Elmo's Birthday Bash is a fun app with a few areas for improvement to live up to expectations of educational enhancement worthy of the Sesame Street label. It has a story that isn't riveting but does provide for an "early reader" quite well with simple text that highlights as narrated by Bob McGrath, an original cast member in his 43rd season on the show. Fun games are also included that let kids match beginning letter sounds and rhyming words. These games can be included in the story or excluded in the apps ample settings.
These settings include a page guide, easy self-recording options and other solid ways to navigate and set-up the app. Arrows are present to turn the page forward, although you can also swipe back and forth to get to different parts of the story. These swipe page turns are somewhat touchy in combination with the interactive elements, causing frustrating page turns accidentally. A number of fun elements are interactive, like the letters, numbers & other magnets on the refrigerator can be dragged around and lots of tappable items are on every page that have a 'sparkle' as a hint to show children what to focus on. These are fun, but often do a disservice to story comprehension, since they are rarely connected to what is happening in the text.
There's is really no good reason, except that developers could add it easily, to have a pot in the kitchen have its lid pop up, for instance. Nice audio reminders also come up when the reader doesn't turn the page soon enough, however these continual prompts are almost too much pressure for young readers who may be taking their time. Animation is also so simple in this app (and not story-related) that it makes me question whether it should be there at all. Seeing characters move slightly, wave arms or bob & wiggle, just distracts my child from the story, especially when these relatively meaningless actions can be done on each page ad infinitum.
Overall, this is a very fun app for young readers and may help the most reluctant preschoolers to really get excited about literacy. However, the sheer number of distractions added in the enhancement of this digital, leveled reader makes me long for print for my own young reader. It's deeply disappointing to see a leading producer of storybook apps like Sesame Street/PBS and Random House add the kind of enhancements that give enhanced books a bad rap in the literacy community. Hopefully a swift update will be in order. I recommend this title with some reservations, but for a digital reader it is still engaging and has some, limited educational value.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Kama Einhorn/Sesame Workshop
Random House Digital, Inc.
15 - 30 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 3 - 6 +
One day, Elmo's mommy told him that an 'extra-special' day is coming ... it's going to be Elmo's Birthday! "Would you like a party?" she asks her son. Elmo wants a party very much! He is excited about having friends come over, wearing party hats and getting to eat birthday cake. Elmo then makes invitations for eleven of his friends and then mails them all.
As the characters get their invitations, they are excited but not sure what to get Elmo as a present. Each one picks something they hope Elmo will like. Soon everyone is at Elmo's door, knocking on the day of the party. Everyone comes in, enjoys birthday cake and lots of party games. Elmo is very happy with all his gifts.
When Elmo gets into bed at the end of the day, he is smiling from ear to ear as his dad tucks him in. His sweet dreams lead to rhyming words, of course!