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interactive book software
The tale of a charming storybook princess named Lulu who embarks on an adventure with the space-robot Mnemo, The Book of Lulu closely mimics the physical and cognitive experience of reading a book—and then goes beyond. The program opens with a graphic of an open book with cream-colored pages; clicking the corner of the page causes it to turn with a satisfying fwipp. Clicking on the illustrations and on the text produces a variety of special effects: some animations go “full screen” and act out the plot; and others simply add whimsical detail within the physical confines of the book. Characters literally step out of the pages and push the plot along, raising the question of who is really in control of the story: The writer? The reader? The characters themselves?
The Book of Lulu does not offer multiple endings or mysteries or hidden treasure as motivation for the reader to finish or to revisit it. It relies, as a good children’s book should, on an engaging plot, appealing characters, and beautiful graphics to inspire multiple readings. That said, children are not likely to return to it as they would a book—they still see it as a game, and a game you can’t win is not a good game.
Certainly, younger readers can get practice reading along with the narrator. The animation occasionally precludes asking, “What do you think happens next?” but mostly it offers a beautiful supplement to the text. There remain dozens of questions to be asked, both concrete and philosophical—but as with any book a child reads, it is up to the adult to ask most of those questions. Insofar as any book is an educational tool, The Book of Lulu is, too; but its main purpose is to entertain.
Haunting background music perfectly complements the “illustrations”, which evoke 19th century pen-and-ink drawings and create a nostalgic, almost wistful mood—the reader really feels as if she is reading an old storybook. The twist at the end, as mentioned earlier, raises all kinds of philosophical questions. It is probably for these reasons that The Book of Lulu has won its various awards for excellence.
However, most of our testers’ (ages six to eleven) reactions were lukewarm at best. Kids said they wouldn’t play it more than once or twice, even though it was “pretty interesting”, citing the lack of a “goal” or multiple endings as a major flaw in the program. The language is fairly sophisticated for children close to the lower end of the recommended age range, and the plot moves too slowly in the first half to hold the attention of younger children and those with short attention spans.
Installation of The Book of Lulu is an easy three-step process: register by entering name and company; choose a directory in which to save the program; decide whether you need to download the required version of Quicktime (4.1). Et voila.
Turning pages and activating the animations is simple and intuitive, but users need to read the instructions initially in order to locate and identify the various icons necessary to activate the narration or occasionally to return from the animations to the text.
The Book of Lulu has been hailed by many reviewers as a “classic”, and indeed it does have the makings of a classic book--so much so that one might almost just as well sit down and read a real book with a child. It is best for children who can hold onto the thread of a plot despite the distraction of searching for cool animations; however, the tester who paid no attention to the plot enjoyed it the most. Regardless of how much a child enjoys it, he or she is unlikely to “read” the book all the way through more than twice or thrice.
PC: Windows 98/XP, CD-ROM or Windows DVD I .return to top of page
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