Taby the Little Mouse is visually enchanting as a digital book and has really wonderful interactivity. It also has high quality music (although on a 'loop') and beautiful illustrations. It is very well executed as an app, with easy page turning and a very intuitive interface. The story also has a simple and elegant quality to it that was initially appealing.
The unique style of interactivity involves dragging and dropping images. Each page starts out with a beautiful background image and several outlined elements. At the bottom of the screen a bar appears with several small icons. The child then touches and drags the little icons to fit them into the scene. When you release the icon over the larger outline, the picture fills in magically. These images are beautifully illustrated in soft colors that lend this book to bedtime reading. My son really enjoyed getting to set up each page this way and requested this book often during the week I reviewed it. After all the images are placed on a page, the story's text then appears.
Taby's story, however, is a bit upsetting to me as a parent. It is odd in a way that's hard to describe, like maybe something important was lost in translation. The book makes perfect sense, but it tells the story of a little mouse so afraid to leave the attic that his mother basically abandons him there for days with little or no food until he holds onto a balloon string and flies away. A group of birds help Taby find his mother again in a fruit garden. The story seems like it could be very optimistic and teach about not being afraid, but instead parental abandonment seems to be the dominant impression this story leaves on the reader.
The story does end with Taby realizing the outside world is really beautiful, but overall I felt like it should have emphasized how Taby learns about the outside world and conquers his fears. Every time I read the story, I felt very sad ... especially as a parent. Seeing a 'mom' just leave her child for days (something even mice don't usually do) and make no attempt to help him deal with his anxiety was distressing.
I found myself muting the book and changing the story a bit as I read it to my child, adding a few lines from the mother mouse about the beautiful fruit garden and having her say, "I will be gone looking for the garden and send a balloon and some birds to fetch you. Don't worry, you can be a brave little mouse!" Perhaps I am too over-protective of my child, but this solution let my child and I fully enjoy this otherwise gorgeous-looking book.
I also choose to mute the book because it has narration with a slight accent in English. The narrator is very articulate, although not quite perfect with "L" and "R". I think books aimed at very young children in particular should be narrated by native speakers in whichever language they appear, not just for English; audio books for adults are almost always narrated by native speakers, so I am often puzzled to find these books for kids in the app store. In addition, the book could use some settings to turn off the narration, music and also a home button to navigate more easily. And if you are puzzled when you first open the app - you need to touch and drag the curtain rope down to get the book to start.
I cannot really recommend this title, but I also cannot fully dismiss it ... with some re-working of the story and narration, it could be a really delightful app. It has all the other elements and a unique approach to interactivity that I really enjoyed.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Farina Rose/Herald Reynaldo (Music)
PT.Nightspade Multi Kreasi
8 - 12 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 4 - 8
Taby the little mouse if afraid to go outside. He lives with his mom in the attic above a candy store, but then the store goes out of business and they begin to run out of food - or candy in this case. The mother mouse leaves the candy shop to look for food and Taby stays behind, too scared of the outside world to follow her. Days pass and Taby is very sad and still running out of food. A bird comes for Taby with a cherry from the garden and offers to take Taby to his mother, but he refuses, still too afraid to leave the attic. Then one day he sees a balloon floating by and grabs the string and floats away above the candy shop. He is enchanted by the world he sees below (and remarkable not afraid of this otherwise truly dangerous situation), asking some passing birds to help him find the fruit garden and his mother.