What would you do if an alligator swallowed your boots? Chances are, you wouldn't try to get a dangerous creature to cough them back up, like Jud, the main character in this humorous and polished storybook app. Featuring film-quality graphics with light animation, this is a reading experience sure to keep children tapping and giggling as they explore each page. Adults will also enjoy the many tongue-in-cheek details within the illustrations, like Jud's wife's coffee cup that says, "I ♥ LA" or the voodoo man's 'Mac' laptop with a glowing skull instead of the Apple logo.
The story itself plays on stereotypes a bit, depicting a 'hillbilly' couple living in the alligator-infested swampland of Louisiana. The henpecked husband, Jud, loses his boots to the 'gator while clipping his toenails. His wife's response is, "Then go get 'em Jud!" But the plot is well-crafted, with nicely paced dialogue and engaging interactivity. Readers can tap on Jud to see his toenails clip neatly off into an arc that will fill his boot if tapped just right. Next to him sits a frog that children can touch to see a long tongue zap at the fireflies in the night sky.
Interactivity is also well constructed but can interrupt the flow of the reading experience and is rarely related to the plot, which can negatively impact reading comprehension. The 'touch counter' provided on each page indicates how many things to tap, but some of the effects are difficult to trigger, causing a bit of random exploration that can take young readers away from the narrative. Since there is no way to know which touch points have been missed, only the number of touch points left, my child decided to keep reading and return later to explore several pages. Unfortunately, the counter also resets every time you turn the page, so he was disappointed that there was no way to come back later to find the things he missed on a previous read. I would suggest either having a setting to lock/reset the touch counter between reads or even better, to add a way to turn off the special effects entirely for distractible readers.
While this is well-crafted story, with just the right combination of spooky and funny, it may not be suitable for all ages and settings. Articulation and grammatical irregularities make this a less than ideal book for very young kids, given the strong dialect of regional English. A good example from Jud: "Mo' fast than you can eat a po-boy ... I seen which way that gator done went & flew over yonder." The story also has themes that some parents would want to avoid, including voodoo, casting spells, use of weapons, as well as a ghost, graveyard and God vs the Devil encounter. However these 'spooky' themes and cheeky dialogue do make for a very entertaining app for kids six and up.
Overall, this app is a visual treat, with crisp illustrations, responsive special effects and intuitive settings. Sound effects and music can be turned off & on separately and only one link leaves the book (to rate in the AppStore). There is also a nice thumbnail page guide that allows for easy navigation throughout this solidly made app. A memorable, well-written and wholly original tale, A Gator Dun Ate My Boots! ends (spoiler alert) with Jud and his boots reunited, but hinting at a sequel, as an owl swoops down and makes off with his hat.
Recommended with reservations (noted above).
This app has been thoroughly evaluated by our staff. Please click on the 'star ratings' tab above, to see how it fared in all nine of our rating categories. See synopsis tab for more details about the storyline.
Note to readers: This review was expedited by the developer for a fee. The content of the rating/review 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.
12 - 20 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 6 - 10
"A gator dun ate Jud Cooney's boots and he'll stop at nothing to get them back! Join Jud in his adventures in the Louisiana Bayou, a voodoo shop in New Orleans, and the spooky cemetery on the hill. Discover the interactivity on each page as Jud tells his story, but be careful where you touch. This hungry gator has jaws!"