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Snow White by Nosy Crow Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on March 22nd, 2015
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: COLORFUL AND ICONIC
Snow White by Nosy Crow is a delightful storybook with wonderful illustrations and original music.
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Rounds: Franklin Frog Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 27th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Rounds: Franklin Frog is a charming universal app bringing wonderful non-fiction content focused on teaching the life cycle of frogs in a way that will be especially appealing to children of all ages and their adults. Both Read and Play, allowing one to listen to narration while reading along with highlighted text, as well as explore interactions is included, as is a Read to Myself option.

I simply adore Rounds: Franklin Frog, illustrated in a bold style consisting of circles as a whole as well as pieces thereof, as the look of this app is unique and sophisticated yet utterly appealing to children of all ages, as are the soft greens and blues found within, a personal favorite palette of mine.

Rounds: Franklin Frog does a wonderful job of balancing the cute anthropomorphic details and witty narrated lines of dialogue heard when tapping on the frog characters found throughout with some thoughtful facts about these interesting creatures both included as spoken lines of text triggers with a tap, as well as within the narrative itself.

This is the story of Franklin, a young frog who, along with the readers, explores his surroundings as well as hibernates for the winter, finding a mate and beyond - wonderfully narrated, engaging, and relaxing.

The interactions are simply delightful within this app, helping Franklin jump and swim, feeding him bugs with his sticky tongue and later helping Franklin find a mate by tapping and allowing other frogs to hear their mating call - all wonderful details that readers of all ages will appreciate a great deal.

I was taken a back at how moving this children’s story is, as the use of pitch-perfect music and stylized details demonstrates the change of seasons with use of moons floating past the sky, the plants dying away, and the use of snow falling as Franklin is safety tucked away.

Equally poignant was watching Franklin’s mate lay her eggs, watching them develop from frogspawn into tadpoles and later after sprouting legs and arms, developing into a frog after quite a metamorphosis.

Readers should take note that although the text within the pages of this story may have concluded, this app is intensely filled with important animations and interactions, wonderfully polished and beautiful to look at, yet charmingly sleepy in their nature and never over-stimulating.

Do wait for the arrow found at the bottom to become bold and bounce as this signifies that the major animations and interactions have been played out, although one can still enjoy oneself by tapping frogs to hear their added dialogue spoken as well as move them around the page.

I confess that the first time reading this book, I turned the page prematurely, missing out on some important transitions and interactions such as protecting frog eggs from hungry fish, or the full transformation from tadpole to young frog. The pacing of this app can be on the leisurely side - not a flaw at all, as this app does expect a level of concentration waiting out some animations much like one would in nature. Parents may want to familiarize themselves with all that this app has to offer to insure that their children do not turn the pages prematurely.

I also appreciate a great deal how this story plays itself out over three generations of frogs, teaching readers about life cycles as well as being quite interesting in terms of storytelling, but with no concrete ending, parents may find it hard to break their children away from this experience. Possibly an option could be included in the future that lets the three unique generations play out before this app comes to an end, just a thought for a future update.

I have been a huge fan of Nosy Crows and other storybook apps based on classic tales, but I think I enjoy Rounds: Franklin Frog even more. The experience is educational as well simply wonderful in terms of the narration, animated illustrations, interactions and a perfect use of music.

Rounds: Franklin Frog is an app that I highly recommend to both parents as well as teachers. Children will learn a lot about frogs from this application, I know I did. They will also be exposed to a beautiful story that I found at moments quite touching. Parents will be delighted to spend time with their children reading Rounds: Franklin Frog as well as for their children to spend time with this app alone.

I sincerely hope that Nosy Crow develops more non-fiction titles in this style. I could not be more fond of Rounds: Franklin Frog.

Bizzy Bear Builds a House Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 20th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Bizzy Bear Builds a House is a charming universal interactive storybook application - second in a series of Bizzy Bear apps based on the popular boards of the same name by the developers at Nosy Crow.

Two modes are included in this fun, colorful application. The first is “Read and Play,” which includes narration as well as extra lines of dialogue - both voiced and including text that is triggered when a reader taps on a character to hear him speak. A blue orb reminds children of this capacity to hear the extra dialogue - always a nice touch which draws children’s attention, taking care that none of these charming moments are missed. New to this series is the use of highlighting when a word is spoken to further aid young readers in their ability to follow along - now in the other Nosy Crow apps as well.

The second mode of this app is “Read by Myself,” which allows children to read this story to themselves without narration, including extra conversational moments between characters. It is a really nice touch that one can choose any of three lengths of time that the text is left on the screen, allowing parents to choose the correct pacing of this story to their child’s reading ability.

My son enjoys Bizzy Bear, a relatable character we followed along with to a trip on a farm within the first story. Here, Bizzy Bear helps out friendly animal construction workers build a house - very impressive for my son, who loves to play construction himself.

My son indeed finds the ability to help Bizzy Bear work on this construction site exciting, working on such tasks as digging a hole or driving a dump truck, although he did have to figure out how to manipulate the vehicles he controls within this story.

Other favorite moments for me are the pages where one gets to meet the entire work crew building a house, as one can tap around the page to see and hear different jobs being performed such as a monkey sawing wood, a dog laying down bricks or a rabbit using a screwdriver in a scene that to me is reminiscent of Richard Scarry’s Busy Town.

I also enjoy the details found within, such as the rhythm created when the worker animals all work together on their different activities, or how one can empty the pallet of bricks after helping a worker donkey repeatedly fill up his wheel barrow, encouraging players to fully play out these scenes before moving on to the next page.

It is also quite nice that the accidental turning of these pages is minimized because before the interactive moments are worked on by the player, the page turning arrows are low-lighted and a touch is needed to wake them up to allow page turning with a following tap.

All in all, a lovely experience has been created yet again in the world inhabited by Bizzy Bear. My son and I hope to see more of these stories to come as well as more interactive storybooks in general by the developers at Nosy Crow.

Pip and Posy: Fun and Games Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on June 14th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Pip and Posy: Fun and Games is a universal app that brings the characters Pip, Posy and friends to life as the illustrations from this series, created by the highly regarded children’s illustrator and author, Axel Scheffler, are used within a collection of delightful children’s games and activities.

A collection of spot-the-difference is included where one must locate the different objects that are either missing or different on two similar illustrations. I enjoy how children can tap either side of these drawings to mark a difference and how this section contains a nice level of difficulty that preschool children and up will appreciate. Younger children will enjoy the wonderful illustrations of expressive animal characters, possibly needing some help from an adult or older sibling to complete these puzzles.

I really enjoy this section, as I do the upbeat children’s encouragement found throughout this app in general, much like the narration of Nosy Crows storybook applications that makes this “spot the difference” and the other areas of this app charming. It would be nice, however, if a “hint” button were included for those children who could use some extra help.

A coloring book area is included, containing seven pictures to color in and one blank page to draw freehand. Here, children color in these pages with a “paintbrush” style of painting as one uses a finger to paint with the drag of a finger, as well as emulating the use of a pencil point and crayon tip, not only affecting the line size but also texture as the pencil point draws a crisp thin and sharp line, while the paint brush creates a slightly more airbrushed, feathered edge to this line which is slightly thicker than of the pencil. I also like how the crayon tip produces a thicker, less opaque shade with a light touch, blending nicely with other colors the same way or creating a denser color if one colors over the same area. Six bright color choices are included, as is an eraser.

I appreciate how the progress in painting of these images is saved as the images to be colored contain a lovely amount of details to be filled in, and I can imagine children wanting to come back to their work after visiting other sections or at a later time. It would be nice, especially within the iPhone application, if a way of zooming in to color details were possible.

Matching Pairs is nice “memory” style game where players flip over cards in order to create pairs. Three levels are offered with the number of cards in play varying from eight to eighteen. It is nice to play this game without any type of time or score being kept, and the images found when players flip these cards over are cute and fun as well.

Jigsaw Jam is a lovely collection of jigsaw puzzles children can work on. These puzzles range from six to eight pieces that need to be dragged and dropped into their correct spots within their puzzle. I like how a reference picture is offered that is separate from the background one is working on, creating a very realistic puzzle experience, as does the subtle yet satisfying “click” of these pieces when they are correctly placed within the puzzle, also including a sense of “grab” as the pieces are slightly drawn to their correct spot if brought close - a detail that may not be missed until one works with a puzzle application without this element and then understands how important this element really is.

Users with a device containing a forward-facing camera will also enjoy the Make a Face area of this application as players get to create a face within a mirror that corresponds to the expression of a character expressing emotion, be it surprise, happiness, or a fun monster face.

This is a great section as I often admire the look of the expressive characters found in Scheffler’s illustrations in such books as The Gruffalo, and it is great fun to mimic these terrific characters from within this app. Recently, after re-downloading this app I was successful at getting the included photo saving function to work for me, a nice inclusion I am glad to have access to.

Rest assured that families not familiar with Axel Scheffler will be equally fond of this application. These illustrations may encourage one to check out Scheffler's work, as his style of illustration is simply wonderful. I also have enjoyed the music found within this app, utterly Nosy Crow, making me curious as to when another one of their interactive storybooks will be released.

Publishers Talk of Profits and Pigs for BAFTA

Posted by Rob Rich on March 15th, 2012

A number of iOS developers decided to talk numbers at BAFTA's recent What's App event in London. The Guardian's article is full of all manner of interesting tidbits and discussion. Taking the stage to talk about storytelling, profit margins, and children's content were Peter Sleeman (co-director, P2 Games), Paul Bennun (chief creative officer of content design and creation, Somethin' Else), and Tom Bonnick (digital project and marketing manager, Nosy Crow). The trio divulged some interesting numbers, as well as their perspectives on various app models.

P2 Games' bread and butter has been largely based around children's brands, including Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam, and have sold just under 600 thousand apps in less than a year and a half. Somethin' Else, responsible for the indisputably different Papa Sangre, also did quite well with their $4.99 interactive experiment. The audio-only horror game sold a respectable 70K copies since its release back in 2010. Nosy Crow opted out of the numbers game at the event, but they did put out a couple of critically acclaimed book apps (Cinderella, The Three Little Pigs) so they're probably doing just fine.

The general consensus revolved around knowing one's audience. According to Sleeman, Preschoolers are a very different market than the typical demographic so it's important to bring in people who know what the young-uns like and what keeps them coming back. Bennun championed the Premium model; keeping prices high and letting the quality of the product do most of the selling. Bonnick echoed the sentiment of quality, and mentioned Nosy Crow's strict adherence to in-house development.

I'm curious to see if anyone agrees or disagrees with these ideas. They certainly seem sound to me. Especially the one about refusing to use in-app purchases in apps meant for children. Thoughts?

[Via: theguardian.com]

Bizzy Bear on the Farm Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on January 31st, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Bizzy Bear on the Farm is a charming new universal interactive storybook by Nosy Crow.

Two modes are included, each interactive, one with included narration and one meant to be read on one's own.

My son has really taken to this delightful story about Bizzy Bear, a cuddly and relatable bear who is looking to be very helpful as he visits a farm, asking players for help as he partakes in such chores as feeding the pigs, helping sheep back into their pen or collecting eggs from hen houses.

Each page has a main interaction or two that is nicely explained by the narration or text found at the top of the page. Do tap Bizzy Bear to hear the multiple lines of dialogue offered as well as the other objects and characters found throughout these pages, and experiment with dragging Bizzy Bear around with a tap and drag for fun.

In looking at the comments left on iTunes, I have noticed that others do not feel that this app is as intuitive as the other apps developed by Nosy Crow - specifically The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella.

I have not found this to be the case for my son who has had no issues with the use of this application. It is true that without an autoplay section, the pages do not turn automatically, allowing children to play out these interactions fully before turning the page - an aspect that never tripped up my son as he happily explored these pages for all that they offer. They nicely include the use of the blue dots found also within their previous apps that mark characters that have something to say when tapped. When my son is finished with these pages, he simply taps the blue arrow found at the bottom right corner twice to turn the page.

The narrative for this book is not as involved as the classic story applications that Nosy Crow is known for, but works well for telling this simple story that young children will enjoy. Not being as intricate as the other apps, this simple story lends itself well to the open-ended and exploratory nature that this app offers, as my son fed, fed and over-fed these pigs until he felt satisfied enough to move on, not having to worry too much about remembering a specific plot underway.

I did, however, find that riding the horse was not easy to manipulate, as players need to figure out that one swipes behind the horse as if he is propelling him vs. dragging him where one may want him to go. An arrow demonstrating this in the future would be helpful.

After some practice, I could move this horse back and forth, turning directions, slowing down and speeding up but was not able to stop or slow down long enough to tap the bunnies found in the background of this page, which are highlighted with blue dots and looking for a tap - a disappointment for us in this otherwise very enjoyable application.

Fans of Nosy Crow will also notice that the style of illustrations found within this app is different from the previous digital tales. I enjoy the bright and bold color choices as well as Bizzy himself and all the other animals that kids will love. To me, these illustrations include nuances of Richard Scarry’s Busy Town characters which I appreciate, while maintaining a look all their own.

My son has really enjoyed Bizzy’s trip to the farm and has asked me if there will be more Bizzy apps soon - high praise from a kid with an abundance of applications to choose from. This is not a lengthy story but just right for toddlers and preschoolers, although longer stories in the future would be nice too.

Seeing how my son really enjoys Bizzy Bear, a bear who is thoughtful and kind to animals, I will be looking for some published books from this series also from Nosy Crow.

I am impressed that Nosy Crow is an independent publisher/developer of both printed books and applications. I hope to see more of their work in the future.

Cinderella - Nosy Crow animated picture book Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 18th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Cinderella - Nosy Crow animated picture book is a wonderful interactive storybook by the developers at Nosy Crow, now a universal application. This latest re-telling of the classic Charles Perrault version of this beloved story about a mistreated girl whose luck turns for the better with the help of a fairy godmother and the love of a prince includes some lovely interactions that truly make the player part of this application. Here, one gets the opportunity to help Cinderella and other characters in many ways, such as helping with Cinderella's chores, getting the stepsisters dressed for the ball and collect what is needed for Cinderella to attend the ball in style where she meets the prince. An iPhone only version of this app is also available.

This book, like its predecessor app, The Three Little Pigs, offers readers the chance to hear narration as well as read this book by themselves. One can also choose American or UK spelling, a nice touch, as well as the chance to “read and play” where one can stay within a page as long as desired, exploring the varied interactions found among this lovingly created storybook. It is also nice that one can accommodate new readers by choosing how long the text is shown per page, allowing children not to feel rushed when reading as the story continues to the following pages when the “Read and Play” mode is not in use.

Wonderful classical musical elements are used throughout, sometimes adding mystery or suspense as well, as when Cinderella gathers up all that is needed to transform herself into the mysterious well-dressed woman that wows the prince at the ball. Do tap these characters more than once to hear their various different points-of-view, a very nice touch that adds much to the richness of this story as well as fully creating these characters' personalities. It is nice that prompts in the form of a blue dot are used, appearing on characters and encouraging the reader to tap them to hear extra lines of dialogue or to make them flip over for an added kinetic bonus.

There are a lot of interactive elements offered here, but what makes this app special is how one can help Cinderella carry the load of responsibility forced upon her by her unkind stepsisters. From helping her gathering cups and dishes to drop in the sink or put away, to finding fruits to place in a bowl and collecting more wood for the fire, one has a real sense of helping and empathizing with poor Cinderella as her stepsisters bark orders and spew unkind words in her direction. Later, one can help Cinderella dress her ungrateful stepsisters for the party - my personal favorite interaction - as I like how one must use good cognitive and listening skills to find the items these sisters demand within this page, and it is fun to see that if the wrong item is given to a sister, she rejects it rudely.

Other moments where the reader can be generally helpful are also included, such as stacking the invitations to the ball, helping to choose the color of Cinderella's gown and fitting the glass slipper onto Cinderella’s foot, as well as other interesting hotspots. For fun, do look for the red bird hiding on each page of this ebook as well.

Now that this is a universal app, both iPad 2 and iPhone 4 users will be able to see themselves in the “magic mirrors” found throughout this application, and it is a really fun and unexpected surprise when young readers find themselves in these mirrors, truly being a part of this story a one is gazing upon this tail in a way I have never seen before within an application. I am happy to report, however, after trying this app on my iPad 1, that the added elements of these mirrors, although really enjoyable, will not be missed if this feature is unable to be used, as the mirrors fit nicely into the decor of these rooms as simple details.

One will notice how the scene is larger than will fit on the page shown on one's device at any one time, so do scrolls back and forth, side to side, looking at the added imagery that is also offered - a nice element not commonly found within applications. As with The Three Little Pigs, one can move the device to see the 3-D effect, showing off different perspectives nicely, but with some choppiness that I have noticed, although my son has not. I do hope this can be addressed in a future update.

The look of this app is quite beautiful, with the use of vivid, bright colors and fun, over-the-top, stylized stepmother and stepsisters wearing garish makeup and clothes, but I am happy that they are never referred to as “ugly,” which would place an undue focus on one’s looks, as the concept of “pretty is good, ugly is bad” can have unintended consequences later for girls as they grow up. It is also worth noting that this prince is thought of as being kind, a reason besides wealth that Cinderella would want to marry him, and I especially appreciate how Cinderella mutters to herself how the prince probably does not care about clothing as she dresses her demanding stepsisters.

I do find it a bit problematic however, how the invitation makes note of wearing one’s best dress to the ball, as this can provide motivation for these sisters to behave in such boorish and materialistic ways as they are following specific instructions as they primp and fuss about they get ready for the ball.

Other interactions just for fun are offered here as well, as one can tap on musical notes to change the song and style of dance the prince and Cinderella dance to, be it a traditional waltz, disco, or Bollywood-style - my son’s favorite interaction. There are in fact many moments made brilliant by creative interactions, making this book a very special re-telling of this classic story that I recommend for children and their parents. I have become a huge fan of Nosy Cow based on their two first apps. I look forward greatly to their next 3-D fairy tale based on Little Red Riding Hood sometime in the future.

The Three Little Pigs- Nosy Crow interactive storybook Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on March 24th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

The Three Little Pigs- Nosy Crow interactive storybook is an absolutely wonderful take on this classic story with versions available for both iPad and iPhone. This app has excelent illustrations, music and interactions that I appreciate, possibly more than my child who also really likes this book. One can enjoy this story with or without narration, and there is a plethora of things to explore here, no matter how you choose to read this book. Do move your device around a bit to see the wonder of their 3D effect; it is the best I have seen.

I feel fortunate that my son and I have had a chance to experience many versions of this classic tale, now having been turned into many story book applications. For us, this story never gets old and I am always excited to see how different developers bring this story to life for their specific project. This brilliant adaptation of the Three Little Pigs is a variation of the more modern and less violent version than the one first published in the 1840’s, here without the deaths of either the pigs or the wolf, making it possibly more family-friendly than the original. This story about three sibling pigs who go into the world on their own with varying degrees of work ethic and house construction is very classic in nature, but its style brings a freshness that one cannot resist.

I can’t say enough about the animations used here; they are as top-of-the-line as I could imagine with a wonderful palette of bright and bold colors, some of which look deeply saturated. I have seen a lot of takes on 3D but this is the best that I have seen. For example, when the device is moved, one can see many different perspectives, making the story new to the reader every time the story is read, and it is also nice that one can zoom in with the spread of fingertips to see even more detail. The nuances used here are fantastic, as the three little pigs - two boys, and a girl - have banter that is reminiscent of conversations of real, precocious children, an element that I may have appreciated more than my son as I can see him in the silliness and wit of these pigs although he may not. It is nice that blue dots included to encourage tapping, sometimes as a prompt to make a pig talk or as a hint to another interaction.

The interactions are plentiful and very well done, I especially making these pig kids talk, as well as building the pig houses and blowing them down, and it is nice that one is given the choice to tap a microphone icon as well as blow directly into the mice, something I don’t encourage my son to do on our pricey iPad. It is also fun to tap various characters and objects as this makes them jump, move or summersault up into the air. The wolf is wonderful here, and I give the developers credit for hitting the right note with him. He is definitely out to do the pigs wrong, but I don’t worry about him being too scary for young children. I don’t want to give anything away, but his method of chasing after the pigs has become an iconic moment in all of my ebook story experiences, again with a spot-on use of color! Also of note is the wonderful music used here and how each character has their own theme music, I especially enjoy the wolf's which is full of suspense and very different sounding from the rest of the app.

I like greatly the thoughtfulness of the reading choices given, as readers can watch the story play out much like a video, read the tale by themselves, or listen to and explore the wonderful interactions peppered through out this storybook in the "Read and Play" mode at their own pace, the choice is up to them. It is nice that the "Read by Myself" and "Read to Me" modes also contain many engaging places to tap, so children don't miss out on the fun no matter how they enjoy this book.

The one thing that I suggest adding in the future would be an option to turn off the 3D if a parent chooses, because I think when the device in the hands of an active and enthusiastic child, their movements may change perspective too often and may make the brilliant effect somewhat distracting.

Nosy Crow has become a favorite developer of mine with this release, and I am eagerly waiting for their other apps to be released in the months to come. They are a group to watch as they know how to make an application where every element is perfectly realized.