An adorable little red panda cub who loves bugs stars in this story, which includes lots of action and suspense as little Laloo gets trapped by a poacher and then makes friends (including many new bugs) on his long journey home. Many insect species are also highlighted in the story, along with great information about the culture and natural environment of East Asia. Subtle but engaging interactive elements are well-crafted, although hints for some of them would be a nice addition.
The red panda (Ailurus fulgens, or shining-cat), is a small arboreal mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China, with fewer than 10,000 adults of the species alive in the wild, making it an endangered species, according to Wikipedia. Not only is this a fun storybook app, but children will learn about endangered wildlife and 20% of proceeds from each download are donated to The Red Panda Nework. Lovers of bugs will also enjoy the overall message about how helpful and interesting insects and spiders can be.
Exceptional enhancements include finding nine hidden bugs within the pages, light animated interactions and a 'paw print' on many pages that gives additional factual information about the red panda, cultural references (e.g. "Namaste", The Taj Mahal, Bollywood, etc.) and natural science. The text is an easy-to-read and nicely sized font, although it does not highlight as narrated. Page turn is by simple arrows (in the shape of a leaf) at the bottom corners of the screen, although there is no page guide for easier navigation.
Many of the interactions are also fun but the sound effects, in particular, can be distracting from the storyline for young readers and listeners. The narration is crisp and easy to understand (with a British-English accent), making the narrated mode quite enjoyable. Overall, this is a lovely new storybook app with fun, cartoon-like illustrations that will appeal to children.
Several links do leave the app from the final page of the book, leading young readers to the web, email and App Store. For younger kids using this app on their own, turning off wifi access might be a good idea. The overall message conveyed in this tile is exceptional, though, emphasizing friendship, the preservation of endangered animals, and an exploration of the natural environment. This makes for both cross-cultural and cross-species insights, just right for young readers ages 4-8. It could even inspire some great conversations. The book ends with, "Whatever you think is cool, be it monsters, Bollywood, or bugs like Laloo, remember there's nothing cooler than just being you!" 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.
10 - 12 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: Yes
Age: 4 - 8 +
Laloo is a baby red panda who loves bugs. His uncle is not so excited about bugs, however, considering them to be pests. Laloo worries that he is 'weird' since he likes bugs so much. Then one day Laloo is distracted by a caterpillar and follows it into a trap - a poacher has decided to capture the little panda for his pelt.
Thankfully, the cage springs open on the jarring trip in the back of the poacher's truck, letting Laloo escape. But he's not in the forest anymore and gets to see the sights, sounds and creatures of a big city. This bewildering and exciting experience takes Laloo past street vendors and even across a 'Bollywood' movie set. There he meets Scrilla, a dog-star who hates bugs too - fleas that is.
Scrilla helps Laloo get to the train station and advises him to howl if he needs help. At a temple nearby, Laloo gets off the train and meets another set of bugs (fireflies). Chilla, another friend Laloo meets, helps him to find his way to the cave of a tiger where a map is painted that can help him get home. He is chased by the poacher, though, and falls through a wooden bridge.
When Laloo washes up on shore, he finds himself in the middle of a traditional celebration and is disguised by colorful powder that disguises his red fur. Not long after this, though, the poacher sneaks up on Laloo and traps him in a net. A little spider is still with the little red panda, however, and manages to scare the human away. Perhaps bugs aren't so bad at all!