Stephen Lewis is on the trail of some modern fairytales set in York.

FIRST we had the York Tales. Now, thanks to local publisher ENDpapers, we have the York fairytales.

The Grape Lane publishing house's latest book, York Breadcrumbs, is much more than just a collection of magical stories about York, however. It is a guide to an interactive adventure trail around the city centre that will take you up to the rooftops, down into the stinking sewers and buried Roman roads beneath the modern streets - and deep into York's historic past.

There are four tales of adventure in Breadcrumbs - and, Hansel and Gretel-like, each one is linked to a trail of reflective lights set into York's pavements.

You read the tale and you follow the trail... preferably at night when, with the help of special torches you can buy along with the book, you'll be able to pick out the reflectors showing you the way ahead.

It's a brilliant idea - all part of the York Renaissance Project, which aims to use innovative art projects and interactive light displays to breathe new life into the city centre, especially in the evenings. And it is brilliantly realised.

Breadcrumbs is a fantastic book, as well as a great idea. The four stories all follow the same trail around the city centre: a trail marked out by no fewer than 228 reflectors. But each story takes place at a different 'level'. In Slime And Grime, you follow the adventures of a little girl called Sarah who, on a birthday visit to York with her hated stepmother Charlotte, finds herself shrinking to the size of a Barbie doll and falling through a drain deep into York's ancient sewers. There she encounters giant earthworms and rats, an undead cat called Snickel and, when she stumbles on to a buried Roman road, a ghostly Roman legion.

In Little Feet, the statue of Constantine the Great near the Minster magically comes to life and takes you on a tour of the city - which you see from a child's perspective.

Back In Time follows the adventures of a boy called Josh who finds himself magically carried back in time after a visit to York Minster.

When he steps through the Minster's door into the sunshine, Josh notices that everybody is suddenly dressed in old-fashioned clothes. He's been transported back to 1875 - where he finds himself almost falling into the hands of the vile child-snatcher Spall, who runs an orphanage from which children mysteriously disappear when they fall ill and can no longer work.

In Breath And Air, the Wind takes you on a journey around York's rooftops - during which you meet the grumpy wizard Old Grummety, a mischievous, troublemaking elf called Lucas and Mirabelle the air fairy.

Perched up on the rooftops and hiding behind the city's gargoyles and stone cats, Lucas proceeds to cause trouble for the humans living out their lives at street level.

But with Breadcrumbs to guide you, you should be able to spot him and keep out of trouble yourself...

The book is beautifully produced in vibrant colours. Each page is divided into four, so that the four stories run in parallel. There is a pull-out map to make it easier for you to follow the trail, and points of interest to look out for as you follow the trail are marked in the stories in bold and on the map. They correspond to special blue reflectors in the streets themselves.

You can use the book however you want, says ENDpapers boss Magdalena Chavez. "People can read the book and then go out. Or they can walk the trail and read the story at the same time. Or they can rip the map out of the middle of the book and just use that."

To make it easier - especially for those with young children - the trail has been divided into three sections, so you don't have to walk too far each time. Each story is divided into three parts too - giving you 12 excuses to visit the city centre with your family in the evening and have a great time spotting all the things to look out for.

The York Breadcrumbs book is already available in local bookshops, priced £9.95. The special Breadcrumbs torches cost just £2.

Most of the reflectors are also already in place in the city centre, and the trail will be officially opened at a special launch event outside the Minster starting at 5pm on Monday May 16. Wizards, fairies, creatures of the night and characters from York's history will help and hinder mysterious tour guides as they lead you through York on the Breadcrumbs trail.

Don't miss it....

Updated: 15:27 Friday, May 06, 2005