Kai is a 10 year old boy with a wild imagination and a love of history and treasure. He lives above his parents' treasure shop and the illustrations of this store were so detailed that I could almost imagine being able to play a 'hidden object' game within the page. Tapping on any one of dozens of items elicits high quality sound effects at every turn in the shop's shelves. And we haven't even gotten to the heart of this book - the treasure hunt itself.
This digital book has wonderful interactive sounds and lots of things to touch on every page. One of my son's favorites was the lamp that Kai gets as a birthday gift. It has a shade that looks like a globe and tapping on it turns the page dark except for the whites of Kai's eyes. As Kai falls asleep under the spell of his new lamp, he dreams of finding a treasure chest on a deserted island. Inside this chest is another small chest with a clue and a map. Now the hunt begins!
Every time Kai finds a treasure chest in this story, the reader can also play along, choosing a chest from one of 8 that appear at the bottom of the screen. This unique interactivity allows the reader to go on a slightly different treasure hunt with every re-reading. The app also can just be a 'book' by paging straight through. The story is truly delightful in any configuration, by design.
The print version of this book (published in 2008) has the same style of interactivity and lends itself well to a digital transformation. I received a copy of the print book from the developer prior to the iPad app's release to preview, and it became an overnight favorite of my little boy. My son was over the moon to have Kai on the iPad, especially since he could now enjoy the book more often with narration.
As much as I'd like to read to my child all the time, it is really nice to have a well-narrated book for him to enjoy while I make dinner or on car trips. Treasure Kai was so engaging in digital form that my son even insisted on reading it while I was writing reviews of several other books this week; Kai is a clear favorite!
In app form this book comes alive, with rocks raining down on our intrepid hero, gurgling quicksand, skulls with chattering teeth, and a daring escape from noisy headhunters. I would recommend waiting for the narration to stop before tapping on things, since it can interfere with hearing the story, but otherwise the book is full of charm.
Since the print book is only available from the developer's website, the app version will give more kids the chance to enjoy Kai's adventures. I would still recommend the print book, especially as a tool to help kids focus on reading in certain settings - it is particularly well-designed for use by speech therapists, in fact. For ordering information, click HERE. There is also a great resource video about extention activities you can do in an elementary school classroom setting.
There are a few things I'd love to see in the next update. I would love to have settings to control narration, music and other sound effects separately. This book has the potential to be used in so many ways and would have even more replay value with additional settings. The book also needs some minor improvements to the page turning - the pages have a nice look and feel, but they can be a little touchy when exploring the book's interactive elements.
Otherwise, this book stands out for its ambitious format and engaging storyline. What child (or even adult for that matter) doesn't love a treasure hunt? The app has a wonderful game quality to it that gets kids reading, some nice animated elements that don't overshadow the story and best of all, a tale that was wonderful first in print and now comes to life on the iPad. Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island is an iPad reading experience that is like no other, making it a perfect choice to round out my first 100 reviews.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Karen Guinn Robertson/Victor Guiza
Treasure Bound Books Pty Ltd
12 - 30 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 5 - 12
Kai is a little boy who has an exceptional dream on his 10th birthday about a treasure hunt. After introducing himself to the reader and giving a tour of his parent's treasure shop, Kai falls asleep and dreams of a real treasure hunt. You can read the story straight through or pick different treasure chests to open, but no matter how you play/read the story, the following treasure hunting adventures take place:
- Raining rocks cascade down on Kai until he says the magic word, "Please"
- Bugs cover everything and Kai must eat them to get to the chest, but they turn to chocolate & jelly beans in his mouth.
- A shark nearly eats Kai as he rows to a deserted island, but dolphins help push him safely to shore where he opens the chest.
- Kai is grabbed by the dead witch tree, but then drinks a mysterious liquid after reading his clue, turning him into a bat. He flies safely through the cave until he finds the next chest.
- Kai finds himself in quicksand, but thinking quickly he remembers a lesson from science class and leans back into the sand, freeing his feet and then swims to firmer ground with a chest to open.
- With a magic ring, Kai becomes invisible, allowing him to sneak by a group of headhunters - they almost catch him after he sneezes, but being invisible helps him slip away and find another chest.
- An ancient walled maze traps Kai until he realizes some of the snake tongues are actually 'arrows' that point the way out (and to the next chest).
- Finally, he is floating in the ocean, looking for the chest with the gold, but first he must get past his fear of a skeleton guarding the treasure.
In this last chest he finds the gold, jewels and a mysterious locket. Then Kai wakes up to find that the locket is still in his pocket. Maybe it wasn't just a dream afterall!