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Review CornerSoftware
Simon & Schuster New Millennium Children's Encyclopedia and Reference Library (Deluxe 2000 Edition)
Rating: four stars
The Bottom Line
This easy-to-use encyclopedia and reference library is expandable (for a price) and contains a wealth of information, enhanced by graphics and various media.
 
Ages: 8-12   Subject: Utilities/Reference  Brand: Simon & Schuster Interactive
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
Simon & Schuster New Millennium Children's Encyclopedia and Reference Library Product Overview
This children's encyclopedia, while not as comprehensive as an encyclopedia targeted at the general public such as Encarta, is a suitable lower-priced option. Furthermore, it is designed specifically for the needs of children in upper elementary grades. The program contains 6 reference works on its 2 CD-ROMs, as follows:
  • Oxford American Children's Encyclopedia: a 9-volume set including a myriad of subjects (designed for American schoolchildren).
  • World Book Dictionary for Kids: 11,000+ entries.
  • World Almanac for Kids 1999: fascinating facts for kids, including recent events. It includes pictures, puzzles, maps, and flags.
  • World Book Atlas for Kids: kids learn about people, plants, land, and animals in 15 regions of the world with maps and pictures.
  • The Simon & Schuster Animal Encyclopedia: an animal reference book filled with information and photos.
  • World Book Guide to the World and its Cultures: includes the history, geography, economy, people, culture, and politics of different places in the world. It includes a timeline feature.
This library is expandable, as additional books become available through built-in Internet links. The Versaware Library Builder is included in this program. It allows users to purchase and download an unlimited number of books into their own Personal Digital Library. These books — termed Versabooks — are integrated into the program and will be included in the searches.

The Main Menu has the following options:

  • Explore: view all available books, do a search, go to the Media Gallery, or organize your binders (file folders for research).
  • Online: takes users to the New Millennium InfoCenter.
  • Tour: a tour demonstration of the program.
In Explore, there is a Research Center in which kids can search, view, organize and save articles and media. Here you can view the Books on your Research Desk, run searches, select media items, and manage Binders.

The Search is probably the backbone of the program — kids can conduct searches for articles and media items through:

  • A simple search: search titles only, full text, natural language query (using a phrase expressed in plain English), or highlight.
  • Hypersearch: choose a word(s) in an article to search for other articles that contain that word or phrase in the title.
  • Advanced Search: allows users more options to narrow down their search including finding only media, conducting a multiple query word search, the use of different sorting methods, and more.
Binders act as file folders for storing and organizing articles and media files — even Internet web sites. Users can make annotations and share them with other Versabook users, and highlight sections of an article for extra emphasis.

The New Millennium Media Gallery allows users to view the program's thousands of media directly through a Table of Contents.

Users have direct and easy access to the online New Millennium Info Center which is a dynamic resource for current events, Internet links, a Reuter news center, etc.

The Media Gallery is fun to explore. For example, users can listen to Beethoven's Symphony #5, see a country's flag, take a video tour of New York City, listen to the national anthem of Tanzania, watch a video of a hippopotamus in its natural habitat, and a whole lot more.

Children in upper elementary school tend to get assigned a slew of projects, and this program will be of enormous help. Although the content is certainly directed towards American children, there is enough general information to still be of benefit to children of other countries. One 9 year-old kid tester used this encyclopedia for a school project on Mexico, and he easily and quickly found the information he needed.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, a Pentium CPU, 32 Mb RAM, and 8X CD ROM drive (12X recommended). An Internet connection is recommended to connect to the New Millennium InfoCenter and the Versabook Store.

Educational Value
Children have access to an enormous amount of information in a safe and focused environment, and they can collect and organize this information into binders.

Entertainment Value
The program is filled with pictures, graphics, and media that help illustrate facts and make learning a richer experience.

Design
This encyclopedia is quite straightforward to use. Children ages 8 and up should have no problem using the program independently. Users must occasionally do some disc-swapping (there are 2 CD-ROMs in the set), which is slightly cumbersome.

Replayability
Kids will refer to this encyclopedia often. A unique and dynamic feature that extends the life of the product is its expansion capabilities that allow new books to be seamlessly incorporated into the program.

Dollar Value
Suggested retail price is $29.95 US.

Released: 1999