JustKidsApps has recently completely updated its Heidi apps and while doing so have also created The Heidi Story Collection – an app that combines all three Heidi books in one. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the classic tale of Heidi, the story was written by Johanna Spyri and was first published in 1880.
Now prepare yourselves, as I suspect that the word ‘charming’ is going to be over-used in this review. Heidi is a little girl who charms those around her with her genuine spirit and happy nature. It’s a lovely story of resilience and loyalty that has lasted throughout the years. So it was really pleasing to me to find that this app has been created with such care to preserve these qualities.
I’ll start with the illustrations, as they are the only feature preserved from the original release – they are really quite lovely, the colors and features are gentle and not too vibrant, which suits the feel of the stories. They are just right.
Next the story itself – there are two options here, one from Heidi’s point of view and a more sophisticated version for older readers, told in the third person. The option from Heidi’s viewpoint is aimed at younger children (ages 4-7) and the text is highlighted as it is narrated, which is very useful for developing readers. The highlighting is a constantly moving box, however, which is different from most ebooks and not quite as good as it has to move very fast to keep up with the narration. I suspect that older readers will also enjoy this version as it is a more personal way to enjoy the story.
The version for older children is longer and more sophisticated in syntax, but is beautifully adapted in a way that is accessible to the modern child while preserving the authenticity of the original story.
Speaking of which, this adaptation of the traditional story was masterfully executed by our own Deanne Shoyer. (Disclaimer: She has paid me absolutely nothing for this comment. In this case, she well and truly didn’t need to). It remains true to the classic tale, but is abridged enough to be a comfortable length for a single reading session on the iPad. The language and the feel of the story has been handled with great care and she has done a fantastic job of making it relevant to the current generation without dumbing down the language or losing any of the charm of the original story.
The narration in the ‘for older readers’ version is brilliant. I found myself listening to pages over and over, enjoying the characterization immensely, grinning like a loon at times and wiping a tear away at others. I also really enjoyed the gentle sound effects on each page – the crackling of the fire, the whittling of the spoon. They add an extra dimension and are entirely non-intrusive. I may have pressed the hurdy gurdy in Heidi in Frankfurt a few too many times, just for the sheer joy of listening to the old-timey music.
After listening to the story on each page, a little twinkly spot appears on the characters, inviting the reader to listen to each character re-tell what has just happened from their perspective. This is a cleverly wrought third option of listening to the story, as it is a neat synopsis of what has just happened on each page. The characters’ voices are also excellent. The twinkly spot is not nearly as appropriate for the older reader's version, however.
There is an option to stop/start the narration on each page which is very useful and adds to the versatility of this app. The only thing I’d like to see is a pause option, as when my little listener needed to pop off to the bathroom mid-page, we stopped and restarted the narration and it started back at the beginning of the page. This probably isn’t a problem for older readers, but my little poppet is only three and her attention span can be short at the best of times.
There is a ‘bits and bobs’ section which includes things such as a spot the difference game and facts that relate to the story. It’s a nice little addition which adds further dimension to the app. There is also a quiz that tests your child’s comprehension of the story. Far more extras than most ebooks deliver.
There are no in-app purchases, links to social media or any of the other enticing buttons that developers seem to insist upon including in children’s apps to drive their parents bonkers. But there wouldn’t be. This app is classy. In fact it is downright charming from top to tale (deliberate sic). A great deal of time and careful thought has quite obviously been put into it. It is an app that feels as though it should be bound in leather, given a silk bookmark and cherished for future generations.
This guest review was originally published by SmartAppsforKids.com on Sept. 27th 2012.
SmartAppsforKids is one of the top review sites for kids educational apps, games and books. They strive for meticulousness and honesty in their reviews, both positive and negative. Their goal is to be the most complete source for parents and educators looking for reliable info on an app before making a purchase.
Author Eleanor Holland is a stay-at-home Mom who was a primary school music teacher for many years, has a Master's in Philosophy and is a part-time opera singer.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Johanna Spyri/Diana Kizlauskas
JustKidsApps - Katrin Draemann Barothy
20 - 45 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 6 - 10
English • German •
Heidi is a girl who has been raised by her aunt Dete in Maienfeld, Switzerland after the early deaths of her parents, Tobias and Adelheid. Dete brings 5-year-old Heidi to her grandfather, who has been at odds with the villagers for years and lives in seclusion on the alps. He at first resents Heidi's arrival, but the girl manages to penetrate his harsh exterior and Heidi subsequently has a delightful stay with him and her best friend, young Peter the goat-herd.
Dete returns three years later to bring Heidi to Frankfurt as a companion of a 12-year-old girl named Clara Sesemann, who is regarded as an invalid. Heidi spends a year with Clara, conflicting with the Sesemanns' strict housekeeper Fraulein Rottenmeier and becoming more and more homesick. Her one diversion is learning to read and write, motivated by her desire to go home and read to Peter's blind grandmother. Heidi's increasingly failing health, and several instances of sleepwalking cause hysteria in the household that there is a haunting, prompt Clara's doctor to send Heidi home to her grandfather. Her return prompts the grandfather to descend to the village for the first time in years, marking an end to his seclusion.
Heidi and Clara continue to contact each other. A visit by the doctor to Heidi and her grandfather convinces him to recommend Clara to visit Heidi. Meanwhile, Heidi teaches Peter to read and write. Clara makes the journey the next season and spends a wonderful summer with Heidi. Clara becomes stronger on goat's milk and fresh mountain air, but Peter, feeling deprived of Heidi's attention, pushes Clara's wheelchair down the mountain to its destruction. Without her wheelchair, Clara attempts to walk and is gradually successful. Clara's grandmother and father are amazed and overcome with joy to see Clara walking. Clara's wealthy family promises to provide a shelter for Heidi, in case her grandfather will no longer be able to do so.
[Plot Summary courtesy of Wikipedia]