by Michelle Erica Green

This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.

Grade: A-
Network: PBS
Best For Ages: 2-5, 6-8

This animated series centers around a group of friendly dragons and the human kids who visit their realm. DRAGON TALES is aimed at preschoolers, but has enough humor to appeal to slightly older children as well. The lessons learned about cooperating and learning from mistakes are pretty basic, but told with subtlety and wit.

Parental Advisory:
Educational Value: The dragons imagine becoming heroes but must first overcome personal obstacles, such as shyness and unwillingness to share. Kids explore fears like failing at responsibilities and not being able to follow directions.

Entertainment Value: In most episodes, the childlike dragons get themselves into mild trouble and seek help from the kids. Zak and Wheezie--a two-headed dragon--bicker constantly but comically. The animation is simple, bright, and colorful.

Frightening Situations: The show intentionally confronts things that are scary to young children, like dark places and being alone.

Violence: The dragons occasionally get into physical conflicts, though no one gets hurt.

"I wish, I wish with all my heart/To fly with dragons in a land apart," chant six-year-old Emmy and four-year-old Max, and whoosh--they're in magical Dragon Land. The kids rendezvous with childlike dragons and their teacher Quetzal, a Quetzalcoatl (Mexican) dragon, who guides the young creatures as they learn to work and play together.

In each episode, one of the dragons learns a lesson or makes a discovery. The dragons are rewarded for overcoming their weaknesses by glowing badges that light up--Ord for showing courage, Cassie for feeling confident, Zak and Wheezie for getting along together. PETE'S DRAGON fans enjoy DRAGON TALES.

The series delivers its lessons with creativity and flair, and does less lecturing than "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" or "Bear In The Big Blue House." Older children who are bored with "Barney" willingly put up with "babyish" behavior from the dragons because they like the stories set in a faraway land. Two six-year-olds cheerfully mocked Ord's childish behavior in one episode but sat entranced through a second to watch his adventures in a forest.

One three-year-old viewer said Ord and the twins are the funniest when they have tantrums--which they do rather often. Ord acts out because he's afraid, and the two-headed Zak and Wheezie don't always like to cooperate. The emotions of the young dragons are very easy for preschoolers to relate to, and provide some context for children to discuss their own fears and concerns with one another and with adults.

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