Benny the Cat is a simple and lovely interactive universal storybook app giving young children a chance to simulate interaction with a cat named Benny. Please don’t expect an in-depth plot about the adventures of the tabby; instead this book is a nice introduction to cats, including such interactive sections such as tapping to hear the different parts of their bodies, rolling a ball at them in order to play, searching for Benny under pillows and other places, as well as basic care, like what to feed Benny, helping Benny clean his fur, showing him the best place to use the toilet and making up Benny’s bed for him so that he can sleep.
My son loves saying hello to Benny with a tap, as well as the page dedicated to petting this kitty until he purrs. Benny is nicely responsive to the gentle touches - something my son really appreciates.
It does bother my son, however, that on the area where one can tap body parts to have their names spoken, Benny’s “snout” is a hot spot - not nose and mouth separately. It does make sense for the tail not to be included, as the sentence explains that Benny has a tail, and what else does he have, but my son still wishes “tail” were included, and I think “belly" or "stomach” and "back" or "chest" would be a good choice as well,
It’s tempting to want a little more interaction from Benny the Cat, as I would expect Benny to react in some way after being found hiding under a pile of blankets, but I do think that this story and its level of interactions are good for toddlers as their first interactive book because nothing here is jarring or over-stimulating, as it could be with Benny running or jumping in reaction to being found. Still, I do wish that Benny walked to his bed, made up by the reader, either on his own with the tap or drag of a finger. Instead, the next page includes Benny already tucked in.
The illustrations are very nice and colorful, and I really like the way Benny looks with his brown markings, orangey/yellow fur and vivid blue eyes. I am not a fan, however, of a horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen showing the reader the progression in the story, as a marker can be slid back and forth by a child, making this story skip around and losing one's place in this application. I also wish there were a good way of starting this story over again from the beginning, but this option was not given on the last page. Instead, one must re-open the app or slide the marker to the beginning of the story instead of tapping a simple home button or the like.
Even with the notes that I have made, I do recommend Benny the Cat simply because my son really enjoys “touching” Benny and seeing his reactions. I would also recommend this book to kids with special needs who may have issues with understanding empathy and gentleness, and the social “cause and effect” of treating animals kindly and their happy reactions, even with the use of eye contact, as Benny often seems as if he is looking directly at the reader.
Older, more experienced app users may find the story or interactions lacking, but my boy, who is quite exposed to applications (as one can imagine), did not have issues with these applications limitations; he simply loves Benny.
My son has been known to roll around on the floor himself playing with a ball of yarn, pretending to be a cat himself, so I am not surprised at his fondness for this application. If one is looking for a “first app” that is an interactive storybook and not overly stimulating, Benny the Cat is a good place to look, especially if one is a cat fancier or interested in animals in general.