Developer: Carla Susanto
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 3

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Storytelling/Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Intuitiveness Rating: ★★★★½
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

I would like to introduce readers to the new app, Lars and Friends: a charming storybook for young children that contains very special illustrations, making it really stand out among a sea of other apps within iTunes. Lars and Friends is the simple and sweet tale of a horse named Lars and his adventures with many different types of creatures, allowing children to become familiar with the unique names used to describe a group of specific animals such as a colony of ants, knot of frogs, or tower of giraffes. I have had a lot of fun with the different activities Lars engages in with different creatures large and small, creating whimsical images about some unlikely friendships that will stay with readers as well as teaching the sometimes odd name-groupings children of all ages and their adults will enjoy learning about.

4The love that has gone into the creating of Lars and Friends is apparent, complete with interactions that range from mild to more dynamically animated. These are moments that add to the richness of the experience but are devoid of anything that may be distracting for young children – which I really appreciate a great deal.

Thoughtfully developed, I admire a scene that includes thunderstorm complete with the light show one may expect from this kind of storm yet without the thunder that so many children including my own son find overwhelming – a stylized choice that made me smile. Likewise, the animals one meets throughout this book remain silent. They do not make their animal sounds, keeping this app quite peaceful, with only the sound of simple, beautiful background music that will not take away from the story being told – be it by a parent or the included narration. Hints are included, letting users know when to tap areas of this app or shake their device, helpful in not missing any of the interactive elements found throughout.

6The artwork included is equally wonderful, full of vivid colors and textures that remind my son of the works of Eric Carle – high praise, to be sure. I too also really appreciate the distressed, presumably water-color stains and other details seen throughout that I am really fond of. Also a pleasure is the gentle, cyclical nature of this tale – beginning and ending with a herd of horses, concluding on a note that children and their adults will find satisfying.

Be aware that animal puzzles that allow children to piece together such groupings as a mob of kangaroos, a parliament of owls, or a smack of jellyfish, using chunky pieces that toddlers will have success with as well as a page dedicated to learning these animal names. This allows children to tap on creature groups to be introduced with a narration that includes many more critters than this book has space for – a really informative and visually quite pleasing area of this app that alone would be worth the download.

8My only note would be to include a menu of pages so children can find their favorite moments with ease as well as be able to select specific animal puzzles at will. It may also be worth pointing out that the included puzzles and learning sections are in no way an after-thought, but are lengthy activities that will keep children’s attention for a nice amount of time – something that may not be obvious from a first glance at the iTunes description or even this app itself.

I have thoroughly enjoyed Lars and Friends. I would love to see more of the work of Brooklyn-based artist and mother, Carla Susanto, be developed into children’s applications as this app was pitch-perfect and delightful in every way.

Posted in: Animals, By Age Range, By App Feature, Creativity, iPad Apps and Games, iPad Books, iPad Education, Just For Fun, Language, Nature, Parents and Kids, Preschool, Primary School, Puzzle, Reading, Reviews, Science, Social, Stories, Toddlers

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