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Review CornerSoftware
Stuart Little Learning Adventures
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
This double CD-ROM set features gentle and enjoyable activities, an excellent reward system, and brilliant educational content. Though the activites are sometimes slow-moving, the programs boast large, strong content.
Award
Ages: 3-7  Subject: Math/Logic; Reading/Pre-reading/Spelling; Art  Publisher: The Learning Company
Review Sections:  Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
This exceptional 2 CD-ROM package, starring the lovable mouse, Stuart Little, features fun adventures with strong educational content.

The first CD-ROM, entitled Stuart Little: His Adventures in Numberland, was previously sold separately. This title provides an excellent foundation for early math skills through a series of simple games. For more details, see our full review of this title.

Stuart Little: His Adventures in Wordland is the second CD-ROM in the set. There are three parts to this excellent, multi-layered adventure. Stuart Little dreams that he is visiting his Aunt Polly, only to discover that she is not at her home. However, Aunt Polly has left behind a secret-coded message that provides clues to her whereabouts. First, Stuart must decode Aunt Polly's message by playing a series of activities in her family room. Once complete, Stuart boards an ancient sailing ship where another note (also in code), and more educational activities, await him. The final adventure takes place in a mining village.

In each area, children need to fill up Stuart's brain with "brainpower". This task is accomplished by playing each activity for a predetermined amount of time. As children progress, Aunt Polly's message is gradually decoded, revealing the next step in the adventure. Periodic progress checks, taking the form of a diagram of Stuart's brain, are offered. Not all of the activities are available to children at the outset--they need to be "opened up".

The language arts activities, designed to meet state standards for both Kindergarten and first grade, are multi-level and rich. Through simple games, including board games with a two-player option, children practice identifying letters, simple words, and rhymes. Skills like sorting, pattern recognition, and more--essential to the learn-to-read process--are also covered. In one activity, children play a game reminiscent of bingo in which they read words and find pictures on the board that match. Another game involves identifying beginning sounds of names of children from around the world. In this activity, children learn some geography and cultures as they reinforce phonics skills.

Activities that cover visual arts curriculum include exploring simple shapes and lines; filling pictures with colors from both "warm" and "cool" palettes (referred to as "night" and "day" colors); completing picture puzzles; and identifying various art elements. In some activities, kids must first follow a model, and then "paint" pictures any way they like.

One especially original activity combines elements from both language arts and visual arts. This is a storybook activity in which children listen to a story (as its words are highlighted) about a King whose four children are named after the seasons of the year. After the children run away, the kingdom loses its colors. Children must paint scenes to find each child and restore the colors, corresponding to each season, to the land. This activity teaches children some special lessons about colors. For example, they learn to associate colors with moods (for example, they learn that green and pink are "opposites", and together they create an "exciting" feeling). discover complementary colors (yellow and purple "attract" each other), and learn about the different families of colors.

Another outstanding activity is entitled, "See a Sound". Children match sound patterns to visual ones in this somewhat abstract game. Many of the games are charming and humorous, and some contain personal touches. For example, after painting a set of pictures, children are asked to click on the picture they like best.

Both programs are slow-moving at times, largely because the instructions and introductions are non-interruptible. However, many parents will appreciate the pace of the games because children will be more apt to absorb the "lessons".

Each of the two titles included in this package could easily stand alone. Combined in one package, they offer large and wide-ranging content, sure to boost developing math, reading, and art skills for children in Kindergarten and first grade. Many of the activities adapt according to a child's performance, effectively keeping children at a comfortable, yet gently challenging, level. When children are struggling, hints are given to help them along.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium 200 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, and 250 MB free hard disk space. A microphone and color printer are optional.

Skills Covered
Stuart Little: His Adventures in Numberland: number identification 1-20, number sequences, number-object quantity association, counting, skip counting (by 2s, 5s, and 10s), place values (ones and tens), counting with semi-concrete objects, adding two small sets, + and - symbols, eye-hand coordination, pattern recognition, memory.

Stuart Little: His Adventures in Wordland: uppercase and lowercase letters, phoneme combinations, sorting, rhyming words, sight words, strategy, counting, hand-eye coordination, mouse skills, letter sounds, patterns, spelling, abbreviations, contractions, color families, complementary colors, color temperature, stories, shapes, identifying art elements, composition principles, creativity, sound discrimination, geography, cultures from around the world.

Educational Value
Happily, lessons are never force-fed in either of the CD-ROMs in this package. Instead, pleasing activities that adjust automatically to a child's performance are featured. Besides offering rich educational opportunities, the programs provide excellent coverage of Kindergarten and first grade curriculum in math, language arts, and visual arts. Plenty of age-appropriate games that require strategy are also featured, helping to boost logical thinking skills.

Entertainment Value
Children accustomed to high-energy computer games may initially find the games too low-key. However, the activities are, for the most part, quite entertaining, and the gentle pace of the program boosts the learning process. The reward system is especially motivating.

Design
In both programs, navigation is unusual, but fairly intuitive. The main character, Stuart Little, "attaches" to the computer mouse. Effectively, children propel Stuart from one activity to the next, sometimes making him fly (with the help of a magic cap) or move through portals to different areas of the programs. We wish that some of the introductions and repetitive instructions could be bypassed, however. A report has been added for the benefit of parents and teachers interested in tracking players' progress, and an excellent program manual can be found on the CD.

Replayability
Incentive to play--and to keep playing--the programs is especially high with the system's excellent reward system. There are close to 30 activities in all, most of which are enjoyable--sure to keep young ones busy over time.

Dollar Value
This 2 CD-ROM set retails for approximately $20 US.

Released: 2002 
Reviewed: July 2002