and watch the show. The content that came from the 20 children featured in this six-episode documentary series is as frank and engaging as the work of any Oscar nominee. Each child taped himself and his family for about four months, then TLC structured the results, grouping the kids together by themes such as hopes and hurdles or family issues.
From poverty to single parenthood to home schooling, there’s little that the series doesn’t touch on. Madison, eight, tries passionately to make others understand that her family is no different from anyone else’s just because she has two mommies. Joshua, seven, listens to gunshots ringing out in his Baltimore neighborhood while his mother and grandmother strive to give him a better life. Not all of the children seem like they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders (there’s an on-the-rise seven-year-old concert pianist and an eight-year-old author), but just about all of them seem born to be in front of the camera. And they already know they have a story to tell. A —Abby West
Recommended ages: 6 and up
Get Up & Dance!
Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang (Whispersquish)
The battle between bands angling to be junior’s first rock group in your household is getting to be a fierce one. If your tots are overdue for induction into the ways of boogie, my first and foremost nomination is Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang, whose legend is great among the Southern California parental intelligentsia (and, regretfully, a little less so in other parts of the country. Their 2003 self-titled debut still ranks for me among the all-time greatest kids’ pop albums, and if this follow-up (not counting a Christmas CD and live DVD) isn’t quite as nonstop genius as the first one, it’s close enough for rock ‘n’ stroll.
Several band members have night jobs on the L.A. indie-rock scene, including Gwendolyn — who, in her grown-up gigs, doesn’t actually wear pigtails and knee-high stockings and grin from ear to ear — and drummer/co-writer/producer Brandon Jay, a member of the acclaimed group the 88. But part of what I love about the Good Time Gang is their complete lack of guile. Much as I love the kids’ discs by They Might Be Giants or Dan Zanes, you can’t help wondering how much of the sly humor and/or roots-music consciousness is really aimed at, or at least better enjoyed by, alterna-daddies and mommies. Gwendolyn and co. offer full, unpatronizing immersion into the positive mindset of a particularly sunny 5-year-old; what nabs the adults are some terrific power-pop melodies.
This effort focuses on the audience participation numbers that have been a staple of the band’s matinee sets for a while (”Red Means Stop,” ”Run Baby Run,” etc. — and no, the album’s title isn’t rhetorical, so bedtime playings aren’t advised), as well as less frantic, rainy-day fare like ”I Can Read,” and a ballad about snuggling. More than I’d noticed with the debut, this album seems aimed a bit more squarely at preschoolers and kindergartners than older kids… but don’t tell that to my elementary school daughter, who isn’t about to give them up. Me, neither. A- —Chris Willman
Recommended ages: 2 and up
Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere!
By Bob Barner
Who doesn’t like penguins? In his endearing illustrations, Barner has managed to capture the essence of their cuteness — whatever it is that makes the funny, chubby little creatures so irresistible. But I liked his text, too, which informs little ones without a whiff of condescension (”Daddies warm the fragile eggs with tender special care”; ”Noisy penguins waddle and toboggan to the sea”). A —Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 3-7
The Day My Mother Left
By James Prosek
Jeremy has always known that his mom Phoebe is a little crazy. But the night she drinks too much at a dinner party — and throws up all over the table — sends events spiraling to new lows, and before long she’s moved out. Though Jeremy’s dad, Carl, pins the blame on Phoebe, it is clear their problems have been a long time in the making. Carl’s treatment of women — first Phoebe and later his fiancée Susan — has never been his strong suit. Yet he is a good dad, loving Jeremy and his big sister without reservation, trying to make up for their mother’s loss. When, on Jeremy’s eleventh birthday, Susan leaves the dinner table in a snit, his dad gets the cake, lights the candles, and sings to him, all alone. Jeremy finds solace in all kinds of things: fishing with his uncle John, playing hockey with his friend Stephen, but most of all, in drawing and painting birds. His growing understanding of his artistic talent, and how it can shore him up and make him stronger, is the message of the book, and it’s conveyed in simple, powerful prose. A —TJ
Recommended ages: 9 and up