Sam is cute, sneaky and maybe not the best role model for kids ...
This is an exceptionally well produced and polished app about a little boy named Sam who is 'sneaky'. Light animation and delightful sound effects, plus interactivity that elicits giggles & smiles from readers of all ages, make this an experience that is nearly perfect in digital. Created by new developer, Sneaky Sam Productions, this is an app that is sure to amuse kids aged six and up.
The story centers on Sam, a little boy about age 4-6+, as he plays pranks and does 'mischievous' things that make him laugh but other people, including his friends and family, look sad. He scares one friend and gets another in trouble with the teacher, he then sprays the famiy pet with water and tracks mud into the house when his mother isn't looking. Titles like this dance along the fine line where subtle humor may be readily misunderstood by young children, however.
Most people would consider the actions of little Sam to be simply bad behavior or even bullying. Since there are no negative consequences for Sam anywhere in the story and his behavior is particularly hurtful to his friends, parents and even animals, this does concern me as a reader. Adults will have no trouble understanding the nuances of this story, and why it is amusing that Sam is 'cheeky' and 'sneaky', but very young children may take this story more literally, getting very wrong ideas about things to do to their family pet, other kids at school, etc. I would suggest discussing the story and normal consequences for this type of behavior if sharing this story with children under age 8, in particular.
According to most developmental theories, young children often imitate behavior they see in real life or things they read or watch in media representations. They have a limited ability to puzzle out the moral implications of behavior, looking for cues from their environment. For this reason, I would recommend this title for ages over 6-8, unless reading with an adult. I should note, however, that I also recommend this 'shared' viewing for much of the commercial media (TV, movies, etc.) aimed at kids under 8, since children vary so much in their developmental maturity. Most parents know their child well enough to know if a title like this would be well received, but as an educator, I would hesitate to use this in a school setting with kids below 4th grade, without a lot of set up & debrief afterward.
Simple but charming illustrations by Binny Talib give this book app a certain whimsical quality that won me over, despite a lot of the interactivity having very little to do with the storyline. Flowers spin, lights turn on and off as well as an assortment of objects that bounce, wiggle and make noise when tapped. This type of interactivity can be a distraction to a more complex plot, but the pacing, placement of text and timing of the well-crafted verse is so superb that it comes together in an almost theatrical way. Truly thoughtful development was involved in creating this story app and it shows on every page.
Stellar production values, fun interactive elements and lots of humor make Sneaky Sam an app that is hard not to love. Delightful narration with a crisp British accent, from Felix Williamson, makes this an enchanting tale for English speakers anywhere in the world, although some regionalisms may be unfamiliar to American audiences. Sam eats 'boiled eggs and soldiers' for breakfast, which I had never heard of ... according to Wikipedia: "Soft-boiled eggs can be eaten with buttered toast cut into strips, which are then dipped into the runny yolk. In the United Kingdom, these strips of toast are known as 'soldiers'."
The addition of a page guide would be nice, but otherwise this is a very solidly made app with intuitive settings and swift page-turning with simple arrows (which is nice, since swiping the page would trigger interactivity). The font is stylized but easy to read with word-for-word highlighting. Links that leave the app are all tucked away under the 'info' section. Several well-made games are included, although they are not especially unique, with a 'sticker' page, matching game and a 'Find Sam' activity where Sam is hidden in a different location each time. Overall, this is an adorable and beautifully constructed storybook app. Recommended.
Note to readers: This review was expedited by the developer for a fee. The review's content is the same, but timing of publication has been prioritized.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.