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SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS: ‘Arthur’ will have you feeling fuzzy all over

Okay – so maybe I’m a little biased. Odds are that you might be too. Arthur is a fantastic show! And for many young readers across America, it elicits a certain sentimentality that few animated series have been able to command.
From its inception in the form of a delightful children’s book series to it’s captivating animated series which kicked off twenty years later, Arthur has been captivating children of all ages, adults included.
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Launched in the late seventies by author Marc Brown, the Arthur series of books has been a mainstay of scholastic reading programs in our nation’s elementary schools. At the center of the series is a young aardvark named Arthur Read, his last name being a not so subtle hint that this series of books is focused on promoting youth literacy. As such, many kids became familiar with the core cast of characters at an early age. Prior to the animated series’ debut in 1996, the idea that it would become a long standing and beloved series spanning nineteen seasons and counting, with no end in sight, was a fantastical one. Indeed, it has become a fixture for PBS Kids, and earning the distinction of being the second longest running PBS show, next to Sesame Street, and second longest animated series, next to The Simpsons. For the kids who grew up with the books, seeing your favorite characters go from print to motion is a dream come true. What better way to celebrate nostalgia for a cartoon on your Saturday morning? (answer: none better way – obviously!)
Arthur is your typical 8-year old boy aardvark and he comes across your typical 8-year old type of concerns. Part of the appeal of the series is that it really gets its audience. With topics that relate to teens and preteens alike, this honest and heartfelt show strikes up some serious warm and fuzzy feelings. The series takes on issues that range from the trivial to very sensitive. Examples include: telling tall tales and the repercussions, showing off, internet stardom and and unwanted attention, jealousy and envy, disease and chronic conditions, teasing, bullying and acceptance and understanding.
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Arthur Timothy Read lives with his parents and two sisters in the fictional town of Elwood City, where he attends third grade classes at equally fictional Lakewood Elementary. Okay – so maybe I’m a little biased about Arthur’s town. Elwood City bears more than a passing resemblance to my early stomping grounds of Boston, Massachusetts. That may have a lot to do with the fact that the show is produced by PBS and Boston station WGBH. Arthur’s youngest sister, Kate, is just a baby, while Dora Winifred, also known as D.W., is the middle child of the family who plays a much more active role in the conflicts that arise in Arthur’s life.
Arthur’s circle of friends is comprised of a menagerie of anthropomorphic pals. His best friend, Buster Baxter is a white bunny, his pal Francine Frensky is a Jewish monkey and his buddy Alan “The Brain” Powers is a bear who is of African descent and celebrates Kwanzaa. Whether consciously or not, kids watching this show are given a primer on learning to accept and celebrate differences.
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Now streaming on Netflix are seasons 16 and 17. These two seasons originally aired from 2012 to 2013 and 2013 through 2014, respectively. Each are compromised of a full ten episodes, with each episode containing two full adventures with a live-action interstitial which typically has kids talking to the audience. So if you have a short attention span – no worries. Enjoy one half now and save the other for later! But you won’t want to. You’ll get sucked in!
Season 16 kicks off with a bang in a rare two-parter episode that introduces us to a couple of brand new characters, Ladonna Compson and her brother Bud, young rabbits who moved to Elwood from the dirty south (Louisiana).

Go ahead and give the show a whirl. Bonus points for sharing it with a child or loved one. Extra bonus points for simply sharing it with yourself. Happy Saturday Morning!