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Spider-kissing trend in the making

Sheila Rae the Brave. "Talking book" multimedia CD-Rom for Windows and Macintosh, Pounds 29.78, ex VAT and carriage. BroderbundRandom House. From TAG: 01474 357350.

How many of us would kiss a spider? It's a piece of cake for Sheila Rae the Brave, the latest character to come alive in a talking book. This charming story is a tale of sisterly love and a brave mouse, who finds she isn't so brave when she gets lost on her way home from school.

Sheila Rae thinks she isn't afraid of anything. She beats up the imaginary monsters in her younger sister's cupboards and walks on all the cracks in the pavements. When her brave stunts on a mountain bike bring adulation from a crowd of boys, the fame starts to go to her head. She decides she is brave enough to go home from school a different way, and gets lost.

Her bravery soon deserts her and Sheila Rae starts seeing imaginary creatures. But Louise, her younger sister, follows her and has her moment of triumph as she leads the way home. Sheila Rae, who was inclined to mock her sister, now follows her, chastened, as Louise revels in her newly found bravery.

This is a delightful CD-Rom, beautifully produced with animations that contribute something to the story at every level. Each scene has similar characters. For example, there is often a cat somewhere, and a pair of birds mirror the sisters' togetherness as the story progresses. There is an emphasis on co-operation, which would offer a good starting point for talking about feelings and relationships.

The voices of Sheila Rae and her sister are charming and contribute to an understanding of their characters. My version had UK English voices, but the voices are also available in German and French, making this suitable for bilingual pupils or those learning a language.

As well as the story, there are songs that can be played, karaoke style, and a map game where children help Sheila Rae to follow clues on a treasure hunt around a garden. The songs have been developed to a high standard. Some words change into pictures as they are sung, which would help beginner readers.

Sheila Rae the Brave is a must for any infant or primary classroom. Let's just hope it doesn't start a classroom trend in spider kissing!

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