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© St. Petersburg Times, published September 21, 1998

After careful consideration, I can safely conclude that the best thing about Curious George Reads, Writes & Spells for Grades 1 & 2 is the neat tin lunch pail it is packaged in.

Yes, your children will watch America's favorite monkey earn his stripes as a cub newspaper reporter for, you guessed it, the Curious Times. But the real question for parents asked to shell out a hefty 50 bucks for this is whether, in the words of the software's maker, the program "gently challenges children to build critical reasoning and reading skills in a magical environment."

Between you and me, there is little magic here. Spelling and reading exercises are redundant, almost medicinal in feel. Listen to the narrator give a word. Watch your child try to spell the word by clicking, rearranging and touching letters. They also complete written stories by sticking missing words into sentences. All in all, pretty standard fare.

Don't get me wrong. There is a chance your children initially will enjoy Curious George. My question is whether the program packs enough inspiration for them to continue with it once the novelty wears off.

And at $50, that is a legitimate question.

Curious George Reads, Writes & Spells for Grades 1 & 2

Company: Houghton Mifflin Interactive

Suggested Price: $49.95 Ages: 6 to 8

Minimum system requirements: Windows 3.1, Windows 95; 486/33 MHz; 12 MB RAM; 2X CD-ROM; MPC2-compatible sound card; SVGA (256 colors); 10 MB free hard disk space

Macintosh: 68040 or higher; System 7.1 or higher; 12 MB RAM; 2X CD-ROM; capable of 256 colors; 10 MB free hard disk space.

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