Rainy Days: A Stella and Sam Adventure is an iPad app, part of the Stella and Sam series of apps by the developers at zinc Roe, which is a charming and wonderful storybook app which also contains three mini-games, each working seamlessly within this delightful story. A pull-down menu is included allowing one to find specific chapters of this book or a specific mini-game if one chooses, a nice touch.
This app, which is viewed much like a video, is based on the Stella and Sam series of books by Canadian author Marie-Louise Gay. Here, sister and brother friends, Stella and Sam, spend a rainy afternoon together exploring the wonders of the outside. I love how these characters come across like real children, and I am smitten by how Stella answers Sam’s various inquisitive questions, as well as her take on rainy days in general as she speaks with authority, the way a nine year old who fancies herself older would as she takes care of her younger brother. We as adults can see that Stella really views the world the way only a child would, something I found super-cute and endearing.
The characters of Sam and Stella are utterly relatable to kids, with distinct personalities that nicely differ from each other, as Stella is happy it is raining - Sam not so much. I see a lot of my son in Sam as this app opens up with Sam lying on the floor of the living room, using paints and is unprepared for the mess their dog Fred makes as he walks through this art project. Sam, at a loss for how to deal with Fred's messy paws, asks Stella for help and she takes both Sam and Fred outside to clean Fred's paws and romp around a bit in the rain.
Their relationship is so very tender and sweet, and I appreciate how no adults take part in this story, reminding me of The Peanuts, but in many ways kinder and gentler as Stella is always nice to her younger brother, if not a wee bit bossy. It is also nice to see these kids use classic activities to entertain themselves, first with a set of paints and then by exploring things found in nature, like a pile of leaves and a pine cone floating in a puddle.
The mini-games included are based on these activities, including the ability to paint with both both dog footprints and kids' handprints in many colors across the screen as well as digging through a pile of leaves to see what treasures one may find, and helping the pine cone from the story navigate sticks and rocks as it moves across a small body of water. It is a lot of fun seeing these kids get their hands dirty, especially when it is not practical for my son to get down and dirty himself, whether it be on days where it is too cold to realistically go outside, right before bed or a few minutes before dinner time when I don’t want to deal with a large cleanup.
My boy simply loves searching the pile of leaves looking for a frog that jumps around when found. I appreciate how seamlessly these fit into the story with the same quality animation as is the rest of this app, also including cute voice-over prompts from these kids explaining what to do during these mini-games, really making my son feel as if he were taking part in what is going on. Stella and Sam are definitely kids that I would want my son to be friends with, and this app creates such an immersive experience that I am sure my son feels very much a part of this story as he watches it and plays these games.
There will always be critics of children’s use of iPads for stories, especially books that are turned into videos that one can watch like a TV show, but the quality of this app is so remarkable that it will win over the greatest skeptics. I love the voices used for the children, bringing more life to this story than I could if I were just reading this book to my son and the rainy sounds and other subtle sound effects bring a lot of life to this charming app. The illustrations are to be marveled at, with beautiful color choices and lovely details, especially the rainbow that these kids see at the end of this story. My son loves the mini-games a great deal, they engage him nicely and they are wonderful additions to this story.
These Stella and Sam apps are based not only on the series of books, but also on a cable TV show of the same name. We have not been able to see any of these shows yet, but I will keep my eyes open for them as I am happy for my son to watch small amounts of quality programming.