One of the best things about being a parent is getting to read kids books again, especially since the current crop of books are taking a page from shows like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by ensuring they engage and entertain the supervising adults as much as they engage and entertain (and hopefully educate) the kids. Amazon Studios’ latest series Bookaboo celebrates the act of reading to our kids, with a stream of celebrities taking turns to read a book to the title character, a puppet dog who plays the drums in a rock band, but who insists that he must have “a story a day, or I can’t play!”
Amazon’s incarnation of Bookaboo is a remake of the original show, which launched in the United Kingdom in 2009, also airing in Australia and Canada. Each 20-minute episode is split into two segments, each of which features a guest star bringing the “Bookabag” to our temperamental canine rockstar and reading the book inside it so Bookaboo can rock out at his concert while the star dances along (or at least tries to). While the guest star reads, the book’s illustrations are brought to life in limited animation, reminding me of the way Scholastic would adapt and animate their books-on-DVD series. Like many pre-school kids shows, Bookaboo follows a very strict formula, but it ends up being as comforting as a regular bedtime ritual. I also found that some of the later episodes seemed a little padded up front, with Bookaboo engaging in a bit of silliness before the guest star appears. Some of these bits ran long enough to start wearing out their welcome, but I suppose some extra business might have been necessary for the shorter books.
I’m probably revealing much about my viewing habits by noting that I have no idea who the show’s celebrity guests are unless they’ve voiced a superhero or a ThunderCat, or they’ve been in a sci-fi/superhero tentpole movie. Or they’re an astronaut-made-famous-on-social-media, as in the case of Chris Hadfield. All the guests on the screener episodes we received from Amazon were game to play along with Bookaboo, though some are definitely more animated than others. Personal favorites include actor Michael Sheen reading Sir Lillypad with great gusto; Tamara Taylor reading Little Red and the Hungry Lion, a delightfully sassy remix of a familiar fairy tale; Adam “Edge” Copeland gleefully digging into Monsters Love Underpants; Emmanuelle Chriqui demonstrating her vocal range and her quirky sense of humor reading I Don’t Want to Be a Frog; and the aforementioned Chris Hadfield reading his own book The Darkest Dark, which is inspirational on multiple levels.
Series creator Lucy Goodman created Bookaboo as a counter against a global decline in parents reading to kids at home. I wonder if putting celebrities on TV reading kids books aloud ends up substituting for parents reading to kids as much as it encourages or supplements it. I also can’t help but notice how Amazon encourages viewers to read along with books from the show, which are all conveniently for sale on Amazon (though, to be fair, the credits note that 1,000 books per episode will be donated to children in need, just as on the original show). However, I can’t find myself getting too worked up over either of my idle musings because Bookaboo is such an adorable, charming delight of a show.