- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2008

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Creators Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi’s fantastical children’s book series arrived in theaters Friday with Paramount Pictures’ “The Spiderwick Chronicles.”

The film’s official cyber-stop (www.spiderwickchronicles. com) is one of the more beautifully designed and innovative I have seen. Gorgeous illustrated pages mix with photographs, dialogue, video and music to lead visitors into the interactive world of the Grace family and the family members’ encounters with goblins, fairies, sprites and an assortment of magical creatures.

Jared Grace walks into a forest covered in autumn foliage to enter the site, and the first highlighted priority is a tutorial on using the Seeing Stone. This blue jewel can be grabbed with the mouse pointer and pulled around any of the pages to find hidden multimedia secrets. Forty-eight surprises are available, many featuring footage from the film.

What really shows off the site’s slick design is the Field Guide, an online encyclopedia that spotlights 10 species of creatures found in the movie. Each entry is a package of interactive power that when combined with using the Seeing Stone will amaze younger visitors.

For example, the griffin page reveals that the creature is believed to be the offspring of an eagle and lion. When readers drop the Seeing Stone on a griffin feather taped to the parched page, a video clip pops up and shows the creature in action.

Those willing to explore newly opened areas after viewing some of the secrets of the Seeing Stone can find parts of Arthur Spiderwick’s map that, when assembled, lead to even more interactive locations on the site. Specifically, they are the Spiderwick Estate, Secret Tunnels, the Sanatorium and the Goblin Camp, all enriched with colorful media and extras such as the Estate offering background on the Grace family.

The Estate also provides another way to access the challenges and activities of the site. (Games is a major section.) Of the eight games available, visitors will find an online word finder presented by Thimbletack (a house brownie), a version of Hangman called Save Simon and a personality quiz. (Are you a goblin or a sprite?)

Most complex of the bunch is an over-the-top action game called Siege on Spiderwick Mansion. Players control Jared, who must throw stuff from the roof of the home at an army of goblins, red caps and mole trolls, trying to knock them down before they breach the walls.

I also liked the Face Morpher, a trick that should be familiar fare for the veteran movie site visitor. It enables fans to upload a mug shot, meld it with the face of a sprite or brownie and e-mail a card of their new look to a friend.

Additionally, a group of downloadable PDFs offers a personalized Field Guide with creature pages to color as well as word jumbles, connect-the-dots activities, a griffin paper airplane and sprite cutouts.

I also suggest that families visit publisher Simon & Schuster’s cyber-introduction to the book series (www. spiderwick.com) to learn more about the popular fantasy world. The site even includes lesson plans that can be downloaded.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com).

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