The Trip Little Critter Reading Adventure is a fun, interactive storybook app based on Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter’s The Trip, with versions for both iPad as well as iPhone available through iTunes.
This new application, developed by Silver Dolphin, differs greatly from – and should not be confused with – the straightforward adaptation of Little Critter stories developed by another company.
It is worth explaining to readers that the original Mercer Mayer title focuses on a car trip to a camp site as told in pictures. Yet the text, although also telling the tale of this long family outing, included a heavy use of alphabet letters, from A to Z, such as B for Bags and C for Car, as well as words adults can relate to, possibly even more than their children can, such as E for the car’s engine overheating, letter M for the mess the Critter kids made in the back of the car, or T for the flat tire they get along the way, creating a witty alphabet book enjoyable for all – children and parents alike.
Here, The Trip Little Critter Reading Adventure includes two sections – the Reading Adventure where children can follow along with highlighted narration and simply reading this app like a book.
In the Reading Adventure, Little Critter himself narrates this tale of a family trip to the lake. Those familiar with the published title will note the many original illustrations included within as well as the lack of the alphabet elements seen in the direct telling of this story. Instead, one will notice the abundance of items one can tap on within each page, each marked with color-coded dots, denoting the type of interaction available.
Blue dots include added animated moments and added lines of dialogue spoken directly by the characters that nicely propel the story along as well as other details, whereas orange hotspots are alphabet flash cards, bringing the alphabet element back into this story. Green dots are objects one can collect in Little Critter’s back pack – important details that one needs to collect as they will be used later in the story to continue on, but the included map will let readers know what page to check out if a needed object was not collected the first time around.
I really enjoy the animated moments which work seamlessly within Mayer’s colorful, classic illustrations. Another interesting inclusion is a choice of driving through the country or city, allowing children to make this choice with the aid of the map that one can tap on to choose which route to take – first during the outing – as well as using this map as a page selector – always a nice choice.
Other interactive elements are included within these different destinations, such as offering an apple from a nearby tree to encourage a horse to leave the road after placing the apple in and then retrieving it from the backpack.
A few fun educational mini-games are also included such as matching colored cars to their matching color words or a food-themed sequencing game that adds even more content to this engaging children’s application.
Children will love the abundance of items to tap on and to collect for later. I am happy to say that the style Mayer delivered in the published title is alive and well in this new app as well as a new scene of the family visiting the beach.
It is also worth noting that a related app, The Trip Little Critter GamePak, is also available for purchase for both iPad as well as iPhone and includes a series of story-themed actives – also an app worth checking out.
On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects is a thoughtful adaptation of the book of the same name, part of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library developed by Oceanhouse Media.
Here, children will learn about many bug-related topics as they enjoy the Seuss-like illustrations and rhyming text to which this book is fashioned as The Cat in the Hat, along with Thing One and Thing Two, introducing readers to many fun bug facts such as basic anatomy, natural defenses or the strength of insects such as ants.
As is the case with other adaptations by Oceanhouse media, one has a chance to both read this non-fiction book to oneself or enjoy expert narrator John Bell’s stellar narration as he reads not only the original text from the published book, but also the added word definitions triggered by the tap of an insect-associated word seen in bold text, defining many bugs that are included in the book but never fully explored in the picture book, as this app includes many more words than the short glossary at the end of the printed version.
Also new to this experience are ambient sound effects and mild animated moments, as well as the ability to tap on objects or characters to see their corresponding labels both spoken as well as seen on the page. There are a few moments where one can also drag insects around the page as well as other such interactions.
Seussian books can be wordy but make up for this in the use of shortened, more frequent paragraphs, and I like how these adaptations down even further as a single paragraph is seen per page as one progresses through this story, which includes the original images panned and zoomed to draw the reader’s attention.
I am impressed with the amount of insect information included, such as the bad smell lady bugs give off when feeling threatened as well as the differences between butterflies and moths.
The addition of extra glossary words not included in the book, new additional information about creatures such as the diving beetle, dog flea or pipevine caterpillar make this app rich with content – a very nice choice of apps for all ages of children, including older grade-school age children who will learn interesting insect information as well.
Zoola Deluxe is a charming interactive animal app for babies and toddlers – a companion app to the popular Zoola, also reviewed at GiggleApps.
Zoola Deluxe contains a nice variety of animals one can interact with. To start, tap on one of nine animals from either Farm, Safari or Forest animals. Babies will enjoy how chunky the areas for each animal to tap are, making this app intuitive for the youngest app users.
Once a selection is made, listen to the animal’s name narrated as well as see the word on the screen. Also note the mild yet effective animated elements included as well as the sounds for each creature. This app also contains a nice variety of languages, always a nice touch.
On the bottom of the screen, one will see a row of other buttons to explore – specifically a food section, a baby soothing area and a dress-up button that will allow children to interact with each animal.
By tapping the food button, children are brought to a new screen where it’s now feeding time, giving children the chance to feed each animal their three favorite foods. Listen to these animals ask for food as well as offer up appreciative noises when they have been fed. Simple but sweet animation allows each animal to move its mouth to eat – all elements babies and toddlers will adore.
The next area allows users to sooth each animal – be it with a bottle, pacifier, blanket or their own stuffed animal. Gentle, classical music is played throughout this section that children as well as adults will find peaceful and relaxing.
The dress-up section is also cute and fun with costumes each animal can wear, ranging from period attire such as top hat and bow tie, construction hat, boots and tool belt, or a variety of mini skirt choices. More music can be heard ranging from classical to more upbeat selections that children will have fun listening to.
There is an overflowing of charm in this app that will appeal to babies, toddler, and I am sure, my son at the age of five, although this app may get a little young for most kids this age and older.
The inner “Lisa Simpson” in me feels a little weird dressing majestic creatures like a lemur in western garb, a hippo in a chief’s hat and bib or a monkey in a clown outfit, anthropomorphizing them for the amusement of children but does not see any real harm, and this is certainly a concern I would keep to myself while sharing this app with young children.
I know my son will greatly enjoy dressing zebras up in Batman masks, giving animals baby bottles and feeding them favorite snacks.
Zoola Deluxe is an app for children to love. It may make some adults a little uncomfortable, especially those who take themselves too seriously at times, but they will be won over by how much their children truly enjoy spending time with this application.
I have not come across many apps for Mother’s Day, but I did want to let readers know about Just Me and My Mom – Little Critter, based on the title of the same, now a lovely adaptation by Oceanhouse Media based on the book of the same name.
This is a delightful story of Little Critter, a small anthropomorphized boy-like creature who goes on a trip to the city with his mom.
Both parents as well as children can relate to this charming story, as Mom and Little Critter take a train and visit a museum in a big city.
Adults will appreciate how this story, as well as the other Little Critter titles, each written from Little Critter’s point of view and now include excellent optional child-read narration.
Here, it is obvious that there is more to the story being told by this lovable character who causes lots of trouble along the way on his big city adventure, such as Little Critter loses the train tickets, touches a dinosaur egg much to the displeasure of the guard at the museum, and is not thrilled with clothing shopping – all moments in the life of Little Critter that all moms can relate to.
Do note the expressive facial expressions seen on the various adults in this wonderfully illustrated story as Little Critter causes a commotion in many different scenarios, each of which I would not put past my own son, especially when he was a younger boy.
I also appreciate being able to see the drawings by author Mercer Mayer up close as these illustrations are panned and zoomed in on to draw the eye – a nice touch as there is a lot to see in these fun and busy city scenes.
Little Critter apps are great for new readers, and the stories tend to be short, with a few words on a page that go far in terms of storytelling.
Even when reading this book to oneself, one can tap on a word or even paragraph to hear it read out loud – a nice aid for children who may still need help with certain words.
This book can be listened to with or without Auto Play and also read by oneself. One can also choose to record one’s own narration as well as share this recording with others who also have this same app.
Very nice sound effects can be heard such as train sounds and ambient city sounds. Also note the ability to tap objects and characters around the page to see and hear these items labeled with text as well as spoken narration – elements that can now be turned off if one wishes.
It is also nice that Oceanhouse Media has now included a menu of pages to use as a reference as well – always a nice touch.
Mothers will certainly relate to the antics that ensue in this Little Critter title. This is a story that is easy to love on many levels, making it a nice choice to share for Mother’s Day.
This app is currently free, thanks to Oceanhouse Media – a gift to mothers and children alike. Do check it out.
Little Red Riding Hood by Nosy Crow is a universal app that I have eagerly been anticipating for quite some time, and I can say with much excitement that this app is worth the wait.
This is a re-telling of the classic story with a few great twists along the way. A special app, Nosy Crow has added some wonderful new elements to a classic story, specifically allowing children to choose one of many paths they would rather take as Little Red travels through a forest on her way to Grandma’s, collecting numerous objects along the way as well as meeting new characters.
From the moment this app opens, the beautiful, bright and bold animation that Nosy Crow fans expect can be seen. The look of this app, as is the case with the other Nosy Crow storybook apps, is simply stellar in every way dealing with animation.
Also of note is the layered 3D effect one can see as the moving of one’s device will change the perspective one can see at any given angle – a nice touch but a little sensitive for my taste as the effect can look jumpy if the device is held with a shaky hand.
There are two ways of enjoying this book. “Read and Play” allows children to follow along with highlighted narration as seen as the main text and narration of this story, as well as read along with spoken extra lines of dialogue heard when a character is tapped.
“Read by Myself” allows children to read on their own the text and speak bubbles without the aid of narration and gives children the choice of the speed in which the lines of text are seen on the page, allowing those new to reading to slow down these words for an easier time reading – a very helpful inclusion.
There are a lot of interactions to partake in, such as gathering up fun and inviting foods like as cake, cheese, sandwiches and produce to share with Grandmother as well as fun moments of Little Red and her mom gently telling readers what to leave at home when users try to add non-food items to the basket as well as other items that will not travel well. It is also nice to be able to drag these characters around the page, making them look as if they are walking, even running around the page for a very nice effect.
After making up a basket, Little Red is off to Grandmother’s, walking through the forest. As one may expect, Little Red meets the Big Bad Wolf on her journey, wonderfully stylized with a cap and plaid pants as a nod to vintage styling that makes me smile.
Little Red is able to pass the Wolf and later comes to a fork in the path where she needs to make a decision on which way to continue. Both paths are marked with signs that demonstrate the item one may need to collect such as flowers, feathers, acorns, or even a spider.
Children will enjoy each of the activities that will allow Little Red to collect the items of interest, such as catching feathers from a bird flying overhead, pulling thistles from a moose’s fur, gathering flowers, acorns or a bucket of water, as well as helping a bear pour honey to collect a jar of one’s own. A maze involving a spider’s web is included as is a “Whack-a-Mole” styled game where one grabs dandelions from a mole. There is also a delightful “Simon” styled music game where Little Red needs to repeat the musical sounds made by a monkey willing to give away his whistle for five correct answers.
After completing three of these sections, Little Red will arrive at Grandmother’s house to find the Wolf in Grandmother’s bed, who threatens to eat Little Red.
I adore Little Red’s defensive posturing when being threatened by the Wolf as well as the very cinematic close-up shots of Little Red and the Wolf, reminiscent of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” that will make adults smile. Here Little Red strikes with the objects she collected along her way, such as tickling the Wolf with feathers, making him sneeze from flowers or momentarily shocking him with a splash of water to the face. This fight comes to a conclusion in three different ways, from a police officer taking away the Wolf after hearing Little Red blow the whistle, scaring the Wolf away with the large spider who came along for the ride in the basket, or covering the Wolf in honey and who then gets chased away by bees, never to bother Little Red again.
After unlocking the wardrobe where Grandmother was trapped, they sit down to eat what was packed in the basket, helping Little Red unpack the foods and feeding the characters, helping them to eat and ending this exceptional interactive application.
Although this app has been compared to the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books, I am pleased to see that although decision-making is part of this story, these choices are age-appropriate for young children of all ages and do not truly change the outcome of this story.
I mention this as I have begun to read my son “Choose Your Own Adventure” titles and I feel that negative conclusions to the choices my boy has made can stress him, and for now he does not enjoy these titles as much as I had hoped.
Here, Little Red’s choices of paths will allow her to play different mini-games with fanciful characters she meets along the way, but there are no pitfalls in the choices one can make within this story, and all roads lead to Grandmothers house, so the comparison to a true “Choose Your Own Adventure” or “Which Way” book is not spot-on in my opinion, which I feel children actually benefit from.
I am also quite pleased to see what a strong female character Little Red is in this re-telling, as I am with the illustration of Little Red’s mother who has her own womanly curves, a nice detail that although does not attract attention to itself, is a nice element for children to seen in the world around them.
There are many more points I could make about the high quality of Little Red Riding Hood by Nosy Crow, but I think it may be best just to tell readers that this is an app worthy of purchase that a wide range of children and their adults will adore.
Zoe’s Green Planet is an interesting universal application about diversity. This is the story of Zoe, an inhabitant of a green planet with a demographic of entirely green people, seen vividly with the use of illustrations with heavy paper mache elements creating a subtle 3D effect, as well as a tactile, slightly distressed feel that I find appealing, as I do the numerous shades of green that make up the palette of this app.
One day, a red space ship lands on the green planet. Inside is a red family who would like to visit other planets and makes a home on the green planet. They have a daughter who is Zoe’s age, and they go to school together and become friends.
The girls have fun together but also face a difficult time dealing with another child who teases the new girl for being different. The parents from the red family become homesick and they fly their spaceship home.
The concept of diversity is nicely introduced here for children, and the red colors seen in this new family really pop off the screen, adding an engaging visual style.
This app is narrated with a choice of both English as well as French languages. A few mini-games are also included, such as sorting by type as well as color, two arcade-styled games and a memory game with musical elements, each which can be found within the story as well as found within the menu page of this app. Do search these pages as well for hidden hotspots.
The look of this app is colorful and unique and quite well-meaning indeed, but I am on the fence about the stylings of the red Takino family. Styled with Asian – presumably Japanese – details such as kimono-esque garb and a planet with Japanese temple-type buildings, I must admit I was uncomfortable with what could also be seen as Asian stereotypes including a slitted Asian eye, and even worse, the buck teeth seen on Mr. Takino, reminiscent of an ugly stereotype from many years ago that took me by stunned surprise that this detail is included.
It is also worth noting that the current price of $2.99 seems expensive in comparison to other apps at this price point.
This is the first in a series of apps based on colors, presumably including the very nice paper mache illustrations seen in Zoe’s Green Planet. I have appreciated the look of this app enough to be curious to see the others in the series as well.
Scholastic First Discovery: Ladybug, with versions available for both iPad as well as iPhone, is a delightful interactive app based on the published book of the same name, exploring all about ladybugs to the delight of children as well as their adults.
This is a clear and concise app that delivers an abundance of information about these colorful creatures which transforms the original book that includes transparent pages nicely into interactions where one slides different layers of illustrations away, remaining true to these special pages while adapting the text of the book to suit this story as an application mainly narrated with little text.
This non-fiction app is broken down into four chapters that one can explore on one’s own, or as an entire book from start to finish, including close-up ladybug images that will be of interest to bug fans of all ages.
It is quite enjoyable how the details of these ladybugs’ bodies are explored, being able to look closely with a 360 degree view as the ladybug spins slowly, also allowing children to manually rotate the ladybug as well as opening or closing the wings to view the hidden transparent wings used for flying.
I really enjoy how these ladybugs are also seen wandering around the screen, allowing one to drag a finger across the screen to have it followed as well as these insects around the page, bouncing them into each other, or tapping them for an open-wings effect as well.
Children have the chance to count ladybug spots, interactively explore ladybugs of different colors and patterns, and even feed a ladybug aphids – their preferred source of nutrition.
The birth of new ladybugs is also discussed, allowing one to watch the transformation from laying eggs from larvae to pupa and ultimately ladybugs, allowing readers to experience a variety of lovely interactions, such as morphing these bugs into different stages of metamorphosis with the drag of a finger or pulling back leaves to see these interesting changes take place.
Children and adults will appreciate the close-up views they gain as they watch these ladybugs fly and walk around the pages as well as the various thoughtful interactions included within.
The published book does have some nice details about defense and reproduction not touched upon in this app as well as leaving out information about other related beetles – moments I did miss, but I do enjoy the tight focus and flow of this narrative.
This app is the third in a series of Scholastic First Discovery apps. I do hope the others from this series are also brought to iPad and iPhone as these apps are educational but also great for listening comprehension as one listens to very nice included narration predominantly instead of reading and also listening to mild yet effective musical elements.
Gappy’s First Words is a new interactive universal app that re-enforces early spelling and reading comprehension from the developers at Spinlight Studio, a favorite developer of mine these apps are consistently rich with details and nuances at a level of quality making these application stands out from others.
Meet Gappy, an interesting bunny-like character with large ears and big teeth, and help Gappy hop her way home, filling in the gaps of word puzzles along the way – stylized as a bridge of sorts where pieces of this crossing are missing and need to be completed with correct letter tiles. Success will earn users new details that can be added to Gappy’s house such as new windows, fence or chimney.
Four sections are included for Gappy to explore on her way home, each containing a varied degree of difficulty as well as an interesting landscape that Gappy needs to work her way through, such as a forest, mountain or even space section as each landscape is lovingly stylized with music and muted colors – interesting choices for this early childhood literacy game.
I like that the difficulty of these games starts out simple as children are asked to drag and drop a specific letter from a selection of letter tiles as asked by included narration to fill the gap of a given three-letter word. Later, children are asked to identify the correct letter that begins a three-letter word, there is also a section completing words with two and ultimately three missing letters as children will spell three-letter words by choosing from each letter correctly, as friendly and clear narration prompts children.
Also included is an alphabet section where one can tap to hear either the letter or phonic names of each letter, but I do wish that the letter blocks one can choose from during these levels were also tappable, allowing children new to these sounds to try to work out these words for themselves. Without being able to tap each letter to hear the phonics sounds during these games, these sections may be difficult for children who may understand the concept of phonics, yet who have not committed each sound to memory.
Adults will appreciate being able to choose the lists of words being practiced from both beginner or advanced and even sight words – all good choices for new readers who will find the chance to add new objects to Gappy’s house engaging and fun as there is a vastness of house combinations – over 720 in all to choose from.
Children and adults alike will enjoy this simple and intuitive children’s app with a nice reward of building Gappy a fun house in which to live – a lovely metaphor in terms of building a child’s foundation for reading. I do hope in the future that the letter choices can be tapped to be heard, allowing children to work out these problems before they may have committed phonics to memory – just a thought.
Sid the Science Kid – Sid’s Slide to the Side is a fun and educational application which delivers an episode of the terrific PBS kids’ show of the same name, developing into an interactive, animated storybook appisode that reads much like a traditional storybook which includes optional narration as well as illustrations often animated, allowing readers to propel the story with the tap of a finger, bridging the gap between an illustrated storybook and an interactive application, also including two mini-games as well.
Parents who do not know of Sid the Science Kid are missing out on a great educational science-based show, bright and colorful, about Sid and his friends from school who learn about science in ways children will find most engaging.
Here, friction is the topic at hand, as Sid, the main character in this story, joins with his friends to figure out why one can slide across the floor in socks, but not rubber-soled sneakers, making observations and writing in their journals.
I also appreciate how Sid the Science kid teaches not only about science in ways children can understand and relate to, but also lovingly shows healthy family dynamics and socialization at school between friends and teachers alike.
There is a lot that I enjoy about this app. I enjoy tapping on the included illustrated images, making them come alive with animation that pantomimes the story at hand, sometimes using music and other interactions that pertain nicely to the science being taught, such as sliding Sid or another character across carpet as well as including two mini-games that go further into exploring friction.
Push-a-Puck is an interesting game allowing children to slide a puck made from a variety of materials like ice or wood to test their varied frictions. I appreciate how the object is not simply to find the fastest puck, but to choose a puck that will slide into the chalk outline Sid or his friends make on many creative floor choices such as ice from a rink or even a floor made of cheese.
There is also an arcade-styled game allowing the gang to race cars on a variety of surfaces such as grass or concrete, also avoiding obstacles like glue that will slow them down as well as give them more slip – such as an oil slick.
This app would be a nice choice for fans of the show or not who enjoy their children exploring science – especially about topics that they can experiment with at home.
My only issue with this storybook is that I miss the first-person narration and commentary by Sid himself instead of the included narration which speaks in third person about Sid and his friends, including the narrator voicing the dialogue of these characters as they speak instead of the actors that fans of the show have come to know and love.
Likewise, the look of this app is also different from the show. It is a more illustrated style, missing the dynamic computer-generated images that give Sid the Science Kid its sense of style.
I do, however, like the included friction-themed video sung by teacher Suzie – a fun and upbeat section that children will really enjoy, as will their parents.
Although I was honestly disappointed that my favorite elements from TV were not included, this is a well-produced storybook with an effective use of animation and interactions that are thoughtful and engaging.
PICME Moviebook – You are the Star is a very nicely conceived storybook that includes a personal photograph used to create a main character in this children’s app.
I have enjoyed this storybook, which includes a photo of my son, a fun detail I have really enjoyed.
I have seen books such as this in the past. Here, however, the child who is created with the included image becomes more alive and is really more a part of the story than in other apps such as this.
In PICME, my son’s likeness is used to create a boy character who delivers a piano to a friendly lion named Juno, who claims to be able to play, yet in reality needs to practice a great deal to be able to make true music with this instrument.
There is much that I really appreciate in this interactive storybook. First, two distinct versions of this tale are included – a movie as well as a storybook, and although the plot of this story remains the same, I especially appreciate how the video is not just a straight animated version of the book. It is also a different yet related experience which adds more characters and nuances that work perfectly in this movie. The book, however, is a little more simplistic, making a nice, tight narrative that I equally appreciate.
I am smitten by how my son’s character moves around the page, moving the piano, clapping politely as well as other pantomimes. I am not sure if it is the super-cute expression in the photo that I have used, but this character almost seems to wink at me, truly coming to life as his body moves with grace. Although this boy does not speak in the story, I feel as though he makes a great mime, including hand gestures and other ways he shows communication – wonderful details often not found in apps where a photo is used to create a character.
Other interactive hotspots are also included, sometimes propelling the story, as well as other areas to tap that include brief movements that tend not to take away from this charming application that includes a piano section as the new created character knows how to play, helping Juno learn. There is also a brief primer on other musical instruments as well as an interactive counting section.
Narration is included, which I really enjoy, as I do the voices for Juno and the other animal friends, creating an app that is more sophisticated and appealing to adults than I expected.
The same can be said for the video section of this application. I enjoy how this area starts out with a scene taking place moments before the included storybook. The video is also a little witty and biting while being utterly child-appropriate, with a message about practicing and perseverance as this lion, at first not being able to play the piano well, works hard to achieve his goals.
To add a children’s photo, this app includes a camera and allows users access to the camera roll from the iPad to choose a picture from. Once an image is selected, adults are able to rotate and re-size the photo to fit an included template that can then be further adjusted to give users a better way of customizing the chosen mage, such as allowing my son’s crazy hair in the frame, originally cut off by the template yet restored by me as I make additional tweaks.
A choice of a pink as well as darker tan skin tone is included to match closer the skin tone of the photo with the body the photo becomes a part of, but I would love to see a few more skin tone choices such as a paler, more realistic yellow-tone as well as other colors to represent other ethnicities such as Spanish or Asian.
Even with this minor note, I am glad that the cropped photo is included in this app as a future choice, allowing one to bypass the photo trimming. Four separate photos can be saved at once, including these characters’ names and personalizing this app as well as including the character’s gender in a way charming and seamless.
I had no expectations when first checking out this title, and I can say that I am pleasantly surprised with the quality of this delightful app.
I would love to see more of these interactive stories developed in the future. The use of an included photo is highly effective and sure to please the children who will feel as if they are truly starring in this movie and storybook app.