With an “Ahoy, mateys!” and a warm smile, the leader of a crew of pint-size pirates welcomes viewers to each episode of Jake and the Never Land Pirates (TV Y). Airing mornings on Disney Junior, this popular animated TV series for preschoolers is now in its second season (a third debuts in 2013) and continues to rack up the ratings.
Based on Disney’s Peter Pan franchise, this Annie-Award-winning show depicts the adventures of Jake and his cohorts: Izzy, a girl pirate who has been given a sack of pixie dust by the fairies for use in emergencies; Cubby, the youngest of the bunch and keeper of the Never Land map; and their talking parrot Skully. As they search for treasure or hunt for missing items, often sailing aboard their ship Bucky, the brave buccaneers come into conflict with the dastardly (but entertainingly ineffectual) Captain Hook and his first mate, the more easy-going Mr. Smee.
The children earn gold doubloons for solving each “pirate problem,” counting them up at episode’s end. With a focus on determination, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, the series also incorporates toe-tapping music (including live-action songs performed by the Pirate Band), slap-stick humor, and frequent opportunities for audience participation. A primetime special, Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Jake Saves Bucky (G), premieres on September 19 (International Talk Like a Pirate Day) and will be released on DVD in October.
Young hearties can sail on over to Jake’s website to watch clips from the series, music videos, and full episodes. Also featured are numerous show-related video games that are both entertaining and educational. Introduced by a narrative framework and/or clear directions, the selections emphasize skills such as sorting, counting, color and shape identification, eye-hand coordination, and more. There is plenty of positive reinforcement as the characters cheer on youngsters, and several of the games allow users to progress from level to level (and reward success with gold doubloons). Some of the offerings have a more creative bent (design your own pirate), and coloring sheets and craft projects are also available for downloading.
Kids who love the series will dive right into these colorful volumes starring the familiar characters. The tales follow the format of the show, introducing a problem (usually caused by Captain Hook’s misguided actions), demonstrating how the friends work together to face the challenge, and ending with a clear resolution. In Skipping Day (Random House, 2012; PreS), “A Little Golden Book” appropriate for the very youngest fans, Hook snatches a jump rope from Jake and his pals and ends up in a tangle; however, the kindhearted kids free the captain and show him how to use the rope to have fun. The short and simple narrative is accompanied by soft-hued illustrations that echo the look of the animation, all neatly set off by clean white backdrops, and the book’s small size makes it great for lap-sharing.
Disney Press presents a colorful cache of upbeat tales illustrated with bright-hued cartoon artwork that delightfully depicts the show’s familiar players and island setting. Each book begins with Jake’s trademark greeting, an invitation for readers to join the crew by saying the pirate password (“Yo-ho-ho!”), and “Today’s Pirate Pledge”—a recap of the lesson learned during that particular adventure (e.g., “A good matey does nice things for other people”). The stories end with kudos from the characters for a job well done and a smattering of gold doubloons to be counted. Jake and the Spyglass introduces the cast with full-page portraits and then plunges into fast-paced action. Eyeballing the glow of distant treasure, Hook is unable to locate his own spyglass and steals one from the kids, who must find a way to retrieve it (don’t worry, the light-fingered captain receives his comeuppance from Tick Tock Croc). The book ends with several activity pages (search-and-find, counting, finger-follow mazes, etc.).
Two smaller-size staple-bound picture books take a similar approach. In Let’s Get Jumping!, Hook swipes a pogo stick from the youngsters and manages to end up stuck in a tree (Izzy solves the problem with a dose of fairy dust), and when Cubby’s harmonica goes missing (courtesy of the sneaky caption), the “sea pups” must Follow That Sound! (all Disney, 2012; PreS-Gr 1) to recover the instrument. These inviting books feature vividly illustrated spreads, clearly written narratives sprinkled with dialogue, and smiles all around. Jokes and tongue-in-beak quips from Skully the parrot appear on the bottom corners of the pages.
Part of Disney Press’s “World of Reading” series, two “Level Pre-1” titles incorporate rebus images into the lines of large-size text to encourage youngsters to follow along. Paired with the word they represent, these pictographs are repeated frequently throughout the short and simple narratives, helping kids to make connections between objects and sequences of letters. It’s Hook’s birthday and the “puny pirates” try do something nice, but when The Croc Takes the Cake, they must come up with a way to save the day. Thinking it’s treasure, the greedy Captain snatches a golden egg from the nest of two humming bird parents, and Jake Hatches a Plan (both 2012; Pres-K) to get it back safe and sound. Both tales feature easy-to-follow plots, and the accompanying artwork adds to the action and humor while providing visual clues to support the storytelling. Separate sentences in a smaller font prompt kids to seek out or count objects in the pictures, nudging them to take a closer look and interpret the visual details more carefully. The high-interest subject matter and appealing format of these books will help pre-readers take their first steps toward reading.
POSNER-SANCHEZ, Andrea, adapt. Jake and the Never Land Pirates: A Skipping Day. illus. by Stefania Fiorillo, Raffaella Seccia, & Gianluca Barone. Random/Golden Books. 2012. Tr $3.99. ISBN 978-0-7364-3029-6.
LA ROSE, Melinda. Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Jake and the Spyglass. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-142314944-6.
_____. Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Let’s Get Jumping! pap. $3.99. ISBN 978-142314924-8.
_____. Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Follow That Sound! pap. $3.99. ISBN 978-142314943-9.
_____. Jake and the Never Land Pirates: The Croc Takes the Cake. “World of Reading.” pap. $3.99. ISBN 978-142315543-0.
_____. Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Jake Hatches a Plan. “World of Reading.” pap. $3.99. ISBN 978-142315542-3.
ea vol: illus. by Alan Batson. Disney Pr. 2012.
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