February 2001

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.


Arthur's Camping Adventure from The Learning Company and Dear America: Friend to Friend from Scholastic and Knowledge Adventure

Arthur's Camping Adventure from The Learning Company

Kids, how would you like to go camping with Author the aardvark and his friends from the popular PBS show (and books by Marc Brown) of the same name?   Well, with the Arthur's Camping Adventure CD from The Learning Company  and Mattel, you can go on a class field trip in the woods with Arthur, Binkey, Brain, D.W., Buster, Muffy, Francine, and of course, their teacher, Mr. Ratburn.  You'll learn all about the wildlife in the woods while you work to achieve your goal, which happens to be getting out of the woods safely.  That's because Mr. Ratburn trips on the trail and sprains his ankle leaving you and the kids in charge.  This is another excellent educational adventure from The Learning Company with great graphics, sounds and lots of educational value for kids ages 3 to 7.

After a quick installation, you begin in Mr. Ratburn's mini-van driving Arthur and his cartoon friends out of town to the campgrounds.  When they arrive, you direct them on the trail to the campsite (after you locate the map which happens to be in Arthur's backpack), to start the adventure.  About a minute into the game, Mr. Ratburn hurts his ankle and now you're in trouble.  You'll perform several outdoor activities like climbing a mountain and crossing a river to reach your goal, which is leaving the campgrounds safely.  Your first assignment is to set up the tent and then decide how you're going to get help, medical or otherwise, since Mr. Ratburn can't do a thing but rest in the tent.   Next, you'll help the kids build a rescue device by picking one of three ideas offered.  Brain will build it, once you find al the pieces.  Other activities including boating down a raging river and finding your way out of a maze. 

Becky had a great time playing the adventure.   She said it was fun, and I believe her because she played it every day for a week, disappearing in her room for two hours at a time.  Of course, she's a fan of the Arthur television show, and that's one reason she was excited when the software arrived.

This CD is filled with lots camping-related of activities plus information on the animals and flowers you'll see outdoors.  In fact, there's a nature notebook that kids will use to identify what they see.  If your kids like camping, and want to learn more about nature, then this is a great CD to try.   You really have nothing to lose because if you're not satisfied, Mattel will exchange the software for another product or refund your money.

Arthur's Camping Adventure sells for a street price of $29.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 166 MHz or faster, running Windows 98/95/NT/2000 and the Macintosh Power PC , 120 MHz  or faster.   Both computers require 16 MB RAM and a quad-speed (4x) CD-ROM drive. 

Dear America: Friend to Friend from Scholastic and Knowledge Adventure

If you have girls, but haven't had luck finding girls-only software, then you're at the right Web site.  Dear America: Friend to Friend is a great CD for girls, ages 8 to 12, interested in learning about six prominent girls in history.  This is software based on the Scholastic book series of the same name.  You'll find 3-D graphics, lots of music and stories, plus the ability to have a virtual chat with these famous kids from the past.

The girls you're meet are Patience Whipple (1622), a Pilgrim traveling on the Mayflower to America, Abigail Jane Stewart (1778),  Clotee (1800), a slave girl seeking freedom from a Virginia plantation, a shoemaker's daughter nursing Revolutionary War soldiers, Hattie Campbell (1818), a pioneer on the Oregon Frontier, Zipporah Feldman (1905), a Jewish immigrant hoping to be an actress in New York and Margaret Ann Brady (1910), an English orphan preparing for a trip on the Titanic.

After the installation, you must sign in with your name and a password (this protects the privacy of your diary).  Next, you'll see your six new friends from the past, their animated portraits circling an ornately framed mirror, and they speak to you.  You must pick one of the six girls as a guide and then you're on your way, through the portal, to interact with young people from America's past.  The music you hear varies from era to era while setting the mood for each character.

Becky, my 6-year-old, loved spending time with the software.  Since she has been reading since kindergarten, she had no problem using the CD.   She asked for help at one point: when setting up her diary, but for the most part she was up in her room on the computer quietly interacting with her new virtual friends (she does interact with real kids, too).

As her guide, Becky picked Zippy Feldman (the name, Zippy, attracted her).  Zipporah was a Jewish immigrant from Russia, living in a run down tenant in the city of New York around the year 1905.   After clicking on Zippy's portrait in the Circle of Friends menu, you're taken to her diary with a menu on the right.  On the diary, you'll see four colored tabs which access different functions.  Click on the red tab for the title, click on the purple tab for the girl's background information, click the yellow tab to unlock hidden collectibles (secret information about the girl) or click on the green tab for instructions.  You also can visit your guide's home by clicking on the hand mirror, or if you click on her portrait, she'll speak.

This CD offers more information and activities than you'd expect after looking at the package.  When Becky spends two hours in her room on the computer, with a break for a snack (she's a growing girl,), I know the software is well written and right for her.  Note, that this CD was designed for girls, and it may not be of interest to boys.  If you have boys, exclusively (I have only girls), then you may want pick another title.

Dear America: Friend to Friend sells for a street price of $29.99 and will run on any multimedia PC, Pentium 133 MHz or faster, running Windows 98/95/NT/2000 and the Macintosh Power PC , 120 MHz  or faster.   Both computers require 32 MB RAM and an eight-speed (8x) CD-ROM drive. 

Howard Berenbon

Software Companies Mentioned

Knowledge Adventure, Inc.
19840 Pioneer Avenue
Torrance, CA 90503
Phone: 1-800-545-7677
URL knowledgeadventure.com

The Learning Company
500 Redwood Blvd.
Novato, CA 94947
Phone: 1-415-382-4400
URL learningco.com