The pattern in the amazingly inventive Tumble Leaf goes something like this: Fig the fox and his best friend Stick the caterpillar live on an old ship on a beach in the magical world of Tumble Leaf. At the top of each episode a crab with one wooden claw grabs something and puts it in a trunk that rests inside a large hole, in the hull known as the finding place. That object becomes the thing by which a task is completed in the episode. Since each show consists of two segments there are two objects per show and both segments start in the exact same way. The object could be a paddle to a kayak or a pocket watch, both in episodes I viewed.
The look of Tumble Leaf is truly wondrous. Amazon has put together a show that has the look and feel of a lighter, gentle, Fantastic Mr. Fox while finding ways to explore math, science, friendship, and love. It does so in such a way that your child won’t even know they are learning, but will retain the lessons there in. The imagination that went into such a show is staggering, mostly because the world itself is so fully realized. The colors are bright and vivid and each place they visit in the world seems pulled right out of a map that never existed.
The lessons all drive the action of the “story” but never point to the educational quality, they just become part of what is happening. The paddle becomes a teeter-totter used to get a turtle out of a hole. In order to get him out they must oil him up using a fruit called a Slimon (I think it’s between a Lemon, lime, and slime) They use the paddle as a scale adding things to one side while the other goes up, allowing one character to reach the fruit, then, once achieved, they oil the turtle, and use the paddle to pry the him out. It is that sort of thing that I found so enchanting about the show and the lessons it imparts.
I will say that the show is so gentle I found myself zoning out from time to time and I think my son might have too. I heard him moan a little at one point. It is not boring but it takes its time getting from place to place, often employing characters that don’t talk and just show us what we need to see to move to the next moment. I think for any preschooler that can be wonderful and risky. At least with my kid, when things get too quiet or slow down too much the show can lose him. Still, the way it goes about introducing characters and imparting it’s lessons is really lovely. The show really achieves something special in that it is evocative of a time and place in all of us that is pure innocence. It might be slow and quiet at times but it is well worth giving it a shot.