The first Topsy and Tim books were launched in 1959. Now they are alive and kicking in multimedia versions of some of the more popular titles. Topsy and Tim at Granny and Grandpa's and Topsy and Tim at the Supermarket have been developed by Europress for Penguin Books and are delightfully produced to a high standard, adding an extra dimension to the books without detracting from the original texts.
These stories by Jean and Gareth Adamson feel rather old-fashioned but are none the worse for that. Topsy and Tim at the Supermarket is the story of a family shopping trip, while Topsy and Tim at Granny and Grandpa's finds the children discovering their mother's old toys and secret hideaway with their rosy-cheeked Granny and absent-minded Grandpa.
The talking books follow what has become a familiar format, but the design is clean and unfussy and easy for young children to use. Individual words can also be magnified and spoken, developing early reading skills. The text is read in pleasant, friendly voices, with each word highlighted as it is read. The titles come with full CD audio.
Some pages of the books, but thankfully not all, contain hidden animation which children can explore by searching with their mouse. I enjoyed a sequence where the woman on the supermarket till has her conventional shampoo and set hairstyle transformed into a bright blue quiff. The interaction is appropriate and contributes to the main narrative and would stimulate talk and group discussion where children were working together with the program.
The main menu allows you to move easily between the story and different games, and it is easy to select any particular page in the story. An exit button has been thoughtfully provided on every page. I was tempted to select this a few times, as turning to the next screen was rather slow on my 48633mhz RM machine, but Europress says that this is something that has been corrected in the recently-released versions.
There are several activities included with the CD-Rom: a jigsaw game encourages shape recognition, while a painting activity will help with recognising colours. A further two games with each program are based on the characters in the stories and add to the understanding and enjoyment, as well as supporting learning.
Topsy and Tim at the Supermarket includes a game which involves recognising coins and putting them in the slot to allow Topsy and Tim to ride on a mechanical rocket. Topsy and Tim at Granny and Grandpa's has a game where children can put different dressing up clothes on Topsy and Tim.
These multimedia books are to be recommended for the nursery and primary classroom.