Now Universal App! Thomas the Train is beloved by many children, from the animated television and movie productions, to the actual toy wooden trains that populate many of the 'toy rooms' across the globe. This digital book is based on the movie, "Hero of the Rails" released in 2009. The story in the book follows the movie plot and has Thomas and his friends help Patchwork Hiro, a broken down train, rise back to his former glory as a 'master of the railway'.
The story is nicely narrated with vivid images from the movie. These scenes have nice, slightly animated touches, like steam coming out of the trains, as well as some more animated scenes of the the trains moving along the tracks and the engines talking to each other. Interactive elements are designated by 'glowing' briefly and reinforce the story nicely. There are also easy settings to navigate through this ebook's many features.
While there are many wonderful animations and interactive elements throughout the book, the games bundled in the app make this title really stand out. The following extras are included:
Puzzles - 5 puzzles of the scenes in the book are available with two settings, easy (6 pieces) and hard (12 pieces). Completing the puzzles correctly triggers a short animated scene from the movie.
Movie - This is an animated movie about hero of the rails that lasts just under 5 minutes.
Matching Game - Traditional Card Matching Game. Two Settings: Hard (28 cards) & Easy (16 cards). Nice challenge with similar looking engines. Great for Thomas fans who know all the characters.
Coloring Pages - There are 10 coloring pages to choose from and each one has a palate of colors and three brush 'thicknesses' to color with.
Overall, this is a nice digital book for the iPad, especially for fans of Thomas & his many train friends. It uses up a lot of memory, but contains a lot of activities, making it more like a 5-in-1 app!
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Reverend W. V. Awdry
15 - 30 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 4 - 10
This book is an abridged plot summary of the movie, "Hero of the Rails": One summer on the Island of Sodor, Spencer arrives to help the Duke and Duchess with the construction of their new summer house. After being an absolute nuisance to all of the other engines by bossing them around, Thomas challenges Spencer to a contest of strength, taking heavy cargo around the island. Thomas's brakes fail after climbing a tall hill, and he runs out of control through an overgrown, abandoned line. There, Thomas finds Patchwork Hiro, an old abandoned engine from a faraway land.
Hiro does not want to be found out by the Fat Controller, fearing he will be scrapped, so Thomas promises to keep him his secret and work to make Patchwork Hiro "Master of the Railway" once again. Later, he's taken to the Sodor Steamworks for repairs, where he finds old parts for Hiro. He takes them with permission from Victor, the Steamworks engine, only to discover that Hiro's hiding place is dangerously close to the Duke and Duchess's new summer house.
The following day, he tells Percy about Patchwork Hiro, and asks Percy to do his own job while he helps Hiro. Percy misplaces his own mail trucks and breaks down while doing Thomas's job, so Thomas brings him to the Steamworks. The Fat Controller finds out about this and scold Thomas by forcing him to do Percy work. With nobody else to ask for help, Thomas tells the rest of his friends about Hiro. They all work together in bringing Hiro new parts, distracting Spencer, and keeping the operation a secret from the Fat Controller while Thomas and Percy try to find the missing mail trucks.
Patchwork Hiro makes friends with all of the engines, but gradually grows homesick. On the day that the last necessary part for Hiro is to be delivered, Spencer discovers Percy's mail trucks, only to be cornered by Thomas, James and Toby. The Fat Controller accuses Spencer of stealing the trucks and demands him to return them to Percy. While Thomas and Hiro wait for Percy with the last part, they hear Spencer's whistle and run. Spencer finds them and gives chase, but without the last part, Hiro falls apart and is forced to a stop.
Spencer is suddenly distracted by Gordon while Thomas moves Hiro to a new hiding place. The Duke and Duchess are furious with Spencer for abandoning his own work, and Thomas asks to assist him, in order to keep his eye on Spencer and to gain the trust of the Fat Controller. Meanwhile, the other engines visit Hiro to keep his spirits up. When Thomas finally decides to tell the Fat Controller about Hiro, Spencer tries to stop him, but he is foiled by a rickety bridge which collapses beneath him.
When Thomas explains Hiro's situation to the Fat Controller, he reassures Thomas that he would never have scrapped the "Master of the Railway", and the following day, Thomas and Percy bring him to the Steamworks. There, Victor and his assistant, Kevin work together to restore Hiro. Once he's as good as new, Hiro rescues Spencer, and they work with Thomas on the summerhouse. Spencer apologizes to the two engines, saying they are "both fine engines and fine friends." Hiro misses his home island, so the Fat Controller arranges for Hiro to return home. A farewell party is held at the docks, and Thomas promises Hiro that Sodor will always be his home too.