- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 16, 2005

Duo of multimedia treats

mThomas’ Sodor Celebration, from HIT Entertainment, for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, $19.99. Sixty years of the Rev. Wilbert Vere Awdry’s train-engine stories are honored in a single DVD that, unfortunately, hardly does justice to this staple in the playtime diet of many younger children.

The extras easily are the highlights of the disc, not the seven episodes culled from last year’s season of the stop-motion animated show “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.” Viewers can learn about 10 of the characters, sing along to a pair of songs, read an on-screen book based on one of Mr. Awdry’s tales and enjoy five games requiring use of the DVD controller.

These challenges include matching colors and numbers to help Thomas deliver coal, reassembling a railroad track, taking a trivia quiz and decorating the new Sodor station with streamers, balloons and signs.

If only the disc’s creators had picked episodes spanning the show’s eight seasons and provided a bit of history on the Thomas legend, fans really would have been celebrating.

• SpongeBob SquarePants Keyboard from KidzMouse for Macintosh (9.1 and above) or Windows (98SE/2000/ME/XP) systems with USB or PC2 connection, $29.99. This super, child-friendly computer peripheral offers a 67-key set (sans numerical pad and function keys), rounded pieces and plenty of Bikini Bottom style. The colorful keyboard allows junior to enter the hunt-and-peck world of computer navigation with the help of a famous animated character.

SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward and Plankton all hang out along the aqua-blue borders of the device, which features bright yellow, green and orange keys along with an “I love bubbles” moniker. In addition to providing 37 fewer keys, so as not to confuse younger users, the unit also has in-board software that only affords typists one letter per keystroke so creative sessions aren’t messed up with streams of run-on characters.

KidzMouse also offers a SpongeBob Scroll Mouse ($29.95) that fits nicely in smaller hands, uses optical technology and provides the functionality of a typical adult-size mouse. Users also can admire the Krabby Patty-themed images printed on the device.

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