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Review CornerSoftware
I Spy Junior: Puppet Playhouse
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
Want to help hone your preschooler’s listening and observation skills? Get this clever and playful CD-ROM that brings the popular I Spy series to the screen in an interactive way for little ones.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 3-5 yrs   Subject: Early Learning  Brand: Scholastic
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
I Spy Jr: Puppet Playhouse Product Overview
The stage is set and the puppets are ready to interact with your preschooler, helping to develop important listening and observation skills. I Spy Junior Puppet Playhouse consists of 4 puppet shows à la I Spy – complete with simple riddles and items to find in a story setting. Additionally, there is a make-your-own I Spy activity, a sorting game, and a puppet maker activity to help round out this exciting CD-ROM experience.

If you have kids, chances are high that you know about the I Spy series of books created by Jean Marzallo and Walter Wick. In this reviewer’s opinion, just as every family’s home is in need of at least one I Spy book, no family's software library is complete without at least one I Spy CD-ROM. I Spy Junior was the first title that brought this adorable series to the computer screen for preschoolers.

The puppet shows are excellent. In The Lost Baby Whale, a helpful sea horse and a clever seal help a baby whale find his mother, and along the way, kids listen to the story's simple rhymes and discover the items "hiding" in the detailed, vibrant, puppet-stage settings. Words can be highlighted and listened to, and objects animate delightfully when kids discover them. Other puppet shows involve children interactively in a similar fashion as they help a princess recover her crown that was stolen by a sneaky dragon, discover how the different seasons of the year affect a friendly tree, and follow a ball through a city, the circus, and a child’s bedroom.

In the Prop Box activity, preschoolers sort objects such as sea shells, rocks, and trucks into two different bins. More bins are added in the next 2 levels for extra sorting challenges. Puppet Maker requires children to listen carefully to simple instructions as they build various puppets out of common household items and even food. For example, a plate puppet might require 2 strawberry eyes, 2 candy ears, a lemon slice mouth, and so on. Cute little rhymes follow a completed puppet activity, such as "It would be a shame to dine, on a plate this fine." The puppets are cute and might just inspire kids to make their own for an away-from-the-computer craft idea.

Make Your Own I Spy is an adorable creative activity that allows children to select from a variety of puppet stage backgrounds, add props and searchable items from a wide assortment of "stamps", and print out their very own I Spy pages. Some of the pre-made backgrounds contain I Spy riddles. Testers loved printing their pages and letting family members find the objects they "hid".

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98/2000, a Pentium 90 processor, 16 Mb RAM, and 4X CD ROM. Mac users require a Power PC 90 MHz or faster, System 7.6.1, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD ROM. It requires minimum of 10 MB of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
word-object association, storytelling, rhythm and rhyming, counting, number recognition, sorting, classifying, visual discrimination, cause & effect relationships, creativity, listening, following directions, colors

Educational Value
Preschoolers will develop their listening, sorting, and observation skills with this playful CD-ROM. Early reading concepts are introduced with highlighted words, simple riddles and play on words, and basic storytelling. Kids also work with basic sorting and learn to follow instructions in order to place 1, 2, and 3 items onto the puppets.

Entertainment Value
Testers enjoyed this program for many hours. The stories are endearing and the objects are visually intriguing. Voice-overs are those of children, and the background music is pleasing.

Children are given non-interruptible verbal and visual instructions the first few times they play an activity, then they can click on the question mark icon if they need any help beyond that point. Activities are accessible through a main menu screen, and children found it easy to get exactly where they wanted to go.

The amount of content is a little on the modest side, though preschoolers will definitely want to return to this appealing game often.

Dollar Value
This title is reasonably priced at a suggested retail price of $19.95 US.

Released: 2000
Reviewed: October 2000