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reprinted from Thunderbeam (, posted July 11, 1997
(On a Scale of 4)
Overall 3
Brain Gain 3
Fun Factor 3
Ease Please 3

by Cathy Miranker

For girls who live and breathe paper dolls, Magic Wardrobe puts both a historical and a high-tech spin on a traditional pastime.

This Crayola CD-ROM gives girls 12 historical backdrops for an onscreen paper doll, a full outfit for each period (from barbets and coiffes to paniers and farthingales!), virtual crayons and stamps for coloring the clothes, plus historical click points that bring a personal voice to each era. If you have a color printer, the outfits (complete with tabs) will print the way girls color them onscreen. Otherwise, they print as line drawings that girls can color with the real crayons included in the package. Also included are two real paper dolls on reasonably stiff paper.

The choice of places and times include ancient Egypt, China in 1005, medieval Europe, England in 1588, the Pilgrims in 1654, France in 1785, the American West in 1853, the American South in 1860, India in 1870, the Navajo in 1892, Ghana in 1959 and American Hippies in 1967. (The 70-year gap in modern history is curious; but perhaps 20th-century fashion is not exotic enough for playing dress-up?) In each setting, there's a clickable diary where girls can read about the daily life of a girl in that era (and add entries of their own). Clickable news profiles provide information on 12 notable women, from Harriet Tubman and Anne Bradstreet to Elizabeth I and Nefretiti. As girls are dressing their onscreen doll, they can also learn historical fashion facts by dragging articles of clothing onto a cat named Mitzi, who will pipe up with the garment's name, its purpose, and more. Period music is another pleasant and informative touch.

The program's clothes-coloring tools are easy to use and produce good-looking results. In a nice touch, the tools include pattern stamps with a historical flavor - native designs in the Navajo setting, quilt patterns in the pioneer era, and the like. Apart from choice of color, however, there's not much scope for real creativity. How creative is coloring inside the lines? And there's one major flaw: there's no "Oops" button for girls to undo their latest bit of coloring. Make a mistake, and the only choice is to click the Clean button and start over. As a grab-bag product--a little history, a little coloring, a little dress up, a little reading,a little writing--Magic Wardrobe gives girls lots of different ways to play. A 6-year-old may only want to dress the onscreen doll. An 7-year-old may color the clothes onscreen, print the outfits, and dress the "real" dolls. An 8-year-old may drag clothes over to Mitzi to find out what they were called and how they were worn. An 11-year-old may dip into the diary entries or news stories the software supplies for each historical period.

But will girls actually imagine themselves into the product's 12 history tableaus the way kids do with the Trail titles from MECC or the Imagination Express titles from Edmark? Will they pretend they're the onscreen character and make up an additional entry for her diary or write a letter on period stationery? That degree of involvement may well take a parental push. But do try to persuade an older girl to do some historical "pretending" via journaling or letter-writing. Read the diary entries and historical profiles aloud to a younger daughter. It's thoughtful undertakings like those that can inspire girls to put some historical imagination into their play and go beyond routine click-and-color, print-and-cut activities.

The Bottom Line: Fun-to-color fashions for paper dolls, set in 12 eras from ancient Egypt to modern Africa, with informative historical click points in each period.

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