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Pat the Bunny Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on November 21st, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Pat the Bunny is a lovely interactive universal app based on the timeless and beloved children’s book of the same name, with both a reading as well as a painting section included.

Pat the Bunny is truly a book that needs no introduction, but for those who do not know, Pat the Bunny is a picture book about children Paul and Judy and the different activities they can partake in, proclaiming that the young reader can also do these things, such as play peek-a-boo with a piece of cloth or smell flowers. This book is special as it was the first “touch and feel” book of its kind that included tactile objects that one can interact with, such as a bunny to pet, complete with “fur” one can touch and pat, a piece of sandpaper used to represent “daddy’s beard,” a die-cut ring to slip a finger into and a scent added to flowers one is instructed to smell, as well as other interactions. Since first being published in 1940, this book has sold over six million copies and is a favorite first book for babies.

I remember Pat the Bunny from my childhood, not just from when I was my son’s age, but for many years later when I would seek out a copy of this book at our local bookstore to give the bunny a pat whenever we shopped for books. When my son was born, my mother delighted in buying the book for my boy, and he loves this simple and sweet story with wonderful interactions as well. I am impressed by how well this book has stood the test of time, interesting to me as now these types of “touch and feel” books are more commonplace and we own many, but Pat the Bunny still holds a special place in my son’s heart, even as he first read this book at a somewhat older age as this book is fragile and would not have stood up well for my son when he was younger.

This app is a darling application based on the activities found within this classic title. When applicable, the pages of this book have been faithfully adapted to an experience very close to that found in the printed book, such as lifting a blue piece of fabric to play peek-a-boo with Paul, but here, there is some variety to Paul’s facial expressions and slight sound effects to be found as kids play peek-a-boo, a nice touch. I also like how device owners with a forward-facing camera will be able to see themselves in the mirror, another favorite moment in this book that has been nicely translated into this application.

New to this story are many pages of fun activates involving the bunny himself, now a character in this story. Help bunny water flowers, break a piñata at a party, or catch butterflies. There are also pages not directly associated with bunny as well from opening a nesting toy, helping ducks in a pond or popping bubbles at bath time with Paul and Judy. This app is rich with interactive elements that my son loves, something I appreciate as he is becoming harder to impress the more apps he is exposed to, and it is great that these interactions can be triggered infinitely, an important element to an app such as this.

The look of this app is thoughtful and charming, with the same palette of pastel, turquoise and peach iconic to this storybook used throughout and includes the same style of lovingly simple illustrations. I really enjoy the music used, wonderfully balanced between upbeat and calming - very nice to listen to in the background as my son spends time on these pages. It is also very nice that friendly narration is used, not only to read the included text, but to prompt young readers into performing these tasks. Recording this story by oneself is also an option.

I enjoy how this story has been transformed into an application, enjoying both the classic elements and new activities brought to this app. However, I wish that the most memorable page from this book - the patting and touching of the bunny - would have had a larger place within this app. A bunny with a bit of fur to pet is found on the menu page where one chooses “read” or “paint,” but this bunny is small, as is his fuzzy area to touch. I would have enjoyed seeing a complete page dedicated to this, as this is commonly a favorite moment within this book.

I think it is interesting that instead of being a straight narrative going from page to page start to finish, each page is offered on a menu page of sorts, with the narrator introducing each page, highlighting the image used to capture each activity. From here, kids can choose what they would like to explore, going back and forth between pages. It is also nice that after all pages have been explored, this story ends with the reader tucking Paul, Judy, and the bunny into bed. The last page is a tribute to the book, here including bunny as well, and a tap helps all these characters wave good bye - perfect ending to this app.

I do wish, however, that this book, regardless of the activity children choose to begin with, would start with a page introducing Paul and Judy, maybe the bunny here as well, akin to the first page of the published work. Without this, this app jumps into helping Paul play peek-a-boo, and I find that without a proper introduction of these characters, these activities seem like fragments - an issue I never felt with the original version. My son is also somewhat distracted by the lack of a true beginning, as he tries to turn the pages back and forth looking for a "beginning page" that simply does not exist.

I do like that from the menu page of activities, one can easily jump from the reading section to the painting section and back again with the tap of the bunny found right of the screen, and I love how the reading bunny is equipped with reading glasses and a book, whereas the painting bunny is complete with beret, paintbrush, and palette - cute details that both children and adults will enjoy. The painting section is a quiet area without narration or color until the swipes of a finger transform these pages into full color, complete with the twinkle of fairy dust as kids uncover the color of these images.

This app will be loved by babies, toddlers and older kids as well. The look of this app is charming, and my son really enjoys the included interactive elements. My mother and I were a little disappointed to see how the version of this printed book, now commonly bought, is bound with a plastic spiral, making this book easily damaged by little hands. It is nice that now a adaptation of this book is available to my son that will hold up to repeated readings, especially as he has time alone with my devices, as this is a book I don’t let him play with yet by himself. Of course this app does not take the place of the printed version but stands well next to the classic as a wonderful companion piece adults will have a hard time not enjoying as well. Another reason why I appreciate this app is that my son and I also greatly dislike the strong perfume added to the printed copy of the book allowing children to smell flowers as in interaction, and I am glad my son can explore this adapted app without having to be overly exposed to such a strong scent he does not enjoy.

The same way this book has been a first book of many babies, with parents eagerly watching their children explore the included elements for the first time, I can see parents equally captivated by their children interacting digitally for the first time in many of the same ways, making this also a perfect first app for babies and toddlers.

True purists of this book may be disappointed that pages difficult to adapt into an app have been omitted and also that the app is without a beginning page. I am also confused as to who “Squeak” is - presumably a character from the kitchen page ( a very favorite page of my son's) who enjoys playing music. I don’t quite understand why one would name this character - I assume the mouse found hiding in a pot - if this character is auxiliary to the story and only found on one page.

Even with these issues, my son simply loves this app, and I too have been smitten by how a favorite book of mine has come alive in application form.

Bot Garage Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on November 8th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Bot Garage is a terrific universal app where players can create and save unique, fantastical robots inspired by the characters found in the new popup book Lots of Bots by David A. Carter and Noelle Carter.

This app opens to a page consisting of a selection of blueprints that together make up the arms, legs, body and head of the robot that one is creating. To start, the player is directed to begin with the body as this section of blueprints is lit brightly and flashes, nicely getting the player's attention. A tap here brings the players ultimately to the section where one can choose among ten body parts each as one uses arrow buttons or scrolls through to explore this great collection of robot bodies in varied shapes and colors, each with a lovely hand-drawn and cartoony quality that will be appreciated by children and adults alike.

Once this decision is made, the other sections of the robot body that one is creating flash and are lit as well, prompting the player to make selections for the head, legs and arms as well. As with the body, each of these sections contains ten choices, but these areas of the body also contain moving parts as well that are demonstrated as one checks out each body element, looking for the perfect fit for one's creation. A spare part can also be chosen, a just-for-fun selection that also moves and ultimately adds to noises that the robots will be making. A scene for these bots to exist in is also chosen, with a very nice variety found in the selection of ten offered.

When the bot is complete, the scene is selected and all is saved. Then the bot comes to life with the glory of all of its moving parts and related noises of the parts which were chosen. These sound effects are loud and potentially overwhelming to some, and for this reason I wish they could be muted upon request - something my son, however, would have no part in as he loves the over-the-top noises his creations make.

The use of blueprints for each of these body areas is a lovely touch to this building app as is the whimsical rhyme delivered in both text and narration about the importance of each part, with this lyrical style continuing throughout, as this app enthusiastically encourages the player to make changes to his robot if so desired, as well as to save the creations in the garage for later. I also appreciate how after saving, one can go back for a tweak as well.

The interface here utterly intuitive, drawing my son into this world with no help from adults. Although he can create these robots on his own and does so often, this app has quickly become a family favorite as Bot Garage is a top application to be shared between my husband and my boy, and now my son’s new negotiation tactic to stay up a little later is “Just one bot” - a plea we find hard to resist. My boy loves to create these bots, save them and show them off as well. One can name these robots - something my son has also taken a liking to, naming one after his favorite athletic coach as well as “typing” names in himself - as of now random letters tapped, but meaningful to him, I am sure.

This app has also filtered its way into my son's play time as well. Always really into robots, my son has made “sand robots” out of sand and pine cones in preschool and now has created a robot factory out of all of his blocks based on this game, which he refuses to take down so we all trip over it as we move about the family room.

This may not be an entirely new idea as we have other apps of related ideas and game play, but the quality here, the parts offered with movements and finally the sound effects, the blueprint elements and narrated rhymes all take this style of app to a higher level that we all enjoy.

If interested in other apps based on the work of David A. Carter, do look into the app, "Spot the Dot," also reviewed on Giggle Apps. I am fascinated by David A. Carter’s paper art found within this popular pop-up book. I would love to see more of these treasures turned digital as well.