- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 12, 2005

Children can get into the spirit of Irish American Heritage month and St. Patrick’s Day with the help of some animal friends as they visit a cyber-stop extending the fun of a popular PBS Kids program.

The computer-generated 3-D cartoon world of Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks finds Grandpa Piggley taking his grandchildren from the bustle of a 21st-century city back to his youth. He brings to life some comical adventures that occurred on Raloo Farm in the Irish village of Tara in the 1950s.

The Web site mixes some of the show’s problem-solving messages with plenty of its colorful characters while presenting an activity-laden multimedia experience for the family’s young leprechauns.

Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks

Site address: https://pbskids.org/jakers

Creator: Entara, a children’s entertainment company based in London, which holds the rights to and manages the Jakers franchise worldwide, developed and maintains the site.

Creator quotable: “We created this site so that fans could visit Piggley’s world any time of day or night,” says Louisa Stretton, chief operating officer of Entara.

“This is a place where children can continue the adventures they’ve enjoyed on the TV series, while learning more about and bonding with their favorite characters through games and activities. At the same time, we wanted to provide parents, caregivers and teachers with more information about the entertaining and educational aspects of the series and to offer a variety of activities and tools that facilitate quality time with their kids — both on and off the computer.”

Word from the Webwise: Children 4 to 7 years old definitely will be exclaiming “jakers” (an Irish expression that means “amazing”) as they are introduced to the mischievous pig, Piggley Winks, and his best friends, Fernando Toro the bull and Dannan O’Mallard the duck.

Through a quartet of sections — Stories, Games, Friends and Printables — visitors will find plenty to keep them busy as they interact with the program’s stars and the site’s beautiful environments.

I would begin with Friends to learn about 20 of the show’s characters through a trading-card-type presentation that reveals a short dossier on each along with a color photo that animates a bit when clicked upon. The cards also can be printed to create an immediate collection to impress pals.

Next, Stories provides a quartet of interactive, 10-page books that visitors can read and flip through. They offer a glimpse into the charm of Tara and its residents through images from the television show and narration by Grandpa Piggley with his true Irish brogue.

Those in the mood for challenges will appreciate the 10 Games, each with multiple levels, that range in difficulty from singing along with the show’s theme song to balancing barnyard animals on a seesaw to guiding Piggley as he catches and stores eggs.

Finally, Printables combines art projects and a bit of educational fare within and away from the computer as visitors can enjoy activities such as connecting the dots, coloring characters, developing a family tree and sending two types of electronic postcards.

Ease of use: Visitors should have a high-speed connection and the latest Macromedia Flash and Adobe Acrobat plug-ins.

Don’t miss: I love the Games, and my favorite easily was Fix-It, which involves putting together a dozen or so objects broken by Piggley. Players simply drag item pieces over a template to reassemble them as a clock keeps track of the progress. Once all the pieces are back together, the child can print out a certificate of completion that also lists the time it took to finish the multilevel puzzle.

Family activity: A bonanza of projects also can be found under the site’s Caregivers section. Parents should look to the subsections to find ways to creatively stimulate their offspring, a recommended reading list, and instructions on away-from-the-computer fun such as performing a play, developing a comic book and constructing an item for their favorite character.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: I am surprised the site offers no facts on Ireland, nothing on the history of Irish-American culture and no explanations for many of the items peppering pages. As a place for youngsters to be artistic and practice some logic skills for a couple of hours, however, the Jakers’ Web destination works fine.

Overall grade: B

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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