I really wanted to like this title, even love it, given that it is currently free and from Haper Collins, one of the world's largest publishing companies. It is part of the "Big Cat" series of apps, all of which include a specialized 'story creation' tool. There are several other apps in the series, including others I enjoyed, although none of them properly work in story creation mode.
But this title also gets very confusing with its basic interactive elements, taking a lovely (although quite simple) title from a print publication in 2006 and reissuing it in digital in a way that makes it nearly un-usable. It is currently free, along with a number of other titles in this series, so worth a download, if only in the hope of a future, free update to correct the problems most users will encounter. Take a leap and download it, if only to follow along with the rest of this review ...
The story creation tool is very ambitious with its settings, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the technical implementation has been done poorly. The errors in this title, from a substantial publisher of children's titles in print, is a particular disappointment. This book's intention seems to be to help young readers learn kinesthetically (by drawing the correct right and left turn signals), but it doesn't work well and usually just causes an accidental page turn. I would suggest an update to the code in the app that would set up 'arrows' for page turning, rather than swiping, to eliminate this confusion.
Increasing the space for an 'acceptable' drawing of each arrow would also be very helpful for young readers, even if it sometimes allows a correct answer without a perfect tracing of the lines. The basic hand signals for bicyclists are a great topic to teach about, but the area in which a correct left or right hand turn signal can be drawn is much too narrow, meaning most right answers are not even recorded by the device. Instead, much of the time, even when I played with this title as an adult, I found the page turned instead of recording my finger tracing of the arrows as indicated in the hints.
The story creation tool included in all "Collins Big Cat" titles could have, maybe, saved this app from a low review, however, it is also rife with problems - mostly technical. I found the settings less than intuitive and even when my child, and husband (a programmer) gave it a shot, the result was a sea of "Add Text Here" spread about the page. There was very little chance to really create our own story to go along with the otherwise lovely illustrations and options ... something the original story creators probably provided to this publisher originally, but had no voice in the digital implementation, which really shows.
I only hope this out-of-print title gets not only a makeover, but also a bit of reworking from the original author and illustrator, who could provide images to make the animations smoother, as well as help with the process of making sure a title like this is fully functional in digital. I know this is a new medium and part of a transition, but this is unacceptable (except as a temporarily free app) to consumers looking for quality digital titles for their children.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Maoliosa Kelly/Ley Honor Robers
Harper Collins Publishers Limited
5 - 8 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 3 - 8
This simple non-fiction text recounts a girl's journey by bicycle using symbols, maps and directions depicted by an engaging illustration-photo montage effect. / Red A/Band 2A books offer predictable text with familiar objects and actions, combined with simple story development. / Text type - A simple non-fiction recount. / The map on pp14-15 is a useful summary of the journey, consolidating understanding, and providing a wealth of speaking and listening opportunities.
Plot description of print title, courtesy of Amazon.com.