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Trolls tussle to create readers

Interactive site becomes latest publishers' weapon in battle to persuade children to buy books. David McNab reports.

FANS of Artemis Fowl - the successful children's book dubbed "Die Hard with fairies" by its author - need wait no longer for a good troll fight.

In the run-up to the release of Eoin Colfer's bestseller in paperback, the publisher Puffin has set up a computer website with a free interactive game that allows young players to battle with their adversaries and receive emails in Gnommish.

The game, which underlines the current high profile of children's literature, has been welcomed by the National Reading Campaign in the run-up to Bedtime Reading Week (March 11-17) and World Book Day on March 14. Campaign organisers believe that computer games and videos are a good way of persuading young people to read.

Puffin is the first publisher to set up an interactive trailer before a book launch.

Artemis Fowl looks set to follow in Harry Potter's magical footprints. It has sold 380,000 copies in hardback in Britain and the US and rights to the film have been bought by the movie giant Miramax. Colfer is set to publish a sequel in June and a third book next year.

Puffin teamed up with advertisers MML and new media agency Underwired to create the free interactive, multi-player computer game launched earlier this month, in the run-up to the paperback's publication on March 8.

Genevieve Clarke, manager of the National Reading Campaign, said: "It's exciting to see children's books making headline news. There's a lot of academic research showing that if children see a film or game about a book, they think about reading it.

"It is about finding links through other sections of the media so a video game could help. This is certainly the case with The Lord of the Rings."

Tolkien's epic saga, which has been made into three films, has spawned a number of video games.

A recent study by the National Literacy Trust found 70 per cent of children who had read a Harry Potter book had been encouraged to go on and read other books.

Neil McClelland, director, said: "Often it takes just one inspirational book to open a child's eyes to the magic of reading. The Harry Potter series appears to have fulfilled this role by encouraging many children to read more, not just about Harry, but in general."

The trust's research showed children who turn to TV, video games and the Internet rather than books for amusement now see reading as an acceptable alternative - not just something that "other people" do.

International, 19 The computer game is available on artemisfowl.co.uk

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