Back to Basics, Building with Bob
    by Fiona Barnes (reader)

If your youngsters are into building -- with blocks or sand or with cardboard boxes or chairs and blankets -- then you might want to introduce them to Bob the Builder who's on cable TV every day. It's a very popular half hour show that originated on the BBC in England and has since taken the under-five, do-it-yourself community in the States by storm. Every day Bob, who is an animated action figure, does a new construction project with his partner Wendy, and their garage full of friendly, animated equipment, like Roley the steam roller; Dizzy and Muck, the dump truck and cement mixer; and Lofty the crane. And each day there are problems to overcome: a load of garden paving stones for Mrs. Potts' front walk is broken, and the team has to figure out how to do the job with the pieces. First there is discouragement, but that is quickly followed by chorus of inspiration: " Can we Fix It? Yes, we can!" And, miraculously, their positive attitude and hard work sees them through every time. The broken stone pathway delights Mrs. Potts, and the crew has learned an important (and frequent) lesson about sticking together and not giving up.

Many of the episodes of "Bob the Builder" are available at video stores, and there is a series of books that retell some of their adventures. There are even books shaped like a saw and a hammer for your youngest carpenters. Bob has a website -- bobthebuilder.com -- where you can catch up on the latest projects, and there's even a new CD, if your crew wants to practice Bob's line dance, or sing along with Wendy's anthem: "Blonde Haired Gal in a Hard Hat." Sir Elton John even joins in for "Crocodile Rock," and you can play the two videos on your computer.

The work Bob, Wendy, and their friends do may take place in a miniature, animated world, but it's pretty close to the way building gets done in reality -- minus, of course, the banged-up thumbs, the windows that really don't fit, or the paint that won't dry. But kids will find out about those home improvement projects soon enough. And with this group's unfailingly cheerful, upbeat example, who knows: this new, young generation of builders may just have a motto that will work for the rest of their lives.

Copyright 2002 John Cech

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Tuesday, 12-Jul-2005 15:01:28 EDT

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."