Magic and modern

10th October 1997 at 01:00
Lulu's Enchanted Book. CD-Rom for Multimedia PC and Apple Mac, Pounds 39.95 (ex VAT). Wayland Multimedia, 61 Western Avenue, Hove, East Sussex BN3 1JD. Tel: 01273 722561.

Many good things are inspired by parents wanting to create something special for their children. Lulu's Enchanted Book is a delightful interactive story inspired by a father's desire to write a story for his daughter. While many interactive books have been developed around existing stories, Lulu's Enchanted Book was written as a multimedia title from the start.

Lulu is a beautiful but lonely princess who lives within the pages of a book. She amuses herself within the walls of her castle, but wishes she had a friend. One day, a spaceship from the planet falls into her book from the planet Solus. A robot called Mnemo, the product of a young inventor called Megalo Polo, emerges and leads her off on glamorous adventures to different part of the world.

This book follows the traditional conventions of the genre, with hot spots for readers to explore, but the beautiful illustrations and atmospheric music give this title an extra magical quality. Instead of wanting to move on quickly, my young testers clicked on the same spots over and over again. As you click on a scene of Lulu's palace, the colours in the garden and in the sky change and you realise that you are looking at the changing seasons. In another scene Lulu is looking bored in the palace gardens. She taps her feet and brushes down her dress until you notice an old gramophone and put a record on the turntable.

Lulu dances to the music and as each different record is selected her dance changes from modern to waltz, hula to ballet.

The illustrations in this title have a timeless, magical feel and there is great attention to detail. For example, the mouse pointer changes in every scene, sometimes a butterfly, sometimes a star. Haunting music accompanies each illustration. As you move through the program there is the satisfying sound of pages turning. The title captures the intimate feel of being curled up with a real book and yet adds an extra dimension.

Many of the interactive books to date have been for younger children, but the vocabulary in this book is quite difficult and it would therefore appeal to older readers, although younger children can have the story read to them. A feature which supports understanding is that clicking on a paragraph of text will bring up an interactive illustration which directly supports the narrative in the paragraph and this is a useful feature for pupils with special needs or whose first language is not English. The story is read aloud in Ray Brook's reassuring tones.

My only criticism of this story would lie in its length of 119 pages and its rather obscure plot. The idea that Lulu and Mnemo are moving within the confines of a book becomes more and more complicated as Mnemo struggles to think of ways to get Lucy out of the book without damaging her two-dimensional state.

When Mnemo starts talking about his logic parameters and extrudomorphosis, I began to switch off. The ending of the story is also rather inconclusive and all children need a satisfying end to any story, multimedia or otherwise.

Despite these criticisms, Lulu's Enchanted Book should definitely have a place within an upper primary or lower secondary classroom. It could also be used as a stimulus for creative writing and would appeal to both sexes. This is new technology working old fashioned magic.

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