Review: PBS Kids’ ‘Peg + Cat’ takes on math — and problem solved
“Peg + Cat,” pronounced “Peg Plus Cat,” a new, math-themed cartoon, will be added Monday to PBS Kids, the preschool lineup that already includes “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That” and “Curious George.” (Added — get it?)
It is the perky product of a collaboration between Billy Aronson (“Postcards From Buster”) and Jennifer Oxley (the super-superb “Wonder Pets”) and comes from the Fred Rogers Co., which is not quite the same thing as saying that Mr. Rogers made it. But it’s as close as you’re going to get anymore.
Peg is a little girl; Cat is a cat. They have adventures in likely and unlikely places (a bedroom, a farm, outer space, some medieval mythological something or other) and face problems that require the use of mathematical concepts. The art is childlike, and everything is rendered as if hand-drawn on graph paper with crayons and markers and colored pencils and watercolors. Peg sometimes draws on her own background.
They count. They gather chickens in groups of 10 to get to 100. One hundred, which is “way more than 10" has a kind of totemic power here. It is as good as a zillion when you’re just getting the hang of five, which is the number Peg counts down from when she is “totally freaking out,” which is pretty often.
They note the relative sizes of pieces of pie, though in my experience, that is something that children are naturally good at.
They compare shapes. (That’s geometry.) They distinguish circles from spheres, but as the cartoon is two-dimensional the spheres are technically ovals. It is probably pointless and even counterproductive to mention that to any kids you may be watching alongside.
Along with Peg and Cat, recurring characters include Ramon, who drops in like Mr. Green Jeans; a big-mouthed space monster attracted to small yellow things (he wants to eat some baby chicks but is distracted with baby corn); and a pig who sings opera. As this puts me in mind of “Wonder Pets,” it is my favorite part of the show.
There are songs. (And Peg plays the ukulele, as does musical director J. Walter Hawkes, also from “Wonder Pets.”) You will hear a lot of one that goes “Problem solved/ The problem is solved/ We solved the problem/ Problem solved.”
Apart from the fact that the chickens are kept in a coop the size of a washing machine (they do get out regularly) and the pig is somewhat unfairly abused (“I know you’re not used to solving problems, because you’re a pig”), I have nothing bad to say about this show. I felt I had a pretty good handle on the math concepts, mostly, and look forward to learning more.
‘Peg + Cat’
When: 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday
When: 10:30 a.m. Monday
Rating: TV-Y (suitable for young children)
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