TOM SAWYER AND PETER PAN. CD-Roms for Windows MPC Macintosh, Acorn, PC 486Pounds 19.99 eachEuropress, Europa House, Adlington Park, Macclesfield SK10 4NPTel: 01625 859333
While many of the ripping yarns my generation read as children now seem politically suspect, they still have excellent story value. Europress has bravely released some of these controversial books, such as Tom Sawyer, which some groups in America have attempted to ban because of its racist language.
Europress has abridged this version to avoid offence and it has been sensitively done, retaining the feel of the original, with the exciting bits left in. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn mooch about in gloomy graveyards, witness horrible scenes or find themselves in labyrinthine cellars as they get into scrapes and adventures.
An earlier title in the Living Books series, Peter Pan by J M Barrie, is similarly abridged and still stands as an exciting story for children, even if the gender roles don't make it the kind of book that promotes equal opportunities.
There are now a number of titles in the Living Classics series and from an English teacher's point of view these are a rather strange mix. But it's a way of bringing the classics to life for children who may not otherwise have access to them because of the difficulty of the language.
There is still some integrity in the abridged text and it isn't patronisingly easy. There is a detailed background on the author's life which is helpful for research, and the lively graphics support the text for readers. However, the games included are of an arcade nature and are becoming more so, with a full interactive game in Tom Sawyer, which doesn't really contribute anything to the story.
It's possible that Europress is trying to appeal to both parents and children with these products. Children will be happy to use the CD-Roms because of the games, while parents buy them because they are classic books and feel educational.
The Living Classics are a suitable, reasonably-priced addition to primary and secondary libraries, but teachers need to check on their content before giving them to children, so as to guide their use.