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Naikeri Z (London)

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Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (Nintendo DS)
Professor Layton and Pandora's Box (Nintendo DS)
Price: £18.10

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For young children too, 27 Sep 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
I disagree with people that say that this is not a game for the very young. My 6 year old daughter has been glued to it for the last 2 days and is solving lots of puzzles on her own (admittedly some have been lucky guesses but lots of them are very accessible and many others I can explain the logic behind to her). Even if it was just for the amount of reading she's been doing over the weekend, this is a winner. Not much of the reading material she brings home from school elicits the number of WOWS and OHHS that Professor Layton does and she is utterly captivated by the enigmatic storyline and the many quirky characters. Which doesn't mean that this is a substitute for books... but it's nonetheless a joy to read together and work on the puzzles with your child, and I can't recommend it enough.

From the point of view of an adult, the puzzles feel much easier this time and there is a deja vu sense to it as Pandora's box is structured in the same way as the first game. Still, with all this in mind, I would buy it again. There is so much to be enjoyed in the design, the beautiful detail, the delicious mysteries, it's all a treat to the senses as much as a bit of a brain shake... so scrumptious, you just want to eat this game. More, please.

French is Fun with Serge, the Cheeky Monkey! (Salut Serge)
French is Fun with Serge, the Cheeky Monkey! (Salut Serge)
by Sue Finnie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's all in the songs, 22 Sep 2009
We've had this box for some time now and we haven't used it as much as we should have as it is pretty good. Every time the DVD is played or the flash cards come out my now 6 and 4 year olds devote all their attention to Serge and Pascale. They love every bit of material included and twenty minutes of watching/listening has a wonderful effect: they immediately start repeating words, sentences, singing the songs, reading the flashcards... with no coercion from my part. Great!

As a child and teenager I learned French by listening to an endless number of songs by Georges Moustaki, Jacques Brel and later by Serge Gainsbourg and that was my key learning tool. This pack by the BBC seems to work in a similar way. The songs are at the centre of everything, they appeal enormously to children and, surreptitiously and effortlessly, teach. Everything else contained in the box supports, complements and expands their learning.

I have a criticism though: the actors voicing Serge and Pascale are not native French speakers so they have an accent. The short clips of footage with real French children in their home surroundings etc are a great way of sampling bits of French culture and lifestyle and they partly make up for it, but still... why not use French actors for the animated part?

All in all, this is a fantastic, good value, introduction to French for children even younger than the 5-10 ages indicated on the box (we've used it with a 3 year old successfully). The animation characters' design may look rudimentary and unpolished to eyes now used to stunning 3D graphics in big film productions, but most children don't care about that and they absolutely love Serge and Pascale and will want to watch them almost every time it is suggested to them.

Professor Layton and The Curious Village (Nintendo DS)
Professor Layton and The Curious Village (Nintendo DS)
Price: £12.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hours of pure pleasure, 16 Jan 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This is such a delightful game... Not being a fan of games myself I can only say that I've been hooked on it for the length of time it's taken me to complete it.

The cover design initially caught my eye and I bought it for my daughter but some of the puzzles are too difficult for very young children (whereas others are very, very easy for almost anyone). The game itself has very atmospheric, almost cinematic graphics and animation sequences -one of its main assets for me- and the story is well woven within the puzzles' journey. Even if its narrative development is completely predictable and rather simple, this still only adds to its charm and it's part and parcel of the genre it belongs to. The array of characters is very Cluedo-esque and you can find here many ot the murder mystery usual suspect types. The village settings too are beautifully designed and the music wraps it all up with the right enigmatic tones (even if it can get a bit repetitive after a while).

It feels too short though and when I got to the final spectacular climatic scene so reminiscent of Miyazaki's films, I felt VERY disappointed that it was already over. But I still think it deserves 5 stars for the pleasure gained while playing. I absolutely hope they will release a second instalment. Soon.

by Garth Nix
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

7 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No depth and no soul....., 4 Jan 2009
This review is from: Sabriel (Paperback)
Throwing in together a number of disparate elements (a boarding school, Magic, a girl in mail and armour carrying sword and skis, a bunch of Dead and a bunch of bells) may create the illusion of originality but doesn't necessarily achieve true originality. And I didn't find "Sabriel" original in any big way.

On the contrary, it is so predictable, dull and flat that the whole thing feels like a huge number of cliches cobbled together clumsily in a story without soul. In fact, both the story and the characters feel like cold, empty creations emerging from its very own Old Kingdom. The narrative is very linear -not that this is necessarily a bad thing in some stories, but here you are there pages and pages before the author, and the only hint at a change of perspective with the introduction of Touchstone is abandoned straightaway. The characters -all-are so uninteresting and stereotypical that by the end of the book I found them grating and wanted them to stop delivering bad lines (that, or be eaten up by Kerrigor). And the style... well it just seems to be based on a set of basic formulas straight out of a creative writing course, unsurprising, full of ready-made metaphors and comparisons following one after the other with metronomic regularity and becoming a somehow tiresome mannerism.

If there was something that I found remotely inspiring and intriguing it was the idea, the image of the Wall, the way it is depicted at the beginning... and yet, again, there are so many more awe-inspiring, memorable Walls in literature (George RR Martin's, Kafka,s...) that Sabriel's is more a wall than a Wall and it doesn't live up to its initial promise.

It may be a satisfying read for younger readers but still "Sabriel" is nowhere near the fantasy worlds, characters, tensions and complexities of Pullman, Ursula K Le Guin, etc. I read this book very slowly first and very fast from the middle, but only because I couldn't engage with anything first and couldn't wait to put it back on the shelf later... and even though I am 39 and not 13, I have to say that I find a lot more depth and mystery, a lot more character richness, humour and originality reading the Moomin novels with my 5 year old, where we often find sentences that we need to read over and over because things are so beautifully perceived and written...and characters display such marvellous, defiant personalities. Being a different genre, the Moomin series is still a great example of how to round up a work of fantasy for children (and adults) without compromising its depth.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 13, 2013 11:15 AM BST

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