Win a fairy-tale trip

"Children have the right to be protected from being exploited as child labour", declares one of the signs in the Fairytale Forest - a worthy sentiment by the UN Rights of the Child, but hopelessly lost on the overworked Gretel doing her best to stay out of the way of the wicked witch.

The tale of the unfortunate brother and sister and the other horror stories dressed as fairy tales - most of them by Hans Christian Andersen or retold by the Brothers Grimm - are the theme of Efteling in south-west Holland which started out 48 years ago as a fairy-tale forest.

It is one of the oldest and largest theme parks in Europe and is a perennial favourite with youngsters, attracting more than 70 million visitors since its inception. And 11 to 13-year-olds in the UK now have a chance to win a visit to the park and books for their schools in a promotion being run by the park and Hodder Children's Books (see the end of this piece).

Not all the attractions are excursions into a fantasy land of fairies and elves. There are dream flights through mystical worlds, from the Misty Mountains, through the Kingdom of Elves and up to the fairy castles in the Realms of Heaven. One of the nicest features is the way the original attractions have been kept alongside more recent additions like the forbidden city of Fata Morgana and the Bird Rok ride.

Although Fata Morgana proises no heart-stopping thrills or spills, it is nevertheless an exciting high-tech boat ride through the inside of a vast Oriental palace where each turn reveals a dazzling scenario with animated characters from 1001 Arabian Nights. Meanwhile, over at the Bird Rok ride, expect a whole different ball game. This dark ride is based on the voyages of Sinbad the sailor, and is a 40-mile-per-hour, pitch-black roller-coaster journey to hellI well, that's what it sounded like from the blood-curdling screams.

Now the competition bit: 11 to 13-year-olds can take part in the Efteling fantasy adventure writing competition where you continue and finish a story in 500 words or less. This competition is being run in conjunction with Hodder Children's Books and can be accessed on the Efteling website at www.efteling.comdocs.enparknavindex.html. The winning author will win a family trip to Efteling, plus the school gets pound;300 worth of books, courtesy of Hodder. The schools of the two runners-up will receive pound;100 of books. The competition, which started last month, runs until July 19.

Park admission is pound;13 and free for under-3s. School groups of at least 20 people pay a discounted fee of pound;9 each. Further details from Efteling UK Office, 17 Rodney Road, Cheltenham, Glos GL50 lHX. Tel: 01242

Maureen McTaggart is a TES staff writer

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