Tractor Mac is a charismatic red tractor with headlight eyes. He and his friend Lucy (a cute green tractor who's gender is distinguished from Mac only by her adorable little eyelashes), help with an old fashioned barn-raising in this charming book. The illustrations and artwork are a perfect fit for this story about working together and sticking to the job, even when you don't want to. He converses with the farm animals around him as he works hard milling wood. They tease him for being stuck, but he sticks with it and then finds out he's been making planks for a new barn. All the neighboring townsfolk come to help with the building and Tractor Mac realizes he's good at something new. "I thought tractors were only good for field work!" he says, "I didn't know they could build barns, too!"
The book also has a little bit of interactivity, including animal sounds and the sound of Mac's engine chugging along when pictures are tapped. The variety of animal sounds was delightful and of high quality. My son lit up when he heard the pig sounds (it's rather authentic). Since my kid plays with a lot of interactive books (as you can imagine), he is often expecting to be wowed. Titles like these are not going to draw kids in the way Toy Story or books like that do, and you will be disappointed if that's what you're after in a book. But as a mom, it was good to know my son wasn't staring into the screen like a zombie for a little while.
This story has just enough interactivity, along with the narration, to make it appealing to parents for bedtime. My son got fidgety at one point during the story, and I realized that's exactly what happens when we read print books, even ones he likes, at bedtime. I took it as a good sign that this book wasn't going to be so fun, he'd cry to have 'just one more iPad book'. Since my child (and maybe yours, too?) has figured out how to stretch bedtime in many creative ways, the iPad books with interactivity are often requested and often denied at bedtime in our house.
Tractor Mac is one of dozens and dozens of titles by Picpocket books, a company that emphasizes bringing children's picture books (just like the ones in your local library) to the iPhone and now iPad. I really appreciate that most of their stories are from authors & illustrators that have already been fully vetted by the children's book publishing process. If my local librarian has seen it and read it at pajama storytime, that's a great comfort to me when I quickly download a book as an alternative to video games on a long car trip. Otherwise I have to preview everything. As a parent, this means I also can get a lot of information, and quickly, about a title, to decide if it's a story I want to share with my child. [I like to read user reviews on Amazon, so I did it for you, two reviews, both 5 stars - they said nice stuff.]
While these types of iPad books can't really stand up to the 'Wow!' factor of animated productions or really interactive books, they are essential in an iPad book collection if you ever want to really go without print books for bedtime. I've heard that playing games too close to bedtime makes kids have trouble sleeping and I don't doubt it. So these types of books are an important staple. I, for one, cannot wait to take a vacation with my son and not have to bring a stack of books along.
So if you're looking for a good title to read or listen along with your child at bedtime or to occupy them in a less over-stimulating way, look no farther. And if tractors aren't your kid's thing, check out some of their other titles. PicPocket books really has a wide variety of nice book apps in the market for a digital book publisher of this quality.
[We have two new ratings categories you can't see in our review format yet, but they affect this book's overall score quite a bit. For Originality, it gets a 4 and for educational, it gets a 4.5. An explanation of my rating categories and criteria will be in my blog ... coming soon!]
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
8 - 10 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 3 - 10 +
Tractor Mac is taken off his fieldwork duties and parked to run a sawmill. This is hard for a tractor used to rolling across the fields. What good are wheels if you can't use them? Through his friends and a lot of sawdust, Mac learns valuable lessons in cooperation and trust. [Source: Tractor Mac Shack Website] Billy Steers is an author, illustrator, and professional pilot. In addition to the Tractor Mac series, he has worked on over forty children's books. Mr. Steers had horses and sheep growing up on a farm and has a keen interest in machinery, history,and farm life. Married with three sons, he lives in Connecticut. [Source: Amazon.com]