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Expert View:
by Cathy Miranker

August 1998

A grab bag of onscreen coloring, decorating, grooming, craft and writing activities for little girls who love horses, ponies or unicorns.

Paint 'n Play Pony is one of a new crop of products that gives the word horseplay a new meaning. Part of the Crayola coloring and craft line-up, this CD-ROM offers considerable variety and strives to bring an educational touch to its many activities. Other new choices for horse aficionados are Mattel's Barbie Riding Club (which creates the visual thrill of riding a horse) and Hasbro's My Little Pony (which replicates the look of the popular plastic toys with their comb-able manes and tails). Both should be available in fall 1998.

The centerpiece of Paint 'n Play Pony is a hillside with a herd of horses -- an Arabian, a Palomino, a Clydesdale, and more -- along with a unicorn flying overhead. There's also a picnic blanket full of activity icons, plus a pig named Penelope offering help and information. Here's a look at the seven ways girls can play with this CD-ROM:

• By clicking a horse or the crayon on the picnic blanket, girls find themselves in a Design and Decorate space filled with art tools. They can choose a background scene and a frame for their picture, adjust the horse's coloring (making realistic choices like dapple grey or strawberry roan or fanciful ones like rainbow or pink), pick a saddle or saddle blanket, add a bridle, make the horse whinny, neigh or snort, braid its mane, weave flowers into its tail, populate the scene with other animals, and more. Their creations can be printed or added to an onscreen Gallery. The more horses girls decorate, the more custom horses appear on the hillside.

• In the Stable, girls can care for a horse named Moonbeam, offering carrots, apples and oats; using a curry comb, hoof pick, and sweat scraper; replacing a horse shoe and polishing hooves; hosing down the horse and giving it a shampoo (unleashing colorful bubbles that can cloak the entire animal), and more. You can't customize the horse as much as on the hillside, but girls can add tack accessories and style Moonbeam's mane and tale.

• The Gallery is home to the snapshots girls take of their horses in the stable or in the Design and Decorate area.

• Print and Play is a printable crafts area for customizing writing paper, certificates, and award ribbons (for most colorful pony, happiest horse and the like).

• Horse Heroes is a collection of 12 short articles about celebrity horses, from Pegasus and Bucephalus to Paul Revere's Mount and Napoleon's horse Marengo. These stories (and the Fun Facts described next) are written simply but best suited to independent readers; there's no read-aloud feature.

• Spend some time in the Fun Facts area, and girls will be able to stump you with questions like these. What's the gestation period of a foal? (A full year!) What kind of horse is born black but later turns white? (A Lipizzaner.) What does it mean when a horse flattens its ears against its head? (It's angry.) Or, what's the fastest gallop recorded for a horse? (43 mph.)

• Horse Stories is a story-writing area, accessible from many of the program's activities. Girls can read a story written by Penelope or write and print one of their own, entirely from scratch or using a suggestion from Penelope.

The CD-ROM includes a Family Guide with an excellent list of books about horses (fiction and nonfiction) for children at different ages, Web sites to visit, and suggestions for using the product to encourage girls to read and write. This is a good resource if your little girl (like mine) won't budge from the Stable or the Design and Decorate area with its Hair Play Box!

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