A CD to be treasured

A multimedia fictional sensation


CD-Rom for Acorn Risc OS, Apple Mac and Windows Multimedia PCs, Pounds 58.69 Sherston Software Tel 01666 840433

This multimedia book CD-Rom by Mike Matson aims to bring children's fiction to life in a way no ordinary book can. Designed to support the curriculum for English across upper primary, Rusty's story can be read (and listened to) at three different levels of difficulty.

The story takes place in rural England, and provides plenty of material for map work, and discussing cultural heritage, landscapes, transport, architecture, etc. Pupils will be enraptured by the absorbing world of a young girl, the Rusty Dreamer of the title, as she bravely struggles to overcome the strange object that invades her life and threatens the world.

There's rural appeal, adventure, magic and mysticism in Rusty Dreamer. Using a technique of overlaying drawn animations on photographic backgrounds, this disc has a charm which first became popular with Mike Matson's Guardians of the Greenwood. The text of the story is narrated professionally and the innovative video animation and hundreds of high-quality pictures add up to a truly memorable multimedia book.

The CD offers a brief summary of each of the 24 chapters while the options screen offers the ability to turn speech on or off and adjust the reading level. You can also set the length (in words), which could prove very useful when it comes to reluctant readers.

Schools will welcome the ability to set the appearance of inverted commas and highlighted words, and the facility to turn off the sound to enable reading only. Animation sequences are indicated on screen by a hand icon. A scrolling, Ordnance Survey-style map with more than 100 embedded photographs allows children to explore Rusty's environment. A "key" button turns on a full OS-style map key - such is the attention to detail.

Similarly, at various points through the narrative, picture galleries are encountered. These feature a variety of subjects included to stimulate creative work. This helps set the scene and adds to the credibility of the story. At any stage during the reading, options such as the reading level can be altered without disrupting the flow. Positions can be saved to be reloaded later and all screens can be printed out, which could be useful for developing a wall display.

This is an ambitious project by any standards and brings a new dimension to educational multimedia. Sherston has successfully balanced the visual elements with the text so that one neatly complements the other. It is one of the best multimedia books I have yet encountered and one whose cultural background is firmly planted in this green and pleasant land! Thoroughly recommended.


Sherston stand 260

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