Aiden and the Apple Tree, by Jonathan Kelly, is a story within a story, about a young boy in Jamaica who tries to steal a mango from the JuiceMan at his fruit juice stand. Instead of a scolding, young James is treated to a moral story about a boy named Aiden and an 'otaheite' apple tree. These tropical fruits are native to Malaysia and also called "Mountain Apples", but they have been exported to many parts of the Caribbean.
With a combination of slight animation, sound sprites and other light enhancement, this tale for children 6-10 has ample settings, including a page guide and flexible audio controls. The book can be set-up for narrated reading (with highlighting phrase by phrase) or silent reading, along with a simple multiple-choice reading comprehension quiz at the end. The 2nd extra included is 5 digital coloring pages. These extras are not very engaging for general entertainment, but great additions for classroom use or homeschooling. Overall, this is an app with the perfect amount of enhancement for engaging children in the richness of the storytelling, with a focus on the written story over any digital 'wow' factor.
The story gives children a taste of another culture, although some of the names of places and plants are foreign enough for most young readers that I would suggest the addition of a glossary (an interactive one would be ideal) for words like "otaheite", "Shame Old Lady bushes" and "Flame of the Forest". This would make the digital storytelling more accessible for a wider audience, as well as taking advantage of the digital platform. I found myself leaving the app during the story to look up phrases on wikipedia, a good sign that I was engaged but a shame to have the reading experience interrupted in order to make full sense of the plot. The only other thing I would suggest is to remove the feature that creates a small starburst of blue lines where-ever you tap on any page (or include a guide with hints or a list of interactive elements instead). The blue starburst was so fun to trigger (like mini-fireworks all over the page) that it was a distraction for my own young test subject, who was searching for more interactivity long after the page had been read aloud.
There are very few well-written storybooks for children that highlight diverse cultural experiences, even in the digital age, so for that reason alone, this is a great addition to any library collection. This title is also a standout example of quality storytelling with just a touch of engaging enhancement. It has fun illustrations that will enchant young and old (my favorite was the frog giving the peace symbol), along with a moral about not taking things without first asking permission. All in all, Aiden and the Apple Tree is a well-made app with a unique story to tell.
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.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Jonathan Kelly/Marlo Scott
12 - 15 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 6 - 10 +
Aiden and the Apple Tree is a Uniquely Caribbean tale. This fully-interactive touch app is the story of a boy named Aiden who lived in a little village in Jamaica and a great big Apple tree. He was given a small task to do, but found himself in big trouble when he didn’t stick to the plan. What he learned was that honesty and hard work have their own reward.