Neighborhood Watch Kids and Duh Color Stuff is an exceptional new digital storybook for young readers and listeners. The talented team from Chameleon eBooks has created a unique choose-your-own-adventure tale that takes full advantage of the interactive medium. The story itself is engaging, with a young team of sleuths who attempt to solve a mystery that gets deeper and deeper as it takes them all around town. Join Johnny, Arnold, Suzie, Maya and Billy as they follow footprints, gather evidence and even explore an alternate universe in this unique app.
This storybook has great features, including narration that is reminiscent of a cartoon, alongside interesting dialogue and relevant mini-games that let young readers gather clues along the way. Many "hidden object" pages are included where readers identify items that get pasted on a large bulletin board in a treehouse they use as headquarters. The games are not easy, but thankfully hints are given if you take too long to find the items. Bookmarks based on the characters allow up to five different saved files that hold your place in the book, which is helpful since the book can play for more than an hour, depending on which choices are made along the way.
The story takes place in a neighborhood called Watch when something mysterious happens on the playground. Readers are then invited to make choices to help the kids "overcome their differences and find a way to work together" to solve the case. This engaging story can end in many ways, although there are also a lot of dead ends as a result, which can get frustrating at times. Like a Scooby Doo mystery, adults are not always so helpful even when the team of kids tries to do the responsible thing and tell them about what is happening in their little town.
This mystery isn't meant to be true-to-life however and even includes science fiction elements. The kids sneak around after dark, enter dangerous buildings, follow sirens to crime scenes and take a lot of risks that we would never want real 9-11 year olds to experience. But the target audience will be drawn in to this interactive reading experience for an armchair adventure they won't forget!
Messages in the book are often pro-social, about getting along and conflict management, even when reinforcing the idea that adults are of little help. The story pacing can sometimes feel a bit slow, but lets children digest the positive messages that give it a similar feel to educational television programs. The characters themselves are also very diverse, featuring both boys and girls, different ethnic groups and personality traits.
An addition to this lovely title might be a page guide to explore and navigate the book, although the bookmarks do help a lot. This could give youngsters insight into how the book is constructed as well and might be a nice treat if unlocked after the first successful read to the end of the story. There is also no highlighting of the text, something that would be useful for struggling readers. Reluctant readers are an especially good audience for this book, too, with limited amounts of text available on each page, full color illustrations and optional narration.
Overall, this is an especially unique app on the market and offers a lot of value for an extended reading experience that goes way beyond your typical app. While it requires some persistence to finish, the story is "monstrously" satisfying for readers 8 and up!
This app has been thoroughly evaluated by our staff. Please click on the 'star ratings' tab above, to see how it fared in all nine of our rating categories. See synopsis tab for more details about the storyline.
Note to readers: This review was expedited by the developer for a fee. The content of the rating/review is the same, but timing of publication has been prioritized.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Guy Hasson/Andre Thernovai
60 - 90 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 6 - 10 +
Neighborhood Watch Kids and Duh Color Stuff ™ is an exciting adventure story in which five brave young kids and their pet dog set out to save their neighborhood. Join Arnold, Maya, Johnny, Suzie, Billy and Paw in their amazing journey to self-discovery. Help them overcome their differences, make the right choices and work together as a team to solve a series of mysterious events.
Will the Neighborhood Watch Kids succeed in saving their neighborhood?