Violet and the Mystery Next Door is the most recent book in the "Violet" series of ebooks. These books are a unique series with interactivity that is integrated nicely into the storyline. The series stars a little girl who wants to be a detective, searching for clues and solving mysteries. In this winter-themed book she meets a partner in crime-solving, a neighbor boy named Maxwell who goes by "Maxman".
This series of titles is well made, engaging the reader in the story's plot. The interactive clues are set up in a very thoughtful way that draws the child into the story itself. In this book the reader even gets to make decisions at several points along the way, giving the book a 'choose-your-own-adventure' quality that takes interactivity up a notch. It also makes this a great book for re-play value.
This title also eliminated the problem I had with the first book in the series, where the audio elements would interfere with the narration, a great improvement from a very thoughtful and responsive developer. The narration is even from the author, a very nice touch. I really liked the page index, although it took a few minutes to realize you swipe below the pictures to see all the pages of the book. While not entirely intuitive, the addition of a way to navigate the book is much appreciated.
A nice musical track also plays in the background and the book has simple sound effects when you tap on any one of the items in the story that are highlighted with dotted yellow lines. These clues have tons of fun detail, so even when they aren't integral to the mystery, they are enjoyable. The book is lightly animated, with the characters eyes blinking and falling snow. There is even a cute mini-game that is triggered by tapping on the bird that peeks over the fence in one of the last scenes.
There are also a few other hidden interactions to discover, like doorbells that ring, lights that turn off and on, snowballs that respond to tilting the iPad, hanging details that swing when flicked and even items that can be dragged around the page (for instance, one page has all the pieces to make a face on a snowman Violet is building). There are simple sound effects too, like a flickering fire and winter wind sounds.
Overall this book is a great read and a lot of fun to 'play' with, too. There is a ton to discover in this book app, plus an ingeniously interactive storyline. It's a complete package and a great choice if you are looking for a top-notch interactive storybook on the iPad.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Allison Keeme/Jeff Keeme (Technical Director)
Black Dog Books, LLC
12 - 20 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: Yes
Age: 4 - 10
This book takes children on an adventure to solve a mystery with a little girl about age 10-12, although the book is also appealing for younger readers who might look up to Violet. The developer's site describes Violet's 'secret' this way: "In a small, peaceful neighborhood, a wonderfully curious and clever girl is about to get herself into a bit of mischief. Her name is Violet and she has a very secret 'SECRET.' When Violet ties on her black satin mask she becomes Phantom Girl, the world’s most daring experimenter!"
In this, her latest iPad adventure, Violet discovers a new neighbor ... a little boy that has just moved in next door. After sneaking around & spying on the new boy, she finally meets him and discovers that he is into solving mysteries, too. "MaxMan" is the name this little boy goes by when in his secret attire, although he later tells Violet that "my family calls me Maxwell".
They have several adventures together during the story, including a snowball fight, building a snowman, and exploring the snowy world outside until Maxman realizes he's lost his bottle-cap badge. Realizing the seriousness of this loss, Phantom Girl (aka Violet) helps him search for the item inside and outside his house until they find it on the window sill of his home. They then celebrate and Maxwell invites Violet over to his home to give her one of his other prized bottle cap badges. The two vow to stay friends and work together (with Phantom the dog, too) to solve more mysteries. A great friendship is born!