This lightly interactive story app is based on the 2002 print title by the same name. Vetted by water safety experts, Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim is a wonderful way to teach young children about water safety. Emphasizing the need to wear a life vest, have an adult watching you and ultimately to learn to swim, this title presents drowning-prevention in a fun way that children will enjoy.
The story can get wordy (and a bit dry) but it does a nice job emphasizing the important aspects of water safety in a way children will understand. It is also accompanied by lovely water-color illustrations that bring all the duck characters to life. Wonderful extra dialogue, slight animations and sound effects can also be found on every page of this educational title.
The interactive elements interfere with the narration, so wait to tap until the voice-over has finished. These elements are fun, but may negatively impact comprehension for easily distracted young readers. Thankfully this is a title fun enough to read over and over, giving the lesson about water safety more opportunities to sink in.
Under the "For Parents" section you'll find a video from the parents who started the foundation that created this free (at least at the time of review) app. But be warned, their story is both inspirational and heart-breaking, mentioning their 21-month-old who died in a drowning accident. Their crusade to make sure other parents can avoid this kind of tragedy is exceptional. Additional water safety and prevention tips are included in this section, along with web links.
An extra interactive feature found on every page is a hidden 'rubber ducky' that readers can collect. There are also two other extras accessible from the home page, a twelve card matching game and a sing-along set to the tune of 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' that begins with, "Don't jump in 'til you learn to swim." This song also appears on several pages of the book and while catchy, it is also rather off-tune. This recording could use a bit more polish (if only to save parents from having to listen to it over & over - kids do seem to like it 'as is').
Overall, this title is solidly made with nice settings like a page guide and simple, swipe-style page turning. Text is in an easy-to-read font, although it does not highlight as narrated. Ultimately, though, it is the message of this book that makes it a 'must-download' for parents of young children. A fun, interactive story app can be the perfect way to get children interested in safety topics, lightening the mood for an otherwise anxiety-provoking conversation for many families. Highly recommended!
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Kim & Stew Leonard/Vicky Lowe
10 - 20 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 2 - 8
A little duck named Stewie is desperate to swim ... he wants to join all the other ducks in the pool. On a hot day, he tries to come near the pool but the big ducks warn him away, saying "You can't come near the water until you learn to swim!" Stewie is frustrated but the older ducks explain that Stewie needs to learn about water safety first.
They sing a song about all the rules of being near water. When Stewie gets home, his parents agree to teach him about water safety. First, you must learn to swim, they tell him. In addition, Stewie learns about wearing a life vest and having a grown-up watching whenever he is near water.
Soon Stewie has learned to swim, after taking lessons at the YMCA. He also is wearing a life vest and brings his dad to watch him as he wades into the pool by himself for the first time. As he is about to get in, he sees a baby running toward the pool. Remembering the need to keep everyone safe from the water, he stops her and tells her what his elders told him at the beginning of the story, "you have to learn the water safety rules."
At the end, Stewie gets a water safety award.
About the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation:
On January 1, 1989, a 21-month old toddler lost his life in a drowning accident. This sparked his parents to pledge that they would do everything in their power to prevent this tragedy from striking other families, since drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children under five.
In 1990, that toddler’s parents, Kim and Stew Leonard, founded the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation in memory of their son. Since this time, the Foundation has raised more than $1 million dollars to go towards water safety awareness and education, including providing swim scholarships and lifeguard training, along with writing and publishing two children’s books on water safety: Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim and Swimming Lessons with Stewie the Duck.