Classic Literature for Kids, On Television

After work yesterday I went over to babysit for/spend some time with my niece (age 4) and nephew (age 1). (Happily, they live about five minutes from my office, and I can do this fairly often.)

Once the baby fell asleep, and my niece was bathed and fed, she and I settled down to watch a little more TV than usual, a little later than usual. Thus we were introduced to the “Wishbone” series on PBS. Now, I consider myself a major influence on my niece’s library (and on her very gratifying interest in stories and poems). But even I was stunned, and then stuttering, as I tried to explain the narrative of A Tale of Two Cities–recast with a talking dog facing execution at the guillotine–to someone who hasn’t yet started kindergarten.

Apparently “Wishbone” was pretty popular in the mid-late 1990s (when I had no real reason to be watching children’s television). I can’t help thinking that creative as it may be, it just doesn’t compare to a PBS favorite from my childhood, which introduced me to work by Charles Dickens: “Once Upon a Classic.” Any fellow fans of that wonderful show out there?